North Dakota state quarterback Trey Lance will appear on the red carpet in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for the NFL football game on Thursday April 29, 2021 in Cleveland. (AP Photo / David Dermer, Pool)
By Josh Dubow
The San Francisco 49ers have picked their franchise quarterback of the future, with North Dakota State’s Trey Lance being the third overall pick in the NFL draft.
After swapping the 12th pick, two future first round picks and a 2022 third rounder to Miami for the No. 3 squad last month, coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch Lance decided to succeed the oft-injured Jimmy Garoppolo.
While many 49ers fans feared Shanahan would grab a pocket passer like Mac Jones, the Niners instead went with a more unproven quarterback who has all the physical tools necessary to succeed in the modern NFL.
Lance started just 17 games at FCS level North Dakota State, where he showed strong arm, mobility, and command of a pro-style attack against lesser competition. Lance only played one game in 2020 because the FCS moved the season to spring due to the corona virus pandemic.
But his 2019 production was off the charts, as he threw for 2,786 yards, 28 TDs and no interceptions, and ran for 1,159 yards. Lance pitched his only collegiate interception against Central Arkansas last fall in a game the state of North Dakota played in part to raise awareness of NFL teams.
While Lance played below center in a high-playing attack that should translate into Shanahan’s offense with the 49ers, he still has to work on some of his mechanics and accuracy.
The Niners could ease Lance’s progression to the NFL by keeping Garoppolo as a starter in 2021 in a manner similar to what Kansas City did with Patrick Mahomes and Alex Smith in 2017.
Garoppolo helped San Francisco to the Super Bowl in the 2019 season when he threw for 3,978 yards and 27 TDs. But his struggles in the fourth quarter of that title game contributed to a loss against Kansas City, and his injuries derailed two of the past three seasons.
Garoppolo missed 13 games with a knee injury in 2018 when San Francisco went 4-12 and 10 games with ankle injuries last season when the Niners finished 6-10.
This is only the fourth time in the common draft era that San Francisco took a quarterback in the first round, with Steve Spurrier third in 1967, Jim Druckenmiller 26th in 1997 and Alex Smith first in 2005.
The 49ers also have 43 picks in the second round and 102 in the third round on Friday, along with five more selections on Saturday.
* Courtesy of Associated Press