There's growing buzz that the San Francisco 49ers will draft Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL draft, but don't rule out the possibility that Justin Fields will end up with San Francisco instead.
"I don't buy it," an AFC executive told CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora regarding the Jones-to-the-Niners chatter. "I think it's Fields at three."
"I don't know one way or the other, but I have a hard time seeing Mac Jones as the third player in this draft," an NFC executive said.
"Doesn't smell right to me," a separate NFC executive told La Canfora.
It's always hard to know the difference between smokescreens and genuine interest this time of year. One thing to consider is why the 49ers would bother to put out counterintelligence at this point with the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets widely presumed to be set on Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson with the first two picks.
Are the Niners worried a team that loves Fields might offer a bundle to the Jets to move up to No. 2? Are they putting out a Jones smokescreen to prevent that scenario so they can select the Ohio State product? Or do they just love Jones?
The NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah seemingly believes San Francisco's interest is real, projecting Jones to the Niners in his latest mock draft, though he noted he was "surprised that everything you hear points toward Jones being the Niners' pick at No. 3."
Jeremiah ranked Fields as the better prospect, No. 8 on his big board with Jones No. 32. (Lawrence is No. 1, Wilson No. 4 and North Dakota State's Trey Lance No. 7.)
Charley Casserly @CharleyCasserly
I surveyed 23 teams on their ranking of the Top 5 QB’s in the @NFLDraft All 23 teams had Trevor Lawrence #1 & Zach Wilson #2 The remaining ranking was #3 Justin Fields, #4 Trey Lance #5 Mac Jones. Interestingly for 3rd place Fields had 13 votes, Lance 6, Jones 4 @nflnetwork
How the 49ers handle the pick will have major ramifications on the rest of the draft (barring the Jets' surprising everyone and not selecting Wilson). If the pick isn't Fields, more than a few people will be surprised, despite the Jones buzz.
"Maybe teams are seeing things we don't see," one team official told La Canfora. "But this kid [Fields] looks special to me."