Shortly after the San Francisco 49ers pulled off the blockbuster trade for the No. 3 pick, draft rumors strongly indicated Mac Jones would be their selection. With the 2021 NFL Draft closing in, it seems another quarterback might be on Kyle Shanahan’s mind.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there wasn’t an NFL Scouting Combine this year and clubs aren’t allowed to host private workouts with top prospects. Instead, many of this year’s top quarterbacks are holding a second Pro Day to show off their skills for interested coaches and general managers.
After getting a first-hand look at Justin Fields during his second workout last week, the 49ers are now turning their attention to Trey Lance. While attending a Pro Day is somewhat noteworthy, San Francsico’s involvement in Lance’s scripted workout is particularly interesting.
According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, the 49ers are “extremely involved” in Lance’s workout on Monday. Notably, Lance recently started training with quarterback coach John Beck. Shanahan reportedly encouraged Lance to work with Beck, one of his former players, and provide the quarterbacks coach with a list of drills they want to see at the Pro Day.
The Washington Football Team and Atlanta Falcons will also be watching the Pro Day, as NFL rules require these workouts to be open to all clubs. But the 49ers have clearly tailored this showcase to help determine if Lance is a fit for Shanahan’s scheme.
Many point to Jones’ accuracy and football IQ as the reasoning for his fit with Shanahan. He does fit the Kirk Cousins mold, but that isn’t necessarily what the 49ers need or their head coach is seeking. NFL offenses are evolving, and for this team to become a Super Bowl contender once again, it must follow suit.
The 49ers love to run the football and the play-action pass is also an important element of this scheme. Just as importantly, Shanahan wants a quarterback who can process things quickly and gets the football out on time. Lance showed those very things at North Dakota State.
Lance operated in a pro-style offense, but his physical tools could make him the center of a scheme at the next level. Even at the NFL level, opponents will hesitate to lower their shoulder against a 6-foot-4, 226-pound quarterback that has the speed and toughness of some running backs. It makes him a dangerous RPO threat, something the 49ers haven’t been able to incorporate as much with Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Touchdown Wire’s Mark Schofield also breaks down Lance’s fit with San Francisco thanks to the terminology in Shanahan’s offense and the play-calling philosophy he operates with.
There are understandable concerns with Lance. Making the leap from the FCS to the NFL is a talent jump like no other, and it will take time for him to adjust. Additionally, we’ve only seen him play in one game since the 2019 season and his lack of experience makes starting him early in his career a massive gamble.
But the San Francisco 49ers gave up two future first-round picks to move up from No. 12 to No. 3 overall. That is the kind of bet you only make on a quarterback who offers elite traits and can become a star at the next level. If Lance checks the boxes Shanahan is looking for at Monday’s Pro Day, he should be the pick on April 29.