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Rookie QB Trey Lance gave the 49ers a glimpse of the future in Week 17, but patience is key

Glendale, Arizona, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) warms up before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chris Coduto-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers took the NFL landscape by storm last offseason when they boldly traded three first-round picks — including 2021’s 12th overall selection — and a third-rounder to the Miami Dolphins for the third overall pick.

A debate ensued over who the 49ers should draft with the top selection: Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Alabama’s Mac Jones or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.

When it was all said and done, Kyle Shanahan and company took Lance.

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Now, here we are — Jones is fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a playoff berth and is the ninth-highest-graded quarterback in the NFL entering the final week of regular season action. Fields has started 10 games and seems to be improving with reps — culminating in a season-high 90.5 grade in Week 10. Lance, meanwhile, has been riding the pine for most of the season behind Jimmy Garoppolo, taking only 86 dropbacks entering Week 18.

It was known at the time of the pick that Lance would need time to develop in the NFL due to a lack of recent playing time — just one college game in nearly two years because of the pandemic — and the fact he was never asked to win with his arm. Still, the capital the 49ers gave up to secure Lance and the pressure on Shanahan to see what he brings to the table has loomed large in recent weeks.

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The North Dakota State product showcased his skill set in his second NFL start in Week 17 against the Houston Texans while Garoppolo sat out with a thumb injury. While his output earlier in the year and against Houston wasn’t enough to get the pressure off the Niners for taking Lance over Jones — and even Fields — in the short-term, the No. 3 overall pick did show some reason for hope.

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