The 49ers enter Week 14 of the 2020 NFL season still in the playoff hunt despite their lowly 5-7 record. At the same time, there's no denying The Faithful are googling mock drafts for next year with plenty of questions surrounding Jimmy Garoppolo and San Francisco's future at quarterback.
Garoppolo very well could be the 49ers' starting QB next season, as coach Kyle Shanahan has suggested. The 49ers also could replace him with a veteran like Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan or even Carson Wentz, who recently was benched in Philadelphia. Or general manager John Lynch could turn to the 2021 NFL Draft with hopes of finding the 49ers' future franchise quarterback.
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported Sunday morning that "a consensus is growing in NFL scouting circles that four quarterback prospects have emerged as likely first-round selections" for the 2021 draft. Those four are Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance. Lawrence is nearly locked-in as the No. 1 pick, with Fields and Wilson still battling to be the second QB taken off the board. Lance was seen as QB3 going into the year, but now is a wild card, which we'll get into.
The 49ers entered Sunday with the No. 14 pick in the draft. That's a tough spot to be in for a franchise that could be seeking a quarterback in the first round, as all four very well could be selected by then. But La Canfora's report actually is good news for the 49ers.
Would the 49ers really risk taking Alabama's Mac Jones or Florida's Kyle Trask in the middle of the first round? Probably not. It feels smarter to address their bigger needs at cornerback and draft someone like South Carolina's Jaycee Horn. Adding another offensive lineman wouldn't be a bad idea, too. If Jones, Trask and others are viewed as second-round picks, the 49ers could take care of a pressing need in the first round and then grab their QB in the second. This could be a best-case scenario for San Francisco.
All of this brings us back to Lance. The scouting world fell in love with the North Dakota State quarterback as a redshirt freshman last season. Lance threw for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2019. He wasn't intercepted once and completed 66.9 percent of his pass attempts. At 6-foot-4 and 226 pounds, Lance also ran for 1,100 yards and another 14 TDs.
But North Dakota State only played one game this season. Lance, who already has declared for the draft, completed just 50 percent of his pass attempts in the lone contest. He threw for 149 yards, two touchdowns and was intercepted once, more than all of 2019. Lance also rushed for 143 yards and two TDs.
"Scouts I spoke to expect him to still be among the first 32 selections, but assessing where is pretty difficult at this point," La Canfora wrote on Lance.
Lance has the size, athleticism and arm strength to thrive in the NFL. However, he didn't look like a star throwing the ball in his one game this year and scouts might be turned off from his playing against lower competition. Perhaps he does fall to the 49ers, in which case Lynch should waste no time in making the pick.
Shanahan recently has shown more of an openness than ever in having a dual-threat quarterback, which he hasn't coached since he was the offensive coordinator for a healthy Robert Griffin III in Washington. The 49ers have been torched by dual-threat QBs this season like Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson and Josh Allen. Perhaps they've learned their lesson and are eyeing someone like Lance, who can hurt a defense with his arms or his legs.
The 49ers at this point are in a tough spot balancing playoff hopes and their aspirations for next year's draft. While there will be some hurdles, there is a road to either adding a top talent like Lance or checking multiple boxes in the draft next year.