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49ers pull off huge trade for #3 pick, jump ahead of Falcons

San Francisco is probably after a quarterback.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

There are so many quarterback-needy teams in the NFL right now that it seemed inevitable someone would hop up into the top five and try to grab their option of the future. With Trevor Lawrence heading to the Jaguars first overall and the Jets reportedly likely to pick Zach Wilson or Justin Fields at #2, the best places to jump in figured to be #3 with the Dolphins (who have Tua) and the Falcons (assuming they are not, in fact, drafting their quarterback of the future this year).

The 49ers have seen the Falcons looking hard at everyone from Trey Lance to Fields to Wilson, who had his pro day today, and evidently decided they couldn’t trust that Atlanta wouldn’t wind up taking their preferred option. They swung for the fences and moved from #12 to #3, swapping away two future first rounders for that honor.

This has to be for a quarterback, right? San Francisco has evidently soured on Jimmy Garappolo, who has been a fine but hardly transcendent quarterback and doesn’t figure to suddenly get better heading into his age 30 season. The 49ers are keen on winning right now in a division where Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray already exist and Matthew Stafford was added to the mix this offseason, and chances are good they’re planning to make Fields or Lance their next quarterback. We just don’t know which one yet.

This is a stellar deal for Miami, which picks up two additional first rounders and a third round to keep stocking a rising roster in exchange for missing out on a chance to pick, say, Penei Sewell. They likely still have players they like a great deal at #12 to make this deal. The 49ers mortgage some to picks the next couple of years for a shot to draft a great quarterback, the kind who can make Kyle Shanahan’s vaunted offense really hum. It goes without saying that if Fields or Lance turns out to be that guy, it’s probably worth it.

This could have profound impacts on Atlanta’s draft plans. If they were truly planning on drafting a quarterback and had a strong preference for either Fields or Lance, San Francisco may snipe their preferred choice and leave them weighing their second choice or leaving them with their pick of Kyle Pitts, Penei Sewell, Micah Parsons and others. If Atlanta’s slam dunk top pick will be off the board thanks to this move from the 49ers, it may increase their desire to move down themselves, possibly with a team like Denver or New England who may be itching to pick the top quarterback left at #4. The cascade effect here could be significant, but if the 49ers are right about their hunch that they’d need to move ahead of Atlanta to get the player they wanted, that’s not great news for the Falcons at the end of the day.

As other fans have pointed out to me on Twitter in the minutes since this published, this also could have been about ensuring the 49ers got ahead of quarterback-needy teams like the Panthers, Broncos, Patriots, and maybe Eagles, in which case it may not entirely or even primarily be about the Falcons. We’ll see what happens when we get to the draft, as Atlanta is now unquestionably the biggest wild card in the first four selections.

Unless the Falcons decide to make a pre-draft swap down now that this is happened, we’re not any closer to figuring out what they’re going to be up to in late April. The 49ers, for their part, will have to hope the player they select is worth what they just gave up.