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2nd-year QB Rankings: NFL insiders share differing evaluations of 49ers’ Trey Lance

Jun 14, 2022 at 9:25 AM--

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You can tell it's the dead part of the NFL offseason when random rankings start popping up across the sports world. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler went to NFL execs, scouts, and coaches, though, asking which second-year quarterback is poised for a big season in 2022. Those NFL insiders ranked the sophomore passers, which Fowler then compiled into his own ranking based on 2022 expectations.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance came in at No. 5, behind Trevor Lawrence, Mac Jones, Zach Wilson, and Justin Fields. Not so coincidentally, each of those quarterbacks has more starts under their belts than Lance, who started two games in 2021. Lawrence and Jones started 17 games, Wilson started 13, and Fields started 10.

The only second-year quarterback listed below Lance is Davis Mills.

Of all the sophomore quarterbacks, Lance is arguably on the best roster. The 49ers are talented enough to make another playoff run, potentially their third in four years. The biggest question mark heading into the 2022 season is how Lance will do in his first season as a starter.

"He's in the best spot by far, but I don't know if he's ready," an AFC scout told Fowler. "Coaching and system will help him tremendously."

Lance offers Kyle Shanahan something he hasn't had during his tenure as the 49ers' head coach—a physically gifted and athletic passer with the intelligence to match.

"The throws he makes in flashes are insane," an NFC scout told Fowler. "The athleticism and toughness to go along with it are real. He's had time to get his feet wet while observing. I think that always ends up well for the ones with high ceilings like him."

Early this offseason, there was much speculation that the 49ers had their doubts about Lance's readiness to steer Shanahan's offense. After all, the team's starter of the past four-and-a-half seasons remains on the roster. However, that has more to do with Jimmy Garoppolo recovering from March 8 shoulder surgery than anything else.

Some refuse to believe that the 49ers were always targeting Lance in last year's draft, with one NFC offensive coach saying, "I think they were 100 percent taking Mac [Jones] until they saw their fan base [overreact]."

The doubt about Lance has diminished some since the start of the offseason program, with most reports coming out of Santa Clara being positive.

"I've heard the 49ers are not concerned with Lance's arm strength and want to see him continue to apply all that he has learned in game-simulated settings," Fowler wrote, "navigating the chaos from inside and outside the pocket. He threw a lot from the pre-draft process right through the regular season, so he took some time off to rest following the season. Over time, the 49ers have seen improvements in his delivery and footwork, two points of emphasis."

One offensive coach was concerned about what he saw in 2021, telling Fowler that Lance's throwing motion looked "wonky" and that the young quarterback didn't "didn't seem comfortable while throwing on the run."

Fowler notes that Lance completed nine of 15 passes on the run for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers aren't bad for someone uncomfortable making those passes.

The offseason reports have also indicated that Lance is much more comfortable this offseason and has taken strides as a leader. Remember, the former No. 3 overall pick was dealing with a finger injury for much of last season.

"I kind of dealt with my finger throughout the season, so for me, it was kind of getting that back, and getting healthy, and feeling back to myself," Lance said in May. "Like, towards the end of the season, I wasn't the best version of myself overall. ... And I think the finger, for me, was the biggest thing just as far as throwing the ball. I kind of had to learn to throw the ball differently without kind of using my pointer finger, I guess because of just where it was at throughout the year. But now, I feel like I'm in a great spot, health-wise, and throwing the ball wall, and feeling really good."

Many are confident that Lance can thrive in Shanahan's system and he was lucky to be drafted into it. That has a lot to do with the faith in Shanahan as a play designer. The coach often tends to get the most out of his players, creating excitement about Lance's future.

"He will be fine. Talented. Will make plays with his legs," an NFC exec told Fowler. "Best play-caller in the game will put him in a position to succeed."

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