Sports | February 12, 2021 10:46 am

The Top NFL Prospect Who Could Play in the NCAA’s Weird Spring Football Season Is Skipping It

North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance won't play in the spring after playing one game in the fall

The Top NFL Prospect Who Could Play in the NCAA's Weird Spring Football Season Is Skipping It
Trey Lance of the North Dakota State Bison looks to pass.
Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty

Like many NCAA football teams, the North Dakota State Bison had their season drastically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although North Dakota State was able to play a game in the fall and scored a 39-28 victory over Central Arkansas in October, the Bison shifted the majority of their schedule to the spring and will play eight games in nine weeks starting the weekend of February 20 when the Missouri Valley Football Conference resumes play.

When the Bison finally return to the field against Youngstown State more than four months after being sidelined following their lone scheduled fall game, star quarterback Trey Lance, a projected first-round pick in April’s NFL draft, will not be on the field with his teammates.

Well, former teammates.

Lance, who ran for a pair of touchdowns and threw for two more in North Dakota State’s win over Central Arkansas in October, made the decision to sit out the spring and forgo his final two-plus seasons so he can enter the draft with a guaranteed clean bill of health.

In his only full season as a starter, Lance led the Bison to the first 16-0 record in college football since 1894 and was named the most outstanding player in North Dakota State’s 28-20 win over James Madison in the FCS national championship game.

Intercepted just once in 318 collegiate pass attempts, Lance completed 66.9% of his passes for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns while running 169 times for 1,100 yards and 14 scores while starting for North Dakota State in 2019.

Potentially the third quarterback off the board in April after Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State signal-caller Justin Fields are selected, Lance is virtually guaranteed to go in the top half of the draft and could easily come off the board in the top 10 thanks to outstanding stats and a season’s worth of good film.

Going in the top 10 would ensure Lance would get a guaranteed signing bonus of at least $10 million upon inking his first NFL contract, a reality that likely made his decision to sit out the NCAA’s strange spring football season a relatively easy one.

Many potential first-round picks, including Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley, Minnesota wideout Rashod Bateman, Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons and Miami defensive end Greg Rousseau, sat out the fall for the same reason and, with the start of the spring season being even closer to the actual draft, Lance staying on the sidelines makes all the sense in the world from a financial perspective.

“There’s a renaissance going on in sports with the younger generation and an understanding of the leverage they have and the power they have and the influence they have, and they’re understanding how the system is set up,” CJ LaBoy, an agent at Wasserman, told ESPN in October. “They’re the talent. They’re the entertainers who make money for their schools. They don’t make money from it, and guys don’t like that. They’re not going to put their livelihoods at risk for the good of the University of Whatever. These kids are significantly smarter than they get credit for. There are going to be players who throw their hands up and say, ‘I’m tired of this. I’m already putting my body on the line. I’m not going to take on more risk.’ … You’ll start to see players start defecting and start jumping.”

We already know Lance is jumping this spring. Don’t be surprised if others follow suit.

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