49ers reportedly targeting Trey Lance with No. 3 pick
Could Trey Lance end up in San Francisco? Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers are days away from officially making a decision that will shape the franchise’s history for years to come. With the 2021 NFL Draft fast approaching, there are new rumors about who the 49ers will be drafting.

San Francisco surprised the NFL world on March 26, shipping three first-round picks and a 2021 third-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for the third pick. Instantly, general manager John Lynch admitted the team moved up for a quarterback, and speculation began about the successor for Jimmy Garoppolo.

Since the blockbuster deal, many around the NFL have hinted Mac Jones is the QB Kyle Shanahan wants. Jones, the biggest riser in the predraft process, was viewed as a lock for San Francisco. While the draft odds briefly swung to Justin Fields, rumors before April 29 hinted that Jones remained the target.

Just days before the 49ers are put on the clock with the No. 3 selection, it seems there might now be a new quarterback who has captured the team’s eye and could be the heir to the quarterback throne for one of the most storied franchises in sports.

NFL Network’s Rich Eisen said on his show that he is hearing Trey Lance will be drafted by the 49ers at No. 3. The North Dakota State star isn’t generating buzz only because of his physical talent, but his willingness to learn, his work ethic and a proactive approach to getting feedback have made a strong impression across the NFL.

Lance recently held his second pro day, putting his skills on display one last time for interested NFL teams. While multiple clubs were in attendance, the 49ers helped script the workout. Not only that, but Shanahan met with Lance’s parents, and the young quarterback put on a stellar showing for evaluators.

The 20-year-old FCS quarterback needed a strong showing. Weeks before his pro day, there was growing buzz that the 49ers organization was divided over which quarterback to draft. Shanahan liked Jones, but many of the club’s scouts kept pushing for Lance to be given a more in-depth look.

Lance does have something to prove. Jones played this past season, helping Alabama become national champions. As he skyrocketed up draft boards thanks to a breakout season, Lance couldn’t play football. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NDSU was forced to suspend all but one of its games.

While he missed an opportunity to improve his draft stock this year, his play in 2019 was outstanding. There are concerns about how a quarterback who dominated against FCS talent will adjust to the NFL, but it has been done by Carson Wentz. Lance’s final full season at NDSU was also better than Wentz’s production at the same program.

  • Carson Wentz college stats (2015): 1,651 passing yards, 17/4 TD/INT ratio, 152.3 passer rating, 7.9 YPA, 62.5% completion rate. 294 rushing yards and 6 rushing touchdowns.
  • Trey Lance stats (2019): 2,786 passing yards, 28/0 TD/INT ratio, 180.6 passer rating, 9.7 YPA, 66.9% completion rate. 1,100 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns.

NFL offenses are evolving, and Shanahan likely understands he must follow suit for the 49ers to win a Super Bowl. While Jones excels in a clean pocket and executes his reads, he isn’t close to Lance’s combination of arm strength and athleticism. For an offense that uses the play-action and with the importance of getting quarterbacks on the move, Lance becomes the superior fit.

This article first appeared on Sportsnaut and was syndicated with permission.

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