Within the last week, the NFL rumors linking the San Francisco 49ers and Mac Jones have gained traction. It has become almost inevitable that they will use the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on the former Alabama quarterback. According to league sources close to Pro Football Network’s Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline, it might be premature to put that pick in ink.
Speaking during the April 7 episode of Draft Insiders with Chief NFL Analyst Trey Wingo, Pauline revealed that it’s not even close to being a sure thing.
“People are under the assumption that it’s a foregone conclusion that they’re [the 49ers] going to take Mac Jones with that third pick of the draft. I’m told that’s not the case at all. The bottom line is this. People who are automatically penning Mac Jones to the 49ers at three, I’m told that’s very premature at this time.”
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Premature to lock in Mac Jones to the San Francisco 49ers at this stage
As reported last week by Pauline during the March 31 Draft Insiders, the feeling around the league — and subsequently the media — was that Alabama’s Mac Jones would be the pick for the 49ers in this year’s draft. That suspicion has grown like wildfire. It has become widely accepted that the Crimson Tide signal-caller will be the No. 3 selection ahead of Ohio State’s Justin Fields or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. Yet, it appears the winds of change are blowing through the Bay Area.
Pauline: “What I said last week was — people I know said — that in their gut they thought Mac Jones was going to be the pick. But, what I’m saying this week, people are hearing that you may want to take the foot off the throttle as far as Mac Jones is concerned — from within the organization.”
Jones may not be “the guy” for the 49ers after all?
As Wingo alludes to, the 49ers’ blockbuster trade with the Miami Dolphins suggested they had their guy in sight to replace Jimmy Garoppolo. Rarely would a team make such a significant move without a target in mind. The assumption has become Jones was that guy for the 49ers. However, Pauline points out that the notion of “a guy” might not be accurate after all.
“The 49ers may like one of the quarterbacks more than the other. But they’re comfortable with any of the three guys. They like the skills of all three quarterbacks. From what I’m hearing, they like all three quarterbacks, and they’re comfortable with all three. I’m just hearing — at this time — it’s not a given that Mac Jones is going to be selected by the 49ers with the third selection.”
What has changed within a week to change the situation at the third overall selection?
What once seemed like an outlandish suggestion quickly became widely accepted as possible, even probable. Jones may still be the quarterback of choice for the 49ers, but Pauline’s new information casts doubt on the situation. So, what has changed within a week?
Originally, the 49ers’ appearance at Jones’ Alabama Pro Day instead of Fields’ session at Ohio State poured gasoline on the flames. It affirmed the belief that Jones was their favorite prospect. Although, that element to the story has taken a dramatic twist, as Pauline explains.
“Justin Fields announced today [April 7] that he’s going to have a second Pro Day. He’s going to throw again on April 17 at Ohio State. That is a stroke of genius by Justin Fields and his people. As you know, when Alabama had their second Pro Day, the San Francisco hierarchy went and missed the Justin Fields Pro Day. Fields is now going to have another shot at throwing in front of the San Francisco 49ers.”
Do the 49ers have some concerns over Jones?
It makes sense for the 49ers to do their due diligence on all quarterback options. On the other hand, there is something more than just evaluating his competition that has caused San Francisco to pump the brakes on the Jones hype train.
“There are some things that they’re looking at with Mac Jones, that they’re going to look into a little deeper, that concerned them.”
Pauline did not expand on what those concerns are, but they may be linked to a 2017 DUI. Following a car accident in early November of that year, Jones failed a sobriety test. Subsequently, police arrested him for driving under the influence.
That is common knowledge, as Jones himself has talked about it during the pre-draft process. He described it as a “transitional event” in a recent interview for NFL.com, driving him to focus more on football than anything else.
Is there something more than that? Maybe, but whatever those concerns are, it appears that it is premature to pencil Jones’ name onto the 49ers’ draft card.
Pauline concluded, “I’m told right now it’s about 50/50 that it’s Mac Jones or one of the two other quarterbacks.”
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.