After a month filled with speculation, theories and Twitter disagreements, the San Francisco 49ers drafted North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. And it turns out, there was never any doubt.
“We’ve been very high on Trey since beginning, since day one,” said 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan. “…I think I was in Mexico the day we made the trade, and within hours there’s at least two people who are out there speculating that their opinions are they think we’re taking Mac Jones. And ever since then, I’ve just watched every single person assume that that was accurate and that those weren’t opinions, those were facts. And we didn’t feel that way from the beginning. I wouldn’t have said there was no chance we wouldn’t have…But I know how he felt about Trey the whole time…[I]t’s just been interesting to watch. And I’m sure glad that it’s over, I’m glad that we got our guy. I’m glad we feel so good about it and I’m just pumped to get him here.”
Lance brings a Patrick Mahomes-like dynamic to the quarterback position, both in the passing game and with his legs.
Due to COVID, Lance only played one game in 2020, but in 2019, he led the undefeated Bison to the NCAA FCS championship, throwing 28 touchdowns, zero interceptions and completing 66.9% of his passes. On top of that, he rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns. Hello designed run plays.
“…[I]t always starts with me with the film,” Shanahan said. “I try to watch a guy play the quarterback position, how he executes his own offense. Just kind of the natural feeling he has for the quarterback position, which, that part entails getting the ball to the right spots. You try to figure out what plays they’re doing and does the ball go to where it should go to? When nothing is there, how quick are they to recognize and make it off schedule or to get rid of it, just not take a sack and don’t make it worse? You start to watch some of that stuff with him and I just, I loved his natural ability to play the position, which was very impressive. Then when you add on a type of running element, which I’ve always been intrigued with but when you’ve got a guy who’s got the skillsets, as far as speed and size to where you’re not going to make them a runner, but if you can get in certain formations where the defense knows you will run them, if they don’t honor them, now everything’s different…”
New #49ers QB Trey Lance used play action on 37.6% of his dropbacks in 2019. He averaged 10.1 yards per attempt, 17 TD, 0 INT and a 137.3 passer rating.
— Jeff Deeney (@PFF_Jeff) April 30, 2021
Beyond the field, Lance impressed his new coach and GM as a person and as a leader.
“…I could be very upfront with him and I got to know him,” Shanahan said. “He’s a guy that I think is a very good person, comes from a very good family. I think he is very impressive in terms of his intellect, how he deals with people, how he just handles the social situation and I looked at him as a CEO of a company. If I ever knew anything about that stuff, but you put that to the side and it’s a hell of a quarterback, and this is someone that I believe in and I want to go to work with.”
Lance says it’s all about respecting his teammates and those around him.
“For me, it’s just earning that mutual level of respect, and that’s earned,” Lance said. “Especially as a quarterback, obviously you have to make sacrifices. This is what I signed up for and this is what I love to do and I can’t wait to do it. But, just for me, it’s about treating people the right way and leaving an impact on people. That’s bigger than football. So obviously football is what I love to do and I can’t wait to get there and learn. But, I don’t believe that I’m on Earth to be a football player.”
For all of the pre-Draft talk on the who the pick was going to be, the world found out when Lance found out.
“…I think the blessing of it all was that we got to tell Trey Lance and Trey Lance didn’t know before that,” Lynch said. “We got to make a young man’s dreams and a family’s dreams. I think we got to know a person that impressed us as much on the field as he did off the field and he was outstanding in both ways. That goes for a lot of these guys, but with Trey, that was a special moment to be able to talk to him because I think it was true surprise. He had a hunch, I believe, and I’m interested to hear from him, but that was the first time he heard it when we were able to call him. So, that was a pretty special moment.”
The uncertainty and surprise made it even more special for the young QB.
“It was pretty emotional for me right away,” said Lance. “Just kind of a surreal feeling and, obviously, not knowing what the situation was going to be going into it. You never really knew until you knew. So, for me, it was emotional. Just super blessed. I felt super thankful for everyone that’s helped me get to this point.”
Meanwhile, there is another quarterback in Santa Clara, and that quarterback has taken the 49ers to a Super Bowl, but has also suffered injuries that have hindered him and the team. The 49ers are in a situation where Lance can learn from Jimmy Garoppolo, and they’re in a situation where they know they can win with a healthy Garoppolo while Lance develops.
“…[W]e made this move, so it’s obvious what I hope and what I believe in with this guy coming in, but it would be a very tough situation if Jimmy’s not on our team,” Shanahan said. “I want Jimmy to be here and I want this kid to be brought along. I want to see how he does and if it turns into a competition, it turns into a competition…It’d be very hard for me to picture a situation Jimmy’s not here on Sunday, because that would be…very stressful for us because Jimmy is a very good player and I think we can win with him. So, we’ll play that by year, but I expect Jimmy to be here and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t.”
I'm told Jimmy Garoppolo asked for Trey Lance's number immediately after the pick to welcome him to the team.
If that doesn't say enough about the character of the people on this team, I don't know what does.#49ers
— Keiana Martin (@KeianaMartinTV) April 30, 2021
For tonight, Trey Lance is the third pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and the newest member of the San Francisco 49ers, which is a good place to start.
“I’m not going to get ahead of myself,” Lance said. “We’re night one. Hour one right now. So, for me, my biggest thing is just getting in it and learning as much as I possibly can. I’m just excited to get there, get to know the community, get to know the organization and learn, like I said, just learn.”