In third-round draft pick C.J. Beathard, the San Francisco 49ers gained more than a quarterback with great blood lines. They may have found another Kirk Cousins.
At least that was the quarterback 49ers’ coach Kyle Shanahan compared to Beathard, the grandson of Hall-of-Fame candidate Bobby Beathard and son of country music songwriter Casey Beathard. And while Shanahan didn’t take the Donald Trump off ramp to hyperbole (he once called Beathard “the next Tom Brady”), he did more than offer high praise for the former Iowa star.
He gave us an idea of what may be next.
Though Beathard had a successful and productive collegiate career, he was not expected to be anything more than a third-day draft pick … if that. Yet the 49ers swung a deal to take him with their fourth overall selection, and look no farther than Cousins — a quarterback Washington chose in the fourth round of the 2012 draft and whom Shanahan not only coached when he was offensive coordinator there but likened to Beathard when he spoke recently to MMQB.
Cousins was the 102nd overall pick. Beathard was the 104th.
“I was listening to Kyle when he did that,” 49ers’ GM John Lynch said of Shanahan in an interview with the Talk of Fame Network. “He compared some of his traits. He thought he had an opportunity to be like him.
“Some of those (traits) were his toughness. That stands out on film. He repeatedly stands in there when he knows he’s going to get hit and can deliver accurate footballs. Kyle talks a lot with quarterbacks about guys that don’t need a lot of space. They don’t need to hit you two times and have that space to generate good torque, and C.J. has that as well. We feel like he’s very accurate.
“And then the thing I think that reminded (us) … that trait that did give him some hope that he could be like Kirk … was the process. He processes information very quickly. So, when you threw all that together, the more we watched him … (and) we knew we were going to stay away from quarterbacks earlier in the draft; we had too many needs … C.J. became that guy that we really appreciated.”
Beathard was known for his toughness at Iowa, playing through an injury in 2015 that turned out to be a sports hernia. The Hawkeyes finished 12-0 during that regular season, with Beathard named the team MVP and second-team all-Big Ten.
What he wasn’t known for — especially in Iowa’s run-first offense — was his passing. Six times in the past two years he led Iowa to victories by completing 10 or fewer passes and five times in that span he threw for under 100 yards — including the Outback Bowl, which he started despite a hamstring injury.
But he fits a pro-style offense. He took snaps under center. He took snaps in the shotgun. He excelled at play-action fakes. He can throw on the run. He’s comfortable in the pocket. Essentially, he’s a perfect student for Shanahan to groom, just as Cousins was when Shanahan was in Washington.
“I think the fact that he comes from a football family helped us as well,” said Lynch, a four-time Hall-of-Fame finalist, “because you hear from people at Iowa that he lives and breathes it, and you understand why when his grandfather is who he was.”
Bobby Beathard was the general manager of the Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers, so good at what he did that Sports Illustrated once called him “The Smartest Man in the NFL.” Beathard’s brother, Pete, was a standout quarterback at USC and, later, played with five NFL teams, including the Houston Oilers and Kansas City Chiefs.
Lynch, who grew up in San Diego, said he hasn’t heard from C.J.’s grandfather.
“We haven’t, but I look forward to talking to him,” he said. “I knew him years ago in San Diego, and I look forward to talking to him at some point about his grandson.”
Beathard is the third quarterback on San Francisco’s roster. Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley are the others, and Beathard is not expected to challenge either — with the 49ers saying they will take their time to develop him.