The San Francisco 49ers named Trey Lance their third-string quarterback this week, slotting him behind Brock Purdy and Sam Darnold. It is a shocking fall for the 23-year-old who opened the 2022 season as the team's starting quarterback. Given where he was selected, and what the 49ers gave up to grab him, it's safe to say Lance is shaping up to be an all-time draft bust.
Weeks before the 2021 NFL Draft, the 49ers traded three first-round picks (2021, 2022, 2023) and a third-rounder in 2022 to move up from No. 12 to No. 3 and be in position to select their next franchise quarterback. That was a ton of draft capital to surrender but if they had landed a franchise QB, it would have all been worth it.
Entering that draft, everyone knew the Jacksonville Jaguars were selecting Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 and Zach Wilson would go No. 2 to the New York Jets. Rumors suggested the 49ers were considering Lance and Mac Jones, ignoring Justin Fields entirely. Physically, Lance had all the tools at 6-foot-4, 224 pounds and a 40 somewhere in the 4.6 range. He was big, had a strong arm, and was fast. The problem was, he hadn't done much at the college level.
Lance redshirted as a freshman in 2018, then started all 16 games during the 2019 season as he led North Dakota State to a FCS championship. He completed 66.0 percent of his passes for 2,786 yards, with 28 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran the ball 169 times for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns. It was a remarkable season for the redshirt freshman. He was hyped as a potential first-round pick heading into the 2020 season. The Bison played Central Arkansas in October of 2020, then the season shut down. NDSU was scheduled to make up the rest of the season in early 2021 but Lance opted out to prepare for the 2021 draft.
In his one game as a sophomore, Lance completed 15 of 30 passes for 149 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns. So he only threw 318 passes during his college career. That was a huge red flag for some entering the 2021 NFL Draft.
The 49ers threw caution to the wind and selected Lance anyway. He spent his first season as Jimmy Garoppolo's backup. While he battled an injured right index finger all season, he showed promise in spots. He was named the team's starter entering the 2022 season, but suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2.
In two seasons, Lance has completed 56 of 102 passes (54.9 percent), for 797 yards, with five touchdowns and three interceptions. He has also rushed 54 times for 235 yards and a score. His career quarterback rating sits at 84.5, and San Francisco is 2-2 in the games he has started.
Is Lance's career over? Absolutely not. He's got tons of athletic talent and is still only 24 years-old. But it appears his time with the 49ers is coming to a close. No matter what he does after leaving the Bay Area, he'll be a massive bust for San Francisco. The franchise sunk a ton of resources into him and have almost nothing to show for it. It was a huge gamble at the time and the 49ers crapped out.
Barring a miracle turnaround, Lance will go down as one of the biggest draft busts of all-time.