Why Trey Lance could be Falcons’ first-round pick

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Kelsey Conway

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Editor’s note: This is the third of 10 prospect profiles on players who could be the Falcons’ first-round pick.

There are three scenarios for the Atlanta Falcons in terms of what they could do with the No. 4 overall pick at this moment. Draft a quarterback, select the best non-quarterback prospect or trade back and acquire more picks.

What general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith will do with their first-round pick remains one of the biggest questions ahead of the NFL Draft. It’s likely that the first three picks will be quarterbacks, making the Falcons’ spot that much more interesting. If they stay put and select a quarterback, they’ll be in a position to get one of the top prospects considering there’s five projected to go in the first round. If they opt to go in a different direction, they could receive a great offer from a team that wants one of the quarterbacks still on the board.

If the Falcons do want to take a quarterback, one of the prospects who could be available is Trey Lance out of North Dakota State. Lance and Justin Fields are the two quarterbacks who have been mocked to Atlanta the most.

Lance, 20, is one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft because of where he played and the limited reps he has on his tape as a starter. The 6-foot-4, 224-pound dual-threat quarterback only stared one year at the FCS level, leading to the questions surrounding the level of competition he played against. North Dakota State decided to move their season to the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so Lance was unable to compete in the fall and opted to enter the NFL Draft.

In the 18 starts he did make, Lance completed 193 passes for 2,798 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also added 1,110 yards on the ground on 169 attempts and 16 touchdowns.

Why he fits with the Falcons

Praised for his high football IQ, Lance is the type of player offensive coordinators want to have in the quarterback room. If Lance were to be the Falcons’ pick at No. 4, he’ll benefit from sitting behind and learning from one of the smartest and most diligent quarterbacks in Matt Ryan.

With Smith implementing a new offense in Atlanta that will have a big emphasis on the run game, Lance’s athleticism would give the Falcons more options for how they can attack. The play-action part of Smith’s offense is another reason why having a quarterback who is known for his smart decision making like Lance is important.

One of the main reasons why Smith was one of the most popular candidates on the head coaching circuit this year was the creativity he displayed when running Tennessee’s offense over the last two seasons. Lance’s speed, frame and ability to anticipate would allow Atlanta’s new signal-caller to implement new wrinkles to his already potent offensive scheme.

Expert analysis:

“One-year starter who dazzled in 2019. Lance is mature for his age, but will be just 20 years old at the time of the 2021 NFL Draft. He’s a rare dual-threat quarterback in that he’s tasked with setting his own protections and reading the full field. Coaches rave about his football IQ and film work. They believe he will come into the league more football savvy than most of the quarterbacks in this draft. Tape shows very average arm strength but velocity should improve with better lower-body drive. While his recognition of coverage danger is a plus, he’s currently more of a “yellow light” quarterback who needs to find a “green light” risk-taking mentality to become a playmaking talent in the NFL. An offensive coordinator willing to blend his run/pass talent with a play-action attack could get the most out of Lance, who should become a good NFL starter.” – Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

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