Scouting Report: Will Trey Lance Be In Patriots' Range?

Could the exciting North Dakota State quarterback be a possibility for the new Patriots' offense?
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Prospect: Trey Lance, QB

School: North Dakota State 

Class: Sophomore

Measurables:

Height: 6-foot-3 (1.91m)

Weight: 221 lbs (100.244kg)

Age: 20

Strengths:

- Light on his feet, uses his footwork to buy time in and out of pocket

- Some eye-opening touch, especially on deep balls (making "in the bucket" type throws)

- Great anticipation, especially on NFL routes like 12-yard outs 

- Strong through his progressions, making big plays to his second, third reads as a redshirt freshman 

- Great with ball in his hands. A true playmaker (Carson Wentz-like in that respect). Whether he's slinging it 50+ yards downfield, or carrying it himself. Combination of running ability and arm talent are impressive

Weaknesses:

- Seems to drive the ball low. Some instances on tape when he even sails it over a target. Mild accuracy concerns, with questions looming if he can consistently fit the ball into tight windows

- Branching off accuracy concerns, scouts will hammer Lance's consistency throughout the process and likely value less riskier options higher 

- Played against much lesser competition than the other four big name QBs in this class. Questions as to whether the 20-year-old can make the jump to the NFL and how soon he can contribute 

- On top of this, a very small sample size to work with in terms of game tape (only started one full season. Lance would benefit big time by a combine and draft process

- His mechanics are mostly sound, however, we're left wondering if there is something causing occasional misses. He does wear a sleeve over a rather ambiguous knee injury that was apparently pre-existing in high school. 

Summary and Archetype:

Lance is an incredibly intriguing prospect. In fact, he may be in contention with Clemson's Trevor Lawrence for the quarterback with the highest ceiling. An athletically-gifted quarterback with great instincts, footwork, timing, and even sound decision-making. He's the kind of player that despite being only 20 years old would have the chance to start rather quickly for an NFL team, assuming he was in a good situation. 

There is plenty of reason for skepticism with Lance. There's also a lot that's unknown about him. With a small sample size of tape and from a relatively small school, many have good reason to be leery. However, he has shown flashes on tape at North Dakota that indicate that he can be a high-level NFL starter with proper development. 

He's a guy who will likely be out of range at the 15th overall selection. It would more than likely require a trade up to acquire him, unless teams shy away from him because of the question marks surrounding him. 

Fit with the Patriots

There's obviously a lot of speculation to what this offense could look like. Identifying a fit is a little hard, given the likely changing offensive approach. With Josh McDaniels a prime candidate to become the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, some speculation exists to whether Chad O'Shea could come back to New England. That's obviously yet to be seen, but I mention it for a reason. O'Shea's name comes up because he has experience working in both this offense and Kevin Stefanski's offense in Cleveland this year. 

READ MORE: Patriots' Josh McDaniels 'Prime Candidate' For Eagles' Head Coach Job

When it comes down to fits for Lance, he fits much better in an offense like Stefanski's than in the traditional Patriots' offense. That being said, if New England could have a guy like O'Shea come back into the picture, Lance might be able to work in an offense like this. 

With Lance, the Patriots could get creative in re-designing their offense. In fact, they would have to. Otherwise, marching in with the same playbook and plan as last year would be the 2020 New England all over again, the similarities would almost get scary. 

Since Lance has so many components in his game that can be compared to a younger Cam Newton, the appeal to build off the good things from Newton and work with Lance on them exists. With that being said, there would need to be a lot of schematic changes to this offense under Lance, and it would likely require at least one big name receiver, as it's hard to see Lance succeeding here without some help from his skill position players. With questions about his ability to put the ball in tight windows (something Lance would likely have to do a lot in this current offensive situation), he would require a refined route-runner that could consistently find separation. 

Lance showed strong ability against zone coverage (much like Newton did this year with the Patriots), however, teams could call press man coverage against Lance and mix in some creative blitzes to pressure him and keep him contained. With that, there is not much the rookie quarterback would be able to do but try and make a spectacular play. Being a young, Wentz-like playmaker, under heavy pressure, with nobody open, can only spell trouble in the NFL.

However, with some schematic changes and a good group around him, Lance would provide something that Newton could not, which is sound timing and footwork. That would be huge for New England's offense, as it was so much of the reason that Newton wasn't able to get things going in 2020.