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Is North Dakota State QB Trey Lance worth all the hype?

For teams who are looking for a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft, is Trey Lance worth the risk?

Butler v North Dakota State Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of many NFL organizations who could be looking at a quarterback in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. However, unlike the other franchises who are looking to add to their current quarterback depth chart, the Steelers possess the 24th overall pick.

Not really conducive to getting a top tier prospect at the most important position in the game.

Nonetheless, that doesn’t meant the Steelers can’t, or won’t, be aggressive and potentially trade up to find Ben Roethlisberger’s eventual replacement. If anyone has listened to my podcasts, or read BTSC deputy editor Michael Beck’s work, you know we are both fans of Trey Lance. Lance is the quarterback of North Dakota State, and is coming off a season where he played just one game after their season was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

There is a lot of unknown surrounding Lance as he enters the draft, but it does make you wonder if he is worthy of some of the hype he is getting. After all, he doesn’t have a huge body of work, and it isn’t as if he was the quarterback of Alabama, or another NCAA dominant program.

If there is one aspect of the Steelers which makes Lance a perfect fit, it is the fact the Steelers won’t require him to step in and start immediately. Instead, he should be given the luxury of learning behind a future Hall of Fame quarterback before taking over. It would be the perfect plan for the Steelers to find their next “guy”, but before even talking in logistics you have to ask if Lance is even worth all the hype?

I did some digging on Lance, and put together a brief synopsis of the kind of player he is, and will be when becoming a professional. Below you’ll see draft profile breakdowns, film room breakdowns and game film for you to enjoy.

Don’t listen to me, or anyone else, form your own opinion on Lance. I plan on doing this for other prospects as the draft approaches. If there is a specific player you’d like to see covered, simply let me know and I’ll be glad to put it together!

Let us know your thoughts on Lance in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.


Draft Profiles

NFL.com

Where he needs to improve: More than anything else, Lance just needs to play more snaps. He has started for only one season. I was really looking forward to watching him play against a very talented Oregon defense this fall, but that game has been canceled. The lack of big-time competition might bother some evaluators, but I’m comfortable with what I’ve seen thus far. Aside from that, there is one mechanical thing he can adjust and improve on. Occasionally, he will fall off the mound on throws to his left. His front side opens up too early and his placement can be affected. That is very easily correctable.

Biggest takeaway: I was shocked at the maturity in Lance’s game. It’s uncommon to see a redshirt senior demonstrate this type of control and mastery of a system. Lance was a redshirt freshman! He does a wonderful job staying in the moment and executing. I didn’t expect to see such a polished player at this stage of his development.

He reminds me of: Andrew Luck. I know Luck is a little bit bigger, but they are similar athletes and they both played with a maturity beyond their age at the collegiate level. I remember watching Luck run over defenders. I also remember being so impressed with his ability to execute on key plays in every game. I see the same things when I study Lance. More than anything else, these are two guys who exude confidence on the field. They are fearless, but they avoid being reckless. That’s a very delicate balance. Luck was on his way to a Hall of Fame career before shocking the football world and retiring a year ago. I don’t have quite the same grade on Lance, but he could get there with continued growth and development.

Walter Football

Strengths:

  • Tremendous skill set
  • Powerful arm
  • Can fire fastballs into tight windows
  • Arm strength to challenge defenses downfield
  • Throws a good deep ball
  • Impressive deep-ball precision
  • Aggressive to push the ball downfield
  • Throws well in the short, quick passing game
  • Leads receivers downfield for more yards after the catch
  • Accurate
  • Poise
  • Stays calm with rush closing around him
  • Keeps his eyes downfield despite rush closing in on him
  • Good athlete
  • Mobility
  • Uses his feet to buy time
  • Strong build makes him tough to sack, tackle
  • Keeps his eyes downfield while scrambling
  • Hard-charging downhill runner
  • Will lower his shoulder and run over tacklers
  • Dynamic runner
  • True dual-threat quarterback
  • Can throw off platform
  • Good speed for a quarterback
  • Avoids turnovers overall
  • Upside

Weaknesses:

  • Raw
  • Lacks experience
  • Field vision
  • Locks on to primary read
  • Takes off running when first read is covered
  • Slow to work through progressions
  • Has to speed up the process
  • Needs to get comfortable throwing into tight windows

Pro Football Network

Trey Lance’s traits conducive to eventual NFL success

Above all, Lance is an elite athlete. The NDSU quarterback didn’t put up the same testing numbers that fellow 2018 recruit Justin Fields did in high school, but since then, Lance has developed his explosiveness, speed, and frame density to become a true weapon on the field.

Lance moves with awe-inspiring ease for his 6-foot-4, 226-pound frame. As a runner, he carries a lot of momentum and physicality, and he can explode upfield if given space. As a passer, his mobility allows him to evade pressure and create off-script.

Lance’s arm talent is also quite good and near the top of the draft class.

He has the arm strength to push the ball downfield and hit closing windows outside the hashes. He also has the arm elasticity to mix touch into his throws when necessary, and he can hit different angles with that elasticity. His accuracy can wane at times, but this is largely due to slight mechanical variances.

Potential downfalls

Lance could be more consistent with his mechanics, as he sometimes plays a bit unhinged and has a tendency to plant his feet too early. But he clearly has a feel for natural mechanical congruity. When setting to throw, he effortlessly settles into a wide base, and his hip rotation is smooth. His throwing motion is crisp and compact, and it allows him to generate consistent velocity.

There will be a learning curve at the NFL level for Lance, however. His NDSU offense helped him structurally, and his lack of experience in 2020 could impact his initial transition to the NFL. But Lance, often regarded as a hard worker and a team leader, should be able to manage. And his upside is well worth the risk.


Breakdown


Game Film