The New England Patriots are widely expected to take a quarterback at some point in the 2021 NFL Draft, and if Trey Lance is the choice, one longtime NFL executive believes the North Dakota State star will prove to be a successful long-term heir to Tom Brady.
Former Philadelphia Eagles president, Cleveland Browns CEO and Atlanta Falcons consultant Joe Banner raved about Lance on social media. Banner suggested Patriots head coach Bill Belichick could make “another run” and also firmly asserted Lance should garner more hype entering the draft:
If Pats trade up for Trey Lance we could be looking at another run for BB. That coach with that QB on a rookie contract for five years would be scary for everyone who isn’t a Pats fan.— Joe Banner (@JoeBanner13) April 16, 2021
The lack of pre draft talk about Trey Lance compared to other QB’s is baffling. By the way, he is African American & in my opinion is the smartest of the top four. Need a few years but I think he is going to be a stud. If he is the pick at three, him and Kyle are a deadly combo— Joe Banner (@JoeBanner13) April 16, 2021
Lance is still very young and played only one full season for the Bison at the FCS level. All the perceived knocks about lack of life and game experience, not to mention a lower competition level, are precisely what makes Lance so exciting when projecting him to the NFL, though.
Despite the fact that he’s turning 21 in May, Lance already has an advanced football IQ, having played in a pro-style offense at North Dakota State. In addition to having a grasp on NFL offensive concepts, the wunderkind also doesn’t put the ball in harm’s way.
Consider that in 2019, Lance led the Bison to a national championship, threw 28 touchdowns to zero interceptions and ran for 1,100 yards and 14 scores. He hails from the same program as Carson Wentz, who before a flame-out in 2020 was considered an MVP-caliber QB, so North Dakota State has produced a quality signal-caller before.
While there’s so much unknown about how Lance will translate to the pros due to his youth, it’d behoove him to land with a strong organization that has a winning culture. That’s why the Patriots are such a good fit for him. If anyone can get the maximum out of his immense potential, it’s probably Belichick and New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
It feels like the Patriots are already moving in the direction of building around a dual-threat QB in Cam Newton, who’d be an ideal mentor for Lance as well. With Newton getting another shot to start in 2021 with much better talent around him, he could help set the stage for Lance’s eventual takeover as McDaniels continues to evolve the team’s offensive identity.
If he develops properly with a team like the Pats, Lance could actually wind up being the best player in a loaded 2021 quarterback class that includes premier talents like Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Zach Wilson.
One way to help determine this is by running mock draft scenarios. After letting two simulations run on The Draft Network, Lance was taken fourth overall on both occasions by the Atlanta Falcons.
It’s not a sure thing that the Falcons will take a quarterback since Matt Ryan is still in the fold. If they were to trade down, it’d probably not be with New England, since sliding from fourth to 15th overall is a long fall, and the Patriots likely want to avoid sacrificing too many assets, which they’d have to do to make that big of a leap up the board.
On Pro Football Network, Lance actually went third to the San Francisco 49ers on the first pass, and then to Atlanta in the next simulation.
Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator was a little kinder to New England. In two sims, Lance went eighth to the Carolina Panthers, yet that probably won’t happen, because they just traded for Sam Darnold.
In an ideal situation, the Patriots would cut a deal with either Detroit, Carolina or Denver to move up to seventh, eighth or ninth overall, respectively. That’d probably entail giving up the 15th pick, plus either a second- or third-round pick in 2021, and a first-round or second-rounder in 2022.
If Belichick doesn’t want to part with one of those draft choices, cornerback Stephon Gilmore is a logical veteran to kick into a trade offer.
Because the Patriots were so proactive in free agency, it’d make sense to part with more draft capital than they’d usually be comfortable with in order to acquire a potential superstar QB of the future in Lance. Let’s see if they actually do it.