Kyle Shanahan says 49ers rookie Trey Lance is ‘capable of doing everything,’ isn’t concerned by inexperience

Apr 30, 2021 at 6:48 AM--

New San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance had just 17 collegiate starts for the North Dakota State Bison. His last game was on October 3, 2020, in a non-conference win over Central Arkansas. Lance wasn't overwhelmingly spectacular in the game, but it followed an impressive 2019 campaign that saw the young quarterback throw for 2,786 yards with 28 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Lance was the 49ers' pick at No. 3 overall on Thursday night. He's been San Francisco's pick for a while now, certainly since the team made the trade on March 26 to move up nine spots from No. 12 overall. Head coach Kyle Shanahan grew excited about the idea of adding a dynamic weapon like Lance, and that excitement only grew over the month leading to his selection.

Some are concerned that Lance's lack of experience might be a potential obstacle in the quarterback's development and transition to the pro level. Shanahan doesn't feel as concerned as most.

"He's a natural football player," Shanahan said on KNBR just minutes after drafting Lance on Thursday night. "I think he could be good at a number of positions, not just quarterback. ... the way he runs the ball, he's very composed when he does it."

Still, there remains those who will knock Lance's collegiate production, especially when compared to San Francisco's other Round 1 options. Mac Jones, for example, threw for 4,500 yards in 2020, albeit with a loaded Alabama roster. Justin Fields threw for 5,373 combined yards in two seasons with Ohio State and tossed 63 touchdowns in the process.

Lance, though, was certainly one of the more intriguing prospects in this year's draft class.

"People knock him a lot for not having all these situations and game time, but 17 games is pretty close to all the other quarterbacks, or the other two (Jones and Fields) at this position," Shanahan explained. "Not a lot of them have a ton of experience. It's rare you get a three- or four-year starter. And when you look at Trey, and you look at the year he got to play, the reason some of his numbers are lower is because they had a hell of a team.

"He did a really good job of managing games where they were very -- really, they tried to play a game similar to how we do. It's 50 percent in every situation, whether it's going to be a pass or a run, and they try to keep it very balanced. And the way they had a quarterback like that in Trey made it very easy for them to do.

"One of the things that was tough, I mean, Trey hadn't been in many two-minute drills at the end of the game, but when you watch his whole season, he's one of the reasons they weren't. They had a very good offense that paired it with his skillset, and they were able to control the clock very well, win situational football. And when he needed to make some big third downs, he's done it in every way. He's done it going through his progressions. He's said, 'Hey, no one's open,' and he goes and does it with his legs."

While some see Lance's limited experience at North Dakota State as a concern, the quarterback sees it as an advantage as he prepares to embark on his NFL career.

"Being at North Dakota State, running the offense that we did, it's a huge advantage, from a verbiage standpoint, as well as, obviously, playing under center," Lance said on KNBR. "I'm just super excited to get [to the 49ers], and learn as much as I possibly can, and learn from the other guys in the room."

Shanahan and general manager John Lynch passed on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in 2017. Josh Allen wasn't a consideration in 2018. The 49ers were not about to pass on yet another intriguing playmaker. This year, Shanahan added a dynamic weapon who makes game-planning against such a quarterback so challenging.

Added Shanahan: "You've got a guy who's capable of doing everything, and that's why that's the guy we want to work with the most."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Shanahan and Lynch below.

You can listen to the entire conversation with Lance below.

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