There is no more mystifying prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft than North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. There simply is not enough evidence to truly feel confident about his prospects at the NFL level forcing many to be split on Lance’s draft stock. The other issue is where that evidence comes from, which is the FCS level.
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The “Parcells Rules” and how Trey Lance fits
There is a reason why Bill Parcells had rules about the drafting of a quarterback. It’s not often we see inexperienced college quarterbacks thrive at the NFL level. If Lance were to succeed, he would become an exception to the rule. However, his physical attributes suggest that he has as good a shot as anyone in a modern-day National Football League.
These pieces come out around every draft cycle, and for a good reason. From 2000-2010, eight different quarterbacks won a Super Bowl in 11 seasons. Of those eight, five of them hit the “Big Four Parcells Rules” in the draft — Trent Dilfer, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, and Drew Brees all met the requirements.
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However, since then, only Russell Wilson meets all four criteria. Eventually, the game evolves. In the modern league, players are not staying in school for four years, particularly if they’re a highly-regarded prospect. But for fun, what are the four rules, what are the extras, and how does Trey Lance stack up?
The “Parcells Rules”
- He must be a senior. No.
- He must be a graduate. No.
- He must be a three-year starter. No.
- He must have at least 23 wins. No.
- He must start 30 games. No.
- He must complete 60% of his passes. Winner winner chicken dinner!
- He must have a 2:1 TD-to-INT ratio. Are 30 touchdowns to 1 interception good?
Trey Lance only fits two of the seven criteria, but does it all matter for the draft? Does some of it matter? Or should we look at each situation on a case-by-case basis? As for Lance, being a starter for only one season and that season being at the FCS level is a big question mark for him going forward. He’s an anomaly in this case, but the history of one-year starters at the FBS level is largely a mixed bag.
One-year college starters track record
Mark Sanchez started his career on the fast track, making it to two straight conference championship games. However, the rest of his career was a letdown.
Cam Newton only started for one season at Auburn, but he won a National Championship at the JUCO level, so that’s not necessarily a 1:1 comparison. He ended up being one of the most exciting players in the NFL, and he won the league MVP in 2015.
Mitchell Trubisky, especially in the context of going ahead of both Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, has been an abject disaster.
Then in 2019, both Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins had their turns. Murray looks promising, while Haskins career took a tumble early on, with a long road toward recovery lying ahead. With that evidence magnified by the lower competition level, it’s easy to see why many long-time NFL personnel personalities are wary of Trey Lance.
Should Trey Lance draft stock fall in the draft come April?
At least one former NFL scout believes so. Steve Verderosa, a long-time scout for the New York Giants, joined Anita Marks for Pro Football Network’s new video series “Breaking Down the Board.”
“There’s just not enough football for me to put this guy in the first round or even the second round. I have him in the third round based on what I watched on tape.”
That is a triple-digit fastball being thrown up and in. But it’s important not to get stuck on one quote. Verderosa went into detail about his concerns regarding Trey Lance. Experience is a big indicator of future success in Verderosa’s eyes.
Inexperience creates uncertainty
Verderosa: “The only way you get good at playing football is by playing football. You can’t get experience if you don’t play. It’s invaluable when you have it.”
Trey Lance has only completed a pass attempt in 18 college games. He declared as a redshirt sophomore after only playing in one game his sophomore season. There is no denying that he is inexperienced.
The Bison’s offense is rudimentary
Verderosa doesn’t believe the Bison’s offense is reminiscent of an NFL offense. There is no denying this, either. There are very few NFL teams that use heavier personnel most of the time instead of spreading out the defense and stretching them horizontally and vertically.
NDSU simply has the best athletes and players at the FCS level. This means that much like Alabama offenses before Tua Tagovailoa, the Bison did what they could to limit mistakes. So even though Lance was efficient as a passer in college, he was only asked to throw the ball at a clip of 18 attempts per game.
The new mold of NFL quarterbacking
This is why Trey Lance’s draft stock will not and should not fall too far in the draft on April 29, 2021. The archetype of quarterback at the NFL level changed faster than I did when we got spun up as a Quick Reaction Force while I was in Afghanistan.
As protecting quarterbacks became more difficult given the gap between offensive and defensive line play, the way the league looked at quarterback prospects followed. Josh Allen breaking out in 2020 is another flag planted for the mobile, but not running, quarterback.
Slap that ability on a 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame with a 40-yard dash that might make some running backs blush, and you’re pouring gasoline on the bonfire. Couple the successes of Allen, Murray, Mahomes, Watson, and Prescott at the NFL level with the tough career starts for Rosen and Haskins, and it becomes more apparent the change was necessary.
Unless a quarterback is in a perfect situation while young like Jared Goff, it’s difficult to win without using one’s legs. Only the veterans that can mentally play the game in their sleep, like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Philip Rivers can survive without the use of two legs.
Trey Lance’s athleticism
He reminds me of a supercharged (and larger) version of Watson as a runner. Some of the best Trey Lance highlights come from runs that clearly showed he was the best athlete on the field at his level of competition.
Although things won’t be as easy at the next level, he has the tools to flourish on his feet at the next level, both as a runner and as a passer avoiding pressure.
Trey Lance’s arm talent
Speaking of highlights, he makes some unbelievable throws, with likewise unbelievable arm strength and ball placement. Although his ball placement is not yet consistent, after charting 10 games of his from 2019, I found his numbers overall to be incredibly good compared to his peers. His situation was unquestionably easier most times than that of his peers, but as a pure passer, he has everything you look for.
Arm strength? He might have the best pure velocity in the class. So even with a projected steeper curve to the NFL speed, his arm talent should be able to get him out of some sticky situations and through tight NFL windows. Daniel Jeremiah said Lance reminds him of Andrew Luck.
Upside matters and he has it all
This is why, despite the red flags from a historical perspective, Lance will most likely go in the top half of Round 1. Likewise, if the NFL offseason has shown us anything so far, it’s that the league is starving for high-end quarterback play, and they’re willing to risk a lot to acquire it. And more than ever, teams are willing to cut bait on fine NFL players simply because they are searching for the next GREAT player.
Lance has that potential and more. From a physical upside perspective, he is right there with the other top quarterbacks. It is why he’ll most likely be selected over the “safer” Mac Jones.
So no, Trey Lance will not fall to the second round of the NFL Draft, even though some of the concerns are warranted. It only takes one hungry team, and the NFL is starving.
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