Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, OH, USA; North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance appears on the Red Carpet  at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame before the first round of the 2021 NFL football draft, Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Cleveland.  Mandatory Credit: David Dermer/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

49ers knew Trey Lance was the guy in January

Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch celebrated a decision kept under wraps for more than three months: bringing quarterback Trey Lance to San Francisco.

“You know how it is when you meet someone who kind of has ‘it,’” Lynch said in a joint interview with Shanahan on ESPN late Thursday. “From the first experience we had with him via Zoom to the pro day where we got to go be around him a little bit, it just got better and better.

“I’ll never forget the night Kyle called me up on a Sunday night about 9 o’clock and said, ‘I’m getting kind of obsessed with this guy. You’ve got to watch him.”

Lance was chosen third in the 2021 NFL Draft, following fellow quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars) and Zach Wilson (Jets) off the board.

Shanahan said he knew Lance would be the guy in January. He didn’t know if the 49ers would be able to get him holding the No. 12 pick.

By the time Lynch caught up with film study, they were in lockstep on which quarterback fit the 49ers best. The GM made a trade with the Miami Dolphins to acquire the No. 3 pick in March with eyes firmly locked on Lance.

But Lynch and Shanahan didn’t even share their preference with scouts and assistant coaches. They wanted all evaluations to be independent of any influence of knowing the bosses wanted the small-school product.

And as pundits pointed in other directions, namely at Alabama’s Mac Jones and Ohio State’s Justin Fields, it was the North Dakota State quarterback with limited game reps the 49ers felt was the only option.

“All of that stuff is a concern,” Shanahan said. “The people who are the best in the world at (drafting) are still taking their best guess.”

Shanahan said the Lance pick isn’t an exact science and no pick can be. However, he said the team was very thorough in watching film of Lance, which helped override any worry about the number of games and reps he had in college.

Lance went 17-0 in college — the same number of starts Jones had with the Crimson Tide — but his 318 college pass attempts are the lowest total for a first-round pick in the last 40 years.

He’ll enter the offseason program as a backup to Jimmy Garoppolo.

Lynch said when Lance “is ready, he’s ready” but deferred to Shanahan and the coaching staff on the pecking order at quarterback.

“With Jimmy, if he’s healthy, he’s working his butt off. It’s going to be very hard to come in and beat Jimmy out,” Shanahan said. “Jimmy’s our quarterback right now. The day it looks like Trey can compete with him and he’s ready to go, we’ll see that and we won’t hesitate. We have a very good backup now, he comes in at No. 2.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2020; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Syracuse Orange running back Sean Tucker (34) is tackled by Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (6) in the third quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Best available players after first round

It was all about offense in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday.

When the Jacksonville Jaguars are back on the clock with the 33rd pick to kick off the second round Friday night, the run on defense could begin.

Jacksonville selected Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence first and spent the 25th pick on his college teammate, running back Travis Etienne.

The first seven picks in the draft were offensive players for the first time in the modern draft era — the 1999 draft came close; cornerback Champ Bailey was the No. 7 pick — and only 14 defensive players were selected among the top 32 Thursday.

Entering Day 2 of the draft, here are the top 25 players available:
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Azeez Ojulari, DE-OLB, Georgia
Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
Landon Dickerson, OG/C, Alabama
Richie Grant, FS, UCF
Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
Carlos Basham Jr., DE, Wake Forest
Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Tyson Campbell, DB, Georgia
Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington
Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
Quinn Meinerz, OG/C, Wisconsin-Whitewater
Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio State
Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State
Jay Tufele, DT, Southern Cal
Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami (Fla.)

–Field Level Media

Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; DeVonta Smith (Alabama) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by Philadelphia Eagles as the number ten overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL draft notebook: NFC East drama shakes up first round

After a mostly predictable start, three NFC East rivals cranked up the intrigue in the 2021 NFL Draft with high-stakes maneuvers that reshaped the proceedings.

The Dallas Cowboys, due up at No. 10, openly coveted one of the top two cornerbacks in the class, Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II or South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn. But the Carolina Panthers made Horn the first defensive player off the board at No. 8 and the Denver Broncos chose Surtain at No. 9, leaving Dallas empty-handed.

Meanwhile, Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith of Alabama was still available at No. 10, with the New York Giants possibly interested in him at No. 11. The Philadelphia Eagles made a rare deal, executing a trade with one division rival to leapfrog another.

The receiver-needy Eagles jumped to the 10th pick to select Smith by trading the 12th and 84th overall picks to the Cowboys. Dallas used the No. 12 pick on Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons rather than a corner.

“When you trade it in the division, you understand that you’re not going to get any values (added) to that, either. It’s going to have to work for them as well,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said.

The turn of events had consequences.

With Smith gone, the Giants instead traded back with the Chicago Bears, who moved up from No. 20 to No. 11 to land Ohio State’s Justin Fields, the fourth quarterback chosen.

At No. 20 the Giants went with a different wide receiver, slot Kadarius Toney of Florida. It marked the first time Dave Gettleman traded back in eight drafts as general manager of the Giants and the Carolina Panthers.

Belichick stands Pat for QB: The New England Patriots didn’t have to trade up to snag one of the best quarterbacks available. Alabama’s Mac Jones fell to the Patriots at No. 15.

Now he’s tasked with becoming New England’s next franchise quarterback more than a year after Tom Brady left for the Buccaneers.

“I can’t wait to play for the greatest franchise in NFL history,” Jones said.

Records for offense, Alabama: The first seven picks of the draft were offensive players for the first time. The previous mark was six straight offensive players to open the 1999 draft.

After quarterbacks went 1-2-3, the Atlanta Falcons selected highly touted tight end Kyle Pitts. The Cincinnati Bengals chose LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase fifth, the Miami Dolphins selected Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle sixth and the Detroit Lions chose Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell seventh.

Nick Saban’s pro factory in Tuscaloosa also had an historic night, as the Crimson Tide tied a record with six players chosen in the first round of a single draft. The 2004 Miami Hurricanes had the first draft class with six first-rounders.

After Waddle, Surtain, Smith and Jones, the Las Vegas Raiders reached at No. 17 for Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood, who projects as a right tackle on their depth chart with Kolton Miller locked in at left tackle. The Pittsburgh Steelers then drafted running back Najee Harris at No. 24 to bolster a thin depth chart at the position.

Jags, Jets take two: The entire NFL knew the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets would select quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson with the first two picks. But both teams had a second first-round pick to spend toward building their teams around their respective rookies.

The Jets owned the Seahawks’ 23rd pick from last year’s Jamal Adams trade. They packaged that and two third-rounders to the Minnesota Vikings to move up to No. 14 and take the top-rated offensive guard in the class, Alijah Vera-Tucker of Southern Cal. Vera-Tucker figures to slot in next to last year’s first-round pick, mammoth tackle Mekhi Becton, to protect Wilson.

The Jaguars used the 25th overall pick (from the Los Angeles Rams in the Jalen Ramsey trade) to reunite Lawrence with his Clemson teammate, running back Travis Etienne. Etienne is the ACC’s all-time leading rusher with high marks of 4,952 yards and 70 touchdowns over four seasons.

–Field Level Media

Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Mac Jones (Alabama) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the New England Patriots as the number 15 overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots select Alabama QB Mac Jones at No. 15

Michael McCorkle Jones was projected to be long gone.

But when the time came for the New England Patriots to make their first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Alabama quarterback “Mac” Jones was still available. It took no time for head coach Bill Belichick to reveal Jones was the choice.

He’s now in the mix in New England after being selected 15th on Thursday night.

“This is what I wanted all along,” Jones said on stage at the draft in Cleveland. “And I can’t wait to play for the greatest franchise in NFL history.”

Jones, a two-time national title winner with the Crimson Tide, was the fifth quarterback chosen in the top 15 on Thursday. He becomes the 11th player drafted by Belichick who played for Nick Saban in college.

In 13 games last season, Jones threw for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Some argue he was a product of a system that thrived with a rugged offensive line and elite playmakers everywhere. He was a backup in 2017 when Alabama also won the title.

He already seems to have a grasp of the ballyhooed “Patriot Way.”

Saban said last month teams began showing greater interest in Jones late last season and after the national championship game. In conversations with teams, Saban reminds them where Jones started — on the scout team and then behind a slew of talented players, including projected 2021 NFL starters Jalen Hurts (Eagles) and Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins). And, perhaps most importantly, of Jones’ perseverance to keep working toward getting on the field instead of leaving as a transfer.

“I think that the team that picks me is going to realize they don’t have to worry about me being the first guy in and the last guy out,” Jones said last month. “I’m going to sit and watch as much film as I can and do all the right things. And then obviously the tape speaks for itself.”

Jones joins former Auburn quarterbacks Cam Newton and Jarret Stidham with the Patriots. And he could have a chance to see Tagovailoa head to head twice a year in the AFC East.

Newton re-signed with the Patriots after a disappointing 2020 with the team. He went 7-8 in 15 starts and turns 32 next month.

Newton completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions and rushed for 592 yards and 12 scores.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) warms up before the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers extend backup QB Mason Rudolph’s contract

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced Thursday they signed backup quarterback Mason Rudolph to a one-year extension.

The deal keeps Rudolph signed though the 2022 season as starter Ben Roethlisberger’s deal ends at the conclusion of the 2021 season in a deal negotiated earlier this offseason. Roethlisberger enters the season at age 39.

Reports put Rudolph’s deal at $3 million for the next two seasons, with yet-undisclosed incentives to get it to go higher.

The 25-year-old Rudoph has played in 15 games for the Steelers after being picked in the third round in 2018, throwing for 2,089 yards with 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He has compiled a 5-4 record in nine starts.

–Field Level Media

Feb 12, 2021; Clemson, SC, USA;  Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence works out during Pro Day in Clemson, South Carolina. Mandatory Credit: David Platt/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Jaguars tab QB Trevor Lawrence with top pick of NFL draft

The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday night in Cleveland.

The 6-foot-6 Lawrence will be looked on as the savior by Jacksonville fans, and is the team’s first choice under new head coach Urban Meyer.

The Heisman Trophy runner-up went 34-2 as a starter at Clemson and led the Tigers to the national championship as a freshman in 2018. He passed for 10,098 yards, 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions and tacked on 18 rushing scores.

This was the initial time Jacksonville held the No. 1 selection after the team finished with an NFL-worst 1-15 record in the 2020 season. The Jaguars held the No. 2 pick three times, with their best selection in 1995 being offensive tackle Tony Boselli, who has been a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist the past five years.

The Jaguars also hold the No. 25 overall pick in Thursday’s draft.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson (2) against the Miami Dolphins at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson signs $3.384M tender

Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson signed his tender with the team on Thursday, according to multiple reports.

Carlson will make $3.384 million in 2021. He was a restricted free agent and the Raiders placed a second-round tender on him in March to retain his services.

Carlson was a superb 33 of 35 on field-goal attempts last season while tying for the NFL lead with 144 points. He nailed all 26 of his attempts under 40 yards.

Overall, the 26-year-old has made 69 of 82 field-goal attempts in three NFL seasons with the Minnesota Vikings (2018) and Raiders (2018-20).

He hit just 1 of 4 attempts in two games with the Vikings before being released in 2018. He was picked up by the Raiders and went 16 of 17 the rest of the season.

Carlson has made 103 of 107 point-after attempts in 44 NFL games.

–Field Level Media

Jan 11, 2020; Frisco, Texas, USA; North Dakota State Bison quarterback Trey Lance (5) celebrates winning the game against the James Madison Dukes at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Trey Lance now favored to go to 49ers at No. 3

Trey Lance has taken over as the betting favorite to be selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the third overall pick shortly before the start of the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday.

The North Dakota State quarterback is now the -140 favorite at BetMGM and -150 favorite at DraftKings and PointsBet ahead of Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (+125, +150, +125).

It marks a dramatic shift from Monday, when Jones was the heavy favorite at -200 favorite ahead of Lance at +150 at DraftKings. Lance was still being offered at +240 to begin Thursday.

However, those odds have swung dramatically with reports indicating the 49ers are now leaning towards taking Lance.

“BetMGM has taken steady action the past 24 hours on Trey Lance to be the third overall pick,” said sports trader Darren Darby. “Lance began the day +240 and is now a -140 betting favorite. The best outcome for the sportsbook is Mac Jones to be the third pick.”

Justin Fields, who opened at +140 at BetMGM to be the third overall pick, is now a +900 longshot.

San Francisco acquired the third pick on March 26. Three days later, Lance was being offered at +175 by DraftKings to be selected by the 49ers.

That put him behind Jones (+150) and slightly ahead of Fields (+200). However, those odds shifted dramatically as buzz picked up steam that San Francisco was strongly considering Fields after attending both of the Ohio State quarterback’s pre-draft workouts.

By April 5, Fields (+150) had pulled close to Jones (+125), with Lance’s odds of landing in the Bay Area lengthening to +250. Those odds moved to +400 by April 15 with San Francisco reportedly whittling its decision down to Jones and Fields.

Another report on Sunday contributed to a massive swing at DraftKings, where Jones became the overwhelming favorite at -200. Lance’s odds also shortened to +150.

Those odds held fairly steady until 24 hours before the draft, when momentum began to swing in Lance’s favor. He is now being backed by 33.3 percent of the handle and 33.6 percent of the bets at BetMGM to be the No. 3 pick.

–Field Level Media

Nov 17, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) works out prior to the game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Saints exercise fifth-year option of DE Marcus Davenport

The New Orleans Saints picked up the fifth-year option of defensive end Marcus Davenport on Thursday.

Davenport will receive $9.553 million in 2022 in the final season of his rookie deal.

Davenport, who was the 14th pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, has started 14 of 37 games played for the Saints in his three seasons. He has 74 tackles, 12 sacks, four forced fumbles and 36 quarterback hits.

Last season, the 24-year-old Davenport had 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He played in 11 games (one start), missing the first four contests due to an elbow injury and an early December game with a concussion.

Davenport played college football at Texas-San Antonio.

–Field Level Media