49ers roster 2021: Trey Lance can start his rookie season

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports /
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Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers, NFL Draft
Trey Lance after being selected by the San Francisco 49ers during the 2021 NFL Draft (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The 49ers may not force rookie quarterback Trey Lance into a starter’s role in 2021, but there is an open road for him to win the competition to be QB1.

It’s possible for two things to be with regards to the San Francisco 49ers and their newest high-profile NFL Draft selection, former North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance.

First, Lance could easily end up being one of the league’s next franchise-elite kind of players in the mold of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes or the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen.

Second, Lance might need a year to develop.

The last point is probably what the Niners envisioned when they used the No. 3 overall pick on him last April. Lance, who played only one game in 2020 because of the pandemic and has just one full year as a collegiate starter under his belt, would need a full year to develop under the incumbent starter, Jimmy Garoppolo.

At least in theory.

Trey Lance Collegiate Passing Table
Year School Conf Class Pos G Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate
2018 North Dakota State MVC FR QB 2 1 1 100.0 12 12.0 12.0 0 0 200.8
2019 North Dakota State MVC SO QB 16 192 287 66.9 2786 9.7 11.7 28 0 180.6
2020 North Dakota State MVC JR QB 1 15 30 50.0 149 5.0 4.8 2 1 107.1
Career North Dakota State 208 318 65.4 2947 9.3 11.0 30 1 173.8

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference
Generated 7/5/2021.

The 6-foot-4, 226-pound Lance has his raw tendencies that need to be refined. At the same time, however, North Dakota State ran a very pro-like offense not totally unlike what San Francisco employs under head coach Kyle Shanahan.

While getting the terminology down will be a massive challenge for Lance, that’s a relatively small obstacle for the rookie en route to eventually becoming Garoppolo’s long-term replacement.

There are short-term reasons why the 49ers would want Lance to start as soon as possible, too, which would mean he’d have to take some serious strides heading into 2021.

Niner Noise’s “Who is?” series explores both sides of the outcome.