After just 17 starts at North Dakota State, quarterback Trey Lance is ready to turn pro. He also barely played in 2020 after NDSU nixed the season, but his tremendous 2019 season is still fresh in everyone’s minds. He may be green, and he’s yet to celebrate his 21st birthday, but Lance figures to be one of the first names called in the 2021 draft.
Lance arrived on campus in 2018 and attempted just one pass as a frosh. In 2019, he ascended to the starting job and put himself squarely on the NFL radar. As a sophomore, Lance threw for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Meanwhile, NDSU took full advantage of his running ability as he racked up 1,110 rushing yards off of 169 carries, good for a 6.5 average per attempt. In 2020, he led the Bison to a 39-28 comeback victory in their lone game against Central Arkansas. Despite the rust, he rattled off 143 rushing yards on 15 carries. He also threw the first interception of his collegiate career, but that can certainly be forgiven.
Aside from Trevor Lawrence, many feel that Lance is the most NFL-ready QB of this year’s bunch. Still shy of legal drinking age, Lance is known for putting in lots of film room time, and that showed throughout his ’19 season. Just a few months ago, Lance was seen as a second-tier QB, a consolation prize for middle-of-the-order teams missing out on Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson and Ohio State’s Justin Fields. Now, he’s very much in the same conversation.
So, where will Lance land? Some saw him as a fit for the 49ers after their move up to No. 3, but there’s increasing chatter that they’ll go with Alabama’s Mac Jones instead. Unlike Lance, Jones was able to provide lots of footage for evaluators last year as he set a new national record by completing 77.4% of his throws. He lacks the mobility of Lance, but the Niners may see him as the safer choice of the two.
For the other QB-needy teams on the board, Lance offers tantalizing upside. If Lance can adjust to the pro game and work from the pocket a bit more, the sky is the limit. Falcons GM Terry Fontenot probably recognizes that, which is why he’s reportedly hesitant to pass up a Matt Ryan successor at No. 4. And, if the Falcons trade the pick, there’s a good chance that the team moving up will be eyeing Lance. Right now, it seems like the No. 3 pick is Lance’s ceiling. And, while floors are always hard to peg, it would be a surprise to see him get past No. 7. If the Lions don’t use that pick to take Jared Goff‘s successor, another team could slide in to get their preferred passer.