Earlier this week, the New England Patriots sent two of their most prominent talent evaluators to Fargo to take a close look at a quarterback. Assistant director of player personnel Dave Ziegler and scouting consultant Eliot Wolf did not just scout any QB, though, but one of the most intriguing in the country: North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.
Ziegler and Wolf representing the organization at Lance’s second Pro Day was not the first interaction it has had with him, though. The Patriots also sent national scout Matt Groh to attend his first workout last month.
With New England being in the market for a long-term solution at the quarterback position a player such as Lance would make plenty of sense. He is one of the best passers in this year’s class and as such a realistic candidate to come off the board within the first 10 selections on Day 1 next Thursday.
However, this means that the Patriots might have to trade up to get him aboard. Whether or not they would be willing to do that depends on their evaluation and the asking price for a potential move up the board, and if they view Lance as a potential future starting quarterback in the NFL despite his rawness and comparative lack of experience (he started just 17 games during his three-year career at NDSU).
Only the team knows the answer to those questions, but there is no doubt that Lance would be a fit for the Patriots — at least according to Daniel Jeremiah.
NFL Network’s lead draft analyst spoke about numerous players during a recent conference call, and the possible Patriots-Lance connection was also mentioned. Jeremiah was pretty clear about his thoughts on the two joining forces next week.
“Would he be a fit for the Patriots? Heck yes.”
Lance obviously put up some unreal numbers during his career at North Dakota State. He completed 65.4 percent of his throws for 2,947 yards as well as an unreal touchdown-interception ratio of 30-to-1. Oh, and by the way, he also gained 1,325 rushing yards on 192 carries and found the end zone 18 times.
The 20-year-old has all the makings of an NFL-caliber dual-threat quarterback, but his statistics tell only part of the story as Jeremiah pointed out.
“He had responsibility in terms of protections. He had responsibility in terms of checks. So, he had a lot more on his plate than most guys, especially in his first year as a starter they put a lot more on those guys. And then just the variety of offense that they ran, being under center a lot for one thing, which you just don’t see much anymore in college football. A lot of play action back to the defense, those things, full progression reads,” he said.
“He’s played in a complex, complicated system where he had a good amount of responsibility on his shoulders, and so even though the starts are what they are, you’ve got 17 starts to work off of, the guy is — what we know like is irrefutable. He’s built like a brick house, so he’s going to be durable. He’s going to add to your running game because you can use some designed quarterback run game, which he’s built to handle.”
Even though he might not become a Day 1 starter at the next level, Lance would join a perfect situation in New England.
Not only would he be able to learn from veteran coaches such as Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, he also would have the luxury of spending at least one season behind Cam Newton. The former league MVP has been praised for his leadership in his first year with the Patriots, and would be able to serve as a mentor for Lance while the youngster would be tasked with learning one of the most complex systems in the league.
Learning it, however, should not be a problem.
“He’s incredibly intelligent, and that’s — I’ve spent time with him, and I’ve talked to a bunch of teams that have spent time with him and have been kind of blown away through the interview process with him. The character, the work ethic, all that stuff is exceptional from everybody that you talk to there at North Dakota State. We know going in he’s got all that stuff,” said Jeremiah about Lance.
“There’s some mechanical things he can work on, like he bounces on his toes a little bit when he gets to the top of his drop and then he’ll sink before he throws and you’ll see it impact his accuracy. That stuff is all fixable. John Beck and those guys have been working on that. He’s going to be able to clean that stuff up. Everything you have you love, and the things that aren’t maybe where you want them, are all correctable.”
Given his high ceiling and impressive college performance, Lance will be a popular player come the draft. The San Francisco 49ers might be on him after trading up from the twelfth to the third overall selection; the Carolina Panthers or Denver Broncos might decide that passing on him might be a mistake.
If he falls into the Patriots’ range whether directly at No. 15 or somewhere they feel comfortable trading up, it would not be a surprise to see them jump onto him.
“I’m in,” said Jeremiah. “I know the limited number of games. I get all that. But when you have a guy with this skill set and then you match the skill set with the intelligence that he has, he’s going to figure it out. I firmly believe it.”
If the Patriots believe it to, they might have to be even more aggressive than usual in trying to bring him in.