While he’s yet to do much at the NFL level, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance has emerged as one of the more interesting Rorschach tests for fantasy owners heading into 2022. Some look at the second-year signal caller and see the athleticism and arm strength to become the next great dual threat at the position. Others see an unproven commodity on a team built to win now and an offense that has spent years marginalizing the position, largely with positive results.
Both viewpoints have merit, though one flaw in the latter is that the team wouldn’t have invested so heavily in acquiring Lance only to treat him like Jimmy Garoppolo 2.0. Still, what is true is that the Niners have the knowledge that they can win without top-shelf play from their quarterback in the back of their minds, so if Lance is having a tough day or playing an unusually stingy defense where the preference would be that he prioritize making the safe play, the team can dial back what they ask.
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One thing that Lance should be able to lean on regardless of circumstance is athleticism, which will allow him to extend plays on passing downs and make him a dangerous weapon on read options and designed runs. Lance ran for 120 yards combined in his two starts last year — that would project out to 1,020 over a full season. While that’s a stretch, his running ability should keep his floor at a decent level (think Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts last year).
Also helping Lance is the playmaking ability of wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who can take a three-yard out and turn it into an 75-yard touchdown, so it’s not as though Lance will need to thread the needle and make amazing throws to rack up numbers. To that end, accuracy is a possible issue. He completed 57.7 percent of his passes as a rookie, albeit in a limited sample size, and improvement in that area would go a long way as he already throws an effective deep ball.
Fantasy football outlook
If you want to talk about a comp for Lance, once again it makes sense to circle back to Hurts, who was a top-10 fantasy quarterback in most scoring systems despite passing for just 3,144 yards and 16 TDs, both of which are numbers one would expect Lance to surpass this season. Whether he’ll rush for 10 scores and 784 yards, as Hurts did, is unclear, but he’s capable.
For now, that fringe top-10 slot feels like the ceiling for Lance, and given his lack of experience it’d be fair to expect the path to such a finish to be full of good weeks and bad. As for the floor, it’s hard to envision him finishing outside the top 20 given his athleticism, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive schemes, and the talent around him.
He could be drafted as a QB1 as long as you pair him with a competent backup. However, Lance makes for an ideal backup, although that window is closing with an ADP on the rise (9:06, QB13). Proven quarterbacks to pair him with include the likes of Kirk Cousins, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Matthew Stafford — each has limitations or some risk, which ups Lance’s potential worth to your team as well as gives you a safety net to a midround QB investment.