FARGO — Two ESPN NFL Draft analysts disagree on North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance.
Longtime draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said Tuesday, Oct. 6, that North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance is the No. 3 prospect at that position for the upcoming NFL Draft after Lance's performance against Central Arkansas last Saturday. Some thought Lance could ascend to the No. 2 spot. ESPN Draft analyst Todd McShay said Lance is right there in the conversation for the second QB.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is regarded as the clear-cut No. 1 prospect at QB and likely the No. 1 overall selection.
Lance and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields are vying for that second QB spot, according to most analysts. The 6-foot-4, 226-pound Lance, a redshirt sophomore, told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday he was declaring early for the NFL Draft.
“I think Trey Lance right now is not challenging Justin Fields, he’s got to hold off other guys," Kiper said on ESPN's "Get Up" morning sports show. "He's the third quarterback right now, but his performance Saturday, like I say, was less than stellar.”
Lance completed 15 of 30 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in a 39-28 victory against the Bears. He also rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 15 attempts. Making his 17th career start, Lance threw the first interception of his college career.
“He did not perform to the level expected," Kiper said. "His ball placement, his overall accuracy, he was below 50% a lot of that game, got to 50% when the game ended. He beat them with his legs, not his arm.”
McShay doesn't think there is a big separation between Fields and Lance, even after Saturday's game. The three-time defending NCAA Division I FCS champion Bison are playing one game this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Central Arkansas game is the lone game Lance played his sophomore season before entering the NFL Draft.
“He didn’t play to his level, but I’ll say this, when I study the tape, the big picture … I think he’s just as good as Justin Fields, I really do," McShay said. "I don’t think there is a big separation between the two. Justin Fields has a lot of strong qualities, but I love the way that Lance is so sudden. The ball is out. He’s able to extend plays. He’s what the NFL is looking for in a quarterback today.”
Lance is coming off a freshman season where he completed 67% (192 of 287) passes in 16 starts. He passed for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns with no interceptions. Lance also rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Kiper said he thought Lance had a chance to challenge Fields for the No. 2 quarterback spot with an "awe-inspiring performance" against Central Arkansas, which has an NFL Draft prospect at cornerback in Robert Rochell.
“The bottom line is he said he wasn’t rusty, I think he was pressing," Kiper said of Lance. "All eyes were on him, that was the first game of the year for them. You can’t assimilate game situations in practice.”
Lance improved his accuracy as the game progressed against Central Arkansas. He completed 4 of 5 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter. In the third quarter, he completed 5 of 9 passes for 46 yards with his lone interception.
Lance was 6 of 16 passing for 47 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He was 1 of 6 for 14 yards in the opening quarter.
McShay said a lot of NFL evaluators don't have "much of a different" grade on Fields compared to Lance.
“I think that Lance is really underrated," McShay said.
Former NFL and Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, now an analyst, added Fields and Lance are far behind Lawrence.
“Trevor Lawrence is by far, by far the quarterback prospect in this upcoming draft," McElroy said.
"I think the gap between Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields is wider than the gap is between Justin Fields and Trey Lance."