Are the NFL Draft clues slowly suggesting that the 49ers covet North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, or is it a smokescreen?
Once again, we dive down the 2021 NFL Draft rabbit hole of trying to predict precisely who the San Francisco 49ers select at quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick.
It’s not easy either. You could make equally good cases for Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Alabama’s Mac Jones or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.
For this, we delve into the latter, as there have been some intriguing developments surrounding his relationship with the Niners. Is it a smokescreen to distract from their real target on draft day, or is there something to what we’ve been seeing lately?
But what exactly have we been seeing concerning the 49ers and Lance?
Here’s a real close look at some of the things linking them.
The 49ers essentially conducted Trey Lance’s second pro day
This was covered in a previous article, but San Francisco essentially ran the extra pro day for Lance as well as his preparation leading up to it.
Lance worked with quarterbacks coach John Beck at the behest of the 49ers, ran drills sent to him by San Francisco and it was clear the 49ers essentially had the entire event scripted to their liking.
Is it the Niners doing their due diligence, or was this a dress rehearsal for what he can do leading up to the draft?
Trey Lance fits the description Kyle Shanahan gave of his ideal NFL Draft quarterback
Here’s what head coach Shanahan had to say about his ideal quarterback after being asked about his ideal quarterback being of the Kirk Cousins mold:
I think Kirk does a good job for whatever team he plays for every year. There’s a number of quarterbacks like that, but that’s the only one I’ve been associated with because people thought I was trying to bring him here, which I was at the time. It’s not because that’s how you draw it up. If you’re going to draw it up, you’re going to draw the biggest, fastest, strongest and best quarterback in the pocket. So, I think that’s pretty ridiculous to say that.
Jones is an alright size for a quarterback, but his lack of mobility means he doesn’t fit this description. Fields is very elusive of course, but he’s more of a pace guy than someone who’s known for his strength.
Lance is a perfect hybrid of strength and speed. He’s someone who’s very fast downhill and can make plays, but he won’t hesitate to put his shoulder down to run over defenders. His knowledge of play-action scheming also makes him a prime candidate to know the offense.
49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t going anywhere
The biggest knock on Lance is he isn’t ready for the NFL yet and needs to take time to develop like Patrick Mahomes did when he was taken by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2017 NFL Draft
You can’t predict this for sure. The Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert had a similar knock about him but ended up winning Offensive Rookie of the Year after an amazing first season, but in general, the scouting is correct when they say Lance is too raw.
Jones and Fields could see the field in Week 1 if teams wanted to hand them the keys to a franchise right away. Lance can’t. This suddenly makes sense of the puzzling fact why the 49ers won’t cut/release quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo when it makes a lot of financial sense to do so.
They keep Garoppolo as a gatekeeper and give him one last shot to win the Super Bowl, then turn the franchise over to a well-trained Lance in 2022.
Not the most popular idea for some, but it makes sense to put him in after he’s ready and not before he’s ready.
You can call it NFL Draft fluff if you want. Maybe it is. But a lot of decisions and news concerning the 49ers suddenly lock into place if Lance is the pick. My mock draft had Fields going to San Francisco but with absolutely no confidence, and now I wonder if I didn’t put the wrong quarterback to the team.