The 49ers had concerns that Bill Belichick and the Patriots had something up their (cut-off) sleeves at the 2021 NFL Draft.
So much so that their apparent Belichick-induced frights prompted the team to trade up to the No. 3 overall pick at the 2021 NFL Draft — surrendering No. 12 overall pick, first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, and a 2022 third-round pick to the Dolphins in the process — to keep the Patriots out of a potential driver’s seat for a quarterback, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
But it (surprisingly) was not an interest in the 49ers’ pick at the No. 3 spot, quarterback Trey Lance, that had them worried.
It was instead New England’s Week 1 starter: Mac Jones. (No, really.)
“The 49ers also were concerned that the Patriots would leapfrog them in the draft and position themselves to select Jones before San Francisco could,” Schefter wrote prior to Sunday’s slate of NFL action. “The 49ers considered the well-documented relationship between Bill Belichick and Nick Saban and knew that New England was doing legwork on the quarterback prospects in the draft.
“The Niners also believed at the time that Jones was the prospect the Patriots identified as their potential quarterback of the future.”
As it turned out, the 49ers ultimately fell for Lance over Jones when it got to selection time, which made Lance the third quarterback to go off the board following Jackonsville’s selection of Trevor Lawrence and the Jets’ selection of Zach Wilson at No. 1 and No. 2. Jones, meanwhile, fell all the way down to the Patriots without a trade to move up the board, and was the fifth quarterback selected in the draft after Lawrence, Wilson, Lance, and Justin Fields, who went the Bears at No. 11 overall.
But it was a move that cost the 49ers an extra three picks, including another two firsts, when Jones would’ve been there for them at No. 12 overall. The 49ers also traded with Miami to move up to the No. 3, and with Tua Tagovailoa the Dolphins’ pick the season before, there was no way that Miami would’ve have taken a quarterback with the pick they traded to San Fran.
So, naturally, there’s something about this that seems so perfectly Belichick, at least when it comes to the general perception of how he operates compared to the rest of the league, with this revelation and how it tilted in the Patriots’ favor at the end of the day. (Oh, I can hear so many of my co-workers getting angry just reading this and I love it.)
The Patriots certainly look right with that move through the first week of the 2021 season, as Lawrence completed 54.9 passes for 332 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions in a 37-21 loss, and after Wilson totaled 258 yards with two touchdowns and an interception and six sacks taken in a 19-14 loss, while Jones completed 29-of-39 for 281 yards and a score.
Lance and Fields, meanwhile, backed up in Week 1, but drew into action for a few snaps and specially-designed packages behind starters Andy Dalton and Jimmy Garoppolo, respectively. Both finished with at least one touchdown.
As for the Niners, they can take comfort in being half right, as the Patriots were indeed interested in Jones as their quarterback of the future. Except it didn’t require an over-the-top trade-up to bring him to Foxborough.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.