The 49ers’ quarterback position is the most fascinating in the entire NFL. Trey Lance, who the team moved heaven and earth to select with the third overall pick, begins his third season.
Brock Purdy was impressive when pressed into duty after losing Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo to season-ending injuries, but may not be healthy when the season begins. There’s also the little reclamation project of former overall number three pick, Sam Darnold.
In a perfect world, Purdy would begin the season with no issues since he performed so well last season. In a different perfect world, Trey Lance would have developed over time in 2022 and not broken his ankle.
Now, the question becomes: Is Trey Lance merely a placeholder, or can he regain his starting position?
Mike Clay of ESPN recently released his season-long statistical predictions for all 32 teams and their skill position players. Clay believes Purdy will return in Week 4 and take over for the remaining 14 games. According to Clay’s projection, Purdy’s season would finish with 293/444 (65.9 percent), 3,396 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, ten interceptions, and three rushing touchdowns.
How about Trey Lance’s numbers in his three-game stint? Clay has projected Lance to finish with 60/92 (65.2 percent), 690 passing yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions, 24 rushes, 106 rushing yards, and a rushing touchdown.
In comparison, Purdy’s first three games last season were: 48/69 (69.5 percent), with 636 passing yards, six touchdowns, one interception, and a rushing touchdown.
Extrapolating Lance’s three games over an entire season would put him in the range of 25+ total touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and over 4,200 total yards.
The question isn’t whether Lance is improved by the three-game sample size. It’s a clear improvement, but if the 49ers are 3-0 in the games started by Lance, do you turn it right back to Purdy?
Stat lines can be deceiving at times. Quarterbacks can finish with fine statistical days that are helped by a long catch and run, one or two big plays, or garbage time.
Opponents are another factor. Beating three of the bottom NFL teams isn’t as impressive as knocking off the Chiefs, Eagles, and Bills in consecutive weeks.
The eye test is the only real, reliable path to evaluation. Completion percentages can be boosted by screen passes and short or intermediate throws. Percentages can also be negatively affected by receivers and drops.
Ultimately, the decision will come down to how Lance looks during these games. If there are signs of growth and if optimism grows that this three-game sample size is the worst of his season with much more upside on the way, it makes for an interesting discussion, at least.
Winning football games is the metric that means the most to the 49ers organization.
What do you think? Is there any scenario in which Trey Lance doesn’t surrender the starting quarterback position?
Is there any way Lance can keep the QB1 spot?
This poll is closed
No sir, it’s Purdy time