Projecting the floor and ceiling for Trey Lance

The 49ers rookie QB holds a lot of ability

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

The San Francisco 49ers made a big move in the NFL Draft this year when they traded all the way up to the third overall pick to select Trey Lance out of North Dakota State. They traded away three first round picks and a third rounder to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for the rights to draft their potential quarterback of the future in Lance. He is an extremely dynamic talent with a skillset that fits the modern version of the NFL very well because of both his big arm as well as his rushing abilities.

College Career

In just one full season as a starting quarterback, Lance put up some ridiculous numbers at North Dakota State. In his freshman season he was the back up and only threw one pass, while his junior season was unfortunately limited to just one game because of Covid restrictions. It was his sophomore season that he can be really be judged on and he was absolutely spectacular. In 16 games that year he completed 67 percent of his passes for 2786 yards with 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Just as impressive as his his throwing stats were his contributions on the ground, carrying the ball 169 times for 1100 yards and 14 touchdowns. He is a true dual threat quarterback who absolutely dominated his competition at the college level.

Projected Floor

The real floor for Lance this season would be if does not play, and instead just serves as the back up to Jimmy Garoppolo all year. This is a possibility because Garoppolo is likely going to be the week one starter so he would presumably keep the job for as long as he is healthy and playing well. He has had some success when he plays but unfortunately he just can’t seem to stay healthy, which is a big reason why the 49ers made such a big move to acquire a quarterback this offseason. Garoppolo has only been able to complete a full season once in his 7 year career and that was back in 2019. He did play pretty well that year, though not spectacular, completing 69 percent of his passes for 3978 yards with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

The big thing that Lance brings to the table that Garoppolo is missing is the run threat. Lance would add a whole new dimension to an already efficient and explosive offensive unit with his impressive athleticism. The arsenal of Lance paired with the solid weapons around him such as George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk make it pretty hard to imagine him having a low floor if he does in fact get his opportunity to start at some point this year. The 49ers have an excellent coaching staff too lead by the offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan so the success of Lance seems highly probable. It’s more a question of when rather than if he will succeed.

Projected Ceiling

Lance is not only a high floor player, as long he gets his chance to start of course, but his ceiling is sky high. The offensive scheme of Shanahan, by design, is extremely friendly to quarterbacks. The elite rushing attack opens up the field for the passing game beautifully and the built in reads of the system assists quarterbacks in being very efficient. The 2020 season was one plagued by injuries for the 49ers but back in 2019 they were one of the top offensive units in the entire NFL. They ranked 4th in total yards per game at 381.1, 13th in passing at 237 yards per game, 2nd in rushing at 144.1 yards per games, and 2nd in scoring at 29.9 points per game.

From a talent perspective alone, Lance is clearly an upgrade from Garoppolo so if he develops to his true potential than his expectations are massively high. Pretty much all of the key offensive pieces from 2019 are still on the team so Lance has a real chance to bring an already elite unit to a new level. Adding his rushing ability to the mix, which will be fun to watch with the creativity of Shanahan, is a nightmare for opposing defenses who already struggled to slow down this offense with a stationary quarterback. The most similar comparison for Lance would be a bigger and stronger version of Kyler Murray. That’s a dangerous concept to add to an already stacked offense.

All things considered including the talent, weapons, scheme, and coaching, it’s hard to imagine any way that Lance turns out to be a bust with the 49ers. The only thing that is a big question mark is the when factor. It is still completely unknown when he is going to get his opportunity at the starting quarterback role. It could be at some point this season or it might not be until the beginning of the 2022 season. When that time does come, Lance has an excellent shot to become a top tier quarterback in the NFL very quickly.

Trey Lance vs Jimmy Garoppolo: Who will win the 49ers QB job?

Will Lance win the 49ers QB competition?

By: Brady Akins

April 29, 2021. The first round of the most recent iteration of the NFL Draft, and the night that the San Francisco 49ers made the franchise-altering decision to select Trey Lance, the 21-year-old quarterback out of North Dakota State, third overall.

This, when just four seasons prior, the 49ers made what was seen at the time as another high-stakes quarterback acquisition, when San Francisco managed to lure the perceived heir apparent to the impossible throne of Tom Brady in Jimmy Garoppolo to the Bay Area. 

And in the four seasons that followed, the 49ers have received a mixed bag from the quarterback they gave up a second-round pick to add to the roster. From being a wealth of untapped potential with an unbeaten record in 2017 to an injury-prone player with a limited skillset under center in 2020 and everywhere in between.

Even with an NFC Championship victory and a near Super Bowl victory under the belt of Jimmy G, one franchise-altering decision has led to another. And with OTA’s now well underway league-wide, Garoppolo has come face-to-face with the man set to become the future of the San Francisco offense in Lance. 

It’s a football tale as old as football time. One young, unproven but talented hotshot quarterback steps into the fray to take over for an established starter. When that switch happens, however, always varies. It took three years for the reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers to get the starting nod in Green Bay over Brett Favre, one year for another MVP Patrick Mahomes to take over for Alex Smith in Kansas City, and just a handful of games for yet another MVP in Lamar Jackson to take over in Baltimore for Joe Flacco. But it always happens. The new guy will always get a shot, one way or another.

So the question of Garoppolo’s future in San Francisco is settled. Sooner or later, he will be out and Lance will be in. And that, folks, is the ecosystem of the NFL. 

But just because Garoppolo’s long-term fate was sealed with that April 29 decision to draft Lance, nothing has been determined for the immediate present of the 49er’s quarterback job. Rather, Garoppolo has entered a battle to be San Francisco’s Week One starter for the 49ers. A battle of two contenders, where each party has a compelling case.

But between Lance and Garoppolo, who deserves it more?

Who is Jimmy Garoppolo?

No longer is Garoppolo the exciting unknown quantity he once was. He’s not the undefeated starter on pace to be the next Tom Brady anymore. His weaknesses have been documented and used against him, as have his strengths.

The 49ers, along with the rest of the football world, know exactly what they’re getting when Jimmy Garoppolo takes the field, for better and for worse. They’re getting a guy who is accurate, can deliver the ball well and quickly in short to intermediate areas on the field. They’re also getting a guy who has struggled in the past with injuries, has shown a penchant for turning the ball over, and is limited as an athlete.

If you need to win a game, you can count on Garoppolo, just don’t expect it to be pretty. Through seven years in the league, Garoppolo has started in 32 games– all but two of which have come in a 49ers uniform. In that time, he’s gone 24-8.

It’s difficult to argue with a win rate that high. In fact, among active quarterbacks with 10 or more starts, Garoppolo ranks fourth overall in winning percentage– behind three former MVPs in Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, and Lamar Jackson. 

But the knock against Garoppolo as a player that has seen great success in his time under center, is that, more often than you would hope from a franchise quarterback,  his teams have succeeded in spite of his play rather than because of it. 

Take the 2019 season for example, far and away Garoppolo’s most successful year– by more than a few metrics as well. Not only did he experience career highs in touchdowns, passing yards and completion percentage, but he did so while being able to stay on the field, starting all 16 games for the first time in his career. 2019 still remains as the only time Garoppolo has started more than six games in a season.

With that ability to stay healthy came team success. The 49ers won the NFC for the first time since 2012, won 13 games for the first time since 1997, and all was well in the world. Sure, maybe their quarterback finished with one of the 10 highest interception percentages despite finishing 19th in pass attempts, but it didn’t really matter. San Francisco had the coaching to elevate the weaknesses on the depth chart, and the defensive talent to compensate for whatever deficiencies Garoppolo was bringing to the table.

But team success at that level could have been an anomaly. San Francisco, despite not having a big-name talent at running back, finished with the second-most volume heavy rushing attack in 2019, and the eighth-most efficient, all while having a defense that was top ten in points allowed, yards allowed, takeaways and sacks.

With a smothering defense and role players performing above expectation, everything in San Francisco was perfect. What came of it, however, was a step short of the ultimate goal of a Super Bowl victory. Arguably, the one element missing from their potential storybook season was elite quarterback play.

Not that Garoppolo played poorly in 2019– he didn’t. As he’s been his whole career, Garoppolo proved to be an accurate passer, but a poor decision-maker. A winner, but more of a game manager in the passing game– which was on full display in the team’s NFC Championship victory, one where Garoppolo threw just eight passes in a 37-20 win. 

But he’s still a player that, with the right circumstances, can get a team right on the doorstep of the promised land. The 49ers have lost some talent on defense since that 2019 run, including defensive coordinator Robert Salah in this past offseason. But recent additions on the opposite side of the ball, ones like wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, give San Francisco’s offensive coaching staff more weapons to play with.

Last season was a down year, but one plagued by injuries to key players. With those contributors returning, San Francisco could have the talent to be one of the league’s better teams. If that is the case, they might not need a high-risk, high-reward quarterback more than one who can quietly get the job done.

Who is Trey Lance

If Jimmy Garoppolo is the living, breathing definition of a known quantity– Trey Lance is the exact opposite. If Jimmy Garoppolo is high floor/low ceiling, Trey Lance is a rollercoaster. If Jimmy Garoppolo is the breakfast food equivalent to plain yogurt, Trey Lance is somewhere in the range of the special at a greasy spoon diner that you’ve never heard of but your friend swears by.

Point being– we know Jimmy G. He’s solid. Decent. Able to win and look solid when he does it, but that’s about it. Lance is, well, we don’t really know. He could very well be the best parts of Lamar Jackson with his immense scrambling ability and Tom Brady with his high football IQ and ability to keep the ball safe. Or, he could be a bust. A lot of raw talent but without the ability to put it all together.

And let’s not get it twisted– Trey Lance is talented. One look at the stat sheet from his final full season of college football will tell you as much. 28 passing touchdowns, 67% completion percentage, and zero, ZERO, interceptions. And that’s just through the air. Lance added another 14 touchdowns on the ground, putting up 1,100 rushing yards on 169 attempts.

But even with the immaculate stat sheets– Lance comes with a laundry list of concerns as a player. One of which being, that year of insane production in college was his only year of production in college. In 2018, Lance attempted just one pass in the role of backup. In 2019, he blew up. In 2020– his team played just one game, in what boiled down to essentially a showcase for his NFL potential, and it didn’t go so well.

The one and only interception of Lance’s college career came in North Dakota State’s one 2020 game against Central Arkansas. Granted, Lance made up for the missed opportunity with some truly special production on the ground with 166 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns, but against an FCS opponent that isn’t necessarily on the level that Lance will face in the NFL, he struggled mightily as a passer, even beyond the interception.

On 30 passing attempts, Lance completed just 15 for just 149 yards. Lance did enough in 2019 to show that he at least has the potential to be an accurate passer. The sample size is small, however, and Lance did little to put any concerns about his ability to throw the football accurately to rest.

But the player that Lance could be in the NFL is enough to justify drafting him in the first round, even as high as third overall. Particularly when you have a coach on the sidelines in Kyle Shanahan who has made a living on finding the ways to make the most out of his players.

In 2016, one year before Shanahan’s promotion to head coach of the 49ers, he served the role of offensive coordinator in Atlanta, where he helped Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan win league MVP and hit career highs in, well, everything. His 38 touchdown passes were a career-high, his 4,944 yards were a career-high, his seven interceptions were a career-low, and the list went on. Completion percentage, yards per attempt, passer rating and quarterback rating, all as high as they’ve ever been under the watchful eye of Shanahan.

Similarly, Shanahan has helped his cast of running backs reach new heights in San Francisco. Raheem Mostert was an NFL journeyman before joining the 49ers, with quick stops in Cleveland, Miami, Baltimore and Chicago that all resulted in not a single carry. With San Francisco, Mostert has blossomed to produce three seasons of efficient carrying, without a season below five yards per carry.

Shanahan might be able to work his magic once more with Lance. But concerns still remain. Lance is an inexperienced player from an FCS school. A perfect 2019 season? Sure. All the potential in the world? No question. Lance has the tools to be one of the all-time greats. But can he do it in year one?

Lance vs Garoppolo: The Final Verdict

The one and only time that Jimmy Garoppolo started 16 games in a season– he won 13 of them. 

Yes, he had the help of a transcendent defense. Yes, looking at his numbers in a box score isn’t as exciting as it would be for a player like Aaron Rodgers. And, yes, in the future, Trey Lance can and likely will be a better player than Garoppolo.

But Lance doesn’t need to be that player immediately.  Garoppolo isn’t going to make highlights like a rookie Lance would, but he can be exactly what the 49ers need in the short term. A player who can distribute the ball with ease to talented pass catchers like Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle. A player who can run Shanahan’s offense well enough to win, with years of familiarity with the scheme.

Most of all, he can be a smart guiding hand for the 49ers quarterback of the future. A veteran to show Lance the ropes, the same way that Alex Smith taught Mahomes before him. The future lives with Trey Lance, but the present of the 49ers franchise can still be Jimmy Garoppolo.

Does Trey Lance have the best rookie situation?

Does rookie Trey Lance have the best situation?

By: Andy Martinez

The San Francisco 49ers shocked the world on Thursday night when the team decided to take quarterback Trey Lance with the 3rd overall pick in this year’s draft. 

While there was talk of possibly taking Mac Jones at No. 3, it was ultimately Trey Lance whose name was called at the podium. In fact, according to Kyle Shanahan, Lance was the player they were targeting all along. 

“When we made the trade, we knew exactly where we were going while we were doing it… I knew how we felt about Trey the whole time, and to watch everyone just assume it was the ‘other guy’ [Mac Jones], we weren’t going to work to correct that” – Kyle Shanahan per 49ers PR

Lance, who only spent one season as a starter for the North Dakota Bison, threw for over 2,768 yards, 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions. His arm talent, mobility, and mental capacity to lead a team checked all the boxes for the 49ers. However, it was his potential at the next level that inspired the team to take a chance on him at No. 3, making him only the third quarterback in 49ers history to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.

However, even drafted as high as he was, Lance is still the most raw and inexperienced quarterback in his draft class. How exactly does being drafted by the 49ers put him in the best situation out of his counterparts this year’s class? 

For starters, Lance may have landed in a pile of gold (no pun intended). Far too often, we see quarterback prospects flop at the next level for a number of a different reasons. One of the biggest is the lack of a strong supporting cast, on and off the field. For reference, just look at Sam Darnold’s time with the New York Jets. Fortunately for Lance, that does not appear to be the case. 

 The 49ers are a loaded team with talent primed to win right now. Lance will have the luxury of developing as an NFL quarterback behind a bolstered offensive line that includes the likes of Pro-bowlers Trent Richardson and Alex Mack clearing the way for a very potent running game. He’ll also have some great receiving weapons in Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and of course All-Pro tight end, George Kittle.

Landing Spots for All 5 of the Top QB Prospects

Who will Lawrence, Wilson, Fields, Lance and Jones play for in 2021?

by Michael Obermuller

The lead-up to the NFL Draft is a sports process like no other. The speculation, the intrigue, the misinformation and strategy used by different franchises and general managers. Considering the diverse crop of quarterback talent available in 2021, this offseason has been as wild as ever. I mean, just look at this curveball from Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer a few days before draft night.

Trevor Lawrence has been the consensus number one pick for what feels like years, and Jags owner Shad Khan has seemed pretty intent on marketing the rebirth of the franchise around the Clemson star, so why then is Meyer still choosing between three players at No. 1 overall?

It could just be due diligence from a first year NFL head coach, or maybe Lawrence to Jacksonville isn’t as much of a lock as most people thought. After all, there is certainly no reason to play mind-games with opposing GM’s when you’re the one picking first. Yet here we are left with this mysterious quote.

Don’t you worry though, I’ve seen through all the GM mumbo jumbo of the past few months and I’m confident in saying that I have figured out where each quarterback will end up — I think. Either way, I’ll give it a whirl, starting with the aforementioned Jaguars.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence (No. 1)

I know, after all that in the introduction, I’m still predicting T-Law to DUVAL? That’s right, because if Meyer wants to pull off the most shocking move in recent draft memory, he can do it without my blessing. There are a couple important things to note here though. One, Meyer is not considering Mac Jones or Trey Lance in the top spot. Could this have an influence on other franchises behind him? Urban was a premier college recruiter for a long time after all. Or perhaps he has yet to gain the respect of his fellow NFL peers, and his opinion means very little to them. Two, the former Ohio State HC and program director is likely passing on his former QB, Justin Fields. Meyer actually ranked the quarterbacks in a preseason show in June of 2020, with Lawrence first in his ranks and Fields second. His reasoning at the time was this;

[Lawrence] played one more year. That was it. The one thing I’ll say about Justin Fields because I’m very close to the situation, any concerns about him being a throwing quarterback are gone now. He’s developed, he’s outstanding.

– Urban Meyer, FOX College Football

The Jags could certainly throw a wrench in the entire draft by taking either Zach Wilson or Fields, which would probably send Lawrence to New York at No. 2, but it’s highly unlikely and I’m not buying it. Size, accuracy, speed, raw ability, intelligence, drive — Lawrence is the consensus number one for a reason. I’m not saying that he’s guaranteed to be the most successful NFL product, he’s not, but he is the safe bet for Jacksonville. For the sake of all our sanities, let’s move on and assume this sticks.

2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson (No. 2)

GM Joe Douglas and the New York Jets have traded 2018 first round pick Sam Darnold, so yes they are 100 percent taking a quarterback at two (for those who haven’t been paying attention). They have been linked to the BYU Cougars signal-caller more and more since Week 17, and I personally don’t see this changing on Thursday night. Wilson checks all the boxes for the Jets. He is an accurate passer and a competitive winner (albeit against lesser competition), known for his on-the-fly decision-making and pocket presence as well as an arm that throws just as far on the move as it does standing upright. Wilson has drawn recent comparisons to Patrick Mahomes for some of these intangible traits, but there’s a contingent of fans that still have doubts that scouts and GM’s are once again sleeping on in-your-face talent.

If Fields can translate his OSU skillset to the pros, it wouldn’t be the first time that the best and brightest NFL minds in the game are totally wrong. I mean he did run a 4.44 forty with a 70.2 completion percentage in 2020. For the record, as you’ll see throughout this article, Fields is my personal QB1 in this class, but that doesn’t mean he appeals to the teams picking in the top three.

3. San Francisco 49ers: Mac Jones (No. 3)

Is the infamous “smokescreen tactic” being utilized by Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch and the San Francisco 49ers? It’s quite possible, in fact Joe Douglas and the Jets could be using it too for all we know. If Fields truly is the quarterback with the most upside potential, it would make sense that every GM behind the Jaguars is trying to keep Meyer off their trail by talking up Wilson, Jones and Lance. At the same time, it seems even more likely that the NFL brass are once again scared off by an Ohio State product who has been labeled as a runner that struggles with his progressional reads. If Lawrence and Wilson do indeed go one-two, Fields should be the pick at three in my opinion, but he may not be according to reports.

There’s something fishy about this developing story, because Jones and Lance couldn’t be more different as prospects. I can’t deny that Mac Jones makes sense as Shanahan’s favorite option. The Niners HC has highlighted his on-field and NFL-ready intelligence, citing that the Alabama product is the win-now choice for a team that was in the Super Bowl two seasons ago. Jones is also the most similar to the quarterbacks that have flourished in Shanahan’s system in the past (Matt Ryan, Jimmy Garoppolo). Lance on the other hand makes me scratch my head. He’s from a small program that did not play against NFL-type talent, he’s not game-ready by most estimations, and he’s athletic rather than accurate or experienced. The fact that San Francisco is torn between these two, but not interested in the player that is pretty much the combination of both (Fields) is odd to say the least. For these reasons, I do think there’s a chance that the 49ers are under-selling Fields on purpose, but I’ll begrudgingly stick with Jones here anyway because of how well he fits the Shanahan mold.

4. TRADE — Denver Broncos: Trey Lance (No. 4)

Some have the Atlanta Falcons taking Lance at four, but in the end I think Arthur Smith’s new offense stands pat with the reliability of Matty Ice for a couple more seasons and trades down to reconstruct this roster from the inside out. That process may not start with an inexperienced QB, but it could begin with a haul of present and future draft picks. The next question is their trade partner, and although it has not been mentioned as much as a New England or Washington Football Team, the Denver Broncos are my under-the-radar candidate to make the jump from ninth to fourth. George Paton is taking over as GM for the Broncos, and he may try and make a splash in his first NFL Draft having the final say.

Everything about Paton’s thinking for his first draft screams Lance to me. It’s unexpected, out-of-the-box, and hopefully solves the problem that John Elway failed at for years in the same position — finding a franchise quarterback. Drew Lock has yet to display any qualities that separate him from the rest of the league, so I expect Paton to jump at the opportunity to bring in someone that can compete not only with Lock, but long-term with division rivals like Mahomes and Justin Herbert. Of course, the Broncos could also go with Fields here, but I’m sticking with my theme that this inexplicable stigma drops my QB1 down to QB5. I also like the fit for Lance in Denver. He played at North Dakota State, a similar climate, and his build and physicality as a runner bear some resemblance to Elway himself. Although I’m sure Broncos fans would also take his Josh Allen comp.

5. Detroit Lions: Justin Fields (No. 7)

So where oh where will Mr. Fields land? No he won’t fall out of the top 10, and I don’t expect the Cincinnati Bengals or Miami Dolphins to trade down either when they can grab the players they covet most (Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase by all reports) at five and six. That leaves the Detroit Lions, who could choose to trade down with the Patriots or the highest bidder, but honestly why would they? The Lions roster moves have signaled a total overhaul rebuild under the new regime of Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes, and they already have enough future draft capital from the Matthew Stafford trade where they don’t need more first round picks. They need a franchise quarterback. The wrinkle that you may point out is that they also received back Jared Goff and his contract in that same deal. Let’s be honest though, Goff is a placeholder in Detroit at best. At worst, he’s a cap casualty after 2022 (when cutting him would only cost $10 million). So why not accelerate the process if Justin Fields falls into your lap?

A player with as much potential as Fields could be a dream for Holmes at No. 7 in his first NFL Draft, and the young QB could even learn under Goff as a rookie before jumpining into the NFL head-first. He can truly do it all; whether it’s his accuracy as a passer or his agility as a runner, his escapability in the pocket or strong arm on the run, his competitiveness as an premier athlete or his confidence in primetime games. I’m not sure why every team is insistent on looking past Fields, and maybe it all is a smokescreen and he goes top three, but it just feels like the NFL scouts and decision-makers are talking themselves into passing on another superstar.

NFL Draft: Teams on the QB bubble

Will Bill Belichick draft a QB?

By: Dylan Streibig

With the NFL draft about a week away, some things are starting to take shape. As always, the quarterback position is a source of great intrigue.  It is a foregone conclusion that the first three picks will be quarterbacks.

Then, you have three other obvious teams with some degree of a quarterback need. New England, Washington, and Denver. However, there are not that many elite quarterback prospects to go around. Also, these teams may have to move up the draft board if they want to dip into the front end of this quarterback class. Here is a closer look at all three situations.

New England and Washington

These teams are in a good spot. While the need is there, both organizations can safely ride the status quo at quarterback for another year if they choose.

When you are Bill Belichick, the hot seat doesn’t exist. His team was reasonably competitive and posted a 7-9 record with Cam Newton and his eight touchdown passes as its primary quarterback a year ago. The Patriots had a slew of players opt out because of the pandemic last year. Much of that talent will return for 2021.

New England also had an unusually active free agency period headlined by Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith They both averaged over ten yards per catch last year. Newton averaged only about seven yards per attempt. The Patriots offense has always lived and died with production from the tight end spot. Rob Gronkowski is a future Hall of Famer because of it. The offense had no pass catchers that worried defenses last year. It does now.

There is no reason the Patriots should not be back in playoff contention next year. If the front office really believes that their quarterback of the future is in this draft, they can take him, even if it is a day two prospect, but they certainly don’t have to.

Washington is in a similar situation. Ron Rivera is under no pressure of losing his job after winning the division last year using three different quarterbacks in the regular season. Alex Smith and Dwayne Haskins threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Kyle Allen threw for an average of 152 yards per game in his four starts. A team with this kind of quarterback play winning its division speaks to how well off the rest of the roster is.

As long as the pass rush remains fierce, it isn’t hard to imagine a free agent signing Ryan Fitzpatrick guiding this team to another division title. So, Washington can also put off addressing their long-term future at quarterback for another year if they want. Taking a quarterback in the mid-rounds this year is also an option. Regardless, Washington isn’t desperate for a quarterback right now.

Denver

The Broncos do not have the luxury of time. George Paton is entering his first season as general manager. He will be in Denver for the foreseeable future no matter how the 2021 season plays out.

The same cannot be said for Vic Fangio who comes in to his third season as head coach with a 12-20 record. He has to win now. Thus, the same can be said for pretty much the entire coaching staff.

There are still some believers in the talent of current quarterback Drew Lock. He only has 18 starts under his belt. Still, last year was ugly. 15 interceptions, three lost fumbles, and a 57.3 completion percentage all look even uglier when you consider Lock missed almost 3 full games during last year’s 5-11 campaign.

Lock did not have a traditional offseason last year, but that can be said for every player in the league. Joe Burrow entered the league as a rookie for an organization that hasn’t won a playoff game in about three decades. The offense of line was so bad it eventually left Burrow with a season-ending injury. Burrow still posted a passer rating close to 90. Lock didn’t have to deal with anything close to what Burrow did. Lock’s passer rating was in the mid-70s last year.

Who knows? Lock may still have a great career ahead. However, the coaching staff in Denver doesn’t have time to bet their jobs on him. He accounted for 18 turnovers in a little more than 13 games last year. That is a team killer. An ultra-athletic guy like Justin Fields is intriguing no matter where he lands. He could work in Denver.

Mac Jones takes care of the ball and could be excellent distributing to weapons like Noah Fant, Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Melvin Gordon, K.J, Hamler, and Tim Patrick in Denver’s offense.

Trey Lance did not play much college football and is the complete unknown of this quarterback class. Even so, taking a chance on his raw talent is less of a risk for Denver than riding with Lock for another year. Despite rumored efforts, Denver was unable to land a solid veteran quarterback to fix the position. So, they must do whatever it takes to land a top prospect in the draft.

Pros and Cons For Panthers Drafting a QB in round one

After trading for Darnold, should Carolina double-down at QB?

by Michael Obermuller

Just one season into a three-year deal with Teddy Bridgewater, the Carolina Panthers have traded three draft picks (including a 2022 second rounder) for Sam Darnold. This time, Matt Rhule and Joe Brady finally got their quarterback of the future — or did they?

From multiple reports, the Panthers may not be totally “out” on drafting a QB just yet. General manager Scott Fitterer knows just how crucial it is to get this position right, and he’ll bring in as many players as it takes to do it. Darnold is the presumed starter based on potential as of now, but statistically, he was far less efficient than Bridgewater in 2020.

QB, Year (Team)Games StartedCompletion %Yards/GameTDsINTsRating
Sam Darnold, 2020 (Jets)1259.6%184.091172.7
Teddy Bridgewater, 2020 (Panthers)1569.1%248.9151192.1

Of course, Darnold was in Adam Gase’s system last season, a system that many blame for his failures, but maybe neither signal-caller deserves the job outright after a combined record of 6-21 a few months ago.

That’s Carolina’s mindset, but should they sacrifice even more draft capital and cap space on the position when they’ve already used so much? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the Panthers drafting another QB in 2021.

Cases FOR Drafting a QB

  • The Player they Want Most is Available at No. 8 Overall
    • The word around the NFL is that Carolina wants Justin Fields, and their scouting would certainly back that up. Based on Albert Breer’s tweet above, the Panthers have shown heavy attendance at both of Fields’ two Pro Day events.
    • This would also make sense in concurrence with the Darnold trade. Supposedly, the Panthers previously tried to move up to either second or third overall, but the New York Jets decided not to budge from two, and the San Francisco 49ers beat them to the punch at three.
    • Reports have the Panthers less high on Mac Jones and Trey Lance, so the Darnold deal may have been insurance in the event that Fields is gone at eight. If a QB you LOVE is still on the board, you draft him, that’s Football 101 (especially if there’s no QB prospect you like in 2022).
  • Potential Ceiling
    • Every team evaluates players differently. For example, the New York Jets new braintrust clearly evaluated Darnold differently than the Carolina Panthers, being that they believe a rookie has a higher ceiling than the former third overall pick in 2018.
    • Having said that, Carolina would not have traded for Darnold unless they thought he had more potential than Bridgewater. They should only consider drafting a QB if they truly believe he has a higher potential than both Sam and Teddy.
    • The stats above could support this theory alone, but it’ll also have to do with age, dual-threat ability, scheme fit, mentality and different raw skills like arm strength. A prospect like Fields would beat out the two veterans in almost every measurable category.
  • Can Never Have Enough QBs
    • This is the “multiple darts” argument, but it’s unlikely that Carolina would ever enter the 2021 season with three quarterbacks.
    • They could draft a QB at eight, then trade Bridgewater to a team like the Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, or New England Patriots.

Case AGAINST Drafting a QB

  • Top QBs Are Gone Early
    • I know, duh, but I’m including this to point out that Carolina CANNOT and SHOULD NOT trade up for a quarterback. They already gave up three picks to get Darnold, and this rebuilding franchise still needs help elsewhere if they plan on succeeding long-term.
    • Most draft analysts have all five of the main QB prospects being drafted in the top 10, and some have them going one through five (or at least top seven). This may be out of the Panthers hands.
  • Darnold’s Upside
    • Although Bridgewater could theoretically outplay Darnold, I don’t think there’s an argument to keep Teddy over a rookie past 2022, so let’s focus on Sam here.
    • The latest NYJ disappointment is just 24 years old in June, and he’s had an odd start to his career. Whether due to injury or his baffling bout with mono, Darnold has yet to play a full season. This could be looked at as a con for the USC product, or it could mean that the best is yet to come.
  • Change of Scenery Could “Unlock” Darnold
    • The Jets also didn’t do Darnold any favors, hiring Gase to mentor him after one failed campaign with Todd Bowles and Jeremy Bates. Panthers OC Joe Brady is considered to be one of the brightest young minds in the game, which could act as a catalyst for Sam.
    • A skill-position core of Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson and David Moore also trumps anything the Jets ever armed Darnold with.
    • Even offensive line play was better in Carolina last season. Darnold had a pressure percentage of 27.3 compared to Bridgewater’s 19.8. Sam was also hit the same amount of times (38) as Teddy in three less starts, and was actually hurried once more than him despite the difference in games.
  • Available Cap Space & Draft Capital vs. Roster Needs
    • As I just pointed out, the Jets never put a quality roster around Darnold, so would it be wise for Carolina to do the same, even if they start a rookie QB?
    • Bridgewater currently has a cap hit of $22.9 million-plus this year ($20 million dead cap hit), and Darnold has a hit of $4.77 million. They have ALREADY picked up Sam’s fifth year option for 2022, which is another $18.85 million, and assuming they cannot deal Teddy, they’ll incure a $5 million dead cap hit when they release him next offseason. An eighth overall pick would add about $3.75 million this year and $4.7 million in 2022.
    • After the Darnold trade, the Panthers have seven draft picks in 2021, and five picks in 2022.
    • Carolina’s defense ranked 18th in points allowed last season. Their offensive line also ranked 18th according to Pro Football Focus. They even lost playmakers like Curtis Samuel and Mike Davis this offseason. They cannot afford to spend $31 million-plus and four total draft picks (including a first and second) on three QBs in 2021 when this roster is far from perfect.

The Verdict

I think it’s pretty obvious that the Panthers should give Darnold the opportunity in 2021. For better or for worse, they made their bed when they pounced on the Jets trade proposal. The only way they draft a QB is if they find a second trade partner for Bridgewater, which is possible, but I doubt they get much back in this scenario (besides cap relief). With the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers set up to be the powerhouse of the division for at least one more season, it’s probably smarter to add another layer of foundation around the quarterback position this draft. Then, after seeing what you have in Darnold, you can re-evaluate the situation in 2022.

Top Draft Targets for 49ers

Is Jimmy Garoppolo the long-term answer at quarterback?

By: Mike Obermuller

The San Francisco 49ers franchise has not had the best year and change since losing the Super Bowl in February of 2020. The injury bug came back during the 2020 season after its momentary respite (the Niners had been hit hard by injuries the previous two seasons before their NFC Championship run). Then, after going from first to worst in the NFC West with a 6-10 record, the capper was losing defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and a large chunk of their staff to the New York Jets. Passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur and offensive line coach John Benton were amongst the notable coaching losses.

NFL free agency has come with mixed results as well. Here are some of the more important ins and outs for the Niners this March:

Re-SignedAdditionsLossesUnsigned
Trent Williams, LTAlex Mack, CSolomon Thomas, DLRichard Sherman, CB
Jaquiski Tartt, SSamson Ebukam, OLBKendrick Bourne, WRTevin Coleman, RB
Jason Verrett, CBTavon Wilson, DBKerry Hyder, DEJerick McKinnon, RB
Jeff Wilson Jr., RBZach Kerr, DTAhkello Witherspoon, CBJordan Reed, TE
Emmanuel Moseley, CBRonald Blair, DENick Mullens, QB
D.J. Jones, DTBen Garland, C/G

After their most recent moves, San Francisco should have a little less than $18 million in cap space, and a total of nine draft picks to work with in filling what holes they have left. The biggest questions marks are undoubtedly still at quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback and guard.

As you can see, general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have much more room to operate in the 2021 NFL Draft than they did a year ago. Here are a few players that the 49ers may target in the first couple rounds.

4. Wyatt Davis, G (Ohio State)

The fourth ranked offensive guard on WalterFootball, Wyatt Davis, excelled as a run blocker in college. The 6’4″ Buckeye helped pave the way for Trey Sermon and Master Teague III last season, but was less reliable in pass protection. This fits the Niners M.O. though. Shanahan loves to pound the ball on the ground, and assuming San Francisco keeps all their picks, they may be able to grab Davis with that third round selection.

If another team nabs Davis, a secondary option might be Notre Dame guard, Aaron Banks, another interior lineman that loves to creates gaps for his running backs.

3. Greg Newsome II, CB (Northwestern)

The Niners definitely need a cornerback to replace Richard Sherman. Rather than signing one, they should get younger at the position and build through the draft. That second rounder could definitely nab a quality corner like Greg Newsome II out of Northwestern. Newsome is 6’1″ 190 pounds, and he’s known for his intelligence and toughness as a shut-down corner in college. He had some injury issues during his time at Northwestern, but his 2020 stats were really impressive. Off 34 coverage targets, Newsome only allowed 12 catches and 93 yards through the air. Here’s the Wildcat in action.

2. DeVonta Smith, WR (Alabama)

San Francisco could also use another offensive weapon, especially if they stick with Jimmy Garroppolo at quarterback. Early mock drafts had wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Ja’Marr Chase going in the top five, but that ludricrous notion has since gone with the wind. Wide receivers rarely get drafted that high, even ones that are as skilled as Smith and Chase, and the fact is even franchises that want them may have the option to trade down and draft them anyway. One team that may be in the market for a wide-out is the Miami Dolphins, who currently sit third in the draft. The Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions may also be in the mix at this position (number six and seven in the order), but both teams have other needs as well.

The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner has dropped below Chase in positional ranks due to his size (and some analysts also have Jaylen Waddle ahead of Smith). That means he could fall to 12 overall, which would make the perfect fit alongside Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel in this young wide receiver core. Smith is thought to be the best pure route runner in the draft, with incredible hands and effortless talent. That sounds like a Shanahan scheme fit that could drive opposing teams mad (considering they already have to guard excellent route runners like Aiyuk and Samuel).

1. Trey Lance, QB (North Dakota State)

The 49ers could also go all in on a quarterback in the first round. Some analysts have Trey Lance getting selected as high as number four overall now, as the typical quarterback hype gains more and more steam heading towards draft night. The North Dakota State QB has been compared to Josh Allen due to his physical attributes, but his lack of experience against top talent may be a concern for some NFL teams. San Francisco has also been tied to Justin Fields in mocks, but at number 12 it seems even less likely they get their hands on the Ohio State star.

Whether it’s Lance or Fields, the Niners would probably have to trade up to get their guy if they choose this route, costing themselves future draft capital. This doesn’t appear to be an issue for Lynch though. The GM has been very active in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes this offseason, and Deshaun would cost just as much (or more) as it would take to move up in the first round.

So is Garoppolo the long-term answer in San Francisco? The 49ers brass definitely don’t seem to think so, begging the question, who does?

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