Should the 49ers stick with Jimmy Garoppolo for the 2021 season or move on to Trey Lance?
This has been the No. 1 question on the mind of nearly everyone with an interest in the San Francisco 49ers since the team used four draft picks, including three in the first round, to select the North Dakota State quarterback in this season’s draft.
While the responses vary depending on who you ask, there is one person that should hope the choice will be Lance, and that’s Kyle Juszczyk.
When Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch began to remake the 49ers roster in 2017, one of their first orders of business to improve the offense was to sign Juszczyk. They felt so strongly about what he could bring to the organization that they made him the highest-paid fullback in the league.
A key trait that Shanahan looks for in his players is versatility, and that is exactly what Juszczyk provides. In college, Juszczyk played tight end for Harvard before transitioning to fullback after being selected in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Shanahan likes to try to force opposing defenses to stick with their base personnel, which makes the ability to line up anywhere across the formation that Juszczyk provides so valuable.
Despite his versatility, Juszczyk has seen his role in the 49ers passing game go underutilized. His receptions per game have dropped every year since joining the team. When John Lynch tweeted back in March, “I’m thirsty. Niners fans, you want some 'Juice'?" perhaps it was a sign of things to come for the 49ers offense, and Trey Lance could be just the guy to make this happen.
Lance brings athleticism to the quarterback position that San Francisco has not seen during Shanahan’s time as head coach. This should lead to a revival of the play-action bootleg in the 49ers offense, similar to what Lance did often during his time at North Dakota State. This could lead to more opportunities for Juszczyk on underneath routes on the outside. Simple throws that produce big results and get the ball into the hands of one of the most talented offensive weapons on the team.
The increase in Juszczyk’s role would not be limited to just the bootleg action. One concern that some had with regards to Lance during the run up to the draft was his tendency to be a bit over cautious with the ball, taking check downs when there was a receiver open further down the field. There have already been reports during the 49ers OTA sessions that the running backs were targeted heavily by Lance. These check downs are another reason to believe that having Lance leading the offense could lead to Juszczyk putting up the best numbers in his career.