Trey Lance makes list of biggest NFL Draft busts (but he's not No. 1)

The Niners' failure with Trey Lance is going to be talked about for a long, long time.
Trey Lance (North Dakota State) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell
Trey Lance (North Dakota State) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Going back to 1990, CBS Sports compiled a list of the biggest NFL Draft busts, and the 49ers' selection of Trey Lance made the top five.

Get used to the San Francisco 49ers' 2021 high-profile NFL Draft selection of quarterback Trey Lance being on lists that rank the worst draft busts in league history.

It's an unfortunate sentiment that isn't going to go away anytime soon.

You likely remember the story. In need of a long-term quarterback, and having been beaten by athletically gifted signal-callers in previous years, the Niners sought their own phenom by trading up to the No. 3 overall spot in the 2021 draft. While there was speculation about head coach Kyle Shanahan wanting one of that year's other top quarterback prospects, such as Ohio State's Justin Fields or Alabama's Mac Jones, the pick ultimately ended up being Lance.

The same Lance who had just one full season as a starter at North Dakota State, attempting a mere 318 pass attempts during his short collegiate tenure.

It didn't work out, of course. Lance sat behind then-starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for his first season, getting two starts when Garoppolo was dealing with injuries before being handed the starting job in 2022. Lance then broke his ankle in the second game of that season, which led to Garoppolo's return as the starter and ultimately translated into now-starting quarterback Brock Purdy being the franchise's centerpiece.

A year later, following an uninspiring training camp and preseason, San Francisco traded Lance to the Dallas Cowboys for a fourth-round draft pick.

CBS Sports lists 49ers' pick of Trey Lance as one of the biggest NFL Draft busts since 1990

The 49ers' failure to turn Lance into a cornerstone is going to be a pain point for years to come, although the rise of Purdy, the final pick of the 2022 draft, helps alleviate things a lot.

Still, CBS Sports' John Breech put together a list of the 10 biggest draft busts dating back to 1990.

Not surprisingly, Lance was listed awfully high as the fourth worst over that timeframe:

"Going into the 2021 NFL Draft, the 49ers had the 12th overall pick, but that changed after they pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Dolphins to get the No. 3 overall pick. To move up nine spots, the 49ers sent three first-round picks to Miami (2021, 2022, 2023) along with a 2022 third-round pick. That's a steep price to pay for anyone, but especially for a guy who only ended up starting four games for the 49ers before being traded to the Cowboys in August 2023. "

Related story: These 3 factors ultimately spelled the end for Trey Lance

Making the selection even worse, go check out which players Miami landed with the accumulation of picks sent by San Francisco.

If there's any solace, aside from Purdy, it could be that Lance didn't land at No. 1 on Breech's list.

Besting (or worsting) Lance on that particular list of infamy, Breech listed out these top-three draft busts:

  1. QB Jamarcus Russell (Raiders), 2007
  2. QB Ryan Leaf (Chargers), 1998
  3. QB Akili Smith (Bengals), 1999

At least the 49ers can feel a little better not having made the worst of the worst decisions.

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