Trey Lance, 2021 NFL Draft quarterback class has underwhelmed

Trey Lance after being selected third by the San Francisco 49ers during the 2021 NFL Draft (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Trey Lance after being selected third by the San Francisco 49ers during the 2021 NFL Draft (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The 2021 NFL Draft was supposed to be chock full of promising quarterbacks, including Trey Lance, but the production so far has been awfully disappointing.

There are eerily so many comparisons between the 2021 NFL Draft at quarterback and what happened in the 2018 NFL Draft just a few years prior.

In both draft classes, five signal-callers were taken in Round 1. Rewinding back to 2018, three of them (Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen) didn’t make it through their initial contract with the team that drafted them. And it was the last two quarterbacks, the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen and the Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, who have had the most success.

Not the first three picked.

As far as 2021 is concerned, let’s flashback to which first-round quarterbacks were selected in that year’s NFL Draft:

  1. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 1 overall)
  2. Zach Wilson, New York Jets (No. 2 overall)
  3. Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers (No. 3 overall)
  4. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears (No. 9 overall)
  5. Mac Jones, New England Patriots (No. 15 overall)

2021 was supposed to be even more impressive than the 2018 class. And while 2018 turned into something of a stinker, at least as far as the three who had to move on to other teams, the 2021 class hasn’t exactly done a lot to inspire confidence.

2021 NFL Draft quarterbacks have shown some promise, little else

Lance, whom we’ll get to in a bit, got a pass in year one thanks to the Niners opting to have him sit behind the veteran, Jimmy Garoppolo, for the bulk of 2021.

However, Lawrence was supposed to be the biggest surefire selection since the Indianapolis Colts grabbed quarterback Andrew Luck in the 2012 NFL Draft. Of course, Lawrence’s rookie year was hindered by the disaster that was the head coach Urban Meyer era, and one can only hope for the Jags that veteran head coach Doug Pederson has started the process of getting Lawrence’s trajectory back on track.

With Lawrence completing over 65 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns against four interceptions, perhaps that’s the case. Yet with Jacksonville 2-4 over the first six weeks, it’s hard to say Lawrence has been that kind of difference-maker.

Wilson, meanwhile, was disastrous in year one and hasn’t been much better his sophomore season despite missing three games because of a preseason knee injury. A surging Jets defense has been a primary reason why head coach Robert Saleh’s team is 4-2, while Wilson has completed just 56 percent of his passes over three games played this year.

Fields, the quarterback whom many thought San Francisco might take at No. 3, has floundered amid a scuffling Bears offense, and the lack of offensive weaponry around him has certainly hindered his own development.

Then there’s Jones, the other quarterback frequently linked to the 49ers before Lance was named the pick.

Jones, following a solid-if-unspectacular rookie year in which he simply did the basic things the Patriots asked of him, got off to a 2-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio before injuries forced the Pats to go with backup quarterback Bailey Zappe, who is now something of a cult hero and has at least prompted the discussion of being a better long-term option than Jones.

Some promising moments from these names? Sure. But no one has stood out from the rest as the Allen- or Jackson-type franchise signal-caller.

Trey Lance stuck as 49ers’ 2021 NFL Draft wild card

49ers fans don’t care how well any of the other quarterbacks perform as long as Lance pans out.

Like the others, Lance had his (awfully brief) share of promise his rookie season, going 1-1 in two starts but impressing significantly during the Niners’ late-season win over the Houston Texans.

And with San Francisco poised to make Lance the full-time starter in 2022, the No. 3 overall pick was truly a wild card. Except that now-infamous Week 2 broken ankle all but put an immediate stop to any hype Lance had mustered up to that point.

Related Story: Trey Lance injury could open up worst-case scenario for 49ers

Lance struggled during his lone start in 2022 in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears, and there wasn’t enough from him prior to his injury to make any sort of grand conclusions.

Now, it’s yet another year of “let’s wait and see.”

And while his injury might not have been part of the plan, it does factor into the equation of whether or not the 49ers made the right call by grabbing him. Considering his notable lack of collegiate experience, combined with the reality of Lance missing the overwhelming majority of two seasons at the pro level, time is running out on him being the possible lone “top find” of the 2021 NFL Draft quarterback class a la Jackson or Allen.

A class that has been largely underwhelming so far.

Next. 10 high-profile 49ers draft picks who just never panned out. dark