It’s going to be another busy day for the NFL, as teams continue making moves to get under the cap. We’re likely to hear more news on restructures, re-signings, and restricted free agent tenders as the Falcons and other teams begin shaping their rosters for the 2021 NFL season. There’s also the matter of Pro Days for top college prospects—events that have taken on added importance this year with the lack of an official Scouting Combine for the first time in recent memory.
On Friday, the Falcons and approximately 30 other NFL teams will be in Fargo, North Dakota to attend North Dakota State’s Pro Day. NDSU is the top FCS program year after year, and routinely has prospects worth scouting. This year, they also happen to have a top quarterback prospect: Trey Lance.
Lance put together a spectacular sophomore season in 2019, completion 66.9% of his passes for 2786 yards (9.7 YPA), 28 TDs, and zero INTs. He also demonstrated his dominance as a runner, with 169 carries for 1100 yards (6.5 YPC) and a whopping 14 TDs. Lance is without a doubt a top-5 QB prospect in the 2021 draft class, and is rumored to be as high as QB2 on some analysts’ draft boards.
With the Falcons picking at fourth overall, Lance has often been linked to the team through mock drafts—including myself and Eric Robinson. He’s a logical choice for Atlanta for several reasons. His athletic traits give him the ceiling of a potentially elite dual-threat QB, and he could be an ideal fit in an Arthur Smith offense. With only one year of starting experience, Lance probably needs some additional development before playing in the NFL. He’d have the opportunity to do that in Atlanta, with Matt Ryan locked in as the starter for 2021 at least.
That logical connection gained real traction this week, with reports that both head coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot would be in attendance at NDSU’s Pro Day.
As I’ve said, there are a ton of reasons for the Falcons to do their homework on Lance regardless of their true intentions. But today, we got another interesting nugget from Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer about the offensive concepts Lance would be running during his workout:
The idea was simple for Avery and Lance, and that was to show the part that all those teams, and Lance himself, missed in the fall: the football itself. As part of that effort, Avery plucked concepts from a number of different NFL schemes—pieces of Kyle Shanahan’s Niners offense, and what Falcons coach Arthur Smith did in Tennessee, for example, are incorporated—to try to give the teams there a feel for how Lance projects.
Now, the fact that Lance is running Arthur Smith concepts at his Pro Day isn’t really meaningful. After all, Smith’s wide-zone, play-action heavy scheme isn’t exactly rare in today’s NFL. The same could be said for Shanahan’s system in San Francisco. But it is interesting that these two schemes were mentioned specifically, because both Atlanta and San Francisco are well within range to target Lance in the draft.
It’s also a sign that Lance and his agents believe that Smith and Shanahan are at least somewhat interested in him. I’m sure that Smith and Fontenot will appreciate getting to see Lance run these concepts—it helps take some of the projection out of his evaluation. Will it make a big difference either way for his draft selection? Probably not, but it’s worth mentioning.
Also notable: former Falcons wide receiver Justin Hardy is one of the receivers Lance will be throwing to during the Pro Day. It’ll be fun to see the former fourth-rounder and his epic beard catching passes from a potential future Falcon.
What are your thoughts on Trey Lance’s Pro Day and the potential for Atlanta to select him in the 2021 NFL Draft?