The 49ers surprised the collective football world with the decision to take Trey Lance at No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Many draft experts postulated that Mac Jones would be the choice, but Lance ultimately was the player selected by the 49ers' brass to become the next franchise QB.
ESPN's Mel Kiper delivered his winners and "head-scratchers" from Thursday night's first round of the draft, and included the 49ers' choice of Lance in the latter category.
"Lance is one of the most fascinating prospects I've ever studied, but the 49ers just took my fifth-ranked quarterback at No. 3 overall. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Lance's 318 career passing attempts at North Dakota State are the fewest passes thrown by any first-round quarterback in the past 40 years. That's astonishing, and it points to the risk here," Kiper wrote in his draft night recap.
Lance did have just one full season as the starting quarterback at North Dakota State, choosing to opt out of the 2020 season with the Bison after the team chose to play a spring schedule due to COVID-19.
In that 2019 season, Lance did get credited with 169 carries, rushing for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns to go along with his 28-0 passing touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Kiper's questions around the pick likely more have to do with what the 49ers gave up to move to No. 3. The No. 12 pick this year, along with two future first-round draft picks and two third-round draft picks, to jump up nine spots was a hefty price to pay for any prospect.
Lance didn't face the same elite competition during his days at North Dakota State that players like Jones or Justin Fields did in the Power 5, but he clearly impressed Shanahan with his mental grasp of the game and physical traits showcased in pro days and workouts.
Draft grades are wildly premature at this point, and it will be years before we see which of these five first-round QBs ends up being the best.
Shanahan chose Lance as the ideal fit for his offense, and fans should be intrigued to see what the 49ers' offense will look like with him at the helm whenever he takes over as the starter.