The 2021 NFL Draft has some very intriguing names atop its quarterback class. It starts with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields, but neither will be as interesting to watch as NDSU quarterback Trey Lance. Lance had arguably the most impressive statistical season of any quarterback last year, in any collegiate division. Yes, a year potentially more impressive than even that of Joe Burrow. Not only does Lance possess elite production, but he also has dominant physical tools. He might be an under-the-radar prospect right now, but I trust once the 2020 NFL Draft concludes, people will start to take notice. This is my declaration now: If Lance declares for the 2021 NFL Draft, expect him to be a first-round selection.
NDSU quarterback Trey Lance
Size: At 6’3″, 225 pounds, Lance is well built and possesses a thick frame. Possessing extra muscle on his frame which is excellent for his play style, he needs a more filled out body to avoid injuries as a mobile quarterback. Ideally, he’d be a bit taller, but that’s really just splitting hairs.
Athletic Ability: Lance is an explosive athlete who’s fresh off a 1,000-yard rushing season. NDSU indulged in Lance’s rushing ability, specifically on QB draw plays, where it felt like they scored on every other play. Expect athleticism to be a massive calling card for Lance, as his athletic ability rivals that of Justin Fields.
Arm Strength: He possesses above-average arm strength, and can push the ball down the field in all areas. His arm isn’t on the level of Trevor Lawrence but rivals most of the other top passers in the class. He should have no issues making NFL-level throws.
Arm Accuracy: One of my favorite parts about Lance’s game is accuracy at all levels. If he misses, he does have a tendency of missing high, but he’s very good at giving his receivers catchable balls. You can’t have a 67 percent completion percentage if you have poor accuracy.
Decision Making: Lance has off-the-charts decision making and football IQ. He threw for 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions last year. That’s an unheard of ratio, at any level of football. He’s aggressive with the ball but avoids turnovers. This is an elite skill to have, especially considering last year was his first year as a starter.
Competition: Similar to a number of his FCS predecessors, Lance will have the work cut out for him. Players who come from lower-level schools rarely get the attention and respect they deserve. I believe that Lance is already comfortably entrenched in the QB2 race, and if Lawrence was to struggle this season, Lance could also be in consideration for QB1 with a big year. However, I worry that, because he plays at NDSU, some may not even give him a fair shot at the QB2 title.
Eligibility: This isn’t technically a con against him. Lance was redshirted his first year at NDSU, and so last year was his first year as a starter, and he was a redshirt freshman. It’s pretty uncommon for an FCS player to leave school as a redshirt sophomore. However, Lance isn’t a common player. That said, some are dubious to the thought of him declaring in 2021.
Former FCS quarterbacks
In the modern draft era, only three quarterbacks from the FCS level have been selected with a first-round pick. The first was Steve McNair, who was selected with the third overall pick in 1995 out of Alcorn State. The second was Joe Flacco out of Delaware in 2008; he was selected with the 18th pick in the first round. The third was former NDSU quarterback Carson Wentz, who was taken second overall in 2016. All of these players found great success in the NFL, which is a good sign for Lance.
One thing these three passers had in common was their arm talent. All had great arms that projected well to the NFL. Lance may have the weakest arm of the group, but he’s comfortably the best athlete of the group. With the way the game of football has evolved, this should be an overall benefit to Lance.
2020 Season Prediction
Lance has already put together one of the most dominant quarterback seasons in college football history, but now all eyes will be on him, to see how and if he can duplicate this production. The safe bet would be on him not being able to. It’s hard to imagine Lance going back-to-back seasons starting every game and not throwing an interception. If he can improve some of his other statistics though, like total passing yards and passing touchdowns, then a few interceptions shouldn’t impact his stock much at all.
Considering Lance now has an extra year of experience under his belt, I do expect to see a slight increase in his total production, but that will include some interceptions. I also don’t expect him to be so dominant as a rusher now that teams will be more keen on slowing his legs down.
Passing Predictions: 210 for 325 (66 percent), 3,200 yards, 32 TD, 5 INT
Rushing Predictions: 150 carries, 800 yards, 5.33 yards per carry, 12 TD
Lance is already a polarizing prospect. Despite being an FCS player, he has a very real chance to become a first-round selection, and I believe he can be drafted as high as top-five in 2020. He’s a strong blend of size and excellent athletic ability, who’s already a competent passer with strong decision making, accuracy, and a good arm. Coming from the FCS will raise concerns in the eyes of some, but Lance is already the best passer in the entire FCS — an impressive feat considering last year was his redshirt freshman season. Expect teams to fall in love with Lance’s production and upside.