Take a deep breath, y'all.
Can we slow the Trey Lance Hype Train from 500 miles per hour to maybe 25 mph?
I would flat-out say the North Dakota State sophomore-to-be quarterback will not be the fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft next year, nor the 15th, nor in the first round or even in the draft at all. It should be that easy.
But as I type this sentence the world is shut down from a virus most didn't know existed three months ago. So to say something will never happen doesn't seem like the brightest move, given the current circumstances.
What started as a wisp of smoke has turned to a towering inferno when it comes to Lance and it appears there's no turning back.
A feature story on Lance on The Athletic web site mentioned NFL teams were aware of Lance. Then draft analyst Matt Miller, respected and connected (and with nearly a quarter-million Twitter followers), put Lance as the fourth pick overall in his first 2021 mock draft. Sports Illustrated had him going in the first round to the New England Patriots. Pro Football Focus mentioned Lance in a list of QBs to watch.
And then, the mother of all turbo-boosts: Mel Kiper Jr., the most well-known draft analyst with the biggest sports platform in the land, said on ESPN that Lance was the top under-the-radar prospect for the 2021 draft and listed him as the 15th-ranked college player.
Good for Lance. Fun for the fans and Fargo media. Great for NDSU.
Of all the national publicity recruiting aids the Bison been given in the last decade, this one is unprecedented. The oracle of draft analysts trumpeting their young quarterback as a top 15 player.
Finding out what Lance thinks about this tsunami will have to wait. He declined comment through an athletic department spokesman. Bison head coach Matt Entz also declined to comment on the subject, as did Trey's father and mentor Carlton Lance.
Miller, the draft analyst, didn't respond to a message. An ESPN spokeswoman said Kiper Jr. might be available at a later date for an interview or podcast.
So it's left to me to comb through the hyperbole and decide how much of this is real, knowing full well that people like Miller and Kiper are well-connected with NFL personnel types. They are not making up the idea that some NFLers believe Lance can play in the league and that his potential is nearly limitless. They know their stuff.
I, too, believe Lance will be an NFL quarterback someday, for what little that's worth.
So I say what I'm about to say knowing all that.
First, I don't believe Lance will leave NDSU after his sophomore season — whatever that season looks like with the present goings-on. He is remarkably grounded for such a young man and believe his parents to be the same. It just doesn't seem reasonable for this family to make the decision for Trey to leave college after two seasons. Just don't see it.
Let's all remember, Lance is 19 years old and has played one season against Football Championship Subdivision competition. Sixteen games. He's still a kid by most standards, particularly those by which the NFL judges quarterbacks. To put him as the fourth or 15th overall pick based on that seems a bit much.
One respected draft analyst I spoke with, Dane Brugler of The Athletic, said this: "Scouts that I've talked to say he has the potential to be a first-rounder, but isn't there quite yet. What he did last year was great, but he'll be drafted more on how he performs in 2020."
The potential. That is where so much of the excitement lies. Lance has the body (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) and is extremely intelligent and poised. He owns a pocket presence and an ability to move far beyond his years. His arm is stronger than his NDSU predecessor and fifth-round draft pick Easton Stick's, but not as big as that of former Bison and No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz. He is athletic, fast, strong, tough.
Lance is miles ahead of the quarterback curve compared to where Wentz and Stick were going into their sophomore seasons. Heck, Wentz didn't even play as a sophomore.
It's all there.
But it's far from finished.
At various points last season, including late, Bison coaches praised Lance's ability to read a defense and get NDSU's blockers into a proper pass protection while also pointing out Lance needed to improve to get his team into the best protection. A seemingly minor item to the untrained eye, especially since Lance was sacked so few times and didn't throw an interception, but a major one when talking about leaping from FCS to a top-five draft pick.
Lance, too, has fundamental and mechanical issues that need improvement. He missed throws, either from hurrying, messy footwork or being late with a read. He seemed particularly to struggle with bootleg and roll-out throws, missing wide open receivers. Again, a product of youth.
Even Kiper says Lance is "a tough evaluation" because so much of his game is predicated on running.
And, frankly, it'd be nice to see how Lance performs against a top-flight FBS team like Oregon. Will that game even be played? Seems doubtful at this point.
There's just so much we don't know because Lance is so young.
None of this is to suggest Lance isn't terrific. He is. The up far outweighs the down. My gravestone will read: "I'll still never understand how the big schools missed on Trey Lance."
But can we withhold anointing a teenage quarterback with 16 college starts under his belt, and FCS ones at that, as a first-round draft pick next year? At least until we see another 15 starts and he actually declares for the draft? Or is that asking too much in the pent-up coronavirus-fueled nuttiness in which we live?
I'm afraid I know the answer.