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2021 NFL Mock Draft: San Francisco 49ers make their quarterback choice

With the 3rd overall pick in the 2021 Bleeding Green Nation community mock draft, San Francisco 49ers GM I Need a Username selects ...

Butler v North Dakota State Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

When I volunteered to pick for the 49ers at three, I understood that I was ensuring that half of the site would love my pick and the other half would hate it. Picking a quarterback is always an exciting, yet divisive move. The only way every fan would be on board with the 49ers selection would be if generational Clemson passer Trevor Lawrence somehow lasted until pick 3. But he won’t, and this pick will be a quarterback regardless of who is on the board. Luckily, for the sake of my mock draft selection, my second favorite quarterback prospect is still available.

With the 3rd Pick in the 2021 BGN Community Mock Draft, The San Francisco 49ers Select…. Trey Lance, Quarterback, North Dakota State University.

As part of the discussion regarding why I made this selection, we will be looking at three major components: The Player, The Fit, and The Alternatives.

The Player: Trey Lance has all the pieces to be a special player

Evaluating quarterbacks isn’t an exact science. We don’t entirely know why some prospects flop and others, such as an unathletic quarterback out of Michigan who was picked in the 6th round, prove everybody wrong. However, outside of the all-important “eye test” we have been able to recognize a few loose patterns that can clue us in on a QB’s ceiling and floor. Among them are Arm Talent (duh), Maturity/Leadership, Intelligence, Desire to be Great, Athletic Ability, and Red Flags (more importantly, how correctable are their red flags).

Arm Talent: Check

Unlike Uncle Rico, if Trey Lance told me he could throw the pigskin over a mountain I’d probably believe him.

Maturity/Leadership: Check

Every scouting report mentions that despite only being 20, that Lance is mature beyond his years and acts like an adult. His college quarterback Randy Hedberg has said: “I think he’s a franchise quarterback. I think Trey can carry a franchise with his personality and his leadership. I think he has that ‘it’ factor. I think that’s important. When the guy enters the room, you know who it is.”

Intelligence: Check

His coaches and scouts alike have raved about Lance’s football IQ and anticipation.

Desire to Be Great: Check

Here is a quote from Lance himself: “I’m going to be absolutely as ready as I possibly can,” he said. “I’m a competitor, first and foremost, so I’m going to compete for that spot, regardless of where I’m at or what the situation is. I feel confident that regardless of where I go, I’ll be ready.”

Athletic Ability: Double Check

While I tend to view QB Athletic Ability as a nice to have cherry on top, Lance would probably be the second most athletic quarterback in the NFL in my view. As a high school recruit, Iowas wanted him to attend and play linebacker. Rutgers wanted him as a receiver. He is not just a top athlete at the QB position, he is a top athlete, period.

Correctable Red Flags: Check

Lance’s knock is that he has only played 17 games of college football (which by the way is the same number of games played as inexplicably rising draft prospect Mac Jones) and thus there are some inconsistencies with his game. His footwork shows promise, but sometimes he can get a little sloppy. He can make every throw on the field, but sometimes his touch is a little off. He’s shown the ability to go throw progressions, but he can be caught locking on to his first target for too long. Simply put, there are a few plays in every Trey Lance game in which the casual observer would be able to guess that he was new to the position (he played safety in high school). However, he has not only shown the ability to do all of the things a franchise QB needs to do— but in this mock, he would be going to work with one of the most respected coaching staffs in the league. Lance isn’t limited by ability, he just needs a little coaching and a little time.

The Fit: Shanahan’s 9ers provide the perfect situation for a young QB.

Tony Pauline summed up the consensus understanding of Trey Lance best when he concluded:

“While I love his upside, I am concerned about the thin body of work Lance has entering the draft and feel the team that drafts him must be patient and even sit him for the 2021 NFL season to let him absorb and process.”

Lance’s red flags are all associated with his lack of experience. No team is better suited to provide him with the mentorship and time he needs than Coach Kyle Shannahan and the San Francisco 49ers.

The 49ers are a well-run, patient organization that has spent the last five years or so building their team the right way under General Manager John Lynch. The team has a top-5 roster in the league [ ], a brilliant Head Coach, and has only faltered in recent years due to injuries and spotty quarterback play. This is a team that is well set up to win this season. Picking Lance isn’t about this season, but rather about who the 49ers want to be next season, five seasons from now, and 10+ seasons from now.

Jimmy is a reliable starter who knows the offense and will give the 49ers the best chance to win this year regardless of what QB the team selects in the draft. Because of this, the 49ers have the luxury of taking a player who will need some time to iron out inconsistencies and learn the game from an innovative offensive-minded head coach. Lance is by all accounts a mature person who could not only be comfortable with waiting his turn but also has the mental make-up and discipline to learn on the practice field and in the film room.

Sound familiar? This team reminds me of the pre-Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs. The team is selecting a quarterback not because they can’t win with current starter Jimmy Garropolo, but because they know that (like Alex Smith) they will not be winning because of Jimmy G. Taking Trey Lance is betting on your coaching staff to turn a young blue-chip prospect into a fully-fledged elite QB. These kinds of moves are how you go from a team that could appear in another Super Bowl or two in the next five years, to a team that could become a dynasty over the next ten.

Because of the fit between Lance and the 49ers, his red flags as a prospect begin to lessen in severity. On this team, you can feel good that Lance will wind up being a player who is closer to hitting his impressive ceiling rather than his floor. His relative inexperience also goes from being a concern to becoming a strength, as there will be fewer bad habits to work out and the 20-year-old will have the time to correct those that already exist. Again, this is the Mahomes model. While it might not be the sexiest pick in the world to stash the number 3 overall pick on the bench for a year, it is the wise one.

The Alternatives: Always bet on character, traits, and upside.

While only Lance and Fields remain out of the top 4 QBs in the draft (get out of here with that Mac Jones talk), I think there is an argument to be made that I would have taken Lance over every quarterback besides Trevor Lawrence. This is because Lance has the character, traits, and upside that make betting on him worth it. For transparency’s sake I am going to list my personal 2021 QB rankings below:

Ceiling: 1. Trevor Lawrence, 2. Trey Lance, 3. Justin Fields, 4. Zach Wilson,

Floor: 1. Trevor Lawrence, 2. Zach Wilson, 3. Trey Lance, 4.Justin Fields

Overall: 1. Trevor Lawrence, 2. Trey Lance, 3a. Zach Wilson 3b. Justin Fields (Wilson and Fields share a grade)

Whether you agree with that assessment or not, I only have to convince you that Lance is a better prospect than Fields as Lawrence is already heading to Jacksonville and Wilson will be slinging the ball in the Big Apple.

The argument for Lance over fields is a simple one. While they are both raw prospects with limited experience (1.5 Seasons of starting for Fields compared to 1 for Lance), Lance not only has more athletic upside (possessing both the bigger arm and superior athletic ability) but also played his college ball in a pro-style offense while Justin Fields operated with-in a spread system. This means that despite only starting 17 games Lance has experience calling his own protection and audibles. He is a player with the potential to be a top-5 QB in the National Football League and already has a leg up on many college players who had limited involvement in running their school’s offense.

I know that some will hesitate to draft a quarterback from a small school and that many Eagles fans may still have a bad taste in their mouth from the most recent first-round QB prospect from NDSU, Carson Wentz. But, both of those arguments are silly. Firstly, players from smaller schools have been successful both in recent memory (Who wouldn’t want Jeremy Chinn on the Eagles right about now?), and throughout the history of the NFL. The size and competitiveness and a player’s school should be something you consider, but it isn’t hard to see the difference between a player who is successful because of the level of competition around him, and a player who is simply insanely talented and elevates the talent around him. If you dock Trey Lance for playing “against scrubs” then you have to also credit him for winning with “scrubs” on his team.

Secondly, it is silly to dock a prospect simply because they share a school with another prospect who is disappointed. And, even if you could make the argument that Wentz proved to be as Talented as advertised; and rather it was his character on coachability that caused his Eagles tenure to go south. That shouldn’t be an issue with Lance.

The 49ers have shown in the past that they can draft and develop quarterbacks. One of the wisest things the franchise has ever done was take Steve Young, a young athletic prospect turned Hall-of-Famer, to develop behind fellow Hall-of-Famer Joe Montana and their elite team. Jimmy Garapollo is no Joe Montana, but taking Trey Lance is the best chance to get the greatest QB they’ve had since 1987 when Steve Young left the team. Drafting Trey Lance today gives the 49ers a chance to chase one more ring with Jimmy, and then extend their Super Bowl window for 4 more years with a 20-year-old Quarterback who has all the upside in the world. It’s a no-brainer.

As always, it has been a pleasure getting to participate in this year’s community mock. Thank you to BLG and BGN for this opportunity and thank you to everybody who went through the trouble of reading what I had to say about the pick. I wrote far more than I meant to for this pick, but Trey Lance is the kind of player you get excited to talk about. He’s special. If my words didn’t convince you, just watch his highlights. The kid passes the eye test.


Do you approve of this pick?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    (398 votes)
  • 34%
    (207 votes)
605 votes total Vote Now

2021 BGN Mock Draft Order

1) Jaguars (Phoenix X Minimus): QB Trevor Lawrence
2) Jets (eagles.north.of.the.border): QB Zach Wilson
3) 49ers (I Need a Username): QB Trey Lance
4) Falcons (chewy wellington):
5) Bengals (Dr_Horrible):
6) Dolphins (20Safety_Hazard):
7) Lions (drc242):
8) Panthers (wildcatlh):
9) Broncos (ItownBallers22):
10) Cowboys (Kephas):
11) Giants (Billmington):
12) Eagles (ablesser88):
13) Chargers (Georgia_eagle):
14) Vikings (Philliesandthebees):
15) Patriots (SakPrescott):
16) Cardinals (Carson Wentzs ACL):
17) Raiders (dshelton5):
18) Dolphins (YvngMartial):
19) Football Team (Negadelphia Norm):
20) Bears (Happy24):
21) Colts (CSsdV):
22) Titans (Friendly Neighborhood Philly Fan):
23) Jets (Asap Stocky):
24) Steelers (Gregnado):
25) Jaguars (“Snax”):
26) Browns (gerouxman1956):
27) Ravens (Brendanekstrom):
28) Saints (grantspectations):
29) Packers (Philly_Philly):
30) Bills (doublefry):
31) Chiefs (Leo Bedio):
32) Buccaneers (phuckdallas):

Now it’s time for you to vote for who YOU think should be selected in the 2021 BGN Community Consensus Mock Draft.


Who should the San Francisco 49ers draft at No. 3?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    QB Trey Lance
    (168 votes)
  • 18%
    QB Mac Jones
    (82 votes)
  • 43%
    QB Justin Fields
    (196 votes)
446 votes total Vote Now

1) Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence
2) Jets: QB Zach Wilson:
3) 49ers:

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