Big-time college football recruiters thought so much of Trey Lance's quarterbacking skills out of high school that they all wanted him to move to linebacker, or safety, or wide receiver. Not what the former three-sport high-school star was hoping for. But Lance didn't want to change positions -- he wanted to be a quarterback despite being a lanky kid out of Marshall Senior High School, about 2.5 hours west of Minneapolis. One school fell in love with Lance: North Dakota State, who recruited Lance on the heels of turning Carson Wentz into a top-2 pick in the NFL Draft.
Lance accepted -- and proved them right a year later. As a redshirt freshman, Lance passed for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns in 16 games, adding another 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. He also set an NCAA record for throwing the most passes (287) without a single interception in a season. It was more than enough to earn him the Walter Payton Award for the best FCS-level player in 2019. He's the only person ever to get it as a freshman.
Lance's remaining time in school was heavily impacted by Covid-19. The Bison played one game in the fall of 2020 (vs. Central Arkansas), opting for a spring schedule instead. Lance played in the game, a showcase of sorts for him, but seemed rusty in the first half before rebounding in the second half for a win. He declared for the draft after that.
We're breaking down everything you need to know about Lance from a Fantasy manager perspective, including best fits, Dynasty outlook, measurables, scouting report, key stats and an NFL comparison.
Most quarterback-needy teams have a veteran ready to start Week 1. They don't need to put a rookie on the field right away. Lance's terrific athleticism and strong arm combined with a successful training camp could leapfrog him over Drew Lock in time for the start of the season, something that's tough to envision with other clubs. Moreover, Lance would be in the saddle with one of the league's youngest and most promising receiving corps and a pretty solid offensive line. His fastest track to Fantasy stardom also happens to be the one with the best long-term prospects.
Is there a better quarterback to help prepare and groom a strong, versatile, two-way threat passer than Cam Newton? On top of the coaching he'd get from Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, Lance would have a relatable mentor in Newton while learning the game from the sideline. Lance also could take over for Newton sooner than later, giving him a clouded-but-not-restrictive path to playing time. Lance has the mature mental makeup that's perfect for the Patriots, too.
Fantasy managers would have to be pretty patient if Lance heads to Atlanta because Matt Ryan isn't giving up his throne so quickly. Lance may very well take the same path Patrick Mahomes did to playing time and not be heard from until very late 2021 or Week 1 of 2022. But pairing Lance's incredible tools with Arthur Smith's adaptability mantra could one day create some incredible statistics.
The Steelers pick 24th and would have to give up a LOT to move high enough to draft Lance, but it would be fantastic if they did. Like with Atlanta, and a bunch of other teams, Lance would wait for a year before taking over. Ben Roethlisberger isn't going anywhere so long as his arm holds up. But the long-term idea of Lance slinging it to young receivers like Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool is awfully fascinating. That would be a lot of athletic talent for defenses to deal with.
Fantasy managers have learned to prioritize quarterbacks who put up rushing stats. Lance has done plenty of that. Paired with his immense ceiling as a passer, there's incredible upside here. And it gets better: Lance won't be a prioritized pick in a rookie draft that's pretty deep. Only in a two-QB or deep Superflex dynasty league would Lance even get considered with a top-10 overall pick. But he might make it to the middle of Round 2 or even Round 3 in one-QB formats. That's unreal value for a guy who has the better-than-raw skills to be a great Fantasy passer.
- Poised, strong body that makes him difficult to wrap up in the pocket (or anywhere else).
- Worked in a pro-style offense that saw him line up under center quite a bit. Also worked in shotgun. Did a lot of play-action and RPOs. Prepared to handle any scheme at the next level.
- Excellent field general. Studied, read and understood defensive coverages very well. Actually handled protection calls for North Dakota State as a redshirt freshman. Made great decisions with the football and typically had good ball placement.
- Was very good at reacting quickly to defensive changes post-snap and would shift his eyes and body accordingly.
- Mostly patient in the pocket. At times got distracted by blitzes and would drop his eyes or rush his throws, which led to incompletions.
- Very strong arm. Made every throw including deep far-sideline outs and deep fades. There was consistent evidence of his passes traveling well past 45 air yards downfield.
- Knew when to vary his arm strength. He had very good velocity when he needed to rip a throw into a tight space, but also displayed good touch on shorter passes.
- Good anticipatory thrower. Would throw to a space before his target is there.
- Very good at creating to save a play when things broke down. More often than not he'd rush but was savvy enough to trap defenders by feigning the run to open up a target downfield.
- Was involved in many designed runs to attack defenses. Used his athleticism, good lateral agility and solid-to-good speed to rack up yardage and touchdowns on the ground. His burly body made him tough to wrap up. He could easily contribute as a short-yardage/goal-line option as soon as Week 1, and as a change-up quarterback as soon as this season.
- Comes off as a mature, smart young man. From a football family (father played in the CFL).
- Lack of experience is a biggie. He threw 318 passes in 17 games at North Dakota State.
- Lack of top competition is a biggie. Played in the FCS, never took on any defenses from Power-5 Schools. There figures to be a significant learning curve for Lance at the pro level.
- Footwork and overall body mechanics improved through 2019 to his one 2020 game to his Pro Day, but he's far from a finished product.
- As such, he didn't consistently show the pinpoint accuracy teams crave. Frequently was close enough where his receivers could adjust, but would hit the wrong shoulder or throw a little high or a little wide. He missed some throws every week. Also was off-target on seven passes at his Pro Day despite improved footwork and mechanics.
Advanced stats to know
(all from 2019)*
- Just in case you missed it: Set an NCAA record for most passes thrown in a season without an interception, doing so with 287 in 2019.
- Pro Football Focus tabbed Lance with four turnover-worthy plays. That's it.
- Of his 2,786 yards in 2019, 806 (29%) came on deep passes and 268 (9.7%) came on screen passes.
- Adjusted completion rate: 72.0%
When Lance did something great with his legs, he reminded me of Cam Newton. When he did something great with his arm, or when he manipulated a defense, he reminded me of Matthew Stafford. When he did something terrible with either his arm or his feet, he reminded me of Josh Freeman. Ultimately, the comparison to Newton is strongest -- Lance is a dual-threat quarterback with big size, a big arm and, good-but-not-perfect accuracy.
If given time to learn the game from coaches who know it well and set him up in an offense he's comfortable with, Lance has a very good shot at being a weekly starter. If he can also graduate from the Josh Allen School of Improved Accuracy, then he'll have the upside to be one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league.