A month before the 2021 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers shocked the football world as they traded from the 12th overall pick to the third slot to select their new franchise QB, Trey Lance.
There was only one problem. Lance wasn’t the franchise QB the 49ers had hoped for. Less than three years later, the 49ers dealt the promising youngster to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick.
Lance needed a fresh start in the worst way and can sit and develop under Cowboys’ signal-caller Dak Prescott relatively pressure-free. Now that Lance’s tenure as a 49er is officially over, it’s time to revisit the original trade that sent him to San Francisco.
Why Did the 49ers Trade Up?
San Francisco and the coaching staff, namely head coach Kyle Shanahan, thought they had gone as far as they could with a journeyman under center. Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t possess the upside the 49ers coveted, so they made the big move to trade up.
Daily reminder that the 49ers traded 3 1st round picks and 1 3rd round pick to trade up to the 3rd overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to select Trey Lance just for him to not even play 2 complete regular season games for them… https://t.co/0czXZIUk5z
— John (@YaBoyyyJohn) August 25, 2023
Who Did the 49ers Trade Up For?
Lance, obviously. Right? Not so fast. Many around the league and the 49ers speculate the 49ers made the move up, not knowing who they would select a month later in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Some speculate the 49ers originally coveted Alabama QB and future New England Patriot Mac Jones. Others report the 49ers’ GM, John Lynch, wanted Ohio State QB and future Chicago Bear Justin Fields.
It’s official. The 49ers decision to give up 3 first round picks to move up and draft Trey Lance is THE WORST DRAFT DAY MOVE OF ALL TIME. Only reason Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch aren’t fired is they hit on the last pick of last year’s draft in Brock Purdy. Now Trey has been…
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) August 25, 2023
Eventually, the rumors are that Shanahan became infatuated with what Lance could do as a runner and a passer and saw him as the ideal mold of clay for him to develop. Lance became the choice, and as they say, the rest is history.
What Were the Trade Details?
49ers receive: Third pick in the 2021 NFL Draft (Trey Lance)
Dolphins receive: 12th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, 2022 first-round pick, 2022 third-round pick, and 2023 first-round pick
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 26, 2021
What Were the Ripple Effects of the Trey Lance Trade?
The Dolphins would immediately trade back up from the 12th pick to the sixth in a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Dolphins coveted a dynamic playmaker, so they drafted Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle with the sixth pick. Pairing Waddle with free agent acquisition Tyreek Hill has caused headaches for teams around the NFL.
Miami turned their 49ers picks into Bradley Chubb, Tyreek Hill, and Jaylen Waddle.
In the 2021 NFL Draft the Miami Dolphins trade back from the #3 spot. The 49ers selected Trey Lance with that pick
Miami acquired: Two 1st’s & 1st rd pick swap
Miami turned that into:
OLB – Bradley Chubb
WR – Tyreek Hill
WR – Jaylen Waddle
🐬GM Chris Grier deserves a 🏆
— Dynasty Dish (@drakecapps) August 21, 2023
The Eagles were thrilled to move down from the sixth selection to the 12th pick to secure a future first-round pick. The Eagles didn’t stay put, as they moved up with the Dallas Cowboys, the unlikeliest of trade partners, to select Alabama WR DeVonta Smith.
— NFL (@NFL) May 4, 2021
But wait…there’s more! The Eagles entered the 2022 NFL Draft with three first-round selections and were savvy enough to deal one of those picks and a third-rounder to the Tennessee Titans for WR A.J. Brown.
Moving down from the sixth selection provided the flexibility the Eagles needed to add the dynamic duo of Smith and Brown.
The Eagles moved up from the 12th pick to the 10th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft partly due to the New York Giants reportedly being interested in DeVonta Smith. The Eagles leapfrogged the Giants to get their man, but what happened next helped another franchise.
Hope the @49ers get Justin Fields vs Trey Lance draft comparisons for every Fields TD this season. Just like what Bears fans were subjected to for 4 years anytime Mahomes breathed.
— Joe (@J_schaip) August 26, 2023
The Chicago Bears were searching for a franchise savior and saw Ohio State QB Justin Fields still on the board. The Bears called the Giants and made a deal to move up in the draft, sending a future first-rounder to do so. Chicago drafted the player they thought would be the future of their franchise in Fields.
The Dallas Cowboys moved down from the 10th pick to the 12th selection and selected DE/LB Micah Parsons from Penn State.
Parsons has developed into one of the best defensive players in the NFL.
San Francisco 49ers
We have come full circle. The 49ers selected QB Brock Purdy with the final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Lance was injured early in the 2022 season, followed by another injury to Jimmy Garoppolo.
Enter Mr. Irrelevant, Purdy. The rookie signal-caller played out of this world, leading the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game. Purdy is now the future of the 49ers’ franchise, and his quick development made Lance expendable in the first place.