All eyes turn to Fargo on Friday.
North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance will participate in his Pro Day, with representatives from at least 30 NFL teams in attendance, including Bears general manager Ryan Pace. Coming from an FCS school, Lance is one of the more enigmatic quarterbacks to figure out in the 2021 NFL draft.
The Bears are in need of a quarterback, but drafting Lance would probably require trading up. Some mock drafts have him going in the top 10 and even the top five.
[2021 NFL mock draft: Hub Arkush version 1.0]
Lance won an FCS national championship in 2019, his first season as a starter in Fargo. He did it while throwing for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns with no interceptions. He also rushed for 1,100 yards. He won the Walter Payton Award, the FCS version of the Heisman Trophy. Due to the pandemic, North Dakota State played only one game last fall.
To learn the details of Lance’s story, Shaw Local Bears reporter Sean Hammond spoke with Jeff Kolpack, who covers North Dakota State athletics for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. This is the second in a series of podcasts focused on quarterbacks who the Bears could be looking at in the 2021 draft. The previous episode, on Florida quarterback Kyle Trask, is available here.
A short snippet of the discussion with Kolpack is available here in Q&A form. The entire conversation can be heard on the Shaw Local Bears Insider podcast at shawlocal.com, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever podcasts are available.
The following has been edited for clarity and length.
How impressive was Lance’s 2019 season?
Kolpack: “It just got better and better as the season went on. His first pass, the Bison played Butler at Target Field in Minneapolis and his first pass was like a 50-yard beauty that fell into a diving Phoenix Sproles’ hands. You look at that pass and you say, ‘Hmm, OK. There’s some deep ball accuracy right off the bat.’ And he just never wavered. Never threw an interceptions. He was consistent.
“Here’s the thing about NDSU, they’re struggling so far this spring in the FCS, but they didn’t expect Trey Lance to get this good this quick. They expected: OK, we’ve got our guy for four years here. And who would’ve thought it’d turn out to be one year [after a redshirt season in 2018] and he’s out of here. It’s amazing.”
When you look at his game, what are the pros and cons?
Kolpack: He’s fast, he’s really fast. I don’t know what his 40 time is, I’m curious to see what it will be in the combine. I would bet it’s 4.4. I mean, the guy can move. He’s a very good dual-threat quarterback. He’s strong, he’s 6-4, I bet he’s probably around 230 now. The physicality part of it, he’ll take on runners. He’s not afraid to lower his head and get yards after contact. … He’s got a strong arm and his deep ball is pretty good.
“Here’s what the pros like about [NDSU’s offense]: It’s a pro style. You’re in the huddle, you go to the line of scrimmage, you read the defense, you change the play at the line of scrimmage and it’s up to you. You’re not looking over at the offensive coordinator like some of these shotgun guys do and the O-coordinator is changing it. It’s all on you. You have to change the play after you see the defense. So he’s a smart kid too.”
Would he be better off backing up a veteran to start?
Kolpack: “Oh yeah, no doubt. He’s had one year of FCS, 16 games. That’s not a lot. Trubisky had what, 13 starts for North Carolina? So it’s not like it’s unheard of. Look at Aaron Rodgers. He sat for three years and he developed. For the kid’s confidence, his swagger, everything that goes into an NFL quarterback, ideally he would not want to go out there in Week 1, especially with a bad O-line.”