During April’s 2018 NFL Draft, San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan had only one quarterback on his draft board (Niner’s Live opened your eyes to why), during the third round, General Manager John Lynch traded up to get Shanahan’s quarterback, C.J. Beathard. As Niners Live recently explained in the first article of this two-part series on the 49ers quarterback situation, starting quarterback Brian Hoyer has not done enough to make a claim to the quarterback job heading into the future. In this second part of the series, we will explain why and when Beathard should be given his opportunity to show what he brings to this offense and make his case to the be the quarterback of the future.
During his college playing days and his first NFL Pre-Season this year, Beathard has shown, and been praised for, two major qualities that are found in Super Bowl contending NFL quarterbacks. Lynch spoke with Mike Florio (NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk) before training camp and highlighted those qualities.
“Aside from the talent, in tight spaces and in tight windows, he can really rip the ball. But I think his toughness speaks to me and Kyle. This is a guy that will get hit, stand up, and that seems to be a quality all the great ones have.
“And then, kind of fearless. I talked about letting that ball go. There’s just no hesitation and that’s what the great ones in this league — I think they anticipate and they let the ball go and they trust that their guys are going to be, and they demand that their guys are going to be where they’re supposed to be, when they’re supposed to be there. He’s got a lot of fire to him.
“He’s played in a pro-style offense. Now, at Iowa, they didn’t throw it as much as a lot of people so I think that’s one reason he wasn’t as coveted throughout the league. But I think people that studied him liked a lot of the same qualities we had. And those are, he’s a very accurate thrower as well. Those are the qualities that stand out to me.”
That’s some hefty praise from one of the league’s all-time best defensive backs. Can C.J. live up to those comments? We won’t know until he is given live reps in an NFL Game. In the meantime, let’s look at those qualities.
Repetitive accuracy is a coveted skill for NFL level passers. The top quarterbacks in the league, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees display this quality game in and game out. Their passing numbers are a testament to this. NFL average for completion percentage is usually used as a benchmark to assess a quarterback’s accuracy. The NFL average, of the top 30 players in that category during the 2016 season, was 63.41 percent. The quarterbacks Brady, Rodgers, and Brees posting percentages of 67.4%, 65.7%, and 70.0% respectively. Brees’ 70% was second in the league to Sam Bradford’s 71.6% and both Rodgers and Brady were ranked in the top nine.
NINERS LIVE NOTE: For his career, Drew Brees leads the NFL historically in completion percentage at 66.7 percent. 49ers Hall of Famers Steve Young and Joe Montana have career percentages of 64.3 and 63.2, ranking 11th and 15th respectively.
Throughout his collegiate career, Beathard showed consistent improvement in accuracy, and an increased ability to fit the ball into tight spaces. In playing in 5 games as a true freshman, he completed 33 percent of his passes. That number would peak in his junior season at 61.6%,displayed a command of the outside zone scheme, similar to the one Shanahan is deploying in San Francisco. During his injury-plagued senior season, he would see that number fall to 56.5%.
It’s not a stretch to think if he only had to deal with his own injury, he would have at least matched his junior season percentage. Pro Football Focus graded Beathard with a 73.5% Adjusted Completion Percentage (ACP) for his senior season, which considers that the offense around him was graded with the third highest drop percentage (9.1%) in the country. Beathard’s 73.5% ACP was good for 13th best in the nation. The difference in Actual Completion Percentage and Adjusted Completion Percentage was the highest of all quarterbacks in college football last season.
The fourth highest completion percentage (of all quarterbacks drafted this year) this pre-season placed Beathard’s 57.8% ahead of rookie starters, Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer. Those two would complete their passes at 51.8% and 51%, respectively.
Toughness and Leadership
College teammate George Kittle spoke about what he saw from Beathard while playing with him at Iowa, and praised the leadership he felt spewing from Beathard. “He basically willed us to 20 wins in two years,” Kittle said. “That’s pretty impressive. He put the team on his back multiple times in games we might not have been playing well.”
Beathard’s junior season was a success. Earning team MVP honors while carrying the team to 12 wins that season, and a berth in the Big 10 Championship Game.
But what endured Kittle to Beathard was Beathard’s senior season. Beathard battled through injuries to the team’s offensive weapons (outside of Kittle), and fought through a sports hernia injury without missing any games. Despite the injuries, Beathard still managed eight wins in a tough Big 10 Conference.
Displaying toughness as a quarterback is one of the surefire ways to win over teammates. But leadership goes beyond just being able to play with pain.
During the fourth pre-season game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Beathard faced a pass rush that was in his face on second and long. Instead of freezing up, he pulled off a 61-yard scramble touchdown. Beathard, throughout his career, has consistently pulled off these runs. He has instinctual mobility, not athleticism.
But that’s what leaders do, make the plays the team needs, when needed, strictly off instinct. Plays such as this are what tells your team that you can, and will, do what’s necessary to win a game regardless of circumstance.
Making the case for C.J. Beathard to start now instead of later
In a sport where there is no substitution for repetition, which is why availability is the best ability, Beathard has used his available tools, specifically the Virtual Reality Simulator at the team facility, to advance his learning curve. During training camp, it was reported by NBC Sports Bay Area that Beathard was taking up to 1,000 reps during the week in the VR Simulator. This preparation will be valuable once he takes the field, even though the simulator cannot replicate the speed and intensity of a live NFL regular season game. That’s is one of the reasons Beathard needs to see the field sooner rather than later.
It also should be noted that Beathard’s mobility would be an asset to this offense and would give Shanahan more flexibility or the ability to deploy a different look/threat on offense as well as helping the offensive line take lesser sacks.
Niners live tried to point out to anyone that would listen when we brought you, the Faithful: Are Brian Hoyer’s Deficiencies a part of the problem on offense?
Are your eyes Wide Open???
The 49ers sit at 0-4 and 0-3 in the division. The 49ers are 25 th in yards per game and third down percentage.The 49ers lead the league in fourth down attempts with seven. Beathard is currently the second quarterback on the depth chart. If the team loses the next two games, Shanahan may need to find his spark in Beathard. At the very least, Beathard will be given a chance to show what he can do to see if those qualities he displayed in college can translate to the NFL.
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Edward Erving Staff Writer @NinersLive.net and Co-Author, Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims