Trey Lance’s limited playing time last season was enough to raise some significant red flags for ESPN analyst Booger McFarland, who said Monday on ESPN that there’s no 2021 rookie QB he’s more concerned about than the 49ers’ No. 3 overall selection.
McFarland’s worries are two-fold. He has health concerns as well as some apprehension about whether the former North Dakota State star will be able to cut it at the pro level.
“Of all the rookie quarterbacks last year I am the most concerned about Trey Lance,” McFarland said. “I just think from an injury standpoint he didn’t prove he could stay healthy. From a quarterbacking standpoint I didn’t see enough to say ‘you know what? We can build around X, Y, Z.’ … He’s built physically, but those attributes got him hurt this year. So, I am terribly concerned about it, but if he doesn’t pan out, Kyle Shanahan and or John Lynch won’t have a job.”
Keeping Lance healthy is certainly going to be one of the 49ers’ top priorities next season and will likely require a little bit of a shift in Lance’s style of play. In college when he was often the biggest player on the field he was able to run through linebackers and defensive backs. That wasn’t the case in the NFL and he took some big shots that he won’t be able to take on a regular basis and stay healthy.
McFarland’s point about Lynch and Shanahan’s futures is a good one too. They’re all-in with Lance. This is Shanahan’s hand-picked signal caller and if this doesn’t work out it would be hard to justify moving forward with that group beyond this iteration of the roster.
His concern about Lance’s ability to play quarterback in the NFL is a little odd though since the sample size is so small. He improved between his Week 5 start and his Week 17 start which bodes well for his ability to continue growing into Year 2. If he was ready to play the 49ers would’ve started him in 2021. He wasn’t ready though, and that was apparent in some of his decision-making, indecisiveness and bouts with inaccuracy.
10 quarters of football won’t define Lance as a quarterback though. His readiness (or lack thereof) will be more apparent in training camp, the preseason, and his first handful of starts in 2022. That’s when we can start picking out trends and flaws that could potentially doom his career. Until we get a larger sample size though, we can neither crown Lance or slap the ‘bust’ label on him.