C.J. Beathard was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers at the end of third round of the 2017 NFL Draft for a reason and it’s not to sit behind Matt Barkley.
C.J. Beathard was drafted in the third round by a San Francisco 49ers team starved at the quarterback position. Many fans and sportswriters (including myself) fully expected the 49ers to draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Instead, the team passed even though they were in prime position to pick a coveted prospect.
To the surprise of many, team general manager John Lynch opted to not only wait to the third round to draft a quarterback, but he also decided to trade up to get him. That man was Beathard. Beathard played quarterback for the University of Iowa. Coming out of Iowa, Beathard failed to impress many scouts.
His drafting in the third-round is still considered by many a head-scratcher. The trading up to get him is simply bizarre. To answer this riddle, we need to first answer a few questions.
By all accounts, Beathard was a player that would have been available as late as the sixth round which begs the question: Why would the 49ers front office be so enamored that they felt the need to trade up to get him? Many quarterbacks drafted in the third round are fated to be career backups. Some, of course, break that mold. With this knowledge in hand, why draft a backup when you already signed two backups?
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Some have argued that the team is simply taking a flyer on a player of intrigue. To which I say, negative ghost-rider. Teams take flyers on players much later in the draft. Last season, the 49ers drafted a quarterback whom the team cut prior to the start of the season. That player was sixth-round selection Jeff Driskel. That is an example of taking a flyer on a quarterback in the draft.
If the 49ers are not taking a flyer on Beathard, then what are they doing? Wasting a third-round pick?
No one expects the team to start a third-round rookie quarterback on a rebuilding team. Let’s face it, the 49ers are still trying to figure out where they stand talent-wise. Throwing a rookie out there will simply crush their development.
Nevertheless, more and more teams have done just that. This trial by fire has expedited the evaluation process for general managers and put a ticking clock on coaching staffs. Players know that they need to sink or swim right out of the gate.
The 49ers signed career-backup-sometimes-starter Brian Hoyer to be the starter while the team finds the long-term solution. In addition, the team also brought in the backups backup in Matt Barkley.
Hoyer has made a career of averaging at almost below average. As a backup, he is a solid player. As a starter, he is a known commodity which is simply awful. Barkley, while younger, fits the same mold of the career backup.
The intriguing player in 2017 is Beathard. Beathard has no stink surrounding his name. He is a true unknown. Is it possible that head coach Kyle Shanahan plans on starting Beathard at some point in the 2017 season? If not, he should be.
Beathard played on an Iowa team that was deprived of offensive talent. Most of its offensive revolved around the running game. Beathard was asked to make passes when needed behind a porous offensive line.
This sounds awfully familiar to what the 49ers will be fielding this season. Beathard seems mentally and physically ready to handle the type of football the 49ers will want to play. In addition, Beathard is known for his ability to read the field, make quick decisions, get the ball out of his hands, all while staying tough in the pocket.
Skills that Hoyer and Barkley have consistently failed to perform on regular basis.
Beathard also received an incredibly bad rap in college. His completion percentage as a junior was a solid 61.6 but it dropped to a paltry 56.5 as a senior per NFL.com. The drop in completion percentage mislead NFL scouts in believing that Beathard had a drop in performance. However, Beathard had a better year in 2016.
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Per Pro Football Focus, when drops were taken into account, Beathard’s completion percentage rose from 56.5 to 73.5. Beathard had the third-highest drop rate of any college quarterback in 2016 which greatly affected his completion percentage considering he was not asked to throw the ball often.
Clearly, the scouts overlooked Beathard more than they should have. Which brings us back to the questions asked at the beginning of this article.
Why would the 49ers front office be so enamored that they felt the need to trade up to get him?
The 49ers saw a player not quite at the top of the 2016 college quarterback heap, but right at the bottom of tier two. This is what the Shanahans saw in Kirk Cousins which makes Beathard’s selection seem like déjà vu.
Why draft a backup when you already signed two backups?
They do not see a career backup quarterback. The front office sees someone who can be an NFL starter at some point.
If the 49ers are not taking a flyer on Beathard, then what are they doing with him? Wasting a third-round pick?
The 49ers want him to win the job in training camp outright. However, if he doesn’t, they will let Hoyer take the reigns until he is ready.
My best prediction is that Hoyer ends up starting when the season starts. However, by midseason, look for C.J. Beathard to make his début as the 49ers quarterback. If Beathard never shows any promise, the team can move on next season by drafting another quarterback.
But, if they don’t see what they have in him, then what was the point in not only drafting him but trading up to get him in the third?