Our Scouting Report Series continues where we break down the top prospects for the 2021 NFL draft. Today we are talking about a quarterback who has climbed the ranks from 2-star prospect to top 10 consideration in the NFL Draft. Before you go on, be sure to check out any of our previous scouting reports you might have missed!
|Justin Fields||N/A||Ja’Marr Chase||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Zach Wilson||DeVonta Smith|
Weight: 224 pounds
A look at Trey Lance’s College Performance
Trey Lance was a 2-star recruit from Marshall High School in Marshall, Minnesota. He was only a 1 year starter for the team, playing both quarterback and safety. Marshall High ran the Wing-T offense, limiting Lance’s opportunities to amass passing stats. As a result of his short time as a starter and lack of stats, he was not considered a QB by most Division I-A programs. After expressing his unwillingness to play safety or linebacker at the collegiate level, Lance only received 1 offer from a Division I team, Northern Illinois. Lance would later sign with the FCS powerhouse North Dakota State University.
Lance redshirted in 2018 and then became the team’s starting QB as a redshirt freshman in 2019. He started all 16 games for NDSU and put up incredible stats including a completion rate of 67%, 2,786 yards passing, 28 TDs through the air, 1,100 rushing yards, and 14 TDs on the ground. However, perhaps most impressive was the record he set for throwing 287 passes on the year all without a single interception.
After his breakout 2019 season, scouts couldn’t wait to see what 2020 would hold. Unfortunately, COVID-19 derailed the season and North Dakota State would only play 1 game all season. In that game, Lance completed 50% of his passes for 149 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT. He also rushed for 143 yards and 2 TDs.
Current Draft Projection
- PFF – 10th overall/QB4
- Daniel Jeremiah – 11th overall/QB3
- The Draft Network – 11th overall/QB4
Protecting the Football
Trey Lance threw 287 passes as a redshirt freshman and had 0 interceptions. That is an impressive feat for even the most risk-averse quarterbacks. Knowing that stat, I expected to see a quarterback who played conservatively and checked the ball down at a high rate. That is not Trey Lance. Lance picked his spots to be aggressive in 2019 and showed no hesitation to push the ball downfield into tight windows. Interceptions aren’t the only way that a QB can turn the ball over, as Eagles fans well know.
Fumbles are equally devastating to offenses. Despite rushing for 1,100 yards and being sacked 11 times, Lance only coughed up the football 4 times (3 of which were recovered by the offense. Part of that success comes from his running style which we will talk about in a moment, and part of it comes from his compact throwing motion that gets the ball out of his hands quickly once he decides to pull the trigger, limiting the opportunities for a defensive end to swipe at the football.
Lance has every bit as much arm talent as Justin Fields and Zach Wilson. He has the arm to throw from the hashes outside the opposite numbers. NDSU frequented play-action bootlegs where they asked Lance to roll out, set his feet, and throw back across the field. He showed the ability to take velocity off the ball when needed to layer throws between linebackers and safeties and the ability to drop deep passes in the bucket. His ball placement is very good although there are still some spurts of inaccuracy, though those are few and far between.
When Trey Lance is 19 here pic.twitter.com/aL7qZeik0K— Brandon Howard (@RocTheJetsFan) February 2, 2021
Lance displayed excellent poise in the pocket, often making rushers miss or shrugging off sacks. His footwork in the pocket is superb and he might be one of the most natural prospects in the class at climbing the pocket to make throws. When Lance is unable to outmaneuver a defender, he is willing and able to stand tall under pressure and deliver the ball downfield.
Don’t forget about Trey Lance in this 2021 #NFLDraft cycle.— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) February 5, 2021
The lack of a 2020 season and his FCS status have hurt his stock a bit, but I feel like people are forgetting or downplaying just how talented Lance is. Incredible arm talent with flashes of stellar downfield accuracy. pic.twitter.com/yKOtuhucjI
Lance is an incredible athlete at the position. He can make people miss in open space and is a major threat with his legs both on designed runs and scramble drills. Lance is also a powerful runner, harnessing his 6’4” frame to break arm tackles and punish opposing defenders. He will likely be coached out of lowering his shoulder into contact at the NFL level, but the ability to do so situationally is there.
Unlike many college QBs, Lance did not operate exclusively out of the shotgun. He brings experience in a variety of sets. From running the Wing-T offense in high school to operating under center, in the pistol, and in the shotgun at North Dakota State, there is something in his background that will appeal to any offensive coordinator.
Could the Falcons draft Trey Lance?— Damian Parson ? (@DP_NFL) February 5, 2021
He’d be Arthur Smith’s version of Tannehill with higher upside as a runner & passer.
Plus, Smith could open up the playbook with the RPO & read option.
Lance wouldn’t play in 2020 due to Matt Ryan’s contract. pic.twitter.com/rn6B720U2H
At North Dakota State, many of Lance’s progressions were limited to half-field reads. While this may be a limitation of the NDSU offense or an indication that his first read usually won against the coverage, it could also be indicative of Lance’s inability to read the whole field. If Lance is able to read the whole field it isn’t readily visible on tape and he doesn’t have much practice doing so.
Lack of Experience
Lance was a 1-year starter in high school in a Wing-T offense that only asked him to throw the ball 104 times. His completion percentage in such a run-heavy offense was only 54%. At the college level, he only played 1 full season due to the COVID-19 cancelations that led NDSU to only play 1 game in 2020. Because of his lack of experience, Lance is more of an unpolished prospect than Justin Fields or Zach Wilson.
While Lance’s release is compact the rest of his mechanics are shaky at times. In some moments his footwork and throwing motion are flawless and yet other times he plants his feet too early and generates all of his velocity with his arm. There are also occasions of left-hand rollouts where he does not square his shoulders to the line of scrimmage to generate the torque necessary to drive the ball downfield. The baseline is there for his mechanics but they break down from time to time for no apparent reason.
Trey Lance is an exciting QB prospect with a lot of upside. His lack of experience at the collegiate level may make his transition to the NFL bumpier than his counterparts and he may benefit greatly from the chance to sit and learn behind a vet for a season before taking over. That said, QBs are coming into the NFL and making an impact much earlier than ever before and put in the right system Lance could succeed as a rookie in 2021.
San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garappolo isn’t the long-term answer in San Francisco and Kyle Shanahan knows it. If Lance makes it to #12 I would expect the 49ers to sprint to the podium to select Lance. The Shanahan offense is predicated on getting the ball to athletic players in space, often on the back of play action. Lance would fit perfectly into that style of offense and add a threat on the ground that Garappolo doesn’t bring to the table
The last time the Eagles got a new head coach they traded their incumbent starter and spent a high draft pick on a signal-caller from North Dakota State. The next season they won the Super Bowl. As reports about trading Carson Wentz swirl, the Eagles are certainly considering a QB at 6, and Lance may be the only one from the top 4 still standing. While I’m not as high on Lance as Fields or Wilson, I do think he has a lot of raw talent that could be refined into a franchise QB.
The Falcons have Matt Ryan for 1 more year but have a top 4 pick this year. With no guarantees they will pick this high again, it makes sense to select the heir apparent to the position. Without the pressure to start a rookie in year 1, the Falcons can take a little more of a chance on a player that is every bit as talented as Fields and Wilson and give him a year to grow.
The Steelers are tethered to Ben Roethlisberger for 1 more season, but it was clear that his physical skill set was diminishing down the stretch of the 2020 season. In Lance, the Steelers could snag a QB prospect in the mold of Big Ben, albeit a more athletic version. Similar to the Falcons, the Steelers would let Roethlisberger run it back for 1 final season before handing over the baton to the next generation of QB. However, at pick 24 the Steelers would likely have to trade up, likely in front of the 49ers to make a pick happen. I’m not sure they will be willing to spend the assets to make that happen, but the idea of Lance in Pittsburgh is too exciting not to talk about.