Unlike most highly touted rookie quarterbacks, Trey Lance enters the NFL with no pressure to immediately perform.
The 49ers drafted Lance with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but still have Jimmy Garoppolo and all indications are that Garoppolo will be the starter in 2021 when the 49ers expect to vault back into Super Bowl contention. That's to say nothing of Lance's ability or how coach Kyle Shanahan feels about his future franchise quarterback.
But can Lance beat out Garoppolo for the starting job this season? It would surprise Shanahan but he won't rule it out.
"Yeah, there's a chance for that at every single position on our team," Shanahan told Michael Irvin on "The Michael Irvin Podcast" prior to the start of rookie minicamp. "There definitely is the way that you're saying about Trey. I'm not trying to give [Mike Florio] some big headline that he makes an annoying statement out of, but hell yeah there is! I think that would be very hard. Jimmy is a really good quarterback. He's not just coming in and trying to take out some bridge quarterback or something.
"Jimmy is a guy who we brought here to be our franchise quarterback, and it really worked out for one year. That doesn't mean it can't work out. We just hope he stays healthy. But Trey has that ability too. But he has only played one year of college football. He missed last season. So it's not coming in at all with me expecting that. I don't know what I expect. I expect him to be a real good player. I don't know if it's going to be this week, next week or next year, but I expect him to be a real good player and that's about where it ends. We'll see when he proves that he should be out there. But man, if one of our undrafted free agent pass rushers comes in and they are better than Nick Bosa, then they are going to play over Bosa in Week 1. Doesn't mean I think that's going to happen."
Lance took the practice field for the first time as a 49er on Friday at rookie minicamp, and showed why Shanahan made him the selection at No. 3 overall.
Lance, 21, has all the tools to become a star at the NFL level, but Garoppolo's presence gives the 49ers the ability to let Lance sit, learn and develop for a year before turning over the keys to Lance in 2022. It's a version of the plan the Kansas City Chiefs ran in 2017 when they had Patrick Mahomes sit behind Alex Smith before making him the starter in 2018.
San Francisco 49ers
Of course, Garoppolo's ability to stay healthy will be a huge determining factor in when or if Lance starts during his rookie season. If Garoppolo is healthy and is playing at the level he showed in 2019 then he likely will remain the starter unless Lance proves to be ahead of the curve in his development.
To Garoppolo's credit, he immediately reached out to Lance once the 49ers made the pick and is looking forward to competing with the man drafted to eventually take his job.
"The chip will always be there," Garoppolo told ESPN's "Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin". "That hasn't gone away at all. Since I got in the league, I've had that. I think that kind of comes from just the way you were raised and everything like that. My dad was an electrician, blue-collar guy and I think it kind of just rubs off on you.
"It's kind of the way the league is going nowadays. Everybody is drafting young, wants to get the developmental guy and things like that, so I kind of know what it is. I've been on both sides of it now, but at the end of the day, like I said earlier, all you can really ask for is the opportunity. Once you get that, you've got to take advantage of it."
For now, the job is Garoppolo's to lose. But don't count out Lance grabbing the job at some point in 2021 and never letting go.