The San Francisco 49ers kept their secret up until the pick was made. After trading up to the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, they went on to select the highly tantalizing and talented North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance.
While there have been rumblings that Lance will not start right away and that the Niners will look to “sprinkle him in” to the offense, they should drop that plan and give him the keys right away. It is time to dispel the “pro-ready” nonsense regarding Lance and let head coach Kyle Shanahan make magic with Lance under-center. The 49ers would be wise to give Lance the starting job now instead of waiting.
If his biggest weakness is inexperience, then give him snaps
It’s a funny thing. Alabama’s Mac Jones, who fell all the way to the 15th overall pick in the draft to the New England Patriots, is touted as the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft. Lance, conversely, is talked about as the least despite having just as many starts as Jones did throughout his career. If inexperience is truly Lance’s biggest weakness, then would the 49ers not be wise to make sure to get him on the field?
Furthermore, the reason the Niners struggled last season was due to their subpar quarterback play of Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard, and Nick Mullens. If this is your team’s Achilles heel, then why continue to perpetuate that? Start Lance right away and throw out the pro-ready nonsense, the offense he ran in college is far more challenging to man than that of Alabama’s, Clemson’s, and BYU’s.
49ers have a pro-ready QB in Lance
In all honesty, the biggest adjustment Lance will have to make from the college level to the pros is going from a gap-power heavy system to that of an outside zone system under Shanahan. However, at North Dakota State, Lance was asked to do a ton pre-snap. From identifying and calling protections, to making checks, Lance has it all going in his favor between the ears.
Mark Schofield of USA Today’s Touchdown Wire echoes this claim:
"“So looking at Lance’s background, and the offense was coming from at North Dakota State, he is perhaps more ready than people expect to handle what happens in San Francisco before the snap. From the terminology to the ‘kill’ system, Lance has the ability to hit the ground running. At least in terms of this part of the playbook.”"
After drafting him, the 49ers then came out and stated that Lance was deemed the smartest quarterback in the class by the coaching staff (a revelation that is not new to those who have watched Lance).
For being just 20 years old, Lance is apparently a wizard on the whiteboard, making him a frontrunner to pick up the offense in San Francisco right away and win the starting job. Besides, outside zone offenses have been known to be extremely quarterback friendly as well.
Take the training wheels off of him and let your third overall pick run with the franchise. Out with the old and in with the highly athletic and talented Lance. The San Francisco 49ers would be extremely wise to bypass the face-saving with Garoppolo and hand Lance the keys to the car in order to get him the experience he needs (and to immediately give yourself a necessary upgrade under-center).