On April 20, 2016, six days after the Los Angeles Rams acquired the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft in a trade with the Tennessee Titans and the right to select either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz, the Philadelphia acquired the No. 2 pick from the Cleveland Browns and the right to select whichever quarterback the Rams passed on, though, for all intents and purposes, it was widely believed the Eagles acquired the rights to select Wentz based on reporting of the Rams’ intention to select Goff.
Even without reporting of the Rams’ intentions from NFL Network’s Michael Silver and others, we knew the Eagles didn’t really have a choice with the No. 2 overall pick. If Goff went No. 1, they’d draft Wentz. If Wentz went No. 1, they’d draft Goff.
Five years later, another North Dakota State quarterback is in the mix for a top selection after another quarterback-needy team, the San Francisco 49ers, dealt three first-round picks for the right to select Trey Lance … or Justin Fields … or Mac Jones.
And since that trade, we’ve read the tea leaves, wondered if Steve Young knows Kyle Shanahan’s preference, and revisited tape of Robert Griffin III in Shanahan’s Washington offense eight years ago. We’ve seen Mac Jones’ boot-action dropback numbers and thought Shanahan’s 2017 reported pursuit of Kirk Cousins meant something in 2021.
We don’t know if any of that means anything. Even the 49ers’ assistant coaches might not know, as Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported last week:
“When Kyle Shanahan went to assistant coaches Mike McDaniel, Rich Scangarello and Bobby Slowik, among others, for assessments on the quarterback class in January and February, as he and John Lynch mulled a big move up the draft board, he didn’t share his own evaluation with those guys.”
As of April 13, Jones has the best NFL Draft odds to be the No. 3 pick (-200), followed by Fields at +180 and Lance at +450. If Breer, Adam Schefter, Daniel Jeremiah, and other NFL insiders don’t know whom the 49ers are selecting, you don’t know, either.
That means you must identify betting value, of which Jones has little given his lack of boot-action dropback experience, widespread belief the 49ers wouldn’t trade two future first-round picks to select an athletically inferior quarterback, and the 49ers’ chances of landing Jones with a non-top-three pick that didn’t require mortgaging as much draft capital.
Fields has some NFL Draft betting value given his potential immediate impact and tailor-made athletic talents for a multi-dimensional offensive system, and Lance has a lot. But not because of what we know; Lance has a lot because of what we don’t know.
We don’t know how the 49ers view Lance’s skill set. We don’t have their scouting report on the 6-foot-3, 224-pounder with 9 ⅛-inch hands and one interception in 318 career pass attempts. And unless you’re an NFL Draft film grinder who’s watched hours of tape on prospects for at least a decade, you’re not qualified to project the 49ers’ potential interest in Lance.
And that’s okay.
I’m not an NFL Draft film grinder. I pour over scouting reports and film breakdowns from those who grind. I trust Jeremiah, Kyle Crabbs, Matt Miller, Ben Fennell, Todd McShay, and others when they gush over Lance’s zone-read potential, sideline-to-sideline accuracy, and improved footwork inside the pocket. Or when they say his inexperience means small nuances of the position aren’t developed yet and he needs to become a more calculated runner.
If film grinders and NFL insiders believe Lance is a strong candidate for the No. 3 pick, that’s enough validation of value at his price (+450). In this case, it’s what everyone doesn’t know that gives Lance value.
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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM