In the wake of the 49ers loss in Super Bowl 54 to the Kansas City Chiefs, some people started bringing up a simple, yet uneasy fact- the 49ers passed on drafting Patrick Mahomes in 2017.
This was their karma for passing on Mahomes, instead drafting defensive lineman Solomon Thomas from Stanford.
So we go back to 2017 and the NFL Draft. The 49ers are selecting 2nd overall, a year after finishing just 2-14. They have a new head coach, Kyle Shanahan, who called the offense for the Atlanta Falcons, and helped lead them to the Super Bowl. Shanahan takes over a terrible football team without a quarterback, so they signed Brian Hoyer, who played for Shanahan while in Cleveland. The signing was instantly viewed as a “bridge-gap” signing, I even wrote an article about this after the deal. Signing Hoyer meant the 49ers were at some point, were going to draft a quarterback for the future.
The 2017 class offered three top quarterbacks, the list included:
Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina
DeShaun Watson, Clemson
Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
For whatever reason, the consensus top pick, seemed to be Trubisky, despite only being a one-year starter for the Tar Heels. Watson was the money pick to me. His first season was cut short by injury, but his Sophomore and Junior season at Clemson, were amazing; back-to-back National Title game appearances and a National Title in his final season, including his final collegiate pass being the game winning touchdown to beat Alabama. Mahomes was the wild card of the three. Despite putting up stats similar to what Watson put up, because he played at Texas Tech and their spread offense, and their history of having QBs put up big stats but not really produce in the NFL, Mahomes was viewed as the 3rd best passer from the 2017 class.
Trubisky went 2nd to the Bears after a trade with San Francisco, and then the Chiefs shockingly, moved up 17 spots to get Mahomes, not Watson, who went two picks later.
Mahomes ended up sitting behind Alex Smith for a season and has flourished since taking over the starting job. You know the story- an MVP season followed up the next year with a Super Bowl victory.
Meanwhile the 49ers, in the same draft, passed up on Trubisky, Mahomes, and Watson, instead opting for Solomon Thomas from Stanford. Thomas hasn’t played up to his 3rd overall pick status, especially when you see what Nick Bosa, drafted 2nd overall this past year, has done in his lone season in the NFL. By comparison, Thomas has really been somewhat of a disappointment because of his draft status. He’s a good football player, and a better interior d-lineman than pass rusher, but overall, he’s not even starting for a team that picked him 3rd overall. The 49ers did eventually draft a quarterback, but it wasn’t until the third round- CJ Beathard from Iowa.
So now we get into these “what if” games people like to play. What if…the 49ers had picked Patrick Mahomes instead of Thomas. We’ve played these games a thousand times, and we’ll play them a thousand more.
Had Mahomes ended up a Niner instead of a Chief, I believe he would have had similar personal success to what he’s experiencing now, a lot of it based on the coaching and offense he would have ended up in. Mahomes was the wild card in the 2017 draft, but the truth is, he always had the goods. As far as the 49ers go, with Mahomes, forget a trade for Garoppolo, and forget getting Nick Bosa 2nd overall in 2019. With Mahomes the 49ers quarterback, the story swings back to the Patriots and what they do with Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo, which is a whole other mess in itself.
Now you’ve now created a whole butterfly effect for the rest of the league. Perhaps, with Mahomes gone, Kansas City trades up to get DeShaun Watson at 10, which means Houston goes in a different direction at quarterback in 2017 or 2018.
As far as Solomon Thomas goes, getting past the top three, he could end up sliding from 5th with the Titans, to the Eagles at 14.
But back to Mahomes and the 49ers. I honestly believed, that the 49ers were going quarterback in the first round, I was just hoping it wasn’t Trubisky (Nothing against Trubisky, it was just that his college resume was too short to me to warrant a top five pick). I really thought Watson would have been a good fit for the 49ers, especially in a Shanahan offense. With his mobility, his arm, and his big game college resume, there’s no doubt, that Watson would have been a great pick for the 49ers. And if Watson would have been a great pick, then imagine what Mahomes would have done with Shanahan calling plays. I’d say he’d be putting up similar numbers in San Francisco, but not exact because the 49ers don’t have a Tyreke Hill, yes they Marquise Goodwin to match the speed, but he’s not Tyreke.
So overall, Mahomes would have succeeded in San Francisco too. As far as the 49ers go, their overall success might not be what it is now, because they had far too many holes to fill compared to a Chiefs team, that made the playoffs the previous two years with Alex Smith under center.
While both Thomas and Mahomes played in Super Bowl 54, Thomas has been viewed as an underachiever while Mahomes is regarded as the best quarterback and player in the league.
Had things gone differently in 2017, the landscape of the NFL right now would be completely flipped. It’s a fun what if, but that’s all it is, what if. I’d say both San Francisco and Kansas City are happy with the current state of their franchises, the Chiefs a little more than the 49ers right now.