The player who some in the NFL believe could have a Patrick Mahomes type of breakout next season is still a bit gimpy. He might wear a brace on a surgically repaired knee. This is the guy teams think could be the next Mahomes? Him? Really?
When I asked a few front-office officials and assistant coaches to pick the next young quarterback to come closest to doing what Mahomes did last season, one name kept coming up: 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
"He's got the best chance to be the next Mahomes," one AFC team executive told B/R.
Garoppolo's name has come up before with teams. There are teams that secretly have a massive crush on him (or maybe it's not so secret). That desire to hand him a rose is emerging again.
This seems...odd. Yet, it does make sense.
It seems odd because Garoppolo, who met with the media this week, is still recovering from a torn ACL. Yet teams believe such an injury is not a huge factor, and they also think the 49ers have more talent than many people know.
That latter factor is a big one in Garoppolo's potential emergence, especially if second-year wide receiver Dante Pettis can make a leap forward to pair with Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle. On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers could add another significant piece. They have the second overall pick, and odds are they'll take Ohio State pass-rusher Nick Bosa. If Bosa ends up as good as we think he'll be, he could transform that defense overnight.
The same possibility exists if they take Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. We've seen the massive impact interior linemen have had in the NFL recently with players like Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox.
If the 49ers add a handful of other good players from this draft, this roster could be sneaky-loaded with players like Marquise Goodwin, George Kittle, pass-rusher Dee Ford and future Hall of Famer Richard Sherman.
At the same time as an improved roster could boost Garoppolo, he too could help his teammates rise up. What you saw with Mahomes is his play elevate the entire team. No, Kansas City's defense was not great, but it would have been abysmal without Mahomes' excellent play. A rising tide lifts all Spider 2 Y Bananas. Teams think Garoppolo can lift the entire 49ers franchise.
Will he throw for 50 touchdowns, as Mahomes did? Most of the team officials and coaches we queried said probably not. But they think he could throw in the high 30s, at least.
Their main point is that as we look at next season and see the potential dominance of new faces like Cleveland's Baker Mayfield and older faces like Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers, we shouldn't forget Garoppolo, who at 27 has made only 10 NFL starts.
What teams like about Garoppolo is his accuracy and mobility and how he uses his athleticism to keep the play alive.
The biggest piece of good news for the 49ers is that Garoppolo says he's on target to return for training camp.
"It's very good to be throwing again," Garoppolo said, according to a transcript from the team. "It's what I do. It's encouraging. Every day gets easier and easier; able to make this throw better than I was a week ago. It's small victories like that. Throughout this whole process, it's all about small victories."
When asked exactly how it felt to be passing again, Garoppolo gave a blunt and honest answer.
"Initially, your body just isn't used to those movements," he said. "It's been so long since you've did them that you're like, 'That's not what it usually was.' Then, you start to get back into it and your body starts to react the right way. It's very encouraging."
There are two potential problems with the Garoppolo-as-Mahomes narrative. One is Garoppolo's surgically repaired knee impacting his mobility (that seems unlikely).
The other problem, a much bigger one, is the 49ers' schedule‚—specifically, the last six games: Green Bay, at Baltimore, at New Orleans, Atlanta, L.A. Rams and at Seattle.
There are definitely challenges, but the 49ers have the No. 2 draft pick and a quarterback some in the league say could be the next Mahomes.
This could be fun.