To understand why the 49ers invested a third-round pick in exceptionally ordinary quarterback prospect C.J. Beathard, you have to understand Kyle Shanahan. To understand Kyle Shanahan, you have to understand Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel.
Griffin and Manziel, you recall, were the two incandescently talented first-round rookie quarterbacks Shanahan was tasked with developing in Washington and Cleveland, respectively. They are also two big reasons why Shanahan is no longer in Washington or Cleveland.
Shanahan doesn't do high-wattage quarterback talent and never really did. After beginning his career with Tampa Bay, he eventually became a coordinator tasked with grooming Matt Schaub to replace David Carr, a former first overall pick. It even took him a year and some beer to find his groove with Matt Ryan, who already had all the rough edges sanded down.
So when Shanahan said that Beathard reminded him of Kirk Cousins, it was some of the highest praise he could offer.
Beathard looked nothing like a third-round pick to most draft analysts. A deep tape dive reveals an ordinary passer, when Beathard passes at all. Four times in the last two seasons, Beathard led Iowa to victory while completing fewer than 10 passes for less than 100 yards. Watching 2016 Iowa games sometimes felt like watching 1974 Iowa games. Beathard was a handoff machine with a kinda-OK arm and mobility.
Beathard ended his college career with three interceptions and 55 passing yards in a 30-3 loss to Florida in the Outback Bowl. He looked sturdy and adequate during Senior Bowl practices then injured his hamstring and barely played in the game itself. He did nothing breathtaking at the combine. Beathard fit the profile of a quarterback drafted in the sixth or seventh round, relegated to the third string and destined to a short and uneventful career.
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