On Wednesday, Pro Football Hall of Fame writer John Clayton released his third first-round mock draft via the Washington Post. Clayton's prediction for the first-ever draft pick of Denver Broncos GM George Paton is one of the most coveted quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL draft class.
9. Denver Broncos: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
This is a likely landing spot for a QB, either with Denver or a team that trades into this spot. The Broncos need to add competition for Drew Lock, but could consider [Northwestern OT Rashawn] Slater if he drops to this spot.
Although trades were not factored in Clayton’s mock draft, analysts have speculated that at least one QB could drop to the Broncos at the No. 9 overall pick. If that daydream becomes a reality, Clayton strongly feels that Paton will handpick a QB.
Lance will unquestionably hear his name called in the first round of the NFL draft set to take place on April 29. The 6-foot-4, 224-pound Minnesota native exploded onto the college football scene as a redshirt freshman in 2019, throwing for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns, concluding the season without an interception.
Even more impressively, Lance rushed 169 times for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 6.5 yards per rush. His performance earned him the Walter Payton Award as the best player in the Football Championship Subdivision, the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman in the FCS, and the Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year Award. The same year, Lance led the Bison to 16 consecutive wins and an FCS title.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, NDSU’s 2020 season was canceled, leaving Lance and the Bison to compete in just one exhibition game against Central Arkansas. In his last collegiate performance, Lance completed 15-of-30 passing attempts for 149 yards and two touchdowns, throwing his only career interception while rushing 15 times for 143 yards and two more touchdowns.
Lance’s talent is so glaringly evident that there’s little doubt in the scouting community that he’ll be taken within the top-10 and depending on who you ask, he could go top-3.
“The Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and Washington Football Team head the list of teams who might still be looking to add a quarterback. Denver could pursue Carolina Panthers veteran Teddy Bridgewater following Carolina’s trade for Sam Darnold, if Carolina were willing to cover some of Bridgewater’s contract and accept a low-round draft pick in return. If not, the Broncos are a strong candidate to select a quarterback, and New England and Washington could start working the phones if Justin Fields or Trey Lance drops to the seventh pick or lower.”
Lance is a very raw QB with a limited sample size. While some see him as a developmental QB that needs to wait and learn, other draft experts rave about his tremendous football acumen.
Lance understands the significance of protecting the football and can maneuver in and out of the pocket. He’ll benefit from having played in the Bison's pro-style offense and recognizes the subtleties of zone and man coverage. his powerful arm, frame, and playing style have drawn comparisons to Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen.
Next Monday, Denver will reportedly send offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to Lance’s second Pro Day after Paton, QBs coach Mike Shula and director of college scouting Brian Stark attended his first workout. To support Clayton's theory of Lance landing in Denver, an anonymous NFL general manager recently spilled that the Broncos are planning to select the ex-Bison as the next franchise QB.
Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. Then again, it’s the final two weeks of ‘the season of lies.’
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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