2023 NFL Draft Trade Rumors: What does 49ers QB Trey Lance bring to the table?

September 18, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) during the first quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

• Lance is still a project: The Niners QB has not demonstrated that he can play within the structure of the offense and be on time with his throws, and he often attempts to make up for this by extending plays and taking shots downfield.

• Holding on to the ball: Lance has held on to the ball for longer than 4.0 seconds on more than 27% of his NFL dropbacks, the highest rate among all quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks over the last two seasons.

• Taking shots: The former third overall pick attempted a deep pass on 18.3% of his dropbacks in 2021, the third-highest rate in the NFL behind only Drew Lock and Russell Wilson.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes


Trade rumors have become an inevitable part of the pre-draft buzz, and among the latest speculation, reports have surfaced that the San Francisco 49ers are willing to consider offers for third-year quarterback Trey Lance.

With just hours to go before the draft, the news has sparked speculation about Lance's future and the potential impact on the Niners' plans. So, what would the former North Dakota State Bison bring to an NFL team?

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Lance hasn't played much in his first two seasons, making it hard to analyze his NFL career. However, key characteristics of his play can be identified from the snaps he has played so far.

Team Season Dropbacks PFF Grade
49ers 2022 39 53.1
49ers 2021 93 59.9
North Dakota State 2020 34 78.0
North Dakota State 2019 335 90.7
North Dakota State 2018 2 70.0

The former third overall pick played only 263 snaps over the last two seasons, 11 more than Cam Newton and eight fewer than Desmond Ridder, putting him 53rd among quarterbacks. His 132 dropbacks tie him with Sam Ehlinger for 55th at the position.

During his rookie season, Lance averaged 3.37 seconds from snap to pass, the longest time among all quarterbacks with at least 50 dropbacks in 2021. And looking at his entire body of work at the pro level, we can see that he has held on to the ball for more than 4.0 seconds on more than 27% of his dropbacks, the highest rate among all quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks over the last two seasons.

Granted, it comes on a small sample size, but Lance put up a 66.6 PFF grade on plays where he held on to the ball for more than 4.0 seconds, the ninth-highest mark over the last two seasons, beating out Justin Fields, Deshaun Watson and Jalen Hurts.

The former FCS star has also shown a tendency to throw the ball deep, as he has attempted 17 deep passes (passes thrown 20 or more yards in the air) so far in the NFL, four more than Brock Purdy, even though Purdy has been on the field for 70 more passing plays. Lance attempted a deep pass on 18.3% of his dropbacks in 2021, the third-highest rate in the NFL behind only Drew Lock and Russell Wilson.

Unfortunately, this aggressiveness was not always paired with good decision-making or accurate downfield passing, as he finished 30th out of 42 quarterbacks in PFF grade on deep passes in 2021 (72.8). And while such passes should offer a higher probability of being qualified as a big-time throw, the Niners quarterback recorded just three big-time throws on 13 deep attempts.

It is important to emphasize that we only have a limited sample size to analyze Lance’s play in the NFL. But even based on this small sample size, we can already see a couple of trends that teams must know.

So far, Lance has not demonstrated that he can play within the structure of the offense and be on time with his throws, and he often attempts to make up for this by extending plays and taking shots downfield.

Despite being in the NFL for two years, Lance seems more of a project at this stage due to his limited playing time in his first two seasons. While there are obviously risks attached to acquiring such a quarterback, trading for him can pay dividends for a team willing to be patient with him and shape its playbook and offensive identity around him.

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