Trey Lance trade: Regrading the 49ers trade up in draft with Dolphins

The 49ers had high hopes for Trey Lance when they traded for him in 2021. That trade has not fared as expected, but what grade would it get today?

Trey Lance, 49ers
Trey Lance, 49ers / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages

After just two years in the NFL, Trey Lance finds himself where no quarterback wants to be: Third on his team's depth chart entering the 2023 season.

Early reports on Sam Darnold getting the QB2 slot behind the 2022 emergent Brock Purdy indicate that Darnold won the spot much more than Lance lost it. Still, while his recently-announced placement on the depth chart for the San Francisco 49ers is partially due to the team's ability to find quality quarterbacks year after year in the draft and free agency, it also has to do with him not quite being where the Niners envisioned at this point in his career.

Consider that the Niners also gave up assets to grab Lance in the 2021 draft. Looking back, that trade to select Lance third overall was a massive reach.

Let's re-grade that trade, with the full-on caveat that this writer is wholeheartedly pulling for Lance to become the quarterback he was projected to grow into when he was drafted. Importantly, the guy is 23 years old with plenty of time ahead of him. Remember, he has attempted barely over 100 passes so far.

The Niners should applauded for seemingly finding a gem in Purdy and shoring up their depth chart with Darnold this offseason. Lance's demotion is largely circumstantial, and he could find a new team via a trade to get himself back closer to a starting role.


Re-grading Niners trade to draft Trey Lance in 2021 after he lands third on depth chart

The San Francisco 49ers traded a whopping four picks to land their now-QB3 in 2021. While the Dolphins initially owned three first-round picks in addition to a third-round pick, Miami wound up trading all of the first-round picks.

The players who were traded include linebacker Micah Parsons, guard Cole Strange, linebacker Channing Tindall, and defensive tackle Bryan Bresee.

It's somewhat challenging to compare across positions, but Pro Football Reference's approximate value stat that attempts to boil down a player's impact to a singular cumulative metric can help give some guidance. Here's how Lance and the picks that sent him out stand in AV:

  • Trey Lance: 4
  • Micah Parsons: 37
  • Cole Strange: 7
  • Channing Tindall: 1
  • Bryan Bresee: N/A

This doesn't look favorable for Lance. Even though one of the draft picks, Bressee, was essentially a dud, he's up against a cumulative 45 approximate value to just 4 on his own. For context, Purdy has an AV of six after his first season.

Despite the difficulty of properly comparing football players across different position groups, it's undeniable that three first-round picks and a third would be more impactful for the Niners than Lance has been thus far. Micah Parsons clearly stands above the rest as a flashy name.

Most of this is again, circumstantial and related to Lance's low play time and opportunity. We're grading the Niners trade here, not Lance's performance.

Ultimately, it's hard to grade this trade anything better than an F. Three first-round picks is a massive haul to send out for any player, and this is now . Trey Lance trade. trey lance trade. F. The Niners gave up a massive haul for a quarterback they have already relegated to third string

Now, if the Niners elect to trade Lance, there's a chance for Lance and his new home to make the trade look even worse.

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