Who the San Francisco 49ers’ would select with the third overall pick was professional football’s most notable and discussed question in the weeks leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft.
The talk began on March 25, when San Francisco traded up from No. 12 to No. 3, mortgaging their first-round draft future for years to come in order to procure the kind of starting quarterback who could lead the team into a new area of 49ers football.
The talk didn’t end Thursday night, after San Francisco’s big reveal, when they selected 20-year-old Trey Lance out of North Dakota State University.
Lance was moved to tears in the green room by the team’s decision, but was all smiles during his post-selection interview.
“Really emotional. Just super thankful,” Lance said. “Very blessed to be here.”
49ers Mysterious Selection of Dark Horse Trey Lance Who Ended up the Front Runner
The 49ers faithful breathed a collective sigh of relief in the immediate aftermath of the team’s selection of Lance, after weeks of anxiety that San Francisco would select Alabama quarterback Mac Jones.
Jones had been the favorite to earn the selection for much of the nearly five weeks between when the 49ers executed the trade with the Miami Dolphins to move up to No. 3 and draft night on Thursday, April 29.
The pick was an unknown and something of a surprise to just about everyone involved, including nearly all of the 49ers staff.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter said head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch didn’t even share the final decision with their coaches or their scouts, who found out about the team’s choice at the same time the fans did.
Ian Rapoport, of the NFL Network, spoke to sources for weeks about who the 49ers would select, and even though the decision was a two-man race by draft day, Rapoport was still surprised.
Rapoport continued on Twitter, writing that Lance is “One of the smartest QBs teams have talked to. Talent off the charts. Movement skills. And time to wait and learn.”
49ers Past and Present Praise Selection of Lance
San Francisco players and legends took to Twitter Thursday night to express their excitement about the Lance era beginning in the newly-dubbed “Trey Area.”
Hall of Famer Jerry Rice called the pick an “amazing decision” and referred to Lance as a “diamond in the rough.”
Starting running back Raheem Mostert sent a message that it’s time to look out for Lance even now, on day one of his tenure with the 49ers.
The social media accounts of the current 49ers starter, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, remained silent Thursday in the aftermath of the news that the team had selected Lance. Based on Lance’s limited collegiate experience, starting only 17 games in his career, it is highly likely Garoppolo will be the starter in Week 1 and remain the guy moving forward throughout at least a significant portion of the year.
But it is clear that while Garoppolo may be the team’s present, Lance will certainly relegate him to a name of the past. In the meantime, Lance had a message for the 49ers starter on draft night.
“I’m excited to learn from him,” Lance said of Garoppolo. “Everything he’s done.”