2021 NFL Draft: Trey Lance scouting report after North Dakota State career

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Matt Maiocco
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What scouts say about NDSU QB Lance before NFL draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The three quarterbacks the 49ers are considering with the No. 3 overall pick are proven winners and high achievers.

The teams of Alabama's Mac Jones and Justin Fields of Ohio State met in the most recent College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

Jones threw for 464 yards and five touchdowns in Alabama’s 52-24 victory over Ohio State. Fields led the Buckeyes to the title game with a legendary six-TD performance against Clemson in the semifinals while playing most of the game with a painful ribs injury.

Then, there’s Trey Lance of North Dakota State.

Lance was never on the losing side during his 17-start career at the Football Championship Subdivision level (formerly NCAA Division I-AA).

His stats were a lot less gaudy. In the Bison’s 28-20 victory over James Madison in last year’s FCS National Championship, where he completed just six of 10 pass attempts for 72 yards.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we took a look at Fields and Jones -- with input from three long-time NFL scouts. Those same scouts share their opinions Lance on Thursday.

Lance started 16 games in 2019 en route to the national championship. He appeared in just one game in the fall of 2020 before North Dakota State moved its season to the spring. Here is his scouting report:

MEASURABLES

Height: 6-foot-4 Weight: 224 pounds

STATISTICS

In 16 games in 2019, Lance completed 192 of 287 pass attempts (66.9 percent) for 2,786 yards with 28 touchdowns and no interceptions. In his one game in 2020 against Central Arkansas, he completed just 15 of 30 attempts for 149 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Over those 17 games the past two seasons, Lance also rushed for 1,243 net yards and 16 TDs.

RELATED: 2021 NFL mock draft 8.0: Do 49ers choose Fields, Jones or Lance?

DRAFT PROJECTION

First round: From No. 3 to No. 10

WHY HE FITS WITH 49ERS

Lance has everything. He can throw it. He can run it. He has pocket presence. And he also has the personality and leadership traits required of the most important position in the sport.

Lance has a chance to be a great player for a long time. And the 49ers have braced themselves for the possibility that any rookie quarterback they select will sit for a year behind Jimmy Garoppolo.

That should be just fine for Lance, who probably faces a more difficult transition to the NFL than any of the other quarterbacks the 49ers might consider with the No. 3 overall pick.

He looks a lot like Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen, who carved up the 49ers last season without resorting to using his scrambling skills to pick up yards on the ground.

Lance appears to be comfortable with play-action, as he turns his back to the defense. That’s a big staple of the 49ers’ offense.

Coach Kyle Shanahan would have the luxury of investing a year of schooling Lance on the finer points of his offense before turning him loose in 2022.

WHY HE DOES NOT FIT WITH 49ERS

Trading up to the No. 3 overall pick is a gamble, regardless of which quarterback is targeted. But it is especially risky if a team trades away two future first-round draft picks to select a young quarterback (20 years old) who has played in just one game over the past year-and-a-half.

There is no denying Lance’s physical talent and intangibles. But there is also no replacing those lost repetitions of dropping back, reading defenses and delivering passes at full speed in game situations.

Even during the 16-game season in which he played, Lance averaged fewer than 18 pass attempts per game, so there are a lot of unknowns and not a whole lot of tape for NFL teams to evaluate.

WHAT SCOUTS ARE SAYING

“He is the most instinctual quarterback in this draft. I watched him and thought, ‘There’s no way he’s only played 17 games as a starter.'”

“The stuff he does in the pocket is so unique, a Dan Marino-type guy. Either everything comes so naturally for him or he has the best coach in college football.”

“He feels traffic from either side. He has a knack for stepping up, sliding left, sliding right. He doesn’t raise it or drop it.”

“He’s so young physically and mentally at the position. But his upside is tremendous.”

“He’s not going to be ready to play. He has to get in early, stay late and take a ton of notes just so he can learn the NFL position.”

“He’s 6-4. He’ll be 240-245 when he grows into his body.”

“When all is said and done, he can be as good or better than (Trevor) Lawrence. He’s going to be a big, physical quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger.”

“He’s more of a thrower than a passer. He’s like a pitcher who’s only throwing 95 mph fastballs.”

“What they (the 49ers) should do is take Trey Lance because of the upside. He has the kind of things you want to work with.”

“He’s developmental. It’s going to take some time to get him ready.”

“He hasn’t played a ton of football, but he is a quarterback. He knows how to play the position. He could be the guy.”

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