The most likely scenario for the 49ers at quarterback in 2017 is the team will bring in a veteran to run head coach Kyle Shanahan’s new offense.
Speculation around the NFL has been that San Francisco could acquire Washington’s Kirk Cousins, New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo, Chicago’s Jay Cutler or Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor.
And, in discussions with the media, general manager John Lynch and Shanahan have said they won’t draft a quarterback with their top choice, the No. 2 overall selection, just because they need a quarterback. They’ve indicated the team has so many needs that it’s important to take the best player available and not force the pick for a passer.
But at this week’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Lynch spoke in glowing terms about Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer after an interview with him, and also about Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Lynch still may not use his top draft choice on either quarterback, but he sounded like a man excited by the potential he sees at the combine.
Kizer has terrific skills and good size. He has a fluid and strong arm and quick feet. But he played just 25 games at Notre Dame and his completion percentage fell from 62.9 to 58.7 in his second season as a starter. His yards-per-attempt and quarterback rating also fell. Still, he was very good in 2016, throwing for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns versus just nine interceptions.
“Last night we had an interview with DeShone Kizer,” Lynch told reporters. “This whole thing is not about an interview, but if we’re grading him on that alone, he blew the doors off of it. He’s an impressive young man. His film is impressive, too.”
Kizer is just one of several quarterbacks at the Combine who could be first-round picks, including North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, Watson and Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes.
Like Lynch, longtime NFL talent evaluator Greg Cosell also has been impressed by the Notre Dame standout and says Kizer shines as a passer, showing a smooth delivery and strong arm.
“Kizer really flashed as a thrower,” Cosell wrote recently. “He can sit on his back foot and drive the ball with velocity late in the down. He’s one of the best throwers in the draft class, a much more natural thrower with overall better arm talent than Trubisky.”
Lynch wants to keep his options open – the team currently has no quarterbacks on its roster – so he’s eager to see all he can of Kizer, Trubisky, Watson and Mahomes, among others who could be later-round picks.
“I think it’s a very talented draft class at that position and we’re very excited about those guys,” Lynch told USA Today. “Look, I don’t think you need to be transparent to know that it’s a position we’re looking at. We don’t have any. That’s a position that’s a big focal point and this week is a big part of that.”