Trey Lance Leaving North Dakota State to Focus on Training for 2021 NFL Draft

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistOctober 6, 2020

North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance (5) winds up to throw during the first half of the FCS championship NCAA college football game against James Madison, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Frisco, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Hodde)
Sam Hodde/Associated Press

Former North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance declared for the 2021 NFL draft Tuesday, per Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel.

Lance made his decision after North Dakota State announced in August it would not play football in the fall and would attempt to hold the season in the spring.

"It's a little bit mind-boggling for me," he told Thamel. "It's been a heck of a ride for the last year. I've learned a ton, I've grown a ton as a person and a football player. I honestly have to give all the credit to the guys around me, to the strength staff and coaching staff and guys I've played with."

Lance added that it "was the hardest decision I ever had to make in my life, without a doubt."

The Missouri Valley Football Conference postponed its season to the spring amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bison did end up playing one game, beating Central Arkansas 39-28 on Saturday. Lance finished 15-of-30 for 149 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.

Lance was already considered one of the top players in the 2021 NFL draft class. He was rated No. 4 overall by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller in his initial big board. The Minnesota native joins Clemson's Trevor Lawrence as the top quarterbacks available.

Even with just one full season playing at the college level, Lance was incredible as a redshirt freshman in 2019 while leading the Bison to an FCS championship.

The 6'4" quarterback finished last year with 2,786 passing yards and 28 touchdowns with zero interceptions in 16 games. He also added 1,100 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

In the FCS Championship Game, Lance took over with 160 rushing yards to lead his team to a win over James Madison. 

While some will question the numbers versus weaker competition, the quarterback has impressed scouts with both his physical and mental abilities on the field.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network compared Lance to Andrew Luck as a prospect, noting both had good athleticism and impressive maturity.

"More than anything else, these are two guys who exude confidence on the field," Jeremiah wrote. "They are fearless, but they avoid being reckless. That's a very delicate balance."

Considering he was just a freshman last year, there is still room for the talented player to grow.

The question for NFL teams is whether he has done enough to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft or close to it.

A limited amount of game tape against mostly inferior competition and what is in effect a whole year off could create too many question marks for teams trying to invest in a franchise quarterback. It puts more pressure on the predraft workouts for one of the most intriguing prospects in years.