Trey Lance, Justin Fields highlight how 2021 quarterback draft class was a flop

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (L) and Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (R)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (L) and Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (R) / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

The 49ers already cut bait on Trey Lance, who is just one of the massive whiffs from the 2021 NFL Draft class at quarterback.

The San Francisco 49ers are awfully lucky that quarterback Brock Purdy, a seventh-round pick from the 2022 NFL Draft, became the player he did.

For all intents and purposes, Purdy's ascent helped cover up the Niners' massive whiff in the draft the year prior, trading up to the No. 3 overall spot in order to grab quarterback Trey Lance at the cost of two future first-round selections and a third-round pick.

San Francisco tried to make it work with Lance, letting him develop and spot-start behind then-starter Jimmy Garoppolo in 2021 before handing Lance the starting job in 2022, only to see him suffer a season-ending ankle injury early in the year, which helped pave the way to Purdy.

The 49ers cut bait with Lance following the preseason in 2023, jettisoning him to the Dallas Cowboys for a fourth-round pick.

It was a massive loss, in terms of return on investment. Yet Lance's failure to succeed with the Niners is only part of a bigger picture surrounding the 2021 quarterback draft class.

That class was a gross flop as a whole.

Trey Lance, Justin Fields were only part of a bad quarterback class in 2021 NFL Draft

Five quarterbacks were selected in Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft, which was viewed as the best QB class to come out since 2018, another year in which five were taken in the first round.

  • No. 1 overall: Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Jacksonville Jaguars
  • No. 2 overall: Zach Wilson (BYU), New York Jets
  • No. 3 overall: Trey Lance (North Dakota State), San Francisco 49ers
  • No. 11 overall: Justin Fields (Ohio State), Chicago Bears
  • No. 15 overall: Mac Jones (Alabama), New England Patriots

Lance was the first quarterback jettisoned. Last week, the Patriots moved on from Jones, trading him to the Jaguars for an undisclosed draft pick after a notably controversial tenure in New England. Jones will now back up Lawrence.

On top of that, Fields was dealt by the top pick-holding Bears in a deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers that sent a sixth-round pick back to Chicago. Now, Fields will back up the Steelers' other new quarterback, veteran Russell Wilson.

The Jets, meanwhile, are actively trying to trade Wilson but haven't had much success and likely won't unless they eat a sizable portion of his remaining salary and/or include draft compensation to a team willing to take the former No. 2 overall pick.

That leaves Lawrence, who has flashed moments of being a true franchise-caliber quarterback but hasn't lived up to his previous pre-draft hype that suggested he was the most surefire grab since former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

To put an even bigger emphasis on the entire 2021 quarterbacking class, none from the group have come remotely close to having a Purdy-like ascent, and those who are still in the league are scratching the back end of teams' depth charts.

So, while the Niners can play the "what if?" game all they want in the wake of the Lance debacle, they certainly aren't alone with teams that took a chance on a high-profile quarterback in 2021 but utlimately failed.

Read more from Niner Noise