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The Case for Trey Lance (by Ross Jacobs, followed by a Ross/RC debate)

Date:
August 4, 2021

 

RC Note: Ross Jacobs and I have been discussing Trey Lance a lot...A LOT. It’s an intriguing research because there is no history or pattern or metric or analytics to look at for ‘FCS guy who goes 28 TDs/0 INTs as a freshman, then COVID hits, then is a mess in sophomore in his one showcase game last year, then is traded for/drafted by SF like he’s the top QB in the draft’ -- how do we know if he’s gonna make it...or even start year one...Week 1. 

The media wants Lance to happen. I’m torn in my studies of Lance (like with Mac Jones) all year. Ross Jacobs offers his case for why we should be investing in Lance as elite, the Week 1 starter in 2021, a Fantasy god potential. 

After Ross makes his case here, then he and I had an online chat about the case -- and the transcript is fully published below his piece. Buckle up for a lot of words about Trey Lance...

 

 

The Case for Trey Lance (by Ross Jacobs, followed by a Ross/RC debate)


Recently I had a long discussion with RC and Xavier about the state of the 49'ers and Trey Lance. When it first cropped up I was pro 49'ers and that hasn't changed. They have a good team that was decimated by injuries last year. The real question, the only question is the state of their starting QB. We all know Trey Lance is the future, but what kind of future will it be and how far away is it? At the time I had much the same opinion as RC and Xavier, although after studying Lance deeper I was beginning to open my eyes to the possibilities. But after hearing some of their initial criticisms and arguments something didn't feel right to me. It seemed like they were either drawing conclusions based on a narrative instead of facts or else they were putting too much emphasis on the wrong things.

So, I began to research the situation and comparable situations. I had already done quite a bit of work earlier this off-season on Trey Lance based on my early conclusion that he would ultimately be the QB of choice for the 49ers, but at the time I was simply trying to deduce what Kyle Shanahan was thinking and what he would be looking for. I wasn't looking at Lance's actual potential that much. Like everyone, I was intrigued with the upside he offered but skeptical because of his perceived negatives. After my deep dive, however, I have come to the conclusion that Lance might in fact be the top QB prospect from the 2021 draft class and, contrary to every single educated opinion, ready to start immediately for the 49'ers.

I'm going to make three separate arguments in this article. 1. Why Trey Lance is the best long-term prospect among the 2021 class. 2. Why he might be ready to start immediately despite every analyst, including RC, saying he likely needs a year to develop. And 3. Why he might be a shockingly good fantasy player in 2021. I'll finish with some closing thoughts about the state of the 49'ers QB room.

 

Why Lance is the best QB prospect of 2021

One thing everyone admits is that Lance has the highest ceiling of any QB in the 2021 draft. It's easy to see why. He has ideal size at 6'4” 225 lbs, a rocket for an arm, probably runs in the 4.5's, is incredibly smart, well-spoken, a fanatical worker, was undefeated as a starter in college...on paper he's the perfect prospect. There are only a few concerns that keep him from being the obvious top guy.

So why do people doubt him?

The biggest concern is his level of competition as he played Div II football for the powerhouse North Dakota State Bisons. Within that there seem to be two separate concerns. The first is that he was playing against players that will never sniff the NFL. The second is that his team was far better than his competition and so he had an unfair advantage that helped him look good. This is usually commented upon by pointing to the numbers put up by Carson Wentz and Easton Stick, the two previous QB's for North Dakota St.

Both these things are true, and neither of them matters.

Here's how Lance stacks up against Wentz and Stick:

 

Wentz 2015: 130/208, 62.5% comp, 1651 yards, 17 TD's, 4 INT's, 63-294-6, 4.7 ypc rushing (7g)

Extrapolated to a 16 game season: 297/475, 3774 yards, 39 TD's, 9 INT's, 144-672-13

Stick 2018: 175/281, 62.3% comp, 2752 yards, 28 TD's, 7 INT's, 117-677-17, 5.8 ypc rushing

Lance 2019: 192/287, 66.9% comp, 2786 yards, 28 TD's, 0 INT, 169-1100-14, 6.5 ypc rushing

 

So how does Lance look compared to the other two? All three were good passers. Wentz might have thrown for about 100 more yards and 10 more TD's if he kept up the same pace, but it would have come on about 200 more passes. Lance and Stick were nearly identical as passers, but we can't make a judgment call on Stick yet because he hasn't gotten a chance in the NFL. He was still a 5th round pick. That's not bad. But I suspect he simply doesn't have a strong enough arm to make it work as a long-term starter. Lance doesn't have that problem.

In addition, Lance fielded the highest completion percentage of the three. He turned the ball over the least. And he was the most effective runner. These are not trivial differences. Across the board Lance was the most efficient player and he did it as a redshirt freshman that hadn't played a game in two years. Wentz and Stick were both multi-year starters when they put up these seasons. Wentz was 23 years old. Stick was 24. Lance was 19.

What about the fact that he played for a truly dominant team, one that was better than all their opponents every single game? Well, Wentz did too obviously, and he's had his moments so far in the NFL. He certainly isn't a bust. But you could say the same for any Alabama, Clemson, or Ohio St QB too.

Think of it like this. North Dakota St gets called the Alabama of the FCS. Not every Alabama QB is a bust in the NFL. You have to compare them by how their skills translate to the NFL. Jalen Hurts played there for a time and we all think he could be a very good starting QB. But we dislike Tua and think he's a bust. Why? It's not because of how their numbers compare. It's because Tua doesn't have a strong enough arm to play in the NFL and isn't as mobile as he was made out to be. Hurts is very mobile and has a heck of an arm. Lance has no physical issues that will hold him back.

What about his lack of experience? Lance has by far the fewest career pass attempts of any top QB entering the league in recent history. Isn't that risky? He hasn't been tested. What if he's a one-year wonder? And what about the fact that no Div I teams offered him a scholarship as a QB coming out of high school?

When Lance made his first start of his miraculous 2019 season, he hadn't played football in two years. His last season was also his first as a starter in high school. His team ran a wing-t offense that barely threw the ball. No college was comfortable offering him a scholarship with so little tape. A mere two years later, with no game experience in between Lance set records.

It was a sucker's trap to think that because Lance hadn't thrown the ball much in high school that he couldn't in college, and it is a sucker's trap to think the same going from college to the NFL. Instead of thinking of it like he doesn't have much experience and therefore he needs more before he's ready, flip the argument in your head. Look at it from the other side. Lance has never had the reps or game time of any of the other QB's and yet he's putting up numbers and winning games comparable in every way to his competitors. He's also doing it at a much younger age.

A radical statement: Not only does Lance's lack of experience not scare me, I think it's one of the data points that most supports my argument that he is the best prospect.

Lance is a phenom. A natural QB. With thousands of less reps he's already as good or better than his competition.

RC and I have spoken at length about QB's like Kedon Slovis or JT Daniels. Polished guys that have been in the system for years. They've had private coaches since they were kids. Gone to camps and private schools. Thrown thousands of balls. Honed their mechanics. And yet they aren't very good QB's. Why is that? Some people just don't have an innate ability to do particular things. Anyone can grind away at a skill, practicing it until they are reasonably good, but there are a scarce few that have a natural talent for something and with the same amount of practice they will blow by anyone without that same innate ability. Lance is one of those.

Take a look at any recent Elite 11 QB roster. See any familiar names? Odds are you know the names of a handful of them. A couple, namely Jared Goff, Deshaun Watson, and Kyler Murray, have all had good NFL success. The rest? The few that did even play in college mostly made the league, but nearly all of them either busted quickly or are reserves. Now I'm not trying to bash the Elite 11 camps or their participants, but my point is that just because a QB has been a known commodity since they were young does not automatically make them the best prospect. Those camps are more about image than anything and image gets you your pick of colleges to play for and also makes you attractive as a draft candidate. What it does not make you is a good prospect. The image is divorced from reality. In fact, a QB that makes it to the NFL without the benefit of going to a top school or being an Elite 11 finalist has greater qualifications than one that does simply because they have overcome more obstacles.

There are only two QB's from the 2021 class that fit this description. Zach Wilson and Trey Lance. Both have the mobility and arm strength needed for the modern NFL game, but only Lance has ideal size and strength and the ability to be a true running threat, whereas Wilson can only scramble occasionally.

By most accounts Lance is the most intelligent of the 2021 QB's. He's a film junkie and a fanatical worker and there is plenty of evidence to support this. He has an ideal frame and physical traits. He can run and pass extremely well. He is a natural and has already reached a comparable level to his peers despite being years younger with thousands of less reps. His level of competition is a non-issue. It's clear he is the top prospect from this class and one of the best in recent history.

 

Why Lance is ready to start right now

The argument that Lance needs to sit a year is all based on the idea that the FCS is so divorced from the complexity and speed of the NFL that he couldn't possibly be ready. Wentz made the jump and was 7-9 as a rookie despite playing for a team less talented than the 49'ers. Lance has an advantage over Wentz as well. He can run at a high level, and this has translated to better instant success for rookie QB's.

 

2005 the Titans finished 4-12. In 2006 with Vince Young, they went 8-8.

2010 the Panthers finished 2-14. In 2011 with Cam Newton, they went 6-10.

2010 the Dolphins finished 6-10. In 2011 with Ryan Tannehill, they finished 7-9.

2011 Washington finished 5-11. In 2012 with RG3 they went 10-6.

2011 the Seahawks finished 7-9. In 2012 with Russell Wilson, they went 11-5.

2014 the Titans finished 2-14. In 2015 they were 3-13 but 3-9 with Mariota.

2015 the Cowboys finished 4-12. In 2016 with Dak Prescott they went 13-3.

2016 the Texans finished 9-7. In 2017 they went 4-12 but 3-3 with Deshaun Watson

2017 the Bills finished 9-7. In 2018 they went 6-10 but 5-6 with Josh Allen

2017 the Ravens finished 9-7. In 2018 they went 10-6 but 6-1 with Lamar Jackson.

 

The only one with a worse record was Josh Allen and the Bills, and Allen still had a much better record than the other QB's on the roster. In each case the teams immediately improved their overall record and most of them did so on very poor teams. Pure passing only QB's haven't fared quite as well.

Most of these QB's played for poor teams. Lance is not going to a poor team. He's going to a team that was in the Superbowl 2 years ago and only finished 6-10 last year due to a shocking number of injuries to all their best players. They are closer to a 9 or 10 win team, and that's with Nick Mullens, CJ Beathard, and Garoppolo at QB. All Lance has to do is be a win or two better than that to get this team to 11 wins and a probable playoff berth.

We've already discussed why the lack of experience argument doesn't work. Before Lance's 2019 season he hadn't played football in two years and his last work was in a run-heavy high school offense. There's no reason he couldn't have improved since his time with North Dakota St in 2019. He's proven he has the aptitude and intelligence for it.

Also, multiple other recent QB's have gone straight to the NFL with a comparable amount of games. Kyler Murray started 17 games, the exact same as Lance. Ryan Tannehill started 19 games. Cam Newton started a mere 14 and only attempted a grand total of 280 passes, almost identical to Lance's 287. Interesting that those three names also happen to show up on our above list of mobile QB's that instantly had some success.

What about learning NFL schemes and protections? Lance only played one year of college so how could he possibly be ready for the NFL?

Cam Newton certainly didn't struggle with it despite playing in a Gus Malzahn spread option attack. Plenty of Air Raid QB's have made the transition easily including Mahomes and Mayfield and Murray.

 

The other four QB's from the 2021 draft played almost exclusively in the shotgun in college, especially Lawrence and Fields. Lance ran 60% of his plays from under center. He called his own protections. He ran pro-style plays similar in many ways to what he'll run with the 49'ers.

There's not one actual reason to suppose that Lance can't play immediately. It's simply a fallacy, a trap that many people are getting caught in because they wrongfully assume that a lower level of competition automatically means the training isn't as good. This is simply incorrect. Lance is ready to go the same as every other good QB that's entered the league in recent years.

I don't expect Lance to magically lead his team to the Superbowl, that's a hard thing to do for any QB, but I do think it's a possibility. Most rookie QB's end up on really bad teams that have no chance at the playoffs. That's not the case with Lance. His team was 6-10 last year but was significantly hampered by all the injuries. Roethlisberger nearly took the Steelers to the Superbowl his rookie year. After going 13-0 in the regular season he lost to the eventual champion Patriots in the conference championship. The Steelers were 6-10 the year before. Lamar Jackson had a great run his rookie year and might have had a better seed in the playoffs if they had started him earlier in the season. The Ravens were 9-7 the year before. There's no reason it won't be done by someone eventually. Why not Lance? He's in as good of a position to make a run as anyone.

 

Why Lance can succeed in fantasy immediately

This all starts and ends with his running ability. Let's look at every rookie season for all the comparable runners that have come out recently.

2011: Newton 24.18 ppg

2012: Wilson 17.84 ppg

2012: Tannehill 12.23 ppg (only ran for about 200 yards)

2012: Griffin 21.49 ppg

2018: Jackson 19.03 ppg

2016: Prescott 18.19 ppg

2017: Watson 25.26 ppg

2018: Allen 19.5 ppg

2019: Murray 18.58 ppg

2020: Hurts 23.75 ppg

 

Rookie QB's with a comparable level of athleticism have finished with a low of 17.84 ppg by Russell Wilson in 2012. That was good enough to be QB10.

 

If we assume Lance starts from day 1 and the 49'ers conservatively attempt 475 passes and 500 rushes in 16 games and further assume that Lance finishes with a modest 60% completion percentage, this gives him 285 complete passes. We'll give him a conservative 11 yards per completion which brings him to 3135 yards. Assume a reasonable 16 TD's and 12 INT's passing and 6 TD's rushing. Assume 125 rushes for 675 yards at 5.5 ypc, which is in line with other recent rookie runners. This brings you to a total of 17.64 ppg.

That is a fairly conservative estimate. If Lance were to go higher than those numbers, which is very possible considering the types of things his compatriots have accomplished, then he would likewise be well over that number which could easily make him a QB1. Available for the low, low price of a 13th round pick.

Now the big question isn't his passing ability. The question is: how much is he going to run? Most of these mobile QB's have heavily leaned on their mobility to aid in the transition, but the biggest indicator might come straight from Kyle Shanahan.

It gives you a huge advantage when the quarterback’s a threat to run. If you have to pick one way or the other, I always feel no matter who you are, especially when you get in those playoffs, eventually a team's going to make you sit in that pocket and make you make some big throws to win a game. So, you have to have that ability, but anyone who has both always has the chance to exceed everybody.

"Tom Brady's the best to ever play the game and if he could run and do all that other stuff and still be the same way he is, that would be impossible to stop. The more you can have both, the more things you can do as an offense and the less things the defense can do just having to defend everything.

"I think there are a lot more coming up, guys who have seen guys run around and make plays and have stayed at the quarterback position their entire career, starting in Pop Warner to high school, to college. I think more offenses have incorporated a bunch of things that allow guys to develop as pocket passers, even though they're unbelievable athletes and can make plays.

"I think some of the challenges over the last, at least in my career, is you get some of these unbelievable athletes who've never had to sit in a pocket and really go through that because they could just win games in Pop Warner just running around. They can win it in high school just running around. They can win Heismans and do whatever, just running around in college.

"Then eventually you get in the NFL and there's times that you’ve got to do that and it's really tough, but I think there's more and more guys coming out who have been doing both forever. When you have that, then you’ve got a chance to do both and that's why you can see that the league is finding more and more of those guys.”

If Shanahan wanted a pure passer, he could have drafted Mac Jones. But he didn't. He drafted Lance, and he took Lance because he wants to run the ball. How much we'll have to see. Will he threaten the run more than he actually calls it? Maybe. But history has shown that QB's that can run typically do run. That gives Lance a solid floor for fantasy.

 

What I expect to happen

 

So far I have only discussed Trey Lance, but this all falls under the larger umbrella of who starts for the 49'ers. Jimmy Garoppolo has been the assumed starter for nearly everyone. Why wouldn't he? He took the team to the Superbowl two years ago. He's got a good record. About the only thing that's held him back has been staying healthy. Shanahan even said at the beginning of camp that there was no QB competition, that Jimmy was the best QB on the roster. So, isn't it obvious that Garoppolo would be the starter?

I don't think so. I think Lance is going to start day 1.

Let's start with Shanahan's pre-camp words. In the context of the conversation, he was saying that Jimmy was the best QB on the roster because Lance only had 7 practices at that point. It would be safe to assume that given a very short amount of practice time that Lance didn't know the playbook as well or wasn't as good as Jimmy at translating his knowledge to the field. But real training camp hadn't begun yet. Now it has. And there are still 3 preseason games after that. Plenty of time for Lance to show what he can do.

Shanahan saying there's no competition doesn't mean anything. There was little reason for him to immediately open it up and create controversy while undermining Jimmy. But none of that changes the fact that once Shanahan sees them side by side he will easily be able to see the differences and what Lance brings to the table that Jimmy cannot. Again, there was a reason the 49'ers took Lance specifically. He has running ability and an arm Garoppolo can only dream of.

Garoppolo didn't only fall out of favor with Shanahan because of his health but also because his play on the field wasn't where Kyle wanted it to be. Much like Sean McVay and Jared Goff, Shanahan began to feel restricted in his play calling because Garoppolo wasn't able to drive the ball down the field consistently. The overthrow in the Superbowl might have been the breaking point. The reality of Garoppolo and Goff's arm talent doesn't matter. What matters is that their coaches have become disenchanted with the situation and desire something different. Trey Lance is Kyle Shanahan's Stafford but with the added bonus that he can run.

Shanahan is going to see Trey Lance's arm and legs in camp and nothing else is going to matter. Even if Trey is slightly less accurate overall than Garoppolo, Lance is going to get the job because he can attack down the field in a way Jimmy can't. All he has to do is keep it close and prove he can run the offense without huge mistakes. By all accounts he's doing exactly that through the first few days of camp, and Garoppolo has done nothing to show that his issues are fixed.

So what happens to Garoppolo once it's clear Lance gives the team a better chance to win? It's possible he could be traded. The recent Carson Wentz injury certainly opens up a starting spot on a team that believes itself ready to compete for a Superbowl. There are some issues however. Garoppolo would have to waive the no-trade clause in his contract and the 49'ers would likely have to cover part of his salary as the Colts don't have a ton of cap room available. Would Garoppolo be ok with going to the Colts for a year and trying to win a Superbowl? Maybe. It's a good team in a weak division, but the Colts seem fairly committed to Wentz for the future. Hard to know what Garoppolo thinks of the possibility. I don't think this is a likely scenario.

It's also possible the 49'ers just keep Garoppolo on the roster. One of their explicitly stated reasons for acquiring Lance was to have a solid backup in case Jimmy got hurt again. If the roles have flipped that would make Jimmy the backup, but the result is the same. However, there is another QB on the roster now that is performing quite well in early training camp, and this development makes me think the team would be fine parting with Jimmy if Lance does in fact beat him out. That player is former Cardinals 1st round pick Josh Rosen. I've been hearing good things about Rosen, and his presence might change the dynamics of the situation.

Once Lance gets into live games I expect there to be moments of frustration as with any player. He's not perfect. He isn't the most developed passer yet. But he is significantly farther along than most people think, and he'll be good enough to win games immediately with the aid of his legs. He is a more accurate passer right now than Cam Newton or Lamar Jackson were coming into the league and both players found immediate success by leaning on their run game prowess. So long as Kyle is willing to use Lance heavily as a runner the team will be successful.

 

-- by Ross Jacobs

 


*This report was sent to R.C., and then Ross and R.C. had an online chat about The Case for Lance. Transcript here:

  

RC: So, Ross Jacobs has become smitten (I tease) with Trey Lance. And he has written a lengthy piece/love letter to him and his belief that he will (a) be the Week 1 starter, and (b) be FF gold. Obviously, you just read all his reasoning for that, but I wanted to do some follow up to explore this Trey lance thing a little further...


RC: The two key components on your Trey Lance love is the (a) Week 1 starter + (b) will be great/FF gold. I want to discuss (b) before we get to (a)...


RC: You know...if you are right, that Lance is an elite prospect that is going to hit the ground running (literally and figuratively) -- then this is FF gold. A potentially better version of Lamar-Hurts-Taysom types. He's built to be a dominant asset unlike Zach Wilson (smaller) or Trevor Lawrence (less arm, less downfield feel, skinnier frame...savvy runner not weapon runner). Lance really could be the best FF QB in this class...and best NFL one too.


Ross: Exactly. Over the past several years we've seen the evolution of the QB position and the athletic runners that are taking over. There have been many different shapes and sizes and levels of passing ability. But none of them is, on paper, the total package. Lance is like nothing we've seen yet. I think he's the ultimate combination of perfect body, running ability, smarts, and high end passing ability. A better passer than Lamar and Cam and a higher ceiling running than Russell and Kyler and Deshaun due to his size and strength. He's Josh Allen but much faster. He's Andrew Luck but willing to run more. The sky is the limit for him.

RC: I want to pick at him for not being a polished QB, but many of the QBs down memory lane you mentioned had the same image coming in -- and their mobility changed the atmosphere on their passing ability (defenses scared to pressure). After I read your piece, I started to wonder...how would we feel if Lance went to Clemson and started for 2-3 years? Lance is clearly a better build, runner, arm...he just could use more reps, but with the runner/passers...maybe that does not matter anymore. I've been feeling the same for years, but then always worry if it's going to catch up with them in the NFL...and coaches will get flustered with it...but it's not true yet, although they're (the media/and thus fans) trying to take down Jalen Hurts for reasons I do not understand.


RC: Lance has way more upside than Justin Fields in the same type of style/game, I think.


RC: I meant Lance at Clemson for 2-3 yrs not Trevor/or same time frame.


Ross: Yes those two are interesting to compare because Fields has many of the same traits, and I do think he can get off to a fast start just because of his legs. It's proven time and time again to be an equalizer in the NFL provided you use it. But Fields is not a natural passer the way Lance is and I think everyone can see that instantly. Lance is still developing. He's young. But he's catching on amazingly fast as contrasted with Fields who has been honing his skills for years and has probably already reached his peak as a passer. If Lance had gotten 3 years at Clemson or Ohio St, he would have been the type of lock we all saw Andrew Luck as.


RC: Well, let me go 'on the other hand'...


RC: On the other hand, all the pie-in-the-sky stuff is nice and wonderful and religious faith -- but that Central Arkansas game tape from 2020 was a near disaster...and what I watched of 2019 was a guy who was just a better athlete than everyone else and was running by design and thus allowing for softer coverage when he did air it out -- there are not great signs of an assassin QB here. He can be all smart and 'big arm' but it's not put together on tape. And yes Josh Allen developed, but Allen's arm is another level from Lance...or anyone else. I don't see an OK QB on tape with Lance, I see a ton of mechanical and read the field issues...that I have to magically hope (and they might be) get cured by a 4-week camp with Kyle Shanahan. That's a HUGE ask.


RC: That doesn’t mean he can't run his way to goodness for FF and be a plausible QB...but I see some signs that this could go bad early on. At his worst, worse than Fields bad.


Ross: We should be careful about taking one game out of context or drawing too large of conclusions from it. First of all, it's one game. Anyone can have a bad game. His happened to be his one game of 2020 and so we attribute too much emphasis to it, but you could find a couple of Peyton Manning games in the NFL where he looked replacement level. It happens. What you may not have heard about that game was that Lance hadn't practiced for two weeks prior to it due to a COVID quarantine. He wasn't even going to play in it but agreed to because the partial scholarship guys on the team needed one game to get their scholarships through for the year. And even though his arm wasn't great that game he just started running and nobody could stop him. He scored 4 TD's total including 2 through the air and led his team from behind to a win. Pretty good for a "bad" game. That's the beauty of Lance. He has two dimensions that he can beat teams with. Good luck stopping both.


Ross: As far as his mechanical issues and the obvious fact that he is NOT a finished product as a passer...that is what excites me. He's barely started. He's thrown just a couple hundred passes in his career and yet he's a 67% passer with incredible efficiency already. He has produced. That is a fact. He's proven he can play. Yes, there will be struggles. I don't expect him to come in and Justin Herbert everyone through the air. But he can come in and be as good or better a passer than Cam and Lamar were as rookies and run his way to FF success.


RC: I was rewatching the C. Ark game while you were responding the last two times. It is really bad...like should've been 3-4-5 picks bad, like flustered by Central Arkansas bad. And, to me, it was a continuation of some issues I saw in 2019...when forced to be a pure passer. Yes, he has an arm. Yes, he has the wheels...so he's an FCS wrecking ball, but I see signs from college that he cannot be ready for the pros yet -- but if he is, if he goes into the NFL and stomps all over them...we shouldn’t even play college football anymore


RC: Lance's C. Ark tape is some of the worst tape I've seen from a 1st-round prospect. That cannot be ignored. It may not manifest itself; he may grow out of it -- but this is all 'hope'...and that has to scare people in their grading. Hard to go all in. Fun to do so, and it may be right...but there are real issues with his tape and at the level of competition and with the favorable blocking/surrounding group he had.


RC: If the C. Ark game is a one-off, so be it...could be. But it looked a lot like the Lance I saw in 2019 too. Some of the same flaws.


RC: Can he grow out of it? Sure. But it's a leap of faith not a known. I KNOW Zach Wilson is ready to throw the ball in the NFL. I don't know that about Lance.


RC: Maybe good enough to play and thrive for FF, but I have hesitations. Just like with Mac Jones...what happens when everything isn’t perfect and wonderful, and he looked a hell of a lot better passing than Lance (I get the running aspect).


RC: Mac Jones MIGHT be great...but it might be a head fake on Alabama surroundings. I think it's fair to wonder that about Lance too...who looks less ready than Jones as a pocket passer, far less.


RC: It's also fair to think he'll grow out of it or be groomed, or have upside with age.


RC: But I really question how ready to hit the ground he is by watching his tape...and that's all I can go by. Hope that he grows out of it or from it...I can only speculate, not marry myself to. But the upside is definitely intriguing.


Ross: I agree mostly. I understand the fear. But I am not going to be the one to bet against this guy. Let me ask you: let's assume that he is in fact "not ready." What's the worst that could happen as a passer? Dwayne Haskins? So he throws a couple more INT's than TD's, so what? He wouldn't be the first rookie to do that. He still has the running as a rookie. And I'm not worried about his development as a passer. I get that he's still raw, but even so he has already succeeded. It's worth repeating, he's a career 67% passer with 30 TD's to 1 INT and he was 19 years old when he did it with very little experience as a starting QB, one year of high school on a run heavy team. He did that IN SPITE of his lack of experience. And when do you get the largest gains when learning a new skill? Towards the beginning. All these guys coming into the league with thousands of attempts already are mostly maxed out. They are who they are. Lance has room to grow but he's already really good.


RC: I see the wonderful upside...I just don't think it's ready now (to the point A of whether he will start Week 1). And my grade on him is on the bubble, really -- acknowledging the upside and the runner success in the NFL...yes. But the passer tape is really weak at a lower level of play...and his running, FCS good but getting caught from behind a lot against non-NFL bodies. He may be a 4.6+ runner, which looks like a 4.4-4.5 at FCS. If he's a 4.65 runner needing a year or two of development, I have to be cautious about my 2021 hope.


RC: For Dynasty, if he's a bit sloppy out of the gates -- you can buy him for half price in November, perhaps.


RC: The odds, to me, that he leaps past wobbly tape at FCS, a year off, a different kind of training camps in the NFL...to then be an effective starter year one would be mind-blowing...but possible in today's NFL because we see runner QBs splashing early.


RC: For FF, it could be wonderful a la Taysom or Hurts, no matter how wobbly the passing.


RC: effective starter Week 1 of 2021


Ross: Those are fair points. One note about his speed: I don't know how reliable it is or how it translates to 40-time etc, but Lance was clocked at 21.54 mph on one run. There are very few NFL players at any position that can hit that mark. Even Lamar topped out at just a shade over 20 I believe. Not saying Lance is faster than Lamar, he's not, but I think it's a good indicator that Lance can move.


RC: But Shanahan may have to just push him into it and groom him like Josh Allen...let him take his lumps and grow out of it.


RC: Shanahan is in a weird spot...supposedly built for a 2021 run, but if he pushes Lance...I think they're sunk for 2021 with growing pains of Lance. Would Shanny do that? I think so, because he can hide behind it as an excuse for another down year.


RC: It's going to be much better for Shanny to go Jimmy G, see if he fails...send Lance in to distract from the car crash...and then let Lance grow without as much scrutiny.


RC: It would be big balls to go Lance Week 1 and ditch JG. It might be the way he has to go...but that's putting Lance in a huge spot with split 1st-team reps in August as his prep.


RC: The Bears will do the same with Dalton-Fields.


Ross: And yes that's mostly my point for fantasy. He can be a wobbly passer out of the gates and still be fine. I tried to account for that in my article. But everyone keeps bringing up that he hasn't played in 2 years and only had one year at college as if he hasn't already made a similar jump before. He barely threw the ball as a senior in high school, a one-year starter, and yet two years later he's going 28-0 in college. I get he had some advantages playing for a good team but he's got a pretty good team now and arguably better coaching, and regardless it's an impressive feat. How many redshirt freshmen come into college and immediately dominate? And that's including the super high recruits out of high school. Lance wasn't. He was a nobody. It's shocking what he accomplished, and I think a lot of people are about to be shocked again.


RC: Jameis Winston killed it as a freshman at FSU


Ross: Ok so the Jimmy G issue. This one is tougher because it's not just about Lance. There are bigger issues with the team and how to handle the situation. But what I truly believe has happened is Kyle has lost faith in Jimmy for a variety of reasons, mostly related to his arm strength and willingness/ability to attack deep. They wouldn't have drafted Lance otherwise. They even said they wanted to bring in a guy that could play IF Jimmy got hurt this year. They already believe Lance can play and in training camp he's going to show out with that big arm and running ability and Kyle is going to think he's better off with Lance immediately.


Ross: Yeah, it's happened a few times (redshirt freshmen/true sophomore QBs immediately being great) but as far as I can remember they've all been much hyped up, very high recruits with a ton of experience already in high school. I can't think of anyone that's done it with so little the way Lance has.


RC: It's going to be interesting to see which way he goes...because if he traded all those draft picks for Lance, and Lance struggles and SF finishes last in the NFC West while Zach Wilson kills it and even worse if Fields or Mac Jones do well -- then Shanahan just grabbed a gun and pointed it at his own head.


Ross: Jameis specifically was a gambler. He got away with it his first year but not his second. Lance, despite his issues, is not a gambler. He plays within himself. I don't think he's suddenly going to turn into a turnover machine, and so long as he keeps developing his ceiling is sky high. I don't see any reason why he would suddenly peak as a passer.


RC: I also wonder if Shanahan has talked himself into this theory, then Lance was the shoe that mostly fit, so in a rush he made this decision...and now he can't turn back. Like baby McVay -- I'm mad that I don’t have cool toys, so I'll get my cool toy...and it's a project to put together, not a ready-to-go play thing. They’re always groping around for QB satisfaction…for QB Utopia.


RC: I don't think Lance plays within himself. He's not blind like Winston, but not far off. I mean watch that C Arkansas game again.


RC: Jameis peaked as a freshman for his life. Could Lance have? But still be OK for the NFL.


RC: Peaked as in...everything went right as they flirted with danger a lot, and it caught up to him.


RC: What if Lance played year two FCS and followed it up with a 25 TDs/18 INT season? What if C. Ark could catch and Lance had 4 picks in his 'showcase'


Ross: Kyle is on the line for this either way. I just worry that if it doesn't start off with a bang that he'll get cut off and Lance will have to start over with a new system/coach. I think he can work through it obviously but it's not ideal. And again that was one bad game against C Arkansas and he still threw 2 TDs and only 1 INT. He's 28-0 everywhere else. Even if you bump his INT's for luck those are phenomenal for anyone but especially impressive given his youth and lack of experience.


RC: It's things like that which give me pause. That it is one hot season in a perfect environment.


RC: Connor Shaw had an 18 TD/1 INT season once too


RC: I watch the tape to see, and I just see questions on Lance -- questions that may get answered or he grows out of, but they are serious questions not just nitpicks.


RC: If Lance is 4.6+ timed runner and went 23/18 TD/INT passing as a Soph...that's not as exciting. We'd say his Fresh year was a fluke...like a bit like Jordan Love. Jordan Love had a magical 2018 and then a disaster in 2019...when left to try and figure out if 2018 was real...or 2019...or if there was an excuse for the down 2019 -- I saw the same guy with the same problems in 2018 and 2019. Sometimes things click for a year...INTs dropped, amazing catches by WRs, slick play calling


Ross: Connor Shaw didn't have Lance's lack of experience, size, arm, or even mind and if I remember correctly he didn't totally embarrass himself a game or two with the godawful Browns. Anything is possible with Lance but I'm not betting against this combination of factors. Heck if we're going the one-year wonder route...why aren't you questioning Zach Wilson? He's had a bad year. Lance has not.


RC: Not saying one example guy proves the whole case. Just something about the Lance tape has me rattled as much/more than excited. I think he can grow into something like a better Dak, but Dak had more experience on a bigger stage hitting the league.


RC: I'm not even looking at the stats/advanced passer metrics for lance (how can we?), I'm just looking at their play/ability. If QB scouting was all about stats, Tua is a god


Ross: But Tua has a fatal flaw: his arm. The only real knock, and you're hammering it rightly so, is that Lance is not a polished passer yet. And yet he's already accomplished so much in spite of that. By every account he's a savant. One of the most intelligent passers we've seen. Anything is possible though. He might have peaked as a passer already. But I'm not betting against him considering how new he is to the position and his rapid ascent. He's been kicked around for years, told he couldn't do it, ignored, disrespected. And he fought through it all. I'm not going to be on the wrong side of this.


RC: Oh, I think there is an arm issue with Lance...a read-to-throw issue and an accuracy problem. Tua had a junk arm and couldn't run...and he blew up the best conference in college. I just think Lance has some issues that the stats don't foretell, as a passer...in my years of studies. I don't like it when I see a QB (as a passer) and I don't see 'it'. I didn’t see 'it' with Lance...but it might be hiding because we haven't seen enough of him to know, but by the same token we haven't seen enough to play out my worry that there's an iceberg potentially lurking.


RC: To wrap up, to support your FF case... If Lance and Fields and Jones got named Week 1 starters today, along with obvious Lawrence, Wilson -- would Lance not be the highest projected FF scorer?


RC: of the rookies


Ross: The mainstream might go Lawrence for obvious reasons but anybody else would have their money on Lance.


RC: The people/ADP will vote Lance, I believe


RC: In 2023, you might be the rightest person outside of Shanahan on Lance. In 2021, I'm on the fence. I want to believe...but then I went and rewatched the C. Ark game again and it always rattles me.


RC: If Shanny makes Lance the starter Week 1, then I'd run alongside you to catch up.


Ross: I get it. The knocks on him are real. I'm betting on the traits.


RC: If Shanny doesn't go Lance...I think it means he just needs more time.


RC: Doesn’t go Week 1


Ross: I would say that's accurate.


RC: I'm more into the timing than the eventual outcome. I think you’re going to be right...but maybe not until 2022-23.


RC: But I'm definitely keeping an open mind from your argument/piece.


Ross: He likely won't hit his peak as a passer for several more years. I don't want anybody thinking I'm suggesting he's the next Mahomes or Herbert as a passer right out of the gates. I think that could take 3-4 years. But I think he's good enough as a passer right now with excellent running ability to make him an FF threat immediately.


RC: We'll end with this: Sat Aug 14, 8:30pmET...SF v KC 830pmET. Video Q&A watch party on the Lance part? We'll watch together and see the first card dealt?


Ross: Sure.


RC: Unless you'd rather watch HOU-GB to see Davis Mills


Ross: Yeah I'll pass. I've got too much invested in Lance at this point.


RC: Ha! I'll buy you a Lance jersey if he starts Week 1...well, maybe just the tshirt version. I don't want to give too much money to the NFL.


RC: You’re probably sleeping at night with an oversized Lance jersey on anyway/already...


Ross: I may need that t-shirt anyways to hide my face if I'm wrong!

 



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About R.C. Fischer

R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics, and a football projections analyst and writer for Fantasy Football Metrics. 

Learn more about RC and the College Football Metrics system >>