Trey Lance from North Dakota State picked third in NFL draft, surprises many


Erik Drost (Flickr)

This year’s draft took place in Cleveland, Ohio

Alex Keeler, Reporter

Every spring, the NFL draft wows pro football fans with any number of surprising picks and trades.

This year, perhaps no pick was more surprising than the San Francisco 49ers using their third overall pick on former North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance.

NDSU is a Football Championship Subdivision or FCS school.  They are generally much smaller and less well-known than their more popular Division I counterparts, Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools.

FBS schools typically receive more funding and are better equipped than FCS schools. As a result, most of the nation’s top high school recruits generally wind up committing to an FBS program.  Not surprisingly, most players drafted by NFL teams also come from FBS schools.

The last time an FCS player was taken among the first five picks in the draft was 2016.  That year, the Philadelphia Eagles used their second overall pick to select another North Dakota State quarterback — Carson Wentz.

Even though NDSU is a relatively small school in Fargo, the Bison have relatively dominated their conference.

They’ve won a total of 16 FCS National Championships — eight since 2011 and five-in-a-row from 2011-2015.

While Lance only played one full season as a redshirt freshman in 2019, he would lead the Bison to a perfect 16-0 record while not throwing a single interception the entire season.

In what seemed a perfect season that year, Lance would win the Walter Peyton award (best FCS player), the Jerry Rice award (top FCS freshman), and the Missouri Valley offensive player of the year.

Lance and the Bison only played one game in the fall of 2020.

After the Missouri Valley Football Conference decided to postpone their season until this spring because of the possible risk to players from COVID-19, the conference gave its teams the option to play nonconference games in the fall that couldn’t be rescheduled for spring.

Lance made the most of that one game against Arkansas State, throwing for two touchdowns and running for two more in a 39-28 comeback win.

Bleacher Report writer Lance Goldberg reported in October that Lance had left NDSU to prepare for the draft after the decision was made to postpone the season.

Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel wrote last week that 49ers General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan knew they were picking Lance, but allowed rumors to circulate that they were more interested in Alabama quarterback Mac Jones.

“We knew exactly where we were going and what we were doing,” Shanahan told reporters.  “He is a true quarterback in every aspect that he plays.  The skill set he has. How intelligent he is. How he handles himself.”