The San Francisco 49ers had one thing on their mind when they made the blockbuster trade to move up to the No. 3 overall pick at the 2021 NFL Draft: finding a quarterback. Getting the next face of the franchise under center is currently at the top of their shopping list and there are many who believe the team could be circling around Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. In the aftermath of the trade, both head coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch made the decision to attend Jones’ pro day instead of heading to Ohio State to watch fellow quarterback prospect Justin Fields
That’s just one of a few signals that folks are picking up that may suggest the 49ers are enamored with Jones. That said, neither Shanahan nor Lynch actually spoke with Alabama head coach Nick Saban about Jones at any point during the pro day.
“[Shanahan] didn’t ask me a thing,” Saban told the “Dan Patrick Show” on Tuesday. “Didn’t ask me a thing. I said hi to him, John Lynch too. They did not ask me a thing about him. They didn’t ask me a thing.”
While this may come as a bit of a surprise, Saban did note that it’s not entirely uncommon. He’s admitted in the past that NFL teams largely don’t pick his brain about prospects coming out of his system with one of the few exceptions being New England’s Bill Belichick, who is a longtime friend of Saban. On top of that, Saban added on Tuesday that the Niners brass not asking him about Jones could be due to NFL rules.
“Maybe they thought they weren’t allowed to,” said Saban, “because out there on the pro day floor, which is where I saw them, I don’t know all their rules but I think the rule is they’re not really allowed to talk to me.”
While the 49ers may have been toeing a line of keeping their cards close to the vest while also not violating any league rules by refraining from asking Saban about his polarizing quarterback prospect at the pro day, that likely won’t slow any talk about San Francisco selecting him at No. 3. CBS Sports NFL draft expert Ryan Wilson has been particularly high on Jones throughout the pre-draft process and has routinely had him coming off the board to the 49ers at this spot, including in his latest two-round mock.
“I think a lot of people got interested by the way he played last year,” Saban said of his QB. “He did a phenomenal job. I mean, we had really good players around him, no doubt. A couple of really good receivers, couple of good running backs, a really good offensive line. But Mac’s really intelligent, very smart, very accurate with the ball, makes good decisions about where he throws the ball. That’s a really good starting point for a guy being a good quarterback. You can go on all these measurables and arm strength and all that, but that really doesn’t make you a good quarterback.”
With Clemson phenom Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson the presumptive No. 1 and No. 2 picks at the draft later this month, San Francisco will get its pick of the litter of the remaining QB prospects, which includes Jones, Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. While they could certainly go in any direction, there still seems to be plenty of smoke surrounding a potential marriage between Jones and Shanahan.