San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan faces a fan mutiny over reports that Mac Jones, a former Alabama star, is the odds-on favorite to be selected by the Niners in NFL Draft’s first round. (Chris Victorio/Special to S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan faces a fan mutiny over reports that Mac Jones, a former Alabama star, is the odds-on favorite to be selected by the Niners in NFL Draft’s first round. (Chris Victorio/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Will 49ers gamble on Mac Jones over Justin Fields or Trey Lance?

It is a debate that won’t be resolved today.

When the 49ers on March 26 traded three first-round picks (2021, 2022, 2023) plus a 2022 third-rounder to the Miami Dolphins to move from the 12th overall selection to No. 3, it was a lock that the team would draft one of the handful of quarterbacks expected to go very early in the NFL Draft.

But later that day, a report trickled out that the quarterback who had caught the eye of Niners coach Kyle Shanahan was not one of the first four names on everyone else’s list.

Mac Jones.

At first dismissed, the speculation quickly grew so intense that Jones, a former Alabama star, is the odds-on favorite to be selected by the Niners. As a result, the 49ers Faithful have turned on the coach who two seasons ago led the team to a Super Bowl appearance. Social media has been ablaze with fans threatening a mutiny against their favorite team if Jones is selected third overall in Thursday’s first round.

Trevor Lawrence has been the preordained No. 1 overall pick since his freshman season at Clemson and will go to the Jacksonville Jaguars. BYU’s Zach Wilson apparently is heading to the New York Jets at No. 2. At the time of the trade, Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance were considered interchangeable as the next three QBs to come off the draft board. But not Jones.

So why would Shanahan — known as a preeminent play-caller with a blue-blood background — consider the consensus fifth-best quarterback available with the third overall pick?

It is a question that squarely lands on the side of drafting Fields or Lance. The NFL has become a league that favors a quarterback with good mobility, not just for escaping a pass rush but to become an effective rusher. Think of Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs), Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens), Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills), Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans) and Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals) as the new guard, to go along with veterans Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) and Cam Newton (New England Patriots).

Jones (6-foot-3, 217 pounds) is purely a pocket passer who only became a starter during the 2019 season after Tua Tagovailoa sustained a season-ending injury. He shows great touch on his passes, but lacks arm strength and any ability to scramble. Critics would also point out that he played with elite receivers — Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, who both will be taken in the first round this year; Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, both first-rounders last year — that made him look better.

Fields (6-3, 227) transferred from Georgia to Ohio State and started the last two years. In 2019, he had just three interceptions in 14 games, but had six in eight games in 2020, causing some to question his decision-making. But he has terrific speed, having clocked 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash and scored 15 rushing touchdowns for the Buckeyes.

Lance (6-4, 224) is the most inexperienced of the three, having played just one full season (2019) and throwing only 313 passes in college. North Dakota State, which also produced Carson Wentz, played a showcase game for Lance in the fall, then played a regular schedule this spring without the QB. He would need time to develop, but the upside puts him in the conversation for the No. 3 pick. One recent report had the 49ers’ front office pushing Lance, but Shanahan has the final say on personnel moves.

All could be great. All could bust. Taking Jones would be the equivalent of being given $300,000 to buy a car and choosing a Honda Civic and not being able to spend the change. If Jones is the pick, he probably would have still been available had the 49ers stayed at No. 12.

When you deal three first-round draft picks, don’t you expect to acquire a player who is a game-changer and not a game manager?

The decision on which quarterback to draft will likely define the next few years for the 49ers and Shanahan’s legacy with the team. Jimmy Garoppolo, whom the Niners acquired from New England after Shanahan was hired, has had a rash of injuries and could be on the move during the draft. Shanahan also admitted this week to not really considering Mahomes or Watson in 2017 when the 49ers also had the No. 3 pick, after trading back one spot, and took Stanford linebacker Solomon Thomas. Mahomes went 10th and Watson 12.

Only time will tell how the pick plays out.

It is a debate that won’t be resolved today.

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