While Cam Newton returning via an incentive-filled one-year contract was the biggest story of the day for the New England Patriots on Friday, they also were busy scouting one of the best quarterback prospects in the country. The Patriots were among 30 NFL teams present for Trey Lance’s Pro Day at North Dakota State, sending their most experienced scout to attend the session.
Matt Groh, who is entering his 11th season with the club’s scouting department, was promoted to his current role as national scout in 2019. As such, he was now tasked to keep an eye on Lance — a player who reportedly impressed during the workout to further solidify his standing as one of the most intriguing quarterbacks in this year’s draft.
A member of the top-four at the position alongside Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Zach Wilson (Brigham Young) and Justin Fields (Ohio State), the 20-year-old is projected to come off the board early in the first round. While the Patriots likely would have to trade up the board in order to get in a position to select him, his upside certainly makes such a move a realistic option for a team still searching for a long-term solution at the spot.
While Lance is raw and certainly needs some time to develop behind the scenes — something he might get in New England with Newton around another year — his combination of physical tools and football IQ make him a natural fit with the organization.
Daniel Jeremiah, lead draft analyst for NFL Network, also pointed this out during a media conference call earlier this week.
“I could see Bill Belichick having an affinity and a lot of fun with a guy like Trey Lance,” Jeremiah said. “Trey is going to need some time. The only thing that would hold me back on that is I don’t know if he’s going to be ready to do that right away. You’d have to be patient with him. But when you talk to the folks at North Dakota State, this kid is incredibly intelligent, which we know the Patriots have always placed a premium on.”
“He can direct fronts, can do all the stuff at the line of scrimmage you need to do. He’s a fantastic athlete and runner. He’s got a power arm that fits in the weather in that division later in the year. ... I just think all the character stuff I’ve gotten has been off the chart. All those things line up with what Belichick has traditionally wanted on the team. It’s just, I think, we’re all guessing a little bit on what direction he wants to take the offense.”
There are some questions about Lance, though. Not only will a team hope that he can live up to his ceiling one day, he also is entering the draft with just one year of starting experience under his belt: he completed 67 percent of his throws for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns and not a single interception in 2019, but later opted out of the 2020 season.
Nevertheless, he will hear his name on Day One of this year’s draft. The attendance at his Pro Day reflects this.
Nine general managers were present — Ryan Pace (Chicago Bears), George Paton (Denver Broncos), Mike Mayock (Las Vegas Raiders), Joe Douglas (New York Jets), John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks), Scott Fitterer (Carolina Panthers), Rick Spielman (Minnesota Vikings), Terry Fontenot (Atlanta Falcons), and Brad Holmes (Detroit Lions) — as well as head coaches Arthur Smith (Falcons), Matt Nagy (Bears), Dan Campbell (Lions), and Matt Rhule (Panthers).