49ers get plus grade for NFL Draft pick of Trey Lance

Trey Lance of the 49ers poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Trey Lance of the 49ers poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The 49ers made their NFL Draft pick for the future, selecting Trey Lance, a 20-year-old quarterback from North Dakota State University. Niner Noise gives a grade.

The San Francisco 49ers had made a monstrous trade to move up to No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, giving up their first-round picks in the next two drafts as well as a 2022 third-round pick and the 12th overall pick to draft the quarterback of the future.

If that sounds like a lot, it is a lot.

But a rookie-scale quarterback, and a star quarterback especially, is the great equalizer in the NFL, and the Niners are betting the one they’d take would be that equalizer.

Well, the pick came in… and San Francisco selected quarterback Trey Lance with the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Lance, a 20 year old from North Dakota State University, has had only 17 career starts to his name but has measurables off the charts and a reportedly high football IQ. There’s a lot to make out of this pick to give it a grade, so let’s break it down.

The Pros of 49ers Drafting Trey Lance

Lance is athletic. Not only does he have a cannon of an arm, he’s a powerful runner with the ability to bowl over a linebacker and run past a cornerback. It’s an athleticism that can play major dividends long term, not only in creating a new threat in the run game and other situations but also in a way to eliminate stress on the offensive line and allow for plays to be extended if the pocket collapses.

If that was all Lance had, though, then this pick would be an utter failure. But Lance also has a very high football IQ, fitting the bill of a “Drew Brees who can run like Lamar Jackson” as head coach Kyle Shanahan noted in his presser right before the draft.

Lance ran a pro-style offense in NDSU, where he was major control over setting up the offense, establishing protections, and even setting up route combinations at times on certain sides of the offense. Shanahan said they’ve been high on him from the beginning.

The biggest thing working in Lance’s favor is his age. As noted earlier, Lance is only 20 years old, a player nearly two years younger than the other quarterbacks in play. Much like in the NBA Draft, there is a factor of an upward development being accelerated by being in an NFL system and learning from NFL coaches.

The Cons of 49ers Drafting Trey Lance

If Lance’s ceiling was the only thing that mattered, then he would be a surefire pick. But reaching his ceiling is another situation altogether.

Lance has a hitch in his mechanics, an elongated throwing motion that can cause his accuracy to suffer. This is something the Niners evidently believe they can correct or can work around.

Lance is also inexperienced. Shanahan did state, if Lance had played a full season, he may have not been available at No. 3 overall, but that’s all conjecture. And perhaps most in the minds of all, Lance did not play against the level of opposition that the other quarterbacks did. Level of competition goes both ways, since his weapons were definitely not on the level of the other four, but by and large, NDSU was incredibly talented relative to their opposition.

All these things will be a factor in seeing Lance transfer over to the NFL level.

The Verdict

Trey Lance is a pick for the future, and a risky one at that. However, his knowledge and his pro-style background will make a transition much smoother, and his physical tools mean the sky’s the limit. For a team with a starter in hand but looking for a superstar for the next 20 years, it’s a risk worth taking.

Grade: B+

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