Why Take a Chance on Lance? Reasons to Avoid 49ers QB Trey Lance in Redraft
Written by: Jon Gerstenberger
Trey Lance has been conductor of the fantasy football hype train for much for the off-season – fantasy analysts saw flashes in 2021 that made many of them bullish for 2022. But is this a train you are sure you want to ride into the fantasy football season? I don’t, and I’m going to take the next couple hundred words to try and convince you to stay safe at the station with me!
How does he stack up to Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen and Kyler Murray?
In two words, he doesn’t. Or at least, in most categories he doesn’t. Like, any that involve passing, which contrary to popular belief, is where fantasy quarterbacks accumulate the majority of their points. Since Trey Lance has only been in the NFL for what amounts to a couple hours, let’s first take a look at their college production to see if that lends itself to Lance’s future success.
When compared to Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Kyler Murray, four of the most prolific rushing quarterbacks currently in the NFL, Trey Lance performed better than his colleagues in the following areas:
Trey Lance scored .15 more passing touchdowns per game in college than Jalen Hurts, rushed for 11.27 more yards per game and scored .18 more rushing touchdowns per game. Not a fantastic start. Oh, and Hurts was playing competition in the SEC and Big 12, not the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
On a per game basis, Lamar Jackson outperformed Trey Lance in completions, attempts, passing yards, passing touchdowns, rushing attempts, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Trey Lance threw less interceptions per game than Jackson and had a slightly higher completion percentage (65.4% compared to 57%), but when you only throw 318 passes in your 19-game collegiate career, compared to Jackson’s 1,086 passes in 38 games, it seems likely those figures skew in your favor. Onward!
Josh Allen outperformed Trey Lance in all the passing metrics above (again, besides completion percentage and interceptions), but on a per-game basis, ran for 1.33 less attempts, 41.33 yards and .5 less touchdowns. Josh Allen threw over twice the number of passes as Lance (649 to 318) as well. Even though Allen played in the Mountain West Conference, and not the Big 10, Pac-12 or the like, it’s still not the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
Again, Trey Lance outperformed the competition in the rushing metrics on a per game basis, rushing 2.97 more times for 18.77 more yards and .5 more touchdowns than Murray. However, Murray outperformed him in completion percentage as well as every other passing metric (besides interceptions) against SEC and Big 12 competition, and we all know what the SEC and Big 12 isn’t, right? The good ole’ MVFC.
Now, you are thinking it isn’t fair that I’m comparing Trey Lance to all these incredible fantasy quarterbacks, right? These comparisons are being drawn because while they all had varying degrees of play and success their rookie seasons, Trey Lance is being drafted around the same place that all four of these other quarterbacks were being drafted going into their second year. At QB13 at the time of this article, which puts Trey Lance’s ADP higher than Lamar Jackson’s and Josh Allen’s in their sophomore season, and only one spot behind Jalen Hurts (Josh Allen was buried and Kyler Murray was being drafted at QB6, having played a full season his rookie year).
Lack of Production
The most obvious metric that many fantasy analysts are all too willing to overlook is overall production, both in college and professional. Trey Lance has played in 25 total games of note since turning 18 years old and signing on to play for North Dakota State – 19 for NDST and 6 for the 49ers. He also only started one season in high school, which you could argue is too long ago to matter at this point, and I would agree, but it still lends to the narrative that he is completely untested.
Lance’s sophomore season at NDST was the only year he showed what he’s capable of, passing for over 2,700 yards and rushing for 1,100, scoring a combined 42 touchdowns. That’s an excellent stat line, but it’s still only one season – Trey Lance didn’t start as a freshman, and the 2020 season at NDST was cancelled due to COVID-19, so Lance has essentially been out of football for two years heading into the 2022 NFL season.
For a little more context, only two other quarterbacks have been drafted from North Dakota state – Carson Wentz and Easton Stick. Carson Wentz has had NFL success but is headed to his third team in seven years and has only achieved a QB1 finish twice in his six years, and Easton Stick has thrown one NFL pass for 4 yards since joining the league as a 5th round pick in 2019. Trey Lance is easily the most athletic of the bunch, and maybe that alone is enough to propel him to fantasy glory, but with such an incredibly small sample size, I can’t imagine drafting him as my main quarterback, or using a 5-7 round pick to stash him on my bench to see what happens.
Play Calling with Kyle Shanahan
Kyle Shanahan is praised for his offensive genius, especially in San Francisco, and he’s been able to pull together successful seasons despite all the injuries his team has been plagued with in recent years. But did you know that Kyle Shanahan offenses have only produced a QB1 three times in the fourteen years he’s been an offensive coordinator or head coach? Granted, he hasn’t been paired with many superstars, but having four seasons with Robert Griffin III, Matt Ryan and even Matt Schaub when he was throwing for his life in Houston should have produced more than three QB1 performances.
As mentioned, Kyle Shanahan has worked with RGIII, a decent comp to Trey Lance, but it was only for two seasons. The rest of the twelve seasons he’s spent with pocket passers with very little athletic ability, so it will be interesting to see if Shanahan can use Trey Lance effectively in the run-first 49er offense.
Now let’s look a little deeper at that comp to RGIII – if Trey Lance had produced exactly what RGIII did in 2012, totaling 3,200 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 815 rushing yards and 7 rushing touchdowns, in 2021, he would have finished at QB8. Lance’s current ADP is QB13, and creeping up as the offseason goes on, so are you willing to take the risk and say Shanahan will be able to use Trey Lance more effectively than he was able to use RGIII, who was considered one of the most electrifying players in the NFL at the time, while also drafting him so close to what looks like his ceiling? If you are, you are much riskier than I.
Now, all of this isn’t to say that I think Trey Lance will fail as an NFL quarterback, or that he won’t be effective for fantasy in 2022. What I’m saying is that the hype train is headed for a cliff, and the community continues to throw more coal into the firebox. Pump the brakes, take inventory of what we actually know about Trey Lance, which is very little, outside of him being very athletic, and reassess your draft strategy ahead of pushing all your chips in on number 5 in San Fran.