Stop me if you've heard this one before: the Denver Broncos need to find a solution at the quarterback position. The perpetual parade of not-good-enough under center to contend in the quarterback-rich AFC West has to come to an end eventually, right?
If the Broncos cannot find their quarterback in the draft, the next best thing they can do is simply find and draft good players. With the draft discussion coming down to scheme, positional value, etc, in the end, it really is simple: draft good players and good things happen.
The Athletic's Dane Brugler did just that in his 2022 mock draft 2.0 with the Broncos selecting Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd with the ninth overall selection.
The Broncos said 'no thanks' to Justin Fields and Mac Jones at No. 9 overall last year. Will Paton pass on the quarterback position again a year later?
We’ll see if Denver is able to find an upgrade at the position prior to the draft or if it buys into one of the quarterbacks in this draft class. The Broncos landed an impact defender with the ninth pick last year and could do so again with Lloyd.
A former safety, Lloyd has outstanding eyes and explosion to drive downhill (22.0 tackles for loss in 2021) and the athleticism to make plays in coverage (four interceptions, two pick-sixes in 2021). For those looking for a linebacker who can drop back in space and match up against slot receivers, tight ends, and running backs alike, Lloyd is the linebacker you're looking for via his projection.
He smoothly runs sideline-to-sideline, downhill, and drops back in space. Lloyd has been moved around the front seven and in space for the Utes. He was not tasked much with man coverage at Utah, but the traits and fluidity are easy to see.
Lloyd is not like Micah Parsons who's a fireball coming downhill with incredible speed, size, and power, but more so like San Francisco's Fred Warner, who is far more comfortable playing in space and in assignments that don’t involve coming down from the second level of the defense.
Lloyd is a long defender and the combination of length and athleticism is space creates issues for opposing offenses moving the ball over the middle of the field and mucking up run lanes when coming down and filling against rushing attacks.
At 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds, Lloyd appears to be more scheme-flexible than his chief linebacker rival in the class — Georgia’s Nakobe Dean. Dean plays with a much more compact frame. While Lloyd is long, he does need some work shedding blockers in the run game.
For fans pining for a QB at pick No. 9, this might not be the year Denver goes back to that well. Broncos Country is now feeling what rival fans in the division felt about John Elway (and for a four-year stretch Peyton Manning) during the Hall-of-Fame QBs' respective tenures in Denver as Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert dominate the AFC West.
Unfortunately for GM George Paton, the 2022 NFL draft class is not the place to go looking for a quarterback. There are names to consider such as Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder, North Carolina's Sam Howell, Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett, Liberty's Malik Willis, Ole Miss' Matt Corral, and Nevada's Carson Strong but current consensus seems that taking one of these signal-callers is as likely to earn jeers as much as praise across the league.
Former Minnesota GM Rick Speilman put it best earlier this week.
“I don’t know if there is a Joe Burrow (top of the draft caliber) in this class," Spielman said. "Maybe there is going to be three years from now… but we don’t know that yet. This will be one of the more fascinating classes at quarterback because ‘somebody’ is going to be good. It will be interesting to see how these guys stack up as we go through this process.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the top quarterback options in this class from Paton’s former mentor in Minnesota.
Further down in his mock, Dane also has the Broncos adding Cincinnati edge rusher Myjai Sanders and Houston cornerback Marcus Jones later in the draft. Sanders is a tad linear in his rush, but it was easy to see how explosive he is and can be when Cincinnati played Alabama this year.
Sanders will need to add more strength to hang consistently at the NFL level, but is talented enough to be a tad surprising to see him fall this far; a testament to the depth of the edge talent in the 2022 Draft. Jones is also a unique player.
At 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds, Jones' diminutive size might not fit every scheme. A good special teams player with ball skills, it will be interesting to see where he lands.
Given that the current league trends show that teams can find quality off-ball linebackers on Day 2 and beyond, drafting Lloyd at pick No. 9 might not be the best allocation of resources. Still, Paton could consider the position in Round 1.
However, if the coach who runs Denver's 2022 defense believes Lloyd is a difference-maker on the second level and a better prospect than other options, the Broncos shouldn’t shy away from investing in what has become a somewhat overly romanticized position in the off-ball linebacker.
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