49ers overreactions: What future holds for Trey Lance, Deebo Samuel in 2022

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49ers overreactions: What future holds for Lance, Deebo in 2022 originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

It’s been a while since we’ve solicited statements for our regular “Overreactions” column, which has turned into an NBC Sports Bay Area in-season staple.

We see fit at this time to address some chatter from unnamed sources. There is speculation on social media that the “Overreactions” column has not developed up to expectations this offseason during the four-month period this feature has gone dormant.

Warning: This is when we make the clumsy segue into 49ers second-year quarterback Trey Lance.

Lance last played on Jan. 2, when with the 49ers’ season on the line and Jimmy Garoppolo was inactive with a thumb injury. The 49ers trailed at halftime to the lowly Houston Texans.

He did not exactly carry the team on his back in the second half, but the rookie did his part. Lance completed six of 10 pass attempts for 144 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the 49ers’ 23-7 victory.

That was the last time Lance played in a game.

On Tuesday, he will take the practice field in Santa Clara with his 49ers teammates for the first time since the end of the season.

Let this serve as a reminder that there really have been no markers to determine how Lance has progressed or developed in the offseason.

In March, coach Kyle Shanahan said Lance has proven to him that he is ready to be the team’s starter. He said the 49ers would not have tried to trade Garoppolo if the organization did not have that kind of confidence in Lance.

Nobody knows how Lance will perform — just as we shall see if 49ers Overreactions is ready to take that next step this season. At this point, it’s anybody’s guess.

Speaking of the team’s confidence in Lance, this is a good jumping-off point for this rare offseason edition.

“Trey Lance is going to be better than Patrick Mahomes.”
—Joshua from Portland, Oregon

Overreaction? Yes.

OK, let’s not get carried away.

Mahomes is a superstar. He was the league MVP in his first season as the starter. He was the Super Bowl LIV MVP the next season.

Lance is abundantly talented, no question. If there’s any question I have about Lance, it’s his accuracy on the short-to-intermedia routes. When Mahomes was coming out of college, his decision-making and accuracy were questioned.

Mahomes improved each season of his college career, culminating with a 65.7 completion percentage in his final year at Texas Tech in 2016.

In Lance’s only season as the starter at North Dakota State, he completed 66.9 percent of his attempts. This should alleviate some concerns about Lance’s ability to throw a catchable ball. His offensive teammate in college didn’t seem to have much difficulty hauling in his high-velocity throws.

Kansas City parted ways with their solid starter, Alex Smith, to hand the keys over to the Mahomes in his second NFL season. In much the same way, the 49ers were ready to deal Garoppolo in order to clear the way for Lance.

It’s hard to imagine Lance coming anywhere near close to Mahomes’ numbers in his first year as a starter. Mahomes threw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdown passes with a passer rating of 113.8.

Nobody (other than Joshua) is expecting Lance to be better than Mahomes. But if he comes anywhere close, that will be enough to keep the 49ers in contention for a long time.

“The 49ers are expecting too much from guys on the offensive line who didn’t get on the field last year and they didn’t do as much to protect Trey Lance in the pocket.”
—Rob from Sacramento

Overreaction? No.

It is not an overreaction, but the 49ers did account for the likely departure of left guard Laken Tomlinson 11 months before he signed a lucrative free-agent contract with the New York Jets.

The 49ers selected guard Aaron Banks in the second round with the No. 48 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Banks did not look to be a good fit for the team’s offensive scheme during the first days of training camp. Then, he was out for a while with a shoulder injury. He played just five mop-up snaps at guard as a rookie.

General manager John Lynch went on record last season with his belief that Banks would become a “great” player. After the season, Shanahan said the team was ready to move Banks into the starting lineup before the club started stringing some wins together.

Left tackle and right tackle are set with Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey. The plan seems to call for Banks to take over at left guard. Alex Mack’s status is not entirely clear at center.

If Mack is not back for a 14th NFL season, that leaves some combination of Daniel Brunskill, Jake Brendel and Jaylon Moore, as well as rookies Spencer Burford, Nick Zakelj and Dohnovan West as the most-likely options to fill those spots. Veteran center JC Tretter remains unsigned as a free agent.

The 49ers drafted four players who project to interior offensive line positions the past two years. There might also be a belief that Lance provides a safety net for his offensive line with his agility to move inside or outside the pocket. A good quarterback can cover up a lot of mistakes around him. The 49ers had that in mind when they selected Lance with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

“The draft was irrelevant because none of the rookies will start.”
—@rmgaspar

Overreaction? Yes.

Just because the 49ers held the last pick in the draft, known as Mr. Irrelevant, that does not mean that word describes the nine players selected.

The team’s top pick, USC edge rusher Drake Jackson, probably will not be a starter. But he has a good chance to be a closer. The 49ers need an outside pass rusher opposite of Nick Bosa, and Jackson has that chance to be on the field for the most-important defensive snaps of the game.

Running back Ty Davis-Price and speedy wide receiver Danny Gray also have chances to become key contributors in their position groups.

While none of the 49ers’ nine draft picks figures to open the season as a starter, many of them will be called upon to fill key roles during the course of the marathon 17-game regular season.

“Deebo Samuel will only line up at RB at the goal line, and still won’t get the ball.”
—@jcousins_video

Overreaction? No.

Let’s assume that Samuel will remain with the 49ers. Let’s also assume that the pounding his body took over the final 11 games of the season is a reason for his offseason discontent.

The 49ers used Samuel in the backfield last season because they ran out of options due to injuries. And, let’s face it, Samuel could probably be a top-10 running back in the NFL if that were the position he played on a full-time basis.

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The selection of Davis-Price in the third round of the draft placed another barrier between Samuel and the running back position. Elijah Mitchell, Trey Sermon and Davis-Price would all rank as better options than moving Samuel to the backfield for as many as 10 rushing attempts per game.

My belief is that Shanahan will use Samuel’s ability to play running back only for those times when he seems like a huge advantage in doing so. Samuel will still carry on the occasional jet sweep, but I think they will dial back his usage to, perhaps, 20 rushing attempts during the regular season.

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