How Trey Lance measures up ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - AUGUST 31: Quarterback Trey Lance #5 of the North Dakota State Bison runs for a touchdown against the Butler Bulldogs during their game at Target Field on August 31, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - AUGUST 31: Quarterback Trey Lance #5 of the North Dakota State Bison runs for a touchdown against the Butler Bulldogs during their game at Target Field on August 31, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images) /

As the 2021 NFL Draft edges closer, NDSU’s Trey Lance is looking to become the next great prospect to represent the FCS at the pro level.

By the time he was ready to commit to a college program, Lance had received little consideration from Division I FBS schools. Northern Illinois made him an offer, but Lance, a born-and-raised Minnesotan, had his sights set on suiting up for the Golden Gophers.

While on a visit to the University of Minnesota, it became clear that head coach P.J. Fleck had other ideas for the young QB. If he were to represent the Gophers, it would be as a safety, not under center.

Rather than take a back seat, Lance instead opted to commit to North Dakota State in December of 2017, and it was there he put college football on notice.

After redshirting his freshman 2018 season, Lance exploded in 2019, posting 2,786 passing yards and 1,100 rushing yards. He scored 42 touchdowns from scrimmage (28 passing, 14 rushing). Not only did he produce in volume, but he did it efficiently. Lance completed 66.9 percent of his passes and ran for 6.5 yards per carry.

Oh, and didn’t throw an interception all season, breaking the NCAA record for most passing attempts without a turnover.

His historic season led the Bison to an unbeaten record, which was capped with lifting their 8th FCS Championship trophy since 2011. Not bad for the 49th-ranked dual-threat QB in his recruiting class.

COVID-19 restrictions forced the FCS to postpone their 2020 season, which meant Trey Lance only saw the field once as a redshirt sophomore. Despite the limited experience as a starting QB, Lance already displays all the tools of a modern NFL dual-threat, and will no doubt be high on many teams’ boards come Draft day.

Here’s what makes Trey Lance such an intriguing prospect:

Trey Lance, QB, NDSU (R-SO).

Strengths: Trey Lance has an enormous amount of upside. His ability to work down the field with his arm while threatening to run at any point should spell success at the next level. He is an accurate passer that is capable of making every NFL throw, and his ball placement often sets his receivers up for YAC opportunities.

Lance’s mobility and athleticism shine on tape. He is able to escape the pocket when pressure arrives and shows composure when the play breaks down. These traits are what make him a dangerous ad-lib playmaker, capable of turning any throw-away-and-live-another-down situation into a 1st and 10.

For such an inexperienced player, Lance shows remarkable poise in the pocket. He goes through his reads well (mostly), and more often than not makes the correct read on developing pass plays. He has the ability to recognize numbers advantages in his offense and capitalize on them and looks off opposing DBs to create advantageous matchups when none are presented to him.

After a 2019 season in which he accounted for 0 interceptions on 287 passing attempts, it’s clear that his efficiency largely stems from his understanding of how to create and identify favorable matchups for his offense.

He runs with conviction and invites contact when met by a defender. His build (6’3″, 224 pounds) allows him to run through tacklers and fall forward, gaining extra yards after contact. While it is impressive to see a quarterback absorb impact in the way Lance does, it may be wise to avoid taking those hits at the next level, in the interest of limiting wear-and-tear through the season.

Weaknesses: Lance’s biggest “weakness” is his inexperience and level of competition. While he was excellent in 2019, that was his only full season, and playing in the FCS means he didn’t have the opportunity to perform against the best talent in the country.

Because of this, he can be a little slow going through his reads. This is a tendency that a lot of young QBs have, and is almost always corrected as the player sees the field more. I have no doubt that Lance will iron out his play recognition once he gets his feet wet in the NFL.

Scheme fit: Due to Lance’s nature as a dual-threat QB, landing with a team that emphasizes the run would be ideal. A run-heavy offense would allow Lance to beat you with the ability to either hand the ball off, set up play-action, or tuck it and run himself. Pick your poison, defense.

Team fit: I find it hard to imagine that Lance will fall out of the top 15 come Draft night. Therefore, any QB-needy team at the top half of the draft board should be considered a realistic landing spot. Teams that may show particular interest include the Falcons (#4 overall), the Lions (#7), the Panthers (#8), and the Patriots (#15).

With that being said, I believe that the Panthers would be the ideal spot for the former Bison. Lance is one of the youngest and most inexperienced prospects in the entire class, so having the opportunity to learn under the tutelage of veteran QB Teddy Bridgewater (who’s under contract until 2022) would be invaluable.

When he is ready to inherit the keys to the offense, he would be complemented by a talented receiving corps and an All-Pro caliber running back. Having a threat like Christian McCaffrey out of the backfield would allow Lance and the Panthers to unlock a potent read-option duo, an offensive scheme that he executed effectively at NDSU.