Did 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan Pass on Patrick Mahomes Because of Kirk Cousins?

Mahomes 49ers Chiefs Super Bowl

Getty Quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers will face off in Super Bowl LIV. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The 2017 NFL Draft may just go down as one of the more memorable ones in league history. Both Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were top 20 picks, and while the first quarterback taken in the draft, Mitchell Trubisky of the Chicago Bears, has yet to become a reliable starter on a consistent basis, he’ll likely have one more year to prove himself in Chicago before the Bears move on.

In what CBS Sports called a “wild move” at the time, Chicago traded up to draft Trubisky with the second pick in the first round. The team they traded with, the San Francisco 49ers, are now about to face Mahomes, as he leads the Kansas City Chiefs against them in Super Bowl LIV. It was a shocking move, largely because the Bears were already slated to draft at #3, and instead of waiting to take either Mahomes or Watson at No. 3, they moved up to take the more unproven Trubisky.

In exchange for the No. 2 pick, the Bears gave San Francisco the No. 3 overall pick, a third-round pick (67th overall) and a fourth-round pick (111th overall) in the 2017 draft, along with a third-round pick in 2018. The Bears’ decision to move up and choose Trubisky has been much maligned, but the 49ers also could have drafted Mahomes — and their reasons for not doing so are quite surprising.


Kyle Shanahan on Drafting Patrick Mahomes: ‘Didn’t Want to Be That Risky’

“I didn’t look into him obviously as much as I should have,” Shanahan said about drafting Mahomes Tuesday. “We definitely looked into him, studied all of his tape. Was just a freak, could make any throw, had the ability to do anything. That was a little bit different situation for us. We had the second pick in the draft, did not feel like from all the intel that you get and stuff that he was gonna go that high.”

Bears general manager Ryan Pace has to be glad to hear that on some level, someone else passed on Mahomes due to the dynamic QB being a potential risk. There was also the Kirk Cousins factor. Cousins was a free agent in 2018, and Shanahan, who had worked with Cousins in Washington, had the current Minnesota Vikings quarterback in his sights. As it turned out, the Niners traded a second-round pick to the New England Patriots in 2017 for Jimmy Garoppolo instead.

“It was a little different situation for us just ’cause I think it’s pretty well documented of just the relationship I had with Kirk being in Washington and I felt very confident that he wasn’t gonna stay there,” Shanahan recalled. “So anytime you go into a season knowing that a franchise quarterback was going to be available the next year, it made me a lot more picky with what we were looking at.”

The Niners ended up taking defensive lineman Solomon Thomas with the third overall pick in 2017, and Shanahan reiterated how risky it was in his mind to take a quarterback early in the first round that year.

“You saw a bunch of talented guys in that draft,” Shanahan said. “It’s very tough when you watch college systems and stuff, you don’t really know until you get someone in the building. You can see ability, you can see talent, but how’s the mind? How do they play in the pocket? How do they process? That’s not just an IQ score. That’s some stuff I don’t think you can totally test. You gotta go through that with them, so there’s always a risk when you spend a first-round pick on a quarterback. With the situation we were in, didn’t want to be that risky, especially with the second pick in the draft.”

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