Futures: NDSU QB Trey Lance

North Dakota State Bison QB Trey Lance
North Dakota State Bison QB Trey Lance
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

After this past year, it is only fitting to kick off the 2021 Futures series with the least normal quarterback prospect in the class. Only one of this year's top four quarterbacks did not play a full season in 2020. Only one of them has just one year of starting experience. Only one of them did not play at the FBS level. And yet, the very same quarterback to check all three boxes may have the most raw physical talent of the four. That's right, it is North Dakota State's Trey Lance.

Lance only got to play one game in 2020, which was a nonsense showcase game against Central Arkansas put together for no other reason than to say Lance played a game this year. The 20-year-old did not put his best foot forward in that lone game, completing roughly half his passes. The entire concept of that game was unnecessary, but it is easy to see how Lance could slip from the spotlight in a class that also features long-standing stars in Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, as well as 2020 breakout stud Zach Wilson.

As expected of a one-year FCS starter, the overwhelming selling point with Lance is potential. Lance sports a sturdy 6-foot-4, 227-pound frame and has a bazooka for a right arm. Both in terms of throwing distance and velocity, there's a good case for Lance having the best arm strength in the class. Lance can unlock that arm strength in rhythm from inside the pocket, outside the pocket, or any number of platforms while under duress. The raw throwing talent is just mesmerizing.

For my money, though, it's all of the signs that point to Lance having a reasonably high floor that make him worth getting excited over. The flash and potential are clear, but so many of Lance's strengths on film suggest he will have solid ground to stand on early in his NFL career, even if there will be bumps along the way in his development.

Lance's athletic ability is a good sign for his floor as a player. Not only does Lance pack the punch that a player of his size should, but he's got the long speed to take one to the house from anywhere. Lance is also plenty explosive and flexible both inside and outside the pocket, making him just as lethal a scrambler as he is a designed runner. Even if Lance is not a lights-out passer right away, the fact that a team can open up the offense with some quarterback run game with him behind center is an advantage. Josh Allen's development curve in Buffalo is a great example.

North Dakota State loved this power read concept off of motion. It was one of their most common quarterback run concepts. If it looks familiar, it's because you've probably seen Cam Newton (especially at Auburn) and Lamar Jackson run similar versions of this concept. Lance reads whether the play-side defensive end (to his left) takes to the running back immediately or shuffles down the line to squeeze the hand-off exchange. The defensive end flies out wide immediately, giving Lance the look he wants to tuck this one himself. North Dakota State's pulling guard whiffs at the second level, but Lance shakes the defenders anyway before sprinting by the rest of the defense.

This is really just a zone lead with the quarterback as the ballcarrier. North Dakota State's running back fits up through the C-gap (between the left tackle and tight end) and gets a great isolated block at the second level. As designed, Lance is left with just a safety to beat and spins right behind him as the safety tries to lower his shoulder for a devastating hit, which is probably the kind of power a defender needs to take Lance down on a run like that.

Though Lance is plenty fast and agile, many of North Dakota State's designed runs were off-tackle or gap concepts like these two plays. Lance's sturdy frame and low, explosive rushing style make him an absolute menace rushing between the numbers, similar to what Dak Prescott was for Mississippi State under Dan Mullen. Zone-read and speed-option should certainly be in the playbook for Lance, but his best use as a runner is downhill. Only a handful of other quarterbacks in the league can say the same.

All of that athleticism also gives Lance the tools to operate outside the pocket. Playing from outside the pocket is more than just about being an athlete, but having the ability to shake off tacklers and break the pocket is the first step. Lance checks off that box with ease.

Young Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Josh Allen—whichever big, athletic, sack-evading quarterback you can think of, Lance shows shades of him here. Getting a pass-rusher right in one's face as soon as they turn around from the boot-action can be overwhelming, but Lance does not falter at all. A lot of quarterbacks just go down there, but Lance brushes it off without much trouble. It's frustrating beyond belief for a defense when they can get to the quarterback, yet fail time and time again to bring him down.

Playing from outside the pocket requires vision and arm talent too. In this clip, Lance does not have to do anything to break the pocket. There's no tackler to shake off. Lance drops his eyes momentarily to make sure he has found the best way out of the pocket, but brings them back up as soon as he is free. He continues scanning the field, working wider from the pocket as well as closer to the line of scrimmage, both keeping him away from pass-rushers and closing the distance for any possible throw. Lance eventually finds South Dakota State's flat player a bit too antsy to fly down and stop him as a runner, giving the Bison quarterback a nice target on the sideline.

Nothing about that play is necessarily jaw-dropping, but it is encouraging to see a first-year quarterback so comfortable to play off-script and find targets on the move. At just 19 years old, Lance was already plenty comfortable salvaging "broken" plays in a clean, efficient way. That same calmness amidst the chaos also shows up when Lance is confined to making throws with bodies around him in the pocket. Lance's ability to feel space, reset efficiently, and trigger in the face of pressure is outstanding. He is already an NFL-level pocket manager.

One could make the argument that Lance needs to throw the hitch to the boundary here, but my assumption is that Lance believes the slot defender is going to work through the No. 2 (inside receiver) straight to the No. 1 near the flat area. The outside cornerback bailing from an off alignment is a pretty good indication that somebody else should be covering the flats. Either way, Lance is presented with interior pressure the moment he turns back-side. Lance does an incredible job moving as little as possible to avoid the defender, regathering his base, and delivering a low strike to help protect the wide receiver from any contact. To take in all of that information and make such a thoughtful throw versus pressure is as legit an NFL-like clip you will find for any of this year's quarterbacks.

Between designed run game, play outside the pocket, and nuance within the pocket, Lance has the tools to open up an offense and create plays that may not otherwise be there. Lance possesses both the talent and the savvy to consistently produce these kinds of plays.

Where Lance can be frustrating, however, is in his accuracy on dropback passing. On the one hand, Lance proved to be a good processor for someone his age, especially with all the shifts and motions in North Dakota State's offense. Lance understands how the moving parts all fit together and does well to not put the ball in danger. Conversely, Lance too often missed his targets in the 6- to 20-yard range, even if he worked through his progressions in a timely manner. Lance knows what he needs to do, he just does not always execute.

Here's an example of what it looks like when Lance throws a clean ball. Lance starts by working front-side, but the slot receiver on the out route gets out-leveraged by the slot cornerback. Throwing the out route here is risky, and the go route to the outside is more of a pre-snap alert than anything. Knowing the defense dropped defenders off the line of scrimmage into hook zones, Lance knows the shallow is going to be taken away by the field hook player, so he skips right over to the 10-yard in route. Lance then delivers a great, timely pass to the receiver settling in right past the curl/flat defender and under the cornerback. Not much about evaluating young quarterbacks is more satisfying than watching them efficiently get to and throw their backside read.

In some ways, this concept is not too different from the last. The outside receiver front-side is running a clear-out vertical and the outside receiver from the back side is running a square-in, while the other two receivers book it into the area opened up by the clear-out vertical. Lance wants the intermediate crosser, but there is a safety poaching the area ready to drive on the route. The route looks more open than it is when the camera pans because the safety reads Lance's eyes/release and is trying to go back the other way to potentially make a tackle. Lance getting to the square-in here, with no other help over the middle, is perfectly fine.

He's got time, the target is past the sticks, and, again, there is no middle-of-the-field help. Lance leaves the ball a good yard or 2 behind his target, though. The receiver tries his best to slow up and go back for it, but there is no way he's hanging onto that one, unless he suddenly turned into Georgia Tech Calvin Johnson. Lance's process looks good right up until the throw itself. It's a baffling disconnect that shows up on Lance's film a bit too often for comfort.

Now, there are two avenues to be explored from here. One is that Lance is simply not an accurate passer. Lance had open receivers all the time at North Dakota State, yet misfires like these somehow plagued him more than one might expect. Maybe he just does not have innate accuracy. The other possibility is that Lance's inaccuracies on more fleshed-out passing concepts such as this have more to do with a lack of reps. Learning to get back-side and reset cleanly to make a throw 12 yards down the field is not as easy as the best NFL quarterbacks make it look, and it certainly should not look easy for a 19-year-old quarterback. Lance can see the play just fine, but perhaps a couple more years of starting experience could have really locked him into the execution side of things.

As put together as parts of Lance's game are, there is a compelling argument to be made that the rest can be figured out in time. That is not to say Lance will suddenly become one of the NFL's most accurate passers, but it is not a stretch to believe a player as sharp and talented as Lance could get himself well over the baseline in a couple years. It's not often a quarterback seems to "get" the position at a young age the way Lance does, yet go their entire career being incapable of completing passes at an average NFL level.

In all, there's a lot to admire about Lance's game. He is a prototype athlete and arm talent with evidence of nuance that suggests he is worth investing in. It makes perfect sense that a player with as unique a profile as Lance's would be QB4 behind Lawrence, Fields, and Wilson, but whoever buys in on Lance is taking a good bet. Lance is a swing for the fences worth taking.


45 comments, Last at 02 Mar 2021, 7:31pm

1 But would you take him in…

But would you take him in the 1st round?  Hmmm...maybe late?   To get the 5th year option if he is a home run.

8 Twice!

Projected #1 Rodgers, no trade up, Favre waffling retirement, WC L - ok cool

Maybe 1st rounder Love, trade up, Rodgers committed, NFCCG L - ok not cool

5 Top 15, but yeah, he'll go…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Top 15, but yeah, he'll go early.  But if the Jets take him, that sound you'll be hearing is my yelling from 3000 miles away.  I would stay the hell away from him.  While I don't think Fields played a full season this year (ok, 8 games isn't that bad), he's shown more against tougher competition than Lance.  If the Jets take Fields at 2, I'll be concerned, but if they take Lance I'll be furious.

9 That's safer

Early = 1-11

Mid = 12-21

Late = 22-32

Certainly not late. Would bet heavy on early if I bet. 

Lance will need some experience (just 318 career attempts), especially going from FCS to the NFL and a coaching staff committed to running something like what Baltimore does. Field would be a slam dunk at 2 for the Jets though. He's shown plenty over his 3 years in my eyes (396 completions at just OSU). He can run what Lance does and more.

11 He's really only played two…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Fields has really only played two years (I don't count Georgia, good or bad), and I've watched enough to know he has problems reading the field.  At 2:58 of this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw8U6Zifxz8&t=183s he throws to the back who is well covered... while an Alabama safety ran off the field late as if he was the extra man. If it was a free play, why throw underneath to someone who is well covered?  Unfortunately for Ohio State, that safety was the eleventh guy;  Ohio State had to punt down 28-17 and you can say game over.  Fields certainly didn't see the field well there.  I don't consider him a slam dunk for the Jets (honestly don't consider any of the quarterbacks a slam dunk.  Lawrence is overrated, and his ball placement is worse than Fields or Wilson. Wilson throws into danger a lot, trusting his arm a little too much, and while he has a good career arc, that means his first two years aren't that great.  I'd love Mac Jones if he didn't have a weaker arm than the others, and if he didn't play with an all-star team at Alabama.)

13 Oh no...

Not the reading field coding. He can "read the field" homie. That narrative is kinda bust without being more specific and only using one play. It's crazy to me you picked that game (I guess just that play) to knock him. Like, he did well against the best team in the country. No one's perfect and you should never overestimate your own scouting but man, what else do you want from these prospects. Mac Jones though? Whew. He's played (and most importantly dropped back) even less. No hate to him though, he's QB5 and worth a shot.

14 Mac Jones definitely had an…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Mac Jones definitely had an easier job this past year than the others, that's the major reason I doubt him.  It's not really whether Fields can read the field, it's how fast he can do it.  I wish he had stayed one more year, because I feel he could have used it, although if Ohio State's system isn't conducive to training Qbs, then he might as well go to the pros.

As far as that one play, it just stuck out to me as the big turning point in the championship game.  Ohio State is down 28-17, it's almost halftime and their defense isn't stopping Bama.  The Buckeyes really needed to convert that third down.  And then the safety runs off the field, and if you watch it several times over, the receiver in the middle of the field will open up right after Fields gets rid of the ball to the covered running back short of the first down.  You're right in that he's had other plays where he did a good job reading the field, he just reminds me of Geno Smith in terms of taking too long.  Hopefully I'm completely wrong in my assessment on him, especially if the Jets take him.

15 I can't even get on board with that

Him staying doesn't do much but hurt his stock/stay the same (if he's able to fight off old age knocks come next year). OSUs system did cause him to hold the ball longer. But even then, a Geno Smith comp seems off, as Fields pushes the ball down the field more (draft capital will be much higher than 39th for good reason). He's more akin to Watson, Russ, etc. QBs that hold the ball because they're athletic and sometimes (over)estimate their ability to just sit there then escape if needed. And that's something you live with because the other side of the coin is tremendous. At least during the draft process. Lets not forget he was the #1 ranked player going into college. Higher than Lawrence and I don't think he'd showed anything to make that ranking look that bad, even if Lawrence is ahead now. 

20 People make a big deal about…

People make a big deal about how high players are ranked coming out of high school as if that means something.  There was a video on youtube a couple years back ranking the quarterbacks coming out in 2018 that counted how highly accomplished the quarterbacks were in high school as well as their age, etc.  Darnold and Rosen were ranked 1 and 2.

The Geno Smith comp may very well be off, but Geno Smith didn't fail because he couldn't throw downfield.  If you watch his college tape he threw plenty of bombs as well as the screens and those 'pass' plays where he hands the ball off forward.  Geno just took too long to find the open guy to be a solid starter in the NFL.  If what you claim about the OSU system is true, I hope Fields gets to sit awhile so he can adjust.

21 It's a proxy. He's been good.

He's a better prospect than Rosen and Darnold due to his accuracy and athleticism.

I'd drop the Geno comparison because the further you dig into it the worse it'll get outside of...the surface. Despite forgetting all the other QBs that held/hold the ball long (and that's not the sole reason why Geno failed). 

He doesn't need to sit (that long). He literally went to OSU and automatically got the job and dominated. I don't know what it's an if. That's what OSU does. They push the ball down the field with read routes. That's not what Geno did at WV. Seems like some unhealthy reservations and comparisons when your QB is Darnold. 

16 Yes, he will go early.  But…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Yes, he will go early.  But should he??  Well, it's a QB driven league.  But is it? 

Ask Aaron Donald or Shaquil Barrett or Lavonte David or David Bakhtiari.

I say it's (still) a trenches driven league and that's where the game is ultimately won or lost.  And SB LV proved that!

18 Yes and yes.

If you still believe that you might have missed the TBs deep receiver depth and their incredible coverage. Oh and Brady completely changing that entire franchise despite a similar team from last season including, probably going to be cut, was a complete joke, Donovan Smith playing blindside tackle. 

So in conclusion: yeah Lance definitely should go early. Especially over "trenches."

19 It's a particularly odd year…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

It's a particularly odd year to make that assertion, when the final four teams had the top four quarterbacks by DYAR and DVOA under center.

3 As an NDSU alum, I've…

As an NDSU alum, I've watched a lot of Bison football over the last decade-plus. I think Lance was a far better player and prospect as a redshirt freshman than Carson Wentz was when he left school as a fifth-year senior. Lance is a better athlete, has a better arm, and had fewer accuracy problems than Wentz did (this not faint praise - Wentz was a very good athlete with a very good arm in college). Lance was much better about scrambling to throw rather than pulling the ball down and looking to run and he seemed better at operating the offense on-schedule as well.

I thought Wentz went too high when he was initially drafted based on how good he was at NDSU. I think he was a better QB in Philly (especially in 2017) than he ever was in Fargo. It's a little mystifying to me that Lance is getting far less hype than Wentz got. Some of that is surely circumstance - this QB class is better at the top than 2016's was and Lance is probably hurt by the fact that he played only one game this year. But in my mind, Lance is a better bet to succeed than I thought Wentz was in 2016.

6 The other thing about…

The other thing about comparing him to Josh Allen- Allen was in a much worse situation in college than Lance.  The coaching in Wyoming is not at the level of ND State (honestly, the Bison would probably destroy them), and he had worse receivers going against better competition.  This is also why Herbert was underrated last year-he had terrible receivers in college, changed offensive systems each year, so when he went to a team that had decent to good receivers everything ended up easier for him as a rookie.

7 Wyoming

FWIW, Allen's head coach at Wyoming was Craig Bohl, who had just coached North Dakota State to three straight FCS championships.

17 I Am Confused

I am confused about the discussion. Clearly Elway will trade up and draft him.

24 Trying to project a qb with…

Trying to project a qb with so few reps, against such substandard competition, is a waste of time. Wanna roll the dice on athletic ability? Fine, but just don't lie to yourself about what you're doing. The idea that you can confidently project a guy's floor, based on athletic ability alone, is ridiculous. He may be great, he may be a bust, or something in between, and nobody has much reason to have any confidence as to which outcome will prevail, other than noting that few guys end up being above average, no matter where they are drafted.

26 I mean...

Athletic guys usually have a good floor since their athleticism gets them out of trouble and provides an element they can lean on if passing isn't working. Same goes for Murrary, Lamar, etc.

And his competition wasn't great. But neither was his support. Are the top guys going to be dinged for their better support? No, it's about dominating the competition in front of you like Lance did (and hence why I still don't like the Jordan Love pick).

27 Dominating opposition that…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Dominating opposition that isn't good enough to get out of the Missouri Valley Conference is not something that provides a basis for confident projections. In contrast, I stated at the time that Deshaun Watson was a steal at the spot he was picked because he had twice destroyed the closest thing to an NFL defense that college football had to offer, for the largest stakes, when that defense had weeks to prepare for him. If this guy is drafted in the 1st half of the 1st round, it's just a pure wild-assed hopeful guess.  2nd half of 1st round, depending on the team, might be slightly better. 

28 Like someone said above

It did Wentz. And he just went for a 3rd & 2nd/1st. Maybe wrong (the trade for Indy) but like I said athleticism does provide a nice floor. And it is indeed a QB driven league and he'll go early and most assuredly top half. And no one should be surprised or that upset (like why would Patriot fans be mad if he fell to 15). If you watch the games, it's not that wild of a guess. We'll never be 100% on any prospect though. 

31 The fact that it did for…

The fact that it did for Wentz does not mean it will again. No, you cannot confidently project what the floor will be for a qb whose stiffest college test was James Madison. The data is simply inadequate for the inquiry.

32 The fact that picking him in…

The fact that picking him in the top half of the 1st is little more than a wild-assed guess does not mean that all wild assed guesses are the same. A team with a decent or better roster, that maybe had injuries/covid craziness in 2020, with an unsettled qb situation from 2022 on, might want to take a wild assed guess. A typical lower half roster, or a team with a qb they are committed to after 2021, should not be taking a wild guess with such an important guess.

34 Lol

Ok. If you think New England (or whoever) selecting him at 15 would be bad because of it's the top half, you aren't watching the games to see the traits he has. And why they let him dominate. 

Man, some of yall are resistant on taking athletic QBs. Derrick broke it down nicely I thought. Can't have "data" on everything. That's part of the reason he's QB4 and worth a shot. Would love to see your (top half) mock draft though. 

42 I find mock drafts tedious,…

I find mock drafts tedious, and I converse with people on this site for fun. I'm not interested in making a prediction on where he'll be picked. I'm interested in the ability to predict future athletic performance. There isn't enough data to make confident predictions on this player, which makes an attempt to do so pure guesswork. Where you misread me is your implication that I've argued that guessing on a player is always bad. I said precisely the opposite. Some teams can be situated in a place where making that sort of guess is reasonable. It's still a guess, though, and, no, that doesn't entail any downgrading of the value of qb mobility. Good grief, enough with the non-sequiturs.

43 Of course

If you aren't willing to make a mock draft on all the players incoming, how can you say there isn't enough? And determine the confidence interval? Have you looked at the other (top) players to see if there data is enough? Or does the FCS auto disqualify prospect that high and make them "wild guesses"? 

This all started when you scoffed at a guy who's stiffest competition was James Madison, going in the top half and...argued there "isn't enough data." Which...again, isn't objective. There is enough...if you know what you're looking for. That doesn't guarantee anything though. Although it can paint a picture of his floor, in this case with his athleticism. We don't need an arbitrary amount of...whatever data you want to see such things on tape. 

Still want to see your top half mock. Let's just make it the top 15. Would be very interested in how you see other prospects data, or lack thereof in this strange year. So humor me. 

P.S. Saying Watson was a steal as QB3 when he was QB1 for...most...pre-draft, isn't exactly astounding. Don't think there's one person out there that would've said that was a reach as their immediate reaction.

44 It's  difficult to have a…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

It's  difficult to have a conversation with you, because you listen to the voices in your head, and argue with them, instead of actually engaging with what someone has written. I don't find this especially enjoyable, so I think I'll refrain from engaging with you any further, and I'd appreciate it if you would do the same, although I'm fine with you having the last word, if you so desire.

45 Long winded way

of saying you dont have a proper rebuttal and are scared to stay on topic. Guess that's expected when you come in all high and mighty screaming someone can't accurately judge someones floor from the FCS. Projecting mental illness isn't a cool look either but alas....I engaged with what was written and this defensive wall was put up. Shame. 

30 No, Lance's support was a…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

No, Lance's support was a lot better than his competition.  To say ND State is the Alabama of the Subdivision level is an insult to ND State.  The Crimson Tide wishes they had won 8 of the last 9 National Championships.  ND State also routinely sends players to the NFL; not just Wentz, but his left tackle, and the OLB who went against him in practice for two years.  Excusing a rough game from Fields against Northwestern (the number 1 defense in college last year, not Alabama) when Fields was missing his best receiver makes sense.  Excusing Lance's inaccuracy when his teammates are almost always better than the opponents does not.

33 Huh?

I think you're just looking for flaws in everyone instead of the positives at this point. Lawrence overrated. Fields scary. Lance on stacked team...but you like Mac Jones? Except for his arm?

Very weird. Lance will be the first NDSU player this year and second highest of all time behind Wentz. Dillon Radunz is a fringe 1st. What OLB? And if he practiced against him doesn't that make him better?

35 I'm a Jets fan.  Of course I…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

I'm a Jets fan.  Of course I'm a pessimist when it comes to quarterbacks.  The OLB was Kyle Emmanuel, and yes, practicing against him made Joe Haeg a better player.  At least that's what Haeg said before he got drafted.  My main point about this is that North Dakota State has a lot more players going to the NFL than other FCS teams, although James Madison has a decent amount as well.

What I like about Mac Jones is that he reads the field quicker than anyone else, and his accuracy.  What I don't like or question about him is his arm strength, the fact that he played on a loaded team where the best players he faced were probably in practice, and least, his relative immobility.  I don't think the Jets should take him at 2, but if you asked me if I would prefer trading down then taking Jones to taking Fields or Wilson at 2 I'd have a hard time saying no to it.  

Again, I hope the Jets want no part of Trey Lance.

36 Oh, the great Kyle Emmanuel. I guess he did get drafted.

If he's on a stacked team then you should prefer him and his athleticism over Mac Jones or at least equal to. Lance is NDSU prospect #1 out of 4(?) this year.

But Mac Jones and...reading the field? I already linked a tweet about reads. He makes quick reads because Alabamas offense is built that way with great releases and route running. The Heisman winner ran the most screens. Not super hard to be accurate on such throws but it's good to know he isn't inaccurate on them. And if you want accuracy, you want Fields. Ironic.

No one is selecting Lance at 2 but man wanting to trade back for Jones is depressing (like this comp). Low floor due to athleticism and low ceiling due to arm. Aim higher when you're picking that high I'd say. 


25 I mean, c'mon, the best…

I mean, c'mon, the best competition he faced in 2019 was James Madison, which played a competitive game against West Virginia in the season opener. There's nothing to project here. It's a toss of the dice.

29 Evaluating Lance

A few questions that I always have evaluating QB's, esp. guys projected to go in the 1st round: (Note that this doesn't mean they will be good or bad, just things to be considered.)

1. Did they play well against their competition?  If they are talented enough to be a 1st rounder, they should have done well against the teams they played. Even better if they played great against the better teams on the schedule. That doesn't always mean good stats, or lots of wins. Just means good QB play, making good reads, etc.

2. Ratio of "wow" plays to "oh, no" plays. Obviously, the higher, the better. 

3. Games/experience--already used here in the Lewin projections. 

4. Did they show good improvement while they were there? Even if they were already a good prospect, they should have gotten better.

5. If they are at a smaller school/non-football power (like Kansas or Vandy), why are they there? Was it close to home? Their HS coach just got hired there? Or was that the only school that offered him a scholarship? 

6. How many other pro players were around them? In other words, are they a product of their surroundings, or did they elevate the offense around them?

My concerns with Lance would be especially #3, and possibly # 5 too. I haven't seen anything to be able to evaluate the other factors. He seems like a guy that will be really good or be a bust, with no middle range. 

39 First round picks are overrated

People sweat over the value of first round picks so much. Personally I think first round picks should be used for getting difference-makers on your team, or to trade down for additional picks to build depth. Trade them for star veterans or pick players with a high ceiling. 

To me, Lance is worth a first-round pick, even a top-10 pick. He seems like the 3rd or 4th best option depending on how highly you rate Zach Wilson. But if you don't have a good franchise QB in house, and he's there, he's shown enough that you take him, I think. He might bust, sure. But then again, so might that highly rated OT or DB you take with your tip-10 pick. Happens every year. If you're Detroit, who'd you rather have in your building -  Jeff Okudah or Trey Lance?

I'm mystified too by the way some people discuss Deshaun Watson's trade value, with people saying that trading more than 3 first round picks would cripple any team that acquires him. Really? (I mean I've specifically read people saying that 3 one's, two 2's, and a good defensive player are too much to give up for him.) Take a look at, say, Detroit's or Chicago's last three 1sts and 2nds. There are a couple of good players there, yes, but nothing that couldn't be approximated in free agency, really. And no one who would be missed in a swap for Watson.

True, Watson's going to command a salary that eats the free agency budget, and so in that sense having the draft capital to acquire a few good, cheap players is certainly helpful. And the ideal road is of course drafting your QB without trading anything and getting lucky.

But still - half of any team's first and second rounders, over a span of a few years, are going to be below-average players, and some fraction more are going to be either diminished by injury by year 3 or making contract demands it whatever.