With the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the 49ers select North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance….
Trey Lance Career Statistics
You can make a case that Lance is the most physically gifted quarterback from the top of this class, even if you have to work with the rest of the projection. 6’4” and 224 pounds at his Pro Day, Lance has the requisite build for a quarterback while paired with an absolute howitzer and being the most gifted runner among all these quarterbacks.
Coming into college, Lance was not really on anybody’s radar. He was a two-star prospect with an unimpressive list of collegiate offers. After sitting behind Easton Stick in 2018, Lance got a chance to start at North Dakota State in 2019 at just age 19 and turned in one of the most statistically bonkers seasons, completing 66.9% of his passes for 9.7 Y/A and throwing 28 touchdowns to zero interceptions. While that is impressive in itself, Lance also added 1,100 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.
This past season, North Dakota State and the Missouri Valley Conference pushed their season back until the spring. With a game scheduled against Oregon to open the season, we would have finally had an opportunity to see Lance against a Power-5 program, but the game was inevitably cancelled due to COVID. If there is shade to be thrown at the strength of competition that Zach Wilson faced, then that is magnified here.
With Lance entering the draft, 2020 appeared to be a lost cause, but North Dakota State hosted one game in October versus Central Arkansas as an opportunity for Lance to showcase his talents. With marginal preparation, that game did not help Lance overall as he completed 15-of-30 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, but as a positive to dynamic Lance truly is, his offense still scored 39 points as he added 143 rushing yards and two scores on the ground. Lance takes a step of faith, but his fantasy ceiling is sky high while having floor potential based on his rushing ability in of itself.
Getting access to an offense that has young stars in George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk is a more favorable situation than the weapons that both Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson have to work with, the only question is when does Lance get a shot to finally take over as the starting quarterback?
Since 2008, we have had 39 quarterbacks selected in the first round. 17 of them started immediately in Week 1. 26 of those players were starting for their organizations by Week 4 of the season. 29 of those players started more than half of the team games as a rookie. The only first-round rookie quarterbacks to actually not start a game in their rookie season out of those 39 players were Jake Locker in 2011 and Jordan Love a year ago, who played (well, did not even dress actually) behind the MVP of the league.
Scaling that down to quarterbacks selected in the top-10, there are 26 passers in that same sample of 39. Those 26 passers have averaged 12.4 starts as rookies with 22 of them starting double-digit games. 16 of those were taken with top-3 selections (seven at picks 2-3). 15 of those 16 quarterbacks started double-digit games.
The 49ers have been quick to say that they are not looking to move Jimmy Garoppolo, but it is clear that he is not the organization’s long-term plans and that rookie passers play earlier in today’s NFL. Garoppolo has a $26.4M cap hit in 2021, but would only cost the 49ers $2.8M in dead money to release or trade him. Garoppolo has a no-trade clause in his current contract, but there are workarounds if a team is looking to make Garoppolo their starting quarterback with a shot at a longer commitment.
If the 49ers do start the season with Garoppolo, the veteran passer will have to play above his station that we saw in 2020 before Lance starts pressing him.
Early 2021 Trey Lance Projection: (65% of team snaps) 257-of-376, for 3,047 yards, 18 TD, 8 INT, 71 carries, 398 yards, 4 TD.