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2021 NFL Draft: College-to-pro projections for North Dakota State QB Trey Lance

Jan 11, 2020; Frisco, Texas, USA; North Dakota State Bison quarterback Trey Lance (5) runs the ball in the third quarter against the James Madison Dukes at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s already been one of the more unique offseasons in NFL history. No scouting combine, an event that would have taken place around this time, multiple veteran quarterbacks being traded or requesting a trade, and seven head coaches hired — none of which have experience at the helm of an NFL team.

There’s a decent chance that three quarterbacks, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, BYU's Zach Wilson (my profile of him here) and Ohio State's Justin Fields (here) will go in order at the top in April’s draft, representing the first time that’s happened since the famous (or infamous) 1999 draft that saw Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb and Akili Smith go 1-2-3 in a first round that saw five signal-callers taken in the first 12 picks.

PFF's George Chahrouri and I recently put together an analytics mock in which there were also five quarterbacks taken in the top 12, and one of them, Trey Lance, became the second FCS quarterback (and second NDSU product) taken in the top 10 of the draft since 2016, joining the recently-traded Carson Wentz.

Lance, like any small-school prospect, is a difficult projection — with hardly any snaps against FBS competition to his name. His career path compounds this issue, as he really has only one year as the Bison’s starting quarterback, coming back for a standalone game in the fall of 2020 in which he was largely unimpressive.

Nonetheless, we persist with our college-to-pro projection system, which accounts for not only strength of competition but circumstances, too.

[Editor's Note: PFF's new college-to-pro projection system is powered by AWS machine learning capabilities.]

Lance excelled as a deep passer at NDSU, throwing 12 touchdown passes and posting a 125.2 NFL passer rating on throws targeted 20-plus yards downfield in 2019, a season in which he threw zero interceptions overall, let alone in the deep part of the field:

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