The draft world’s hottest name coming into the 2021 draft cycle wasn’t Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields – it was Trey Lance. With the news of Lance declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft, here is an early scouting report. Lance has been continually mocked by experts in the top five picks, sometimes even ahead of Justin Fields. Needless to say, the hype going into his lone college game this year, with the Missouri Valley Conference delaying its season, was high.
Lance flashed plenty of traits that NFL teams deserve to be googly-eyed over but he also displayed a lot of concerning plays and questionable traits.
One important thing I wanted to be able to see and breakdown was a passing chart for this game because with it being the only game of the season for him it can serve as a benchmark for previous games.
Once I charted all his passes and analyzed it I was slightly concerned. He had a lot of designed rollouts or times he would improvise and roll out and that resulted in a lot of passes to one side of the field. I also realized Lance didn’t target the middle of the field until the 4th quarter which was surprising.
The entire passing chart can be seen in the tweet below for further context.
Passing chart from Trey Lance’s game against Central Arkansas. pic.twitter.com/WLMM8tgZKX
— Andrew Harbaugh (@Mandrew_FF) October 5, 2020
As for my personal takeaways, this is what I came away with from a trait standpoint.
One of my concerns this entire time with Trey Lance in his scouting report has been his arm talent. I was wrong for having that doubt. He has a rocket of an arm but it needs pulled back a little bit because twice he missed open players deeper downfield for touchdowns. One he did hit deep but the receiver dropped the pass. The strength is definitely there and is one of his better traits if we are being honest.
This trait alone, displayed in this game, makes me wish Trey Lance would have chosen to stay in school for another year to develop his accuracy more. His arm can be a little erratic in terms of a throwing motion which could be part of the issue. On the flip side of that, though, an NFL team may be better skilled to take up such a task but that would be playing with fire with the draft.
Josh Allen was able to do it as Senior Bowl Director Jim Nagy pointed out today.
Usually a believer that accuracy is hard to coach and that generally it can only be slightly improved. Josh Allen smashes that. Can’t recall ever seeing a QBs ball placement improve like Allen’s has over past three years.
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) October 4, 2020
Precision and Placement
Lance’s ball placement and precision were just as worrisome as his overall accuracy. Sometimes these two traits don’t match accuracy, but this time they did for Lance and it was unfortunate to see him time and again not be able to throw his receiver open. The scheme doesn’t seem to benefit his passing skills which doesn’t help when it comes to routes, but still in the NFL that is something he will have to do on a regular basis.
His mobility in terms of being a pure runner is exceptional but his mobility inside the pocket is lacking when his reads are covered and he is forced to improvise. It may be a system thing or a coaching thing, but at times he relies on his feet to get him out of jams and that won’t always work in the NFL.
Whether he is in a clean pocket dropping back or forced to improvise outside of it, his footwork remains solid throughout. At times he takes long strides, almost gallops, but even then he is able to stop quickly and is immediately set again for a clean, mechanical throw.
He has a slight windup in his throwing motion, which actually resulted in a strip-sack this game, but other than that he is clean for the most part. One thing he needs to work on before suiting up on Sundays are his eyes focusing in on his first read. He has a tendency to fixate on his first read and just stare them down which results in a lot of close throws.
This game was probably his worst I have seen in the handful of games I have been able to watch of his. Lance threw his lone interception of his college career on a play where he threw a pass to his tight end on what seemed to be an option route but, he mistimed it and resulted in a pick. His passing decisions are better than his running decisions though because at times he seems almost too eager to tuck it and run. While he finds plenty of success scrambling, he needs to develop better decision-making to make the jump from great college quarterback to pro quarterback.
Time and again his poise was phenomenal. On his first drive of the game he stood in the pocket and delivered a deep ball that just missed an open receiver for a big score. Obviously the pressure played a role but still he showed he is strong enough mentally to withstand the extra pressure when it comes. In addition, the game was very back and forth and Lance never batted an eye at each drive and each play looking like he could make a play at a moments notice.
Lance is absolutely worth a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Quarterbacks with less have found their way in there, it is just he could be handicapped by landing spot more than anyone else in recent memory. Pat Mahomes benefited by landing on a team with a great head coach, a stable front office, and a veteran starting quarterback to sit behind. Lance will need a similar situation to sit at first and then thrive when the time calls for it.
Thank you for reading and don’t forget to check out my full 2021 Rookie Rankings while you’re here!