Update: Cal quarterback Jared Goff is expected to meet with the 49ers again before the April 28 draft, but he will not be at the team's facility in Santa Clara on Wednesday as part of the 49ers’ "local" pro day as previously reported.
The top two quarterbacks in the NFL draft, Cal’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, will be in Santa Clara this week to visit the 49ers.
Team officials, including coach Chip Kelly, already have taken close looks at the two passers. Kelly attended Cal’s March 18 pro day and was on hand for a second throwing session with Goff in Berkeley later in the month. The team also sent representatives, including quarterbacks coach Ryan Day, to Fargo, N.D., to watch Wentz work out.
The question is whether either quarterback will reach the 49ers at pick No. 7 on April 28. One of them likely will be taken by the Cleveland Browns, who have the second overall pick. Speculation abounds that a team could make a trade with the Tennessee Titans, who have the first overall choice, and select a quarterback at that spot. Last year, Tennessee drafted quarterback Marcus Mariota second overall.
Goff and Wentz have been visiting quarterback-needy teams for weeks, and those teams typically like to meet with them in back-to-back visits so they can better compare the two. That’s what will occur late this week in Santa Clara. Goff is eligible to meet with the 49ers at their “local” pro day Wednesday. Wentz could arrive the following day.
7 49ers’ position in first round of April 28-30 draft
The draft stakes are high for the 49ers because of their murky quarterback situation. They haven’t been in the market for a passer since 2011. That year, Jim Harbaugh’s first as coach, they selected Colin Kaepernick in the second round. Kaepernick’s status now is tenuous after he requested a trade in February. Trade talks with the Denver Broncos are on hold, but the two teams and Kaepernick remain interested, and discussions likely will rekindle during the draft.
If Kaepernick is dealt, Blaine Gabbert will be the front-runner to start. Gabbert, however, is not signed beyond 2016. Under that scenario, any quarterback the 49ers draft would be the favorite to start in 2017 and beyond.
Goff threw for 43 touchdowns last season and has been praised for his quick decision making – essential in Kelly’s offense – and ability to throw from an NFL-style pocket.
Wentz is bigger and more athletic than Goff, qualities that might appeal to Kelly, who lacked good running quarterbacks for most of his three-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles. However, Wentz started only seven games last year because of a wrist injury, and his level of competition in the Missouri Valley Conference might worry some teams.
If both are gone, the 49ers could use their 2011 strategy: Take the best defensive player available at No. 7 and use the second pick on a quarterback. If that’s the case, the 49ers might look to Michigan State’s Connor Cook, whom they worked out last month, or Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, who had his pro-day session last week.
The 49ers’ multiple meetings and throwing sessions with Goff and Wentz are not surprising. That was the routine in 2005, when they had the No. 1 overall pick and had to decide between Cal’s Aaron Rodgers and Utah’s Alex Smith.
43 Touchdown passes by Cal’s Jared Goff last season
The 49ers opted for Smith, and Rodgers fell to the Green Bay Packers at No. 24. Smith struggled on San Francisco’s talent-starved teams early in his career, while Rodgers had to bide his time in Green Bay as a backup to Brett Favre.
Rodgers eventually became the starter, has won two NFL MVP awards and led the Packers to a win in Super Bowl XLV. The 49ers dealt Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013 when Kaepernick appeared to be their quarterback of the future.
With Smith leading the offense, the Chiefs posted winning records the last three seasons and made the playoffs twice.