All indications point to the 49ers having their choice of Justin Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones with the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. The 49ers have made it clear they will be selecting a quarterback, but also repeatedly have expressed a desire to hold onto current starter Jimmy Garoppolo, even if just through the 2021 season.
Plenty of opinions have been espoused since the 49ers traded up with the Miami Dolphins about which of the three above would make the best fit in the Bay Area. ESPN's Louis Riddick explained Thursday why he believes Lance is the right player for 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan's scheme.
"From the very beginning of this, I've said that either Justin Fields or Trey Lance I thought would fit perfectly with what Kyle likes to do offensively," Riddick said on "NFL Live." "Trey Lance, in particular, of all these quarterbacks, I think is the guy. Especially within the context of this offense, could have an All-Pro, legendary type of career. He is the guy who I gravitate towards in this scenario, that being Trey Lance."
Riddick went on to say he understands why Shanahan and 49ers general manager John Lynch might like Jones, but doubled down on his belief in Lance's potential at the next level.
Lance is the least-known commodity to the broader NFL audience in the top tier of NFL draft QB prospects, having played just one full season at North Dakota State in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Jones and Fields met in the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship, and both played just about every one of their college games in front of a national television audience.
None of that is to diminish what Lance accomplished in college, as that lone season as a starter yielded a national championship for Lance and the Bison. The Minnesota native completed 66.7 percent of his passes (2,786 yards) and threw 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the 2019 season. He also added 1,100 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.
Lance played just one game in 2020, as NDSU opted to play a spring schedule due to COVID-19. He racked up 292 total yards and four touchdowns with one interception in a win over Central Arkansas before electing to begin training for the draft.
In that sense, Lance theoretically could have a leg up on the other four quarterbacks expected to go in the first round. Lance has been training full-time for the NFL draft since October, while the rest of the expected first-round QBs was in season well into December, and even into mid-January for Fields and Jones.
Garoppolo's presence provides the 49ers the opportunity to not rush whichever of the QBs they select into action Week 1. That might be ideal for Lance, who will have had a significant gap between appearances in a live game when training camps open up this fall.
This won't be the final opinion we hear about the 49ers' choices at No. 3 as we get closer to draft day, and no one truly will know how all of these first-round quarterbacks will pan out until we see them on the field in an NFL uniform.