NFL draft: 49ers end the suspense with the third pick, take North Dakota State QB Trey Lance

Frank Schwab
·3 min read

Many San Francisco 49ers fans felt relief on Thursday night. The third overall pick wasn't Mac Jones. Though, it wasn't used on Aaron Rodgers either

Since late March, when the 49ers moved up to the third pick of the draft in an expensive trade, there were reports that the team did so with Jones in mind. A lot of 49ers fans pushed back at any mention of the team having moved up to No. 3 to get Jones, who probably didn't appear in the top 10 of any mock draft before the trade. 

Jones wasn't the pick. The 49ers went with North Dakota State's Trey Lance, a multi-talented threat who will fit very well in Kyle Shanahan's offense. 

49ers fans will take quickly to Lance, mostly because he's not Jones. Even if the 49ers were front and center in the Rodgers rumors when it was revealed on Thursday that Rodgers wants out of Green Bay. 

North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, right, holds a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being chosen by the San Francisco 49ers with the third pick in the first round of the NFL football draft Thursday April 29, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, right, holds a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being chosen by the San Francisco 49ers with the third pick in the first round of the NFL football draft Thursday April 29, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

49ers made a big move up

The 49ers shook up the draft with their big move up, which was not cheap.

The 49ers traded No. 12 overall, first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 and a 2022 third-round compensatory pick to the Miami Dolphins for No. 3 overall. That's when the speculation began.

When prominent national NFL reporters indicated the 49ers had made the big move up for Jones, 49ers fans were incredulous. Odds at BetMGM on who would go third bounced around, with Jones mostly set as as the favorite and sometimes as a huge favorite. Jones going third overall got all the way to -300, meaning a bettor would have to bet $300 to win $100.

But the reports also said that the 49ers would keep evaluating all the quarterbacks past Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, who were practical locks to go 1-2. On Thursday afternoon, BetMGM saw a huge shift in the odds, with Lance taking over as the favorite to go No. 3. Lance was -175 right before the draft started.

For practical purposes, by the time the draft started, nobody knew what the 49ers were going to do.

Quarterback Trey Lance put up remarkable numbers in college for North Dakota State. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Quarterback Trey Lance put up remarkable numbers in college for North Dakota State. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

Trey Lance is in a good spot to succeed

Lance is an unusual prospect. 

He has all the physical tools NFL teams like. He fits the NFL's shift toward mobile quarterbacks. He was very productive in college, and a 28-0 TD-to-INT ratio in 2019 got everyone's attention. 

He also played at North Dakota State, an FCS school. And in 2020, he played just one game as the Bison moved their schedule to the spring. Many FCS players have had great success in the NFL, but it does complicate the draft evaluation process. So does a lost 2020. 

The 49ers obviously have confidence in him succeeding right away on the NFL level. San Francisco still has quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, at least for the moment, but No. 3 overall picks don't sit anymore. The 49ers have hopes of bouncing all the way back this season, after an injury- and COVID-filled 2020. At some point, likely sooner rather than later, they'll put their season on the shoulders of Lance. 

Considering for weeks it looked like Jones would be the 49ers' new QB of the future, 49ers fans will have little problem with it being Lance. Even if the Rodgers possibility will always be a classic tease. 

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