Drew Lock’s first full season as a starting quarterback got the Denver Broncos nowhere near the playoffs. With a new general manager set to be hired and holding the No. 9 overall pick in the NFL draft, the speculation is — and will continue to be — focused on whether the Broncos will move away from Lock.
John Elway’s selection of Lock in the 2019 draft, in part, was a decision that led to his 'elevation' upstairs at Broncos HQ, leaving the door wide open for the new GM to bring in his own quarterback of the future. Lock’s position as the Broncos starter is a lot more unsettled than it was only a week ago.
Given the unlikely prospect of Denver pulling off a trade to acquire Houston Texans disgruntled QB Deshaun Watson, the draft remains the most fortuitous route to land a new signal-caller — if the new GM hire fancies such an ambition.
Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson are expected to come off the board first, but rising Ohio State star QB Justin Fields could interest the Broncos in Round 1. Bringing in a top-10 quarterback would render the last two years on Lock's rookie contract relatively worthless (outside of being a backup or dangled as trade bait). Suffice to say, dispensing with the two years of work the Broncos have invested in Lock's NFL development would be risky for a first-time GM.
Fields leads Ohio State in Monday's national title game but don't sleep on Alabama's Mac Jones as a legitimate suitor for NFL teams looking to find that elusive franchise QB in the 2021 draft. A strong performance from either could elevate their stock, and in the case of Fields, perhaps even beyond the Broncos' reach with their current draft position.
A win over the Crimson Tide could convince the new GM hire that the 21-year-old Buckeye is the man to turn the listing organization back around more quickly than Lock could. Conversely, an emphatic Alabama win could add a new luster to Jones' stock in the eyes of NFL scouting departments, including the Broncos.
Falling in love with a rapid succession of signal-callers is never a recipe for long-term success for any franchise, and with Denver's gaping holes at cornerback and linebacker needing some urgent attention of the GM, all options will have to be weighed. New England’s Dave Ziegler withdrew from his candidacy as the Broncos' next GM over the weekend, further narrowing the field, but Elway and company will further examine their options with the three remaining front-runners — Minnesota's George Paton, New Orleans' Terry Fontenot, and Chicago's Champ Kelly.
Over the next few days, fans should have clarity on who will be shaping the future of the Broncos. Whoever lands the GM job, delving deeper into his track record could further illuminate his intentions and the overall likelihood of taking a massive plunge in the draft.
In the meantime, fans can enjoy the College Football Playoff National Championship game with heightened interest in how Fields performs on the big stage while also keeping an eye on Alabama's Mac Jones, who has been whispered as a potential Broncos fit by a bona-fide Denver insider.