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History Says Shanahan, Lynch Not Afraid to Make Big Plays in NFL Draft

While Kyle Shanahan spends countless hours these days evaluating the NFL Draft's talent pool, the endeavor doesn't consume every waking moment. The 49ers head coach opens small windows to turn the film off, take a break from Zoom calls and catch a breath of fresh air.

They close quickly after Shanahan steps out the front door.

He can't escape talk about what the 49ers could do with the No. 3 overall pick, a coveted NFL draft slot acquired in a massive trade with Miami that captivated an entire league and sparked a month-long Bay Area debate.

Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have made it clear they're eyeing a quarterback. Exactly which one they take won't be known until the pick is in Thursday night. The 49ers will follow their own compass, thank you very much, but that hasn't slowed the steady stream of unsolicited suggestions reaching Shanahan's ear.

"I do go to restaurants. I do go to my kid's soccer games," Shanahan said during a Monday pre-draft press conference. "Every single person, whether it's a ref, an umpire, another parent, everyone has a strong opinion and most people let me know."

That's the bi-product of a passionate fan base and the team's willingness to make bold moves.

Lynch and Shanahan aren't afraid to be aggressive using valuable assets. They've made six trades involving first-round picks since taking control of 49ers football operations in 2017, including a few blockbusters.

Some were made during the selection process itself, moving up the draft board for a coveted player or down slightly to acquire more picks in addition to a valued asset. Count Brandon Aiyuk, Fred Warner and Javon Kinlaw among the quality acquired with these higher-stakes trades.

The 49ers made another big play before last year's NFL Draft, one that sent defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis – the Colts subsequently paid him a massive sum -- for a first-round pick that helped acquire Kinlaw.

The March 26 trade with Miami is of greater scale than that. The 49ers gave the No. 12 overall pick, first-round selections in 2022 and 2023 and a 2022 third-round choice to Miami for the No. 3 slot and a significant amount of control incredibly rare to the NFL Draft process, where teams are subject to often unpredictable decisions made before them.

While smokescreens commonly fog the NFL Draft, the 49ers playing field seems pretty clear. Jacksonville is expected to take Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence first. BYU's Zach Wilson is projected to go next to the New York Jets.

That leaves the 49ers to take a quarterback they want at No. 3, whether the aforementioned script is followed or not. That wouldn't have been assured from their original draft slot.

"We wanted to dictate it," Shanahan said. "And, we also were worried, maybe the one we ended up wanting doesn't fall to 12. Why don't we move up there to a spot where we can take the best look at everyone? We know we'll get one and we'll get the one that, after putting in a lot of work and [doing] everything, we feel we're going to get the one that's best for us."

That's the important thing here. The 49ers have to find the best available quarterback for Shanahan's offense, using every pre-draft evaluation opportunity at their disposal to do so. Yet another aggressive and bold trade helped make that happen.

"It's the move that you have to do," Shanahan said. "That's how much it costs to do these types of things. Or you just sit there and wait and keep your fingers crossed and hope things work out. That's something that we didn't want to do this year. We don't want to risk waiting on injuries and waiting on luck. We thought two first-round picks for our future, guaranteeing us we had a starting quarterback, we were very excited about that and felt very fortunate that Miami was excited, too."

The quarterback taken No. 3 overall should also have a spring in his step. He'll enter a situation relatively unique to top picks, who often land with struggling teams in dire straits. That signal caller will join a talented crew with experience up front, dynamic receivers and the planet's best tight end in George Kittle. Oh, and he'll have been hand-picked by a 49ers team confident he can run Shanahan's scheme.

"Typically, No. 3 picks at quarterback, they're going to teams that aren't that good," Lynch said. "I think our roster is pretty good. We've got to stay healthy. There's a lot of things that have to happen, but I think our roster is pretty healthy in terms of the talent and so I think it can be a really exciting environment for who we decide on to come in and play when they're ready to play."