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Quantifying Quarterbacks: Trey Lance

Trey Lance

Trey Lance

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Quantifying Quarterbacks is an NFL Draft focused quarterback charting project geared toward providing as much information about as much of a quarterback’s recent career as possible. Over 20 data points are recorded for any given pass attempt, ranging from down-and-distance, personnel grouping, play-action, depth of target, accuracy, and much more. Quantifying Quarterbacks charts the entirety of a quarterback’s final college season, as well as a smaller sample (four games) from their previous season. All of this charting is done manually by me during and after the college football season. For a more in-depth look at what exactly Quantifying Quarterbacks is, here is a link to last year’s final product: 2020 Quantifying Quarterbacks.

North Dakota State QB Trey Lance
Distance (Usage Rate) Left Outside Left Middle Right Middle Right Outside Total
20+ (16.56%) 8/17 (3 TD) 6/9 (4 TD) 2/9 (2 TD, 1 INT) 7/17 (3 TD) 23/52 13 TD, 1 INT)
16-20 (7.00%) 1/2 2/2 4/11 (1 TD) 4/7 (1 TD) 11/22 (2 TD)
11-15 (21.34%) 7/13 11/15 (1 TD) 8/12 (2 TD) 17/27 (3 TD) 43/67 (6 TD)
6-10 (11.15%) 5/7 (1 TD) 7/8 5/6 (3 TD) 9/14 (1 TD) 26/35 (5 TD)
1-5 (26.75%) 16/17 (1 TD) 9/11 20/21 28/35 (1 TD) 73/84 (2 TD)
0 (15.61%) 9/10 8/9 (1 TD) 13/14 (2 TD) 15/16 (1 TD) 45/49 (3 TD)
Total 46/66 (5 TD) 43/54 (6 TD) 52/73 (9 TD, 1 INT) 80/116 (10 TD) 221/309 (30 TD, 1 INT)

Games charted: All 2019/2020


Blatant Drops: 11
Forced Adjustments: 22 (7.01%)
Contested Drops: 16
Passes Defended: 27
Explosive: 41 (12.74%)
Throwaways: 5

Trey Lance’s charting profile starts with a contradiction right off the bat. In watching Lance, it feels as though there are many instances in which he opts not to throw a semi-open receiver over the middle of the field, particularly against zone coverages. Lance does not like firing unless it’s clear as day to him that the throw is open, save for when he is throwing right off the top of his drop. That even bears itself in Lance only having one career interception. He’s just not an overly aggressive or reckless passer by nature.

And yet, Lance still threw just over 20% of his passes to the 11-15 yard area, which is a higher rate than any quarterback I charted last year. North Dakota State’s play-action laden system still had him ripping a ton of passes over the middle despite his aversion to testing risky windows, which is usually associated with throwing to that area of the field. [[ad:athena]]

The NDSU offense can also likely get away with that because they do not need to spam quick passes considering their run game is excellent. Quick passes and runs generally aim to accomplish the same thing, which is to generate easy yards and stay on schedule, so offenses do not generally need to index heavily into both. They were perfectly fine calling more intermediate and deep passes than other offenses may.

In a similar vein, Lance’s rate of passes being outright defended is very high despite his general conservatism. That said, I’ve learned over the years that there are two ways a QB can arrive at such a high passes defended mark. The obvious way is by forcing throws that are not there. Jordan Love, who had 8.22% of his passes defended in last year’s class, is a good example of that. The other way is by constantly throwing reasonably open WRs inaccurate passes, which “closes” an otherwise open window. Lance falls in this category, which is also evidenced by his pretty high 7.01% forced adjustment rate.

To be fair, Lance’s accuracy issues clearly did not show up in the quick game. Lance shows phenomenal quick game footwork, especially for a player his age. It’s clear Lance is meticulous in the way he prepares himself to throw quick game, resulting in a 86.90% accuracy rate to the 1-5 yard area. That would have ranked higher than any QB in 2020, even Joe Burrow. Things can start to get rocky for Lance the later a play goes, but he can at least say he’s got quick game down to a science, and that should go a decent way in providing him a baseline early on in his NFL career.


Adjusted Accuracy: 72.04%

Outside the Pocket Percentage: 24.84%

Adjusted Accuracy Outside the Pocket: 68.72%

Under Pressure Percentage: 14.01%

Adjusted Accuracy Under Pressure: 52.27%

Most Common Personnel Package: 11 personnel (31.21%)

Shotgun Percentage: 69.75%

Empty Formations Frequency: 3.80%

Play-Action / RPO Percentage: 43.63%

Play-Action Adjusted Accuracy: 72.12%

Designed Rollout Frequency: 18.47%

Lance’s adjusted accuracy rate is not particularly notable on the surface. 72.04% would have put him dead average in the 2020 class, settling between Jake Fromm (69.98%) and Justin Herbert (73.08%). Lance is above the threshold where you might need to be concerned about a player, but not high enough to get excited.

Upon further investigation, some of which we will get to later, it’s clear some of Lance’s numbers are propped up by a favorable situation, though. Lance was hardly pressured over his 300-plus passes, coming in with a 14.01% pressure rate that would have ranked lower than any QB from 2020. Lance also threw just over 43% of his passes off play-action or RPOs, which is helpful for the QB in and of itself by clearing space over the middle, nevermind how much better NDSU’s receivers and OL were than their opponents.

To his credit, Lance was exceptionally accurate outside the pocket. Many of his passes outside the pocket were by design, though, and thus less volatile than scrambles. Lance rolled out on 18.47% of his pass attempts, which ended up accounting for about 75% of his total passes outside the pocket. Lance does show some great skill outside the pocket on scrambles, too, do not get me wrong, but it’s fair to say a good amount of his production outside the pocket came easy.

The other area of note is pressure. On the one hand, Lance was not pressured a ton, so it’s fair to say he had an easy go of things. On the other hand, Lance produced rather well under pressure and the film backs that up. Lance shows zero fear with bodies around him in the pocket. Sometimes that means Lance has to stare down the gun barrel and take a hit, other times it means Lance needs to make a little move to relocate in the pocket, but no matter what it is, Lance shows an innate sense to play quarterback without being scared of pass-rushers. For someone whose film is mostly of them playing QB at 19-years-old, that kind of fearlessness is pretty darn impressive.


Avg. Number of Pass Rushers: 4.56

Three or Fewer Pass Rushers Frequency: 6.05%

Four Pass Rushers Frequency: 46.18%

Five Pass Rushers Frequency: 37.26%

Six or More Pass Rushers Frequency: 10.51%

A lot of Lance’s numbers here are higher than most. Lance’s average pass-rusher count, as well as his frequency of five and six-plus man rushes, are all considerably higher than 2020 averages. With some QBs, you could make the case that defenses are rushing more solely to disturb a frantic QB, but that’s not what’s going on here. In fact, it was the opposite. Because so many of NDSU’s passing concepts left seven or eight in protection, of course defenses were regularly responding by tacking on late pass-rushers. Otherwise Lance would have been consistently under even less pressure than he already was.


3rd/4th Down Adjusted Accuracy: 59.26%

3rd/4th Down Conversion Rate: 46.81%

4th Quarter/Overtime Adjusted Accuracy: 62.22%

Red Zone Adjusted Accuracy: 63.94%

The third down numbers for Lance are tricky. In terms of accuracy, Lance is a bit of a disaster. His 59.26% adjusted accuracy would have been the second-lowest of any QB I charted last year. Only Washington State’s Anthony Gordon placed lower. Gordon went undrafted, briefly spent time on the Seahawks’ practice squad, then signed a futures contract with the Chiefs for next season. Hardly a successful pro, to this point.

Lance’s conversion rate comes out around average, though. When Lance is connecting on third down, he’s finding the sticks and making it count. You would like him to be able to connect on more passes in total, but so long as he continues to do well picking his spots, perhaps he will continue to convert at a decent rate despite not being the most accurate passer.

Both Lance’s other two situational accuracy categories come in a bit below average, too. The red zone numbers aren’t far from last year’s average, but Lance’s fourth-quarter accuracy is about 7% lower than the 2020 average. Only Iowa’s Nate Stanley, who was abysmal, fared worse than Lance.

Seeing as one of the biggest knocks on Lance will be that NDSU’s talent advantage and heavy play-action system did a lot to protect him, it’s concerning that Lance did not show up in any of the areas that could wash away that sentiment. Perhaps that has more to do with Lance’s age and experience than poor ability, but it still raises some questions.