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Gold Standard: What is Trey Lance’s ceiling?

Let’s have a little fun for a change

There has been a lot of talk this week about reasonable expectations for Trey Lance this year, and rightfully so, given that he’s about to embark on his first season as the starting quarterback. What if we looked beyond year one, however? On today’s Gold Standard podcast, Levin Black and I put on our scarlet-colored glasses and wondered what it would look like if Kyle Shanahan and Trey Lance maximized their potential together.

By now, you know all the physical numbers, and you’ve seen all the highlights. No interceptions in his only full year at North Dakota State. The 21.54 MPH touchdown run that year, which was faster than all NFL quarterbacks. The fireballs to receivers in the NFL. There’s no question Lance has all the tools in the toolbox. The real question is, what does he do with them?

After I saw this video yesterday, I couldn’t stop comparing Steve Young and Trey Lance in my head.

Could Lance become a faster version of Steve Young if he achieved his full potential? George Kittle certainly had high praise for him on the I Am Athlete podcast last month.

“I think Trey’s got one of the highest ceilings I’ve ever seen before. Some of the things you see him do on the football field, you’re like, ‘Holy cow. I can’t wait until he throws me passes.’”

Levin was quick to talk me down.

“I can see the comparison, but Steve Young was the most accurate passer in the league in his era. It has since been surpassed because the league changed to where you can’t mug wide receivers up and down the field. Steve Young was incredibly, crazy accurate. I don’t see Trey Lance getting to that level in terms of accuracy.”

As usual, Levin brought the cold truth. For those who never had the good fortune to see Steve on the field, Young was the ultimate blend of mobility and accuracy. When he retired following the 1999 season, he had the highest career quarterback rating in NFL history, the highest completion percentage in NFL history, the second-most rushing yards by a quarterback in NFL history, and the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in NFL history. If he played today, he would be all but unstoppable.

To be clear, I’m not saying we should expect Trey Lance to become Steve Young. I’m not saying we should expect anything close to that. I tweeted my rather modest expectations for him this season yesterday. I just thought it might be fun to think about what it would look like if the 49ers hit the home run of all home runs when they took Trey third overall in 2021.

We’ve got a long time before the season begins in September. We can dream, right?

What do you think Trey Lance’s ceiling can be? Leave us a comment below, and be sure to listen to the Gold Standard podcast to hear the whole conversation!