October 18, 2021


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How Each QB Prospect Fits into Kyle Shanahan’s Offense

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How Each Top 2021 NFL Draft QB Prospect Fits into Kyle Shanahan’s Offense

The 49ers traded up to the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and now analysts and fans alike are working to figure out which quarterback prospect John Lynch and Co. are looking to select. Following impressive college careers and pro days, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson are likely to go No. 1 and 2, leaving the 49ers to pick between Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Alabama’s Mac Jones. Pro Football Focus writer Michael Renner looked at all three quarterbacks to evaluate who would fit the best into Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Here’s what he had to say:

“There are a lot of on-field reasons that Jones would make sense in Shanahan’s offense. He plays the game more like Jimmy Garoppolo or Matt Ryan than any of the other quarterbacks on this list. Just look at how closely his target and route heat maps resemble the ones above.

“Jones also utilized play action a ton in Alabama’s offense — even more than Shanahan has ever deployed. About 47% of Jones’ dropbacks last season came with a play-action fake, and 52.9% of his passing yards were gained off play action. Put it all together and it’s very easy to see how what he did at Alabama would be a very seamless transition to what he’d be asked to do in San Francisco.”

Justin Fields, Ohio State

“Ohio State’s offense was not close to that of Alabama or San Francisco. It was far more vertical and far less horizontal. One hundred and ten of his 582 total attempts (18.9%) the past two years were targeted 20-plus yards downfield compared to 76 of 547 for Mac Jones (13.9%). Fields’ heat maps do a fairly good job of displaying that.

“Fields attacked outside the numbers often and was still deadly accurate. But any scout worth a damn knows that just because a prospect isn’t asked to do something in college, doesn’t mean they are incapable. These are simply frequency charts — not competency. When Fields did attack downfield (10-plus yards) between the numbers, he earned a 99.0 passing grade on his career 85 such attempts. That’s the highest in all of college football — better than even Joe Burrow’s 98.5. Fields made only three turnover-worthy plays in his career while working that area of the field.”

Trey Lance, North Dakota State

“Lance is the wild card here. While we don’t have heat maps for the FCS level, it’s very clear on tape that North Dakota State’s offense is a far cry from the 49ers. We still have target data, and Lance has only 95 career attempts between the numbers. That’s only 25.6% of his passes.

“What he does have, though, is the strongest arm and best pure rushing ability of any quarterback in the draft class. And by the way, he’s also the youngest quarterback in the class — only 20 years old. If Shanahan thinks he can scheme around any quarterback’s tools to take advantage of them, no one offers more than Lance in the class.”


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