The quarterback dominoes fell powerfully and predictably at the outset of the NFL draft Thursday night.
For the third time in NFL history, and first since 1999, the first three selections all were quarterbacks. The Jaguars consumed all 10 minutes of their allotted time on the draft’s clock to announce they were selecting Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence — a foregone conclusion for months.
The Jets followed by selecting Brigham Young’s Zach Wilson at No. 2. The 49ers — whose pick has been a percolating subject of speculation — surprised many (including their own personnel) by selecting North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, who started 17 games at the Division I-AA level.
Immediate speculation centered on when — or if — Lance will unseat 49ers incumbent Jimmy Garoppolo in 2021.
“I think a 20-year-old Trey Lance with 17 I-AA starts needs to sit,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said.
Lance, who turns 21 on May 9, crashed the NFL radar in 2019, leading North Dakota State to an unbeaten season and I-AA national title. He threw 28 touchdown passes and no interceptions in 287 attempts, and ran for 1,100 yards and 14 TDs.
He opted to begin preparing for the NFL draft last fall when his team’s games were moved to the spring due to the coronavirus.
“I’m excited to learn from (Garoppolo), everything he’s done,” Lance told ESPN. “He’s a mentor for me, I’m super excited to get there and learn as much as I possibly can.”
In 1999, Kentucky’s Tim Couch (Browns) was the first overall pick, followed by Syracuse’s Donovan McNabb (Eagles) and Oregon’s Akili Smith (Bengals). In 1971, Stanford’s Jim Plunkett went first overall to the Patriots, followed by Ole Miss’ Archie Manning (Saints) and Santa Clara’s Dan Pastorini (Oilers.)
• • •
Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.