Dave Birkett | Detroit Free Press
Brad Holmes likes the quarterback class in this year’s NFL draft and won’t rule out taking one at No. 7, and now the Detroit Lions are hitting the road to see one of the top prospects at the position.
North Dakota State coach Matt Entz said Thursday that Lions coach Dan Campbell is among the prominent NFL figures expected on campus Friday for quarterback Trey Lance’s pro day.
Entz said 30 of the NFL’s 32 teams will be represented and several general managers will be on hand, including the Chicago Bears’ Ryan Pace.
Lance is one of five quarterbacks who could go in the top five of the draft along with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, the expected No. 1 overall pick, BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Alabama’s Mac Jones.
The Lions have the seventh pick of the first round and could be in the market for a long-term answer at the quarterback position.
“I think he’s a franchise quarterback, I really do,” North Dakota State quarterbacks coach Randy Hedberg said. “I think he can carry a franchise with is personality and with his leadership, and I think he has that it factor. And I think that’s important. When a guy enters a room, you know who it is. And when he enters a room, you know who he is.”
Hedberg, a former quarterback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who coached NFL signal callers Carson Wentz and Easton Stick at NDSU, said Lance has similar qualities to Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“They’re both athletic,” Hedberg said. “I think they can change arm slots and make throws, different type of throws off platform, and I think they probably have been in systems that have helped them along the line at Clemson and also at North Dakota State. I think it helped Trey and the same thing with Watson, but I do think that’d be a comparison I’d make.”
Lance led the Bison to an FCS championship in his only season as starter in 2019, when he threw for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns and ran for 1,100 yards and 14 more scores.
Lance made one start in 2020 as the FCS season moved to spring. North Dakota State beat Central Arkansas in that game, when Lance accounted for 292 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns, but threw his first career interception.
The Lions will consummate their trade of Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff and three draft picks when the 2021 league year opens next week.
Goff is expected to start at quarterback for the rebuilding Lions this fall, but Holmes said in his virtual combine news conference he “like(s) the crop of quarterbacks that are coming out in this year’s draft,” and acknowledged the need to consider all options in the first round.
With Goff aboard, the Lions would have the luxury of letting Lance sit for a season to get acquainted to the NFL, something Goff did for part of his rookie year with the Rams (when Holmes was college scouting director), something first-round picks Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield did for part of their rookie years (after they were drafted by Lions executive John Dorsey), and something Hedberg said would be beneficial to Lance.
“I’m going to say this because when I was a rookie in the NFL, I played and I wasn’t ready to play, and I think it really affected me,” Hedberg said. “And I said the same thing when Carson came out, I would hope that he was able to sit back and learn from a veteran player, and same with Easton when we had Easton here. I always feel it’s tough on a rookie to come into the NFL and start right away in their rookie season, whomever it is. And I just think there’s a lot of learning and the speed of the game picks up. So I really believe that it would help any rookie quarterback to come in and learn from somebody, learn the intricacies of the game and also the speed of the game.
“But I do think he’s one of the guys that from a knowledge standpoint and an ability to process quickly, Trey has that. He can process at the line of scrimmage as quick as anybody I’ve coached. And I think he’s able to see protections and he’s able to see coverages very well. And I think it’s going to be a little bit more complex, obviously, at the NFL level than the college level but I think he’ll learn that game as he progresses through his game in the NFL.”