Brooks believes Lance will lead 49ers to playoffs as rookie

Trey Lance

Trey Lance finds himself in the perfect position as a rookie. Despite being the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the 49ers' top pick doesn't have to be thrust into the fire right away. 

He can sit back, develop, grow and learn from Kyle Shanahan as Jimmy Garoppolo takes the snaps from under center. But former player and current NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks believes that won't happen for long. Brooks is a big believer in Lance's ability as a dual-threat quarterback. 

So much so that Brooks believes Lance, not Garoppolo, will lead the 49ers to the playoffs this season. 

"Trey Lance is a special player, and I just cannot believe that Kyle Shanahan is going to idly sit back and wait for Trey Lance to get into 2022 before he unwraps the toy," Brooks said this week on FOX Sports' "Speak for Yourself" (h/t 49ersWebZone). "This is happening in 2021.

"And because he's joining a team that is already proven to be a Super Bowl-caliber team, this team goes to the playoffs with Trey Lance, No. 5 leading the way."

That's a bold prediction to make about a quarterback who just turned 21 years old and has limited college experience. Lance started only 17 games at North Dakota State. He played only one game in 2020, and just one in nearly the last 500 days. 

Though Lance is young and doesn't have years of experience under his belt, he was considered perhaps the smartest QB in the draft. He also played in an offense at NDSU that featured plenty of pro concepts under center and executed play-action passes with his back to the defense before firing a strike to an open receiver. 


Shanahan and general manager John Lynch publicly have said they want Garoppolo on the 49ers this season. Garoppolo still is in line to be the starter this season, but for how long? While he has heard everything the coach and GM have said, Brooks believes he can see the writing on the wall. 

"It's only a matter of time," Brooks said. "The clock is ticking on Jimmy Garoppolo's tenure with the 49ers. They've said it. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have [gone] on record and said, 'When Trey Lance is ready to play, we will know it, and he will play.'

"They're not saying that Jimmy Garoppolo dictates when Trey Lance gets on the field. They're saying when Trey Lance is ready to play, he will get his chance to get on the field."

Even if the 49ers drafted Lance with long-term views, they know the simple truth about Garoppolo: He hasn't been able to stay on the field. 

Garoppolo tore his ACL three games into what was to be his first full season with the 49ers. In 2019, he bounced back and led the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV, but played just six games last season and finished only four. 

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"I'm banking that it happens this year because, remember, the guy that he is backing up right now, Jimmy Garoppolo, has proven that he has a tough time staying healthy and available," Brooks said. "I heard you guys talking about the number one quality that coaches look for. You guys said ability. I would say availability, and Jimmy Garoppolo has shown he is not available.

"So sometime this season, we're going to see Trey Lance get that job, and when he gets it, he won't give it back."

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