Analyzing Trey Lance’s 2023 Fantasy Football Outlook

Trey Lance Fantasy Football

Trey Lance warrants significant attention for early best ball drafters and dynasty players because he’s in a rare position. I’ve watched every snap he’s taken with the San Francisco 49ers, which has driven my stance on him in fantasy football.

Lance’s Obvious Upside

Elite Supporting Cast

Lance joined a playoff team with stable pass protection, a high-end play caller and an elite group of skill players. The closest, most recent parallel for his landing spot is when Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs selected Patrick Mahomes. First-round quarterbacks don’t frequently land in a situation this good. Lance’s career has gone in the complete opposite direction of Mahomes’.

The primary reason your stance on Lance is important in early best ball or dynasty is that any 49ers quarterback is set up for success. His value would immediately decrease if he were traded to just about any other team in the league.

Premium Draft Capital, Age

Lance was the third overall pick in 2020, and he’ll turn 23 years old in May. He’s a top-of-the-draft talent San Francisco traded up for and is still young. As a prospect, he still has time.

Lance’s Running Ability 

Quarterbacks with significant value as a runner can win your fantasy football league. Lance is one of those guys, which is another reason we’re having this conversation.

Causes for Concern

Doesn’t Look Ready

Mike Martz ran one of the best offenses in the history of the NFL when he was with the Rams. There aren’t many people on the planet who know more about offensive football than Martz does. You should watch the video above and read every word of Martz’s analysis of the 49ers’ quarterback situation here

A few other details about Lance’s limited NFL experience concern me. One involves Lance’s first NFL start against the Arizona Cardinals in 2021. 

The game plan against Arizona was so conservative it became clear Kyle Shanahan didn’t have a lot of confidence in Lance. It wasn’t quite as run-centric and conservative as the Tennessee Titans‘ game plans for Malik Willis last season, but it was in the same ballpark. That Cardinals game left a lasting impression. I’m still not sure I’ve ever seen a professional quarterback run more quarterback power in a game.

Second, it’s popular to throw out Lance’s opening-day struggles against the Chicago Bears because of the weather. That’s utterly fair from a production standpoint. In fact, I don’t care about the 49ers’ offensive struggles in that game. I do care that Lance played significant snaps in three games as a rookie, yet the game still looked too fast for him against one of the league’s worst defenses.

The weather significantly impacted the game, but the rain didn’t make Lance a slow decision-maker throughout that contest. Lance wasn’t ready on opening day last season.

Pressure Struggles

If you can’t manage pressure, you won’t be a successful quarterback in the league. It’s one of the sneaky deal-breakers for the position. To this point, Lance is a liability in pressure management despite having one of the best-supporting casts in football.

Lance’s Limited Experience

Lance has started only four games and came on in relief in another through his first two years. He only has 102 passing attempts as a pro after only 318 in college. North Dakota State’s opponents aren’t exactly filled with future NFL players. 

In many ways, Lance remains a complete unknown.

49ers are Title Contenders

San Francisco has lost in the NFC Championship two years in a row while losing in the Super Bowl in 2019. Their top-of-the-food-chain roster has driven that recent success. That said, they have too much premium talent to keep their roster intact under the salary cap for much longer. The San Francisco 49ers are a win-now team.

It’s fair to speculate the 49ers drafted Lance as a highly talented, developmental quarterback that would take a year or two to get ready. 2023 is year three for Lance, and the time is now for the 49ers.

Other Options

Brock Purdy

Arguably your biggest concern about Lance is Brock Purdy. The last pick in last year’s draft walked right in and blew anything Lance has done out of the water. Watching Purdy take over for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo against a white-hot Miami Dolphins team was an unexpectedly fascinating experience. Garoppolo is a good NFL quarterback, and the 49ers’ offense improved with Purdy.

Even if Lance opens the season as the starter, if the 49ers are trudging around with a .500 record, it’ll be hard for them not to insert Purdy once he’s recovered from elbow surgery. If Purdy is prepared for the opener, it would be a surprise if he wasn’t the starter, given what he did last season. General manager John Lynch said as much at the NFL owners’ meetings this week. 

Sam Darnold

The Panthers went 4-2 with Sam Darnold under center last season. The Carolina Panthers got off to a 3-0 start the year before with Darnold. He’s volatile, but he’s a former third-overall pick who will turn 26 in June.

Darnold recently took a one-year, $4.5 million deal to play in San Francisco. Jarrett Stidham signed with the Denver Broncos for two years, $10 million. Taylor Heinicke signed with the Atlanta Falcons for two years, $14 million. Mike White signed with the Dolphins for two years, $8 million.

If you read between the lines, Darnold signed with San Francisco because he thinks he has a shot at playing. If he does, there isn’t a better spot in the league for any quarterback to change the course of their career.


I’m going to hit you right on the nose with this: Lance has been terrible to this point in his professional career. Plain and simple. He’ll need to be an entirely different player to be a factor this season.

Given his age, premium draft capital and tremendous supporting cast, a lofty outcome is genuinely possible. In fantasy football, treat Lance as a high-upside play, given his rushing ability and supporting cast with a backup quarterback’s floor. The floor is more likely than the ceiling.

Long term, if Lance stumbles and the 49ers trade him, it’s hard to imagine he’ll improve with a worse supporting cast on his new team. Lance’s best shot to make an impact in the NFL is to start on opening day because Purdy is hurt and then crush his opportunity right out of the gate.

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