Earlier in the week, news began to surface that quarterback Trey Lance of the San Francisco 49ers, one of the most hyped prospects at his position in recent years, not only lost the starting QB spot to former Mr. Irrelevant (who has played like anything but) Brock Purdy, but the backup spot to newly acquired Sam Darnold.
Perhaps there is some irony in one former number-three overall pick who isn’t developing as hoped losing his job to another former number-three overall pick who didn’t develop as hoped, but it’s unlikely Lance is in the mood for such thought.
Unlike Darnold, though, who had every opportunity to prove himself a starter and failed, Lance hasn’t had such a chance. He earned the starting spot last season over Jimmy Garoppolo before succumbing to a season-ending ankle injury. in week two. In his lone extended action in week one during torrential rain, he looked mediocre, but again...torrential rain.
And then Cinderella man Brock Purdy emerged from the shadows as a legitimate NFL QB, and the rest is history with the man who cost a team three first round picks ending up third on the depth chart and possibly a future lying elsewhere.
Given the small sample size on Lance, however, along with the characteristics that made him a first-round prospect in 2021, it may just be that the kid still has a story to tell. And this time, a team won’t have to send away crucial draft picks to have him tell it.
Could the Denver Broncos be that team?
Russell Wilson is coming off the worst season of his career, and even if he bounces back in the biggest way, he’s still 34 years old, and while that isn’t a “take up pickle ball” stage of life, it isn’t exactly the prime for most QBs. Anything remotely near what the 49ers had to give up for him should be rejected with a hang up and a middle finger, but for something like a day three pick, it could make for an interesting development project.
Despite the pre-draft hype surrounding him, most pundits were in pretty synonymous thought that he would need a year or two of development, and given his less-than-speedy adjustment, it may take a year or two more before he is fully ready.
Payton, along with QB coach Davis Webb and OC Joe Lombardi, may just be the concoction Lance needs to reach his full potential. And as he develops behind Wilson, he could still be of use in certain packages.
If there’s one thing Lance can bring to the table immediately, and he has put it on display in his short career, is his athleticism, power, and speed. At 6-4, 224 lbs., he is roughly the same frame as 6-2, 221 lb. Taysom Hill, former swiss army knife form Payton during his Saints tenure.
While he never became a true QB1, Hill has had some nice games throughout his career, but he was mostly regarded for his play out of the wildcat formation, where he proved to be dangerous on the ground while keeping the secondary on their toes at the same time.
Hill was never regarded as a prospect the way Lance was, and under Payton he certainly made a difference. There’s no reason to think Lance couldn’t find similar success and grow his career under Payton’s tutelage.
This is a coach who coached a QB in Teddy Bridgewater back from a devastating injury to the best stretch of his career. He’s the guy who turned Drew Brees from an above average starter to a Hall-of-Famer. The guy is a master at his craft, and along with Webb and Lombardi in his corner, they could make Lance into the player the 49ers sent three first-round picks away for.
Or then again, maybe it’s too late and the young QB will wear the bust label the rest of his career. In any regard, is it really that big of a risk to send away a mid-to-late round pick to take a crack at it?
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