Around 15 months ago, the San Francisco 49ers had a 10 point lead over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 54, with only 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter. It looked almost certain, that the Lombardi trophy would be heading back to the Bay Area, for the first time since 1994. However, the 49ers just couldn’t hold their nerve, as they gave up 21 unanswered points and ended up losing the game 31-20. It was terrible end to what was otherwise a great year for San Francisco.
Expectations were high coming into this past season for the 49ers, but with injuries to key players early on in the year, they were just never able to find their feet, and they ended the season with a 6-10 record, which left them bottom of the NFC West. Despite this, there is no doubt that the 49ers still have one of the best rosters in the NFL. Players such as Nick Bosa and George Kittle, will be fully healthy once again and will be looking to bounce back this upcoming season. The big question however surrounding this team is the quarterback position. Current starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo still has 2 years left on his current contract, but with the 49ers trading up to number 3 overall in this years draft, it pretty much confirmed that they have plans for someone else to be the future of the franchise. Step forward – Trey Lance.
What type of player are the 49ers getting in Lance?
At the College Level, Trey Lance represented North Dakota State in the FCS where he played a total of 19 games in 3 seasons. In the 19 games that Trey Lance appeared in, the Bisons won all of them and also added two National Championships along the way. Although Lance only played two games in his first year, he officially exploded onto the scene in the 2019 season where he threw for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also rushed for 1,110 yards and added 14 rushing touchdown. North Dakota State went on to win the 2020 FCS National Championship game over James Madison by a score of 28-20, and Trey Lance had officially put himself on the map, after a season where he put up mind bending numbers. He played only one game during the 2020 season before opting out for the rest of the year. Lance holds North Dakota State records for the most yards of offence in a season with 3,886, passing efficiency in a season, career passing efficiency (min 200 attempts) and career total offence with 8.38 yards per play.
The 49ers are getting a player that has the attributes teams look for in a modern NFL quarterback. Lance has shown during his time at North Dakota State, that he posses great leadership ability and a winning mentality. Although the FCS isn’t the highest level of college football, it’s still very hard to go undefeated and then lead a team to a championship. He also proved that he has great poise and a high football IQ due to the fact that he simply doesn’t turn the ball over. Lance may not be a risk it all, gunslinger type of quarterback, but it shouldn’t discredit the fact that he has the ability to make every throw on the field. Lance also possess a duel threat style similar to that of Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray. He can escape the pocket when needed due to his good mobility but he is no stranger to running the ball on designed plays. This was evidenced by his stats in the 2020 FCS National Championship game, where he rushed for 166 yards off 30 carries. Trey Lance has all the potential in the world. Its now up to 49ers Head Coach, Kyle Shanahan, to get the best out of him. Its uncertain at this point if Trey Lance will even start his rookie season over Jimmy Garoppolo however, I’m sure the 49ers have a plan in place so we will just have to wait and see. Shanahan is one of the best offensive minds in football, so Lance is definitely in good hands.
Expectations for this season and beyond for the 49ers
As mentioned earlier, despite the fact the 49ers had a disappointing 2020 season, their team is well set up for this year and many seasons in the future. The reason the 49ers made a run to the Super Bowl in the 2019 season was mainly due to their defence. This year, star defensive end and 2019 defensive rookie of the year, Nick Bosa will return from injury, opposite of Arik Armstead, who is looking to bounce back to his 2019 form where he had a total 10 sacks which led the team that year. San Francisco will also be hoping that last seasons first round pick, Javon Kinlaw can build off his rookie year that saw him have 33 total tackles, 1.5 sack and 1 interception at the defensive tackle position. Along with having one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, the 49ers also have arguably the best off ball linebacker in the league in Fred Warner. In 2020, Warner had a total of 125 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 sack and at only 24 years old he will be the leader of this defence for many years to come. The San Francisco defence has players all over the field that can make an impact, but if they are wanting to get back to the playoffs this season, that front seven will play a vital role.
In terms of the offensive side of the ball, whether its Trey Lance or Jimmy Garoppolo that is starting, they certainly won’t be short of offensive weapons or protection. This offseason, the 49ers resigned star left tackle, Trent Williams to a whopping 6yr/$138M contract. With Williams at left tackle as the blindside protector and Mike McGlinchey starting at right tackle, the 49ers have their key offensive lineman in place for this season and beyond, which can only be a good thing for whoever is starting at quarterback. In terms of pass catchers, the 49ers have two speedy wide receivers in Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. Both have the ability to stretch the field but they can also make things happen after the catch when making catches in space. San Francisco’s best offensive weapon however, is arguably the best tight end in the NFL, George Kittle. Last season, Kittle only had 48 catches for 634 yards and 2 touchdowns, however he missed over a month of the season due to a foot injury. The two years prior to last season, Kittle had over 80 catches and over 1000 yards in both seasons. He has shown that he can be a reliable target in the passing game but he is also one of the best blocking tight ends in the league. The 49ers are getting a big boost on offence next season with Kittle returning fully healthy.
This 49ers team is in place for many years to come. They have a good mix of veterans and younger players on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. So whether Lance becomes the starter this season or next season, he will be walking into a ready made team, that will be looking to win right away. If Trey Lance can reach his full potential, then expect this team to be in the Super Bowl conversation for many years to come.