Sean McVay thought 49ers might have traded up to No. 3 for Kyle Pitts, not Trey Lance

In the weeks before the 2021 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers had everyone guessing — including Sean McVay, the head coach of the division rival Los Angeles Rams. When the 49ers traded up from No. 12 to No. 3, most of the conversation centered on them targeting Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. Of course, we know that’s not how it turned out. They picked North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance

McVay, though, had another name in mind: Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, who ended up being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons with the No. 4 overall pick.

“I thought there was a possibility that Kyle [Shanahan] was gonna go Pitts at three,” McVay said on the latest episode of the Flying Coach podcast. “In all seriousness, because he’s such a visionary. I’m telling you, I didn’t think it was going to be a crazy thought because you go back to when New England had the two-tight end set, and they were doing things totally different. You think about what [George] Kittle. 

“And then, the thing that makes sense is that, hey, Jimmy [Garoppolo]’s produced all the way. This isn’t a production thing. This is an availability thing that you’re saying, ‘We can’t have that,’ like, all the things. But I was like, ‘If it’s not Mac Jones’ — and I hadn’t studied Trey, just because there wasn’t a lot of film exposure going back a couple of years, and we weren’t in that market, so I didn’t know other than watching him throw at his pro day that you’re saying, ‘Alright, you can see a lot of the things that you would like and that would make sense.'”

McVay is obviously referencing the days when the Patriots rolled out Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who together helped Tom Brady dominate for a three-year period. Other teams have tried to replicate that model to limited success, but if the Niners had actually paired Kittle (already either the best or second-best tight end in the NFL) with Pitts (widely considered the best tight end prospect in recent memory), they would have had the best chance of doing so. Alas, we’ll never get to see what that would have looked like.

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