He’s mobile and accurate, and he seemingly would have been a nice fit in a Chip Kelly offense that covets dual-threat passers.
But rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, whom the Dallas Cowboys drafted late in the fourth round, either wasn’t high on the 49ers’ radar or the team did a fantastic job hiding its interest.
“Not much,” Prescott said Wednesday of his predraft interaction with the 49ers. “Probably one of the teams I talked with the least.”
With Cowboys starter Tony Romo sidelined because of a back injury suffered in the third preseason game, Prescott has been pressed into service earlier than expected and has thrived. The Cowboys are 2-1 entering Sunday’s game at Levi’s Stadium, and Prescott has completed 66.7 percent of his passes – 10th best in the NFL – and has not been intercepted.
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That performance, in contrast with San Francisco’s unsteady quarterback situation, has left some 49ers fans wondering, “Why didn’t we draft that guy?”
Instead, the 49ers took Prescott’s Mississippi State teammate, cornerback Will Redmond, in the third round and another cornerback, LSU’s Rashard Robinson, in the fourth, two picks before Prescott was selected.
Redmond is on injured reserve, though he received a hearty appraisal from Prescott, who called him a “special defensive back.” Robinson might start Sunday at cornerback in place of the injured Jimmie Ward, making for another interesting contrast.
The 49ers simply didn’t zero in on quarterbacks before the draft. The only two prominent college passers known to have visited Santa Clara were Cal’s Jared Goff, who didn’t have a very long trip down Interstate 880 and went No. 1 overall to the Los Angeles Rams, and Michigan State’s Connor Cook, whom the Raiders drafted early in the fourth round, 35 slots before Prescott.
The 49ers waited until the end of the sixth round for a quarterback, Louisiana Tech’s Jeff Driskel, who also said he had “very little” interaction with them beforehand. The team cut Driskel with the intention of placing him on its practice squad, but the Cincinnati Bengals signed him to their active roster.
At the time of the draft, the 49ers had four quarterbacks on the roster: Blaine Gabbert, Colin Kaepernick, Thad Lewis and Dylan Thompson.
“I just figured that they had their QB position set,” Prescott said. “They liked what they had.”
Those numbers have dwindled, and three weeks into the season, the 49ers have no clear-cut quarterback of the future.
Gabbert has struggled early, albeit against some of the best defenses in the league, and is not signed for next season. In 2017, Kaepernick is scheduled to earn at least $14.5 million, which is too high unless he regains the starting job and recaptures his form from 2012 and 2013.
Thompson was cut after the draft, and Lewis suffered a season-ending torn ACL.
The 49ers, whose players have been involved in a number of alcohol-related incidents in recent years, might have soured on Prescott after he was charged with DUI in Starkville, Miss., seven weeks before the draft. Prescott figures that might have lowered his draft stock a bit. He was found not guilty in July.
“We certainly asked the questions about that,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday. “We asked Dak very directly and his answers were fantastic. Very accountable, very open and honest about it. … We got our arms around that. That wasn’t a concern for us at all.”
Prescott acknowledged his draft status expanded the chip on his shoulder. But it’s not as if the 49ers are the focus of that frustration.
“That’s every game,” he said. “Even in practice, I guess. Being (taken) in the fourth round, everybody passed you up a couple of times.”