As if the debate surrounding which quarterback the San Francisco 49ers should draft between Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Alabama’s Mac Jones wasn’t enough to get Niners’ Nation riled up, there is now a third — and lesser known — name in the mix.
Enter Trey Lance of North Dakota State University. Unless you’re an avid member of the 49er faithful, or a rabid consumer of the Football Championship Subdivision, there is a decent chance the Bison quarterback is relatively, if not entirely, unknown to you.
But Lance, who shares the same alma mater as Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz, has been the recipient of serious buzz as a 2021 NFL Draft prospect. He will be drafted in the first round, likely inside of the top 10, and possibly by the 49ers at pick No. 3.
Chris Mortenson, of ESPN, reported Friday, April 9, that Lance will stage an additional pro day on April 19.
Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch expected to attend both Fields’ and Lance’s No. 2 pro days … https://t.co/EZaChcjnbV
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) April 9, 2021
The same day, Matt Barrows, of The Athletic, reported via Twitter that 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch will be on hand for the show.
Gauging the 49ers True Interest in Lance
Lance scheduled his first pro day on March 12. A total of 30 NFL franchises attended the workout. The 49ers were one of two teams that did not make an appearance.
San Francisco also skipped Fields’ initial pro day in favor of scouting Jones, but now reportedly plan to watch the Ohio State quarterback sling the pill during his second public workout on April 14.
News that 49ers brass would attend the second go-rounds of both Fields and Lance broke after ESPN’s Adam Schefter last week declared, more or less definitively, that the 49ers would select Jones with the No. 3 pick in the NFL Draft, which is now less than three weeks away (April 29).
So what is the 49ers’ end game? The most likely scenario appears to be that they are just doing their due diligence and gathering as much information as possible. The team already surrendered three first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for the right to jump from No. 12 to No. 3 in this year’s draft, and it is no secret the 49ers are looking for their quarterback of the future.
But Lance played at a university with low national visibility and started only one game for NDSU in 2020, along with just 16 others over the course of his entire collegiate career.
The 49ers blew off his first pro day a little less than two weeks before they executed the trade with Miami that landed them the third pick, presumably having decided already that quarterback was the position they would move on with their first-round selection.
Are the 49ers Trying to Disguise Intentions From Rest of the NFL?
If San Francisco does draft Lance, they’d be doing so with considerably less in-game and visual information than they possess the other two quarterbacks catching buzz as potential No. 3 picks.
Not to mention, the information they do have on Lance will be more dated and in the context of weaker defensive competition than data gathered on Jones and Fields, who battled it out for the National Championship just a few months ago.
That begs the question: Why look at Lance at all? Due diligence? It seems like the time for that has come and gone, even more than a week out from Lance’s second pro day.
But Shanahan has long been lauded one of the most brilliant offensive minds in football. Maybe 65 passes, give or take, without pads and sans an opposing defense are all he needs to judge a quarterback who will likely have a large hand in determining the remaining length of his tenure as head coach of the 49ers.
Or, perhaps Shanahan and Lynch are engaging in misdirection. If that is the case, the objective of the subterfuge remains unclear, and the team’s end game is anyone’s guess.