49ers mock NFL Draft 2021 using only small-school players

Quarterback Trey Lance #5 of the North Dakota State Bison (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)
Quarterback Trey Lance #5 of the North Dakota State Bison (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images) /
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Trey Lance, NDSU Bison, 49ers
Quarterback Trey Lance #5 of the North Dakota State Bison, a 49ers draft target (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images) /

It won’t happen like this. But what if the 49ers kicked off their 2021 NFL Draft class with NDSU’s Trey Lance before adding other small-school prospects?

Yes, Niner Noise is still trying to get creative with our San Francisco 49ers mock NFL Draft projections.

We’ve already covered both SEC and Big Ten mock drafts with the Niners selecting only players from each one of those respective conferences. There have been offense- and defense-only mocks out there, too.

But what if San Francisco was to wind up selecting 2021 draft prospects solely from small-school programs?

They won’t, of course. Yet since every mock is nothing more than an educated guess without any sort of legitimate accuracy aside from the first few picks in Round 1 and the occasional grab in the later rounds, let’s play around with the idea of general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan finding those less-heralded players from smaller programs, yet understanding their abilities far surpass any worries about the level of competition they faced.

Besides, the 49ers may be kicking off their 2021 NFL Draft class with a small-school prospect anyway, North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, regardless of any small-school mock.

Round 1, Pick No. 3 Overall: 49ers select quarterback Trey Lance, North Dakota State

There’s still an excellent chance the Niners pass on Alabama quarterback Mac Jones and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields at No. 3 overall, instead electing to go with Lance as potentially the biggest playmaker out of the bunch with the most upside.

Lance surely has the lowest floor out of the three and the biggest “bust” risk. But his 6-foot-4 dual-threat physique and cannon for an arm is something nearly any scout would covet when seeking a franchise-caliber signal-caller.

True, while Lance played only one game in 2020 and had essentially one remarkable season as a starter, 2019, the raw tools are fully there. And it’s hard to overlook Lance’s 66.9 completion percentage that season with 28 passing touchdowns against zero interceptions despite the level of competition he faced without being impressed.

If selected, Lance would likely have to sit and develop for a full year while acclimating to life at the NFL level. Yet San Francisco is still in a position to do that with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo currently rostered.

As long as Lance’s maturation goes according to plan, he could be the league’s next most potent weapon.