The Denver Broncos have a quarterback problem. No, the Broncos do not lack a quarterback but after two years of up-and-down play, Drew Lock, a former second-round pick with arm talent and athleticism, warrants optimism.
However, given the exceedingly talented, top-heavy QB class in 2021, the overwhelming expert opinion is that the 2022 quarterback class is putrid. If Denver's best-laid plans thus far pan out, it'll result in a lower draft pick in 2022.
As it stands, the Broncos have just two years left of roster control on Lock, who has suffered injuries in each season that led to missed games, the team doesn't lack a QB, but rather it doesn't know if it has The Guy under center.
With so many mock drafts projecting that the first four picks off the board in 2021 could be quarterbacks in Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, BYU's Zach Wilson, Ohio State's Justin Fields, and North Dakota State's Trey Lance, even picking at No. 9 overall, the Broncos may not have a chance to go up and get one of them.
Getting such a QB athlete in Denver, on top of how valuable rookie signal-caller contracts are in building a complete roster in today’s NFL, it wouldn’t be surprising if teams were tripping over themselves trying to move up to select one of the top prospects in this draft class. Picking at No. 9 is not a bad spot to be to move up for a QB, but it will in all likelihood require a trade up for the Broncos.
It seems exceedingly likely that the first two QBs off the board will be Lawrence to the Jaguars at No. 1 and Wilson to the Jets at 2. After that, though, things get interesting with Fields and Lance.
Who will be the team to bet on the upside of one of those two QBs and move up? And better yet, which QB will come off the board first?
In a recent interview done on Bleacher Report’s Draft Crash Course show, NFL analyst Connor Rogers laid out why he has Fields ranked fourth overall on his 2021 big board, and why Fields would not only be a great fit for Denver, but Denver would be the best fit for Fields while hinting at the Broncos perhaps moving up to land him.
The one that I like the best is the Denver Broncos, honestly, coming up from the No. 9 spot. They are picking at No. 9 and No. 40. Maybe that’s all it takes to jump up a couple spots. Maybe you go up to No. 4 and Atlanta is good enough with that. The reason I look at the Broncos is that where he is throwing the ball, it’s 20-plus yards. What do they have? Cortland Sutton, KJ Hamler. Jerry Juedy is a guy that will work in the intermediate/underneath range. But all three of those guys can win big down the field. And when they don’t, Fields can take off and run and make a play and pick up extra yards. I think we will see somebody be aggressive and go up and get him and I think the Broncos are the most seamless fit of them all.
Will the Broncos move up for a quarterback and would Paton be so bold as to trade up for a QB his first year on the job? In the NFL if you don’t have a QB, your season is effectively over before it even begins.
If Denver can move up for a QB of its choosing and secure a tantalizing prospect on a five-year, cost-controlled contract, the decision-makers should in the least consider it. If Fields ‘slips’, GM George Paton should call to see if the price is worth the chance to secure an upper-tier quarterback prospect.
Background on Fields
While Fields has been the subject of much criticism, almost mimicking that of Deshaun Watson when he was in the 2017 draft, Rogers discussed what makes Fields such an intriguing talent in today's NFL landscape.
The people that don’t like Fields will point you to the Northwestern game and the people who do like Fields will point you to the Clemson game. Quite frankly, the type of player he is is probably somewhere in between that. He is a great one. What I love about Fields is, the arm strength is really good. The deep throwing, especially when they (Ohio State ) had [WR Chris] Olave on the field was as good as anyone's. He can really push the ball down the field. There is no throw on the field that he feels he can’t make.
When you talk about a ‘real’ runner, not as a 'Hey, I need to scramble and I need to buy more time and I will take what’s there.' No. Justin Fields will run and lower his shoulder against a linebacker. He will try to make a defensive back miss to try to pick up not seven years but 10, 15, 20. A great leader. Since the day he transferred to Ohio State, came in and really owned that locker room and got the respect of that locker room and won a lot of big games.
Everybody’s knock on Justin Fields is that he holds the ball too long. A lot of college quarterbacks do, that’s just something you have to coach out of these young guys. I think whoever ends up with Justin Fields as long as they develop him the right way, he can be a really good one.
Some have compared Fields to Watson and his ‘greediness’ to hang in the pocket and stick on his first read too long. Some of that is Fields wanting to hunt for big plays down the field and some of that is likely due to the specifics of the Ohio State offense that utilizes so many slow-developing options routes. If Fields could develop into a Watson-caliber QB, even if Lock is good, the Broncos should consider.
Others have compared Fields to Ryan Tannehill, who quarterbacks a supreme Titans offense that can operate an offense with extremely high efficiency, push the ball vertically, and utilize his supporting cast's superior athleticism to stress defenses and move the chains when opportunity knocks. Tannehill does not always show the best anticipation and touch and will not always throw guys open, but his offensive structure and other skills make up for these deficiencies.
Does the past lack of success for former Ohio State QBs scare off the Broncos? According to Football Outsider’s QB analyst Derrik Klassen, that line of thinking is exceedingly ignorant and not based on reality.
Klassen writes: “Fields is a legitimate first-overall caliber prospect. In a class with Trevor Lawrence, Fields should not actually go first overall in 2021, but he is good enough to have been the first quarterback off the board in almost every draft class over the past decade.”
As the old adage goes, scout the player not the helmet.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickKendellMHH.
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