Kyle Shanahan spent countless hours studying the 2021 NFL Draft class of quarterbacks, eventually deciding on North Dakota State product Trey Lance with the third overall pick.
While Shanahan likely has gone through just about every single one of Lance's snaps as a collegiate QB, he still hadn't seen him go through drills and practice in person until the 49ers welcomed players in for rookie camp and then additional offseason training activities. The 49ers' head coach admires that Lance plays the position naturally even with an athletic skill set that is rare for the position.
"It was cool, just watching him how he played in the pocket, he was very natural with how he'd move around in there and still stay a quarterback and be able to scan the field and go through some progressions and when stuff broke down, he very quickly could turn himself into an athlete and go from a quarterback to a runner," Shanahan told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on "The TK Show" on Friday. "But it's always neat when you watch a guy who's got that athletic ability who still, especially at the level that he played at, he was able to take over games with his legs a lot, but he never forced it. He sits there and scans the field and really can play in the pocket and then he can play from numbers to numbers when he gets outside of it."
Lance's only full season as a starting quarterback at North Dakota State did feature a 1,000-yard rushing season, but he also threw for 2,786 yards with an eye-popping 28:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
A quarterback with even a hint of dual-threat ability hasn't been prominently featured in the 49ers offense since Shanahan took over in 2017, but Lance's athleticism does allow a scheming offensive coach like Shanahan to draw up a new set of plays that QBs like Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard simply weren't equipped to execute.
Lance won't start right away, as Garoppolo is firmly entrenched as the starter for the time being. The 49ers will allow Lance to develop at his own pace, and when he is ready, the keys to the offense likely will be handed over.
Whenever he does, however, expect some twists from what we've seen over Shanahan's first four years at the helm of the 49ers offense.