A year ago on Saturday, the 49ers pulled the trigger on a monster trade with the Dolphins to move up to No. 3 overall in the 2021 draft, where they selected North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance.
In the deal, they sent their 2021, 2022 and 2023 first-round picks, along with a compensatory 2022 third-round pick (No. 102 overall). The ripple effects of the deal will continue for years depending on how the 49ers do and what happens to the picks they traded.
A year after the trade, though we’re no closer to knowing if the deal was good for San Francisco. The quarterback game is so important in the NFL that virtually no cost is too high to find an elite franchise signal caller. Three first-round picks and a third-round pick is a big investment, but it’s worth the price if the result is a QB who has a team in contention every year.
The problem in evaluating this trade for the 49ers is the question mark that still lingers over Lance. He started two games in 2021 with mixed results. There were flashes of brilliance mixed with some head-scratching goofs. Discerning anything about Lance’s future, positive or negative, from those two games is impossible.
All of that will change in 2022. The 49ers had a plan when they drafted the super-talented, inexperienced FCS star. They wanted to sit him out in Year 1, then start in Year 2 while loosely following the script the Chiefs wrote in 2017 with Patrick Mahomes and Alex Smith. All signs point to them continuing down that path with Lance as the starter this season.
Once Lance gets real reps as a QB1 and a handful of starts under his belt, he can begin judging the 49ers’ blockbuster trade on March 26, 2021. Until then he’s floating in purgatory and the anniversary of the trade is coming up. stands out as a turning point. We’re still not sure if that tipping point leads to a Super Bowl or a catastrophic disappointment.