The 49ers had the world guessing on what they would do after trading all the way up to the 3rd overall selection.…Unlike the first couple of picks in 2021, nobody new who the 49ers would be picking at #3. There was plenty of speculation that it was a quarterback, mainly because the team gave up a fortune of draft picks to move up... but the idea that they would be after Kyle Pitts another generational tight end to team with George Kittle was not that far fetched. Of course, the end of the day, quarterback was still the most probable option. Fortunately this year's draft was full of top level talent so who would it be?
The team was repeatedly tied to Mac Jones, and Justin Fields while Zach WIlson was almost certainly going to go to the Jets... and Trey Lance always seemed to be a footnote. Every analyst had Lance with the most upside, and needing to go to a situation where he can be mentored a bit because of his inexperience. That connected him to the 49ers and the Patriots mainly, but many pundits seemed to think number 3 would be a bit high for him. In keeping all of their coaches and scouts in the dark about how Kyle Shanahn and John Lynch really felt, they were able to get true and honest opinions as they continued to go through the process of draft evaluation. Even right up to the start of the draft their were trade rumors swirling around Aaron Rodgers and the 49ers; it is so rare that the entire world is so in the dark about a top three pick. The team claims of course that Trey was the guy from the moment they decided to move up... but in the same breath they also acknowledged that they liked the other QB the team was widely tied too - most likely refering to Mac Jones.
For a quarterback that is widely regarded as having the most upside in the draft, the 49ers did a 180 from the last time they selected a first round quaterback - namely Alex Smith. When the team selected Smith, he was the most polished, and ready to start. The Mac Jones of this draft. Meanwhile Aaron Rodgers had the upside. Smith had a good career after a bumpy start, but Rodgers is a generational talent. In Trey Lance, the 49ers are hoping they have that generational talent, and they have him in a no pressure situation where he can be mentored and groomed for at least a year behind Jimmy G. That is why this is the right pick for the situation.
We will get to what Trey is all about in a moment... but for now let's just say he is the Golden Ticket. Here's how it shakes out:
If Jimmy stay healthy this year, and ball out, the 49ers can keep or trade him depending on what they see in Trey's development. Trey meanwhile sits and learns behind a Super Bowl quarterback, and gets to learn the 49ers offense and from an elite coaching squad. The team can also trade a potentially generated talent Trey Lance next season, in a year when the QB draft cohort is weak.
This is the ideal situation for the 49ers. They hold all the cards, and the golden ticket for at least the next two years. The only way this backfires on them, is if Jimmy G gets injured, Trey is forced on the field, and he stinks. Basically the "worst" situation possible. Jimmy's value stinks, and all you are left with is the hope that Trey will be better after his rookie season. Possible sure, but without all the high picks they traded away, there's not much to hang your hat on.
The 49ers get the right quarterback for the situation. And Trey Lance gets to come to the ideal situation for any rookie quarterback - but that ideal situation is even more important for him given his inexperience. Meanwhile Justin Field fell to #11 to the Bears who traded up to get him, and Mac Jones goes to #15 with the Patriots (probably the next ideal situation for a rookie QB this year). Lance and Jones will forever be compared the same way Rodgers and Smith have been... but in reality, this deep quarterback class is going to be a generation of fun and full of comparison.
Now let's talk about Trey. What do the 49ers get in him as a quarterback. I've already acknowledged that:
- he's inexerpeinced
- he's got the most upside in the draft, and potentially a generational quarterback
When you start to drill into it though, the 49ers get a QB with a prototype build, who is a winner, and accurate. He is tough as nails, can play from the pocket and can throw on the move. His arm strength is fine, but not a rocket, but should improve with more training and as his body matures a bit more. In the designed run game, he goes for touchdowns. When he's scrambing for a first down, he runs through people. Trey is an incredible athlete, who can throw the ball with the best of them.
Having been award the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman in the FCS, that award will mean that much more to Trey now that he is playing for the 49ers. He's had to fight his way at quarterback, and earn the role as coaches looked to move him around the field. He's got the football IQ depsite his youth and inexperience. Trey was trusted to set up his protection, and he's quiack at moving through his progressions and making reads, he is great in the film room, and while he is not as experienced as you'd like in a rooke QB, he probably understands the game better than any of his peers in this year's draft. Oh... and then there is his ability in the play fake. Some QBs really know how to manage the fake run games, and between his ability to do that, his athletic ability, and Kyle Shanhan's use of the play fake this is a match made in heaven.
Yes, there is work to do. He needs to imrpove his lower body drive to help with ball velocity. He needs time to grow and adjust to the NFL. He needs to understand when to move the pocket and when to take off and run. And finally, he needs to ensure he keeps his eyes down field, when stuff is getting messy in front of him. These are the question marks, and every player has them. At the end of the day, everything about this pick says "right pick for the right situation" both for the team and the player - and the 49ers and their fans should be super excited for what this means for the team.
You have to think the 49ers saw the cards exactly like this. They say the chance at a generation QB. They say the Golden Ticket. They saw their options. They believed in the player, and they beleieved in the situation. Make no mistake about it though... there is reason the team was tied to Mac Jones over-and-over again. That reason is Kyle Shanahan. The man who went after Kirk Cousins, Matt Ryan, CJ Beathard, Josh Rosen, Jimmy Garopoolo. The list goes on. Yes, RGIII was in the picture, and Watson rumours this offseason - but at the end of the day Shanahn has typically gone for pocket passers he could trust with his game plan. So what changed? Was it losing to Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl? Seeing Mahomes single handidly turn an offense around? Was it the thought of what the 49ers offense could be with Kyle's creativity and a QB that was creative in of themselves? I think all of that played a role... but there is a very fundamental factor that Shanahan gets with Trey. He gets a quaterback that can absolutely operate from the pocket, and can absoluely manage the run game. This isn't a quarterback that is just a running quarterback. Trey is a quarterback with great command of the pocket, and all the athletic talent in the world to make plays with his legs and destroy defenses. Shanahan wasn't after just a mobile quarterback; and he wasn't seeing another pocket passer. Shanahan wanted a chance at the best of all worlds, a generational talent, a guy that can really do it all... and now we will get to see if Trey can live up to everything the team is hoping for, and asking of him; because at the end of the day, there are no sure things in the NFL Draft.