North Dakota State QB Lance to enter 2021 NFL Draft

CRAIG HALEY (Stats Perform FCS Senior Editor=)
·3 min read
North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance celebrates the touchdown run by Hunter Luepke against Central Arkansas in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota State won 39-28. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance celebrates the touchdown run by Hunter Luepke against Central Arkansas in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota State won 39-28. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

(Stats Perform) - North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance said he is ready to begin his next chapter in announcing Tuesday he will declare as an underclassman for the 2021 NFL Draft.

What he accomplished during his Bison career basically filled a book.

The 20-year-old Lance, who's been projected to be a potentially high first-round selection, is eligible for early entry into the draft because he's a third-year sophomore. The 6-foot-4, 226-pound Minnesota native capped his career this past Saturday by passing for two touchdowns and rushing for two more against Central Arkansas in North Dakota State's lone game this fall.

"This was the hardest decision I ever had to make in my life, without a doubt," Lance told Yahoo Sports. "It comes down to me feeling ready and praying about it as much I can and feeling like I have a solid handle on everything."

Lance informed Bison coach Matt Entz of his decision to enter the draft on Monday afternoon and spoke in a team meeting Tuesday afternoon. He later gave thanks to his family, the university, the football program and fan base and his faith in a social media post and video.

"Everyone's super excited for him and his family, looking toward to following him along his journey to the draft," Entz said.

"As I've said before, whichever NFL team decides that he's going to be one of their future quarterbacks, they're going to be really pleased with the type of young man they get."

Lance led the Bison to their third straight FCS national title in the 2019 season, becoming the first player to receive the Stats Perform Walter Payton Award (FCS offensive player of the year) and Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman of the year) in the same season. He appeared in 19 career games and was 17-0 as a starter, completing 208 of 318 pass attempts (65.4 percent) for 2,947 yards and 30 touchdowns, throwing his first interception in his 308th career attempt in his final game.

A true dual-threat, he damaged opponents on the ground as well, averaging nearly seven yards a carry while rushing for 1,325 yards and 18 touchdowns in his career.

Lance's draft decision came quickly following what was his final game. Underclassmen have until past mid-January to make a formal declaration to the NFL. He is forsaking the chance to play in North Dakota State's planned spring season, but can participate in the NFL Scouting Combine as well as a pro day and private workouts.

The two North Dakota State quarterbacks who preceded Lance as starters were selected in the draft. The Philadelphia Eagles made Carson Wentz the highest draft selection from an FCS school, picking him second overall in the 2016 first round. The Los Angeles Chargers picked Easton Stick in the fifth round in the 2019 draft.

Lance is generally regarded as the third-best quarterback prospect behind Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State's Justin Fields.

"He is playing in a pro-style offense, what he does and the way they structure their run game and then their play-action game," said Central Arkansas coach Nathan Brown, whose team lost 39-28 in Lance's final game. "Obviously, they run him a little more than probably what they've done in the past because of his ability. To be a hundred percent honest with you, he stacks up like a DeShaun Watson in the NFL. I think he's a physical quarterback that can make every single throw and can make every single throw very accurately, but also have the ability to make the unscripted plays."

Added Entz, "I think a lot of the development happened above the shoulders over the last 17 (games). Trey came in here unbelievably talented with a strong arm, great mobility. It was his learning, like I said, above the shoulders that separated him over the course of time."