San Francisco 49ers

49ers QB Trey Lance knows what a fullback is, and that’s a good thing for San Francisco

If it was up to me, every quarterback would know what it’s like to rely on his fullback. But in today’s world of football, some players might not even know what a FB is.

Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. But not by much. The bruising FB position is more rare than ever in college and in the NFL.

But consider this: San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense relies heavily on FB Kyle Juszczyk, and his offense is a traditional “pro” scheme, involving pre-snap reads and play-action, as most offenses with fullbacks are.

So when it was time to select his quarterback of the future, he chose North Dakota State product Trey Lance. Not only is Lance physically gifted, he played with — yep — a fullback in college in a traditional pro offense.

Lance played in the most NFL-like offense of all the quarterbacks the 49ers considered. He took snaps under center and used play action on nearly a quarter of his dropbacks. The Bison even employed a fullback, a little-used position at the NFL level and one that’s even rarer in college football. 

Matt Barrows/The Athletic

That’s a huge bonus for Shanahan. Often, quarterbacks are drafted regardless of how much they’ll have to learn on offense. Having to teach a QB how to take a snap from under center, as opposed to the shotgun formation, can be a chore unto itself. But Lance is ready to go.

Here’s more insight from The Athletic’s 49ers draft coverage. Writer Bruce Feldman quoted Tyler Roehl and Randy Hedberg, Lance’s offensive coordinator and QB coach in college. Feldman noted that Lance, who measures 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds, amassed a 28-0 touchdown to interception ratio in 2019 and rushed for 1,100 yards as a redshirt freshman in a pro-style offense.

“Just handling shift-trade-motion can be difficult on a quarterback pre-snap,” Roehl said. NDSU gives its quarterback a lot of latitude at the line of scrimmage. The Bison set protections. They huddle.

“We’re not looking to the sideline to read a card or whatever it is,” Bison quarterbacks coach Randy Hedberg said. “I do think our system really prepares young men for the next level.”

Bruce Feldman/The Athletic

With his familiarity to the importance of the old-school fullback and traditional offensive concepts, Lance could be the ideal player to lead the 49ers franchise into the future. His physical gifts are obvious, and he’s ready-made for Shanahan’s scheme. In today’s NFL — fullback or not — dual-threat quarterbacks are taking over, and Lance is just that, but with a traditional, pro-ready twist.

(Photo credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

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