Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN analyst believes Trey Lance can win Offensive Rookie of the Year

May 6, 2021 at 6:01 AM--

It's only been a week since Trey Lance was drafted No. 3 overall by the San Francisco 49ers. However, one ESPN analyst, Matt Miller, is already touting the young quarterback as a potential 2021 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

It is worth noting that Miller is a lifelong 49ers fan, so that may influence his opinion. But there is certainly a lot of excitement surrounding Lance's potential within head coach Kyle Shanahan's creative offense.

Mel Kiper went with Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts as his choice. Todd McShay went with Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris. Louis Riddick picked Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase.

"Great choices guys, but this is still a quarterback league," Miller responded during the SportsCenter segment (h/t to Alex Espinoza of NBC Sports for the find), "and Trey Lance is going to the best possible situation for a rookie quarterback with all the weapons they have, the mind of Kyle Shanahan, a very good offensive line."

It's tough to earn Offensive Rookie of the Year honors if you don't play, and most don't figure Lance to play much during the upcoming season. That could include Shanahan. The 49ers held onto quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo because the team owns a win-now roster, and Lance won't have to be thrown into the situation before he is ready. He has the luxury of sitting and learning for at least a season. It's a blueprint that has worked in the past for teams like Kansas City, Green Bay, and even San Francisco.

"Jimmy's definitely our starter right now," Shanahan recently told Rich Eisen. "Right now, there isn't competition because I don't believe Trey would be in a position to compete. Jimmy is too good of a player, has too good of a grasp of our offense. He'll start out OTAs running, like he's done before, and he'll be the starting quarterback.

"I just see Trey coming in here, trying to learn everything, trying to learn his teammates, and we'll just see how it goes. I'm not going to sit here and say I'll never play a rookie quarterback. And I'm not going to say I will play him. That's kind of up to him."

Miller, however, believes a competition could emerge and that Lance may make his way into the starting lineup earlier than most expect.

"I do believe we see Trey Lance this year, and I think he has the type of year -- we're going to be looking at the Niners as a playoff team once again, and Trey Lance as our Offensive Rookie of the Year," added Miller.

Pro Football Focus recently ranked Lance as having the fifth-best chance to earn Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Trevor Lawrence, Chase, Pitts, and Zach Wilson were all seen as better potential options — again, due to the uncertainty surrounding Lance's playing time.

"This one is a wildcard bet because it hinges almost entirely on whether Lance starts this season," wrote analyst Michael Renner. "If he helms the 49ers offense in Week 1, Lance is neck and neck with Trevor Lawrence for the favorite. This is someone who has played one game of football in the past year, though, and is making the leap from FCS competition to the NFL. He goes to the single best situation for a rookie quarterback, however, as Shanahan made Robert Griffin III into the Rookie of the Year over Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson back in 2012.

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