The Denver Broncos are 'in' on the quarterback market. It's well-known at this point that the Broncos are going to pursue a veteran hedge option to help solidify the quarterback room for the 2021 season.
With the intention of making incumbent starter Drew Lock earn the starting gig after a volatile sophomore campaign, the Broncos hope that competition can help bring out the best from their young starting quarterback, and if he flounders like he did last season, that soon-to-be-acquired veteran can come in and attempt to salvage the season and save some people’s jobs.
Adding a veteran QB in free agency is not really news as many insiders around the league have reported as much. However, what has remained elusive to date is the Broncos’ potential interest in adding a rookie quarterback via the 2021 NFL draft.
With as many as five QBs being mocked in the top half of the first round, the Broncos may have a chance to select one of the quarterbacks that fall to pick No. 9, or even make a slight trade-up to secure a signal-caller of their choosing. Will GM George Paton fall in love with one of the upper-tier QB prospects in the 2021 draft?
The first step, given the anomaly of a college football season due to the global pandemic, is getting eyes on these QB prospects via pro days across the country. With limited time and access due to the pandemic, Paton appearing at any pro day for the top-5 QBs is noteworthy, which is why alarm bells went off across Broncos Country today when 9NEWS' Mike Klis reported that the first-year GM would be heading to Fargo, ND, to take in the Bison’s pro day.
"[The] Broncos [are] sending a small scouting/coaching contingent, including GM George Paton, to North Dakota State pro day tomorrow to see QB Trey Lance per source. It’s [the] first of several pro days Paton and Company plan to attend," Klis tweeted on Thursday.
Paton plans on attending a select few pro days this draft cycle, but of note, he will also be bringing a large assortment of scouting and coaching staff to take in this particular 20-year-old quarterback. QBs coach Mike Shula and college scouting director Brian Stark will be in attendance.
There appear to be more opinions on the validity of Lance as a prospect than there are actual games he's played in college. Possessing an athletic build for the position (the only Division I offer Lance received was from Minnesota… to play safety), he put on over 30 pounds to get to 230 over his redshirt season in Fargo.
An obvious athlete on film, Lance can run past and run through defenders. While some will sneer that running past non-Division I athletes is hardly impressive, any QB with 4.5-second speed blowing by FCS defensive backs translates to dynamic athleticism at the NFL level as well.
Having just been compared to the NFL all-time great Steve McNair in a recent pre-draft phone call with NFL.com's draft guru Daniel Jeremiah and having been compared to Andrew Luck's tools, intelligence, and upside by QG coaching guru Jordan Palmer, the traits and intelligence surrounding Lance go beyond hype.
On top of the athletic ability Lance possesses, he also has arguably the strongest pure arm talent of the QBs in the entire class. Uncorking the ball 50-plus air yards down the field without a hitch and flat-footed with such ease is a rarity for even the best arms in today’s NFL.
With more technical refinement, it would not be at all surprising to see Lance further unlock additional arm talent as he works with NFL coaches and in a pro strength and conditioning program.
Lance has the tools, but what's he got between the ears? Running the heavily under-center play-action-centric offense at NDSU, he was in charge of his protections even as a redshirt freshman.
Quincy Avery, Deshaun Watson's personal QB coach, had this to say recently about Lance.
A surprising remark, given that Lance's youth and having played only 17 starts at the FCS level. Given his work ethic and intelligence, as noted by NFL draft insider Lance Zierlein, Lance has a mental leg up for the NFL game given his responsibilities as a signal-caller.
“He sets his own protections, operates in full-field read concepts, and has cutups he's responsible over pressure packages, personnel groupings, red zone tendencies and two-minute defenses.”
All of this, on top of his multiple Ivy League offers, athletic tools, and the strongest arm in the class, make it obvious why NFL teams are so intrigued despite the limited sample size against poor competition.
No matter who drafts Lance, he is going to be a risk. However, given how everyone who works with him raves about his intelligence and work ethic, on top of his unquestionably elite tools, some team is going to pull the trigger.
Given the recent success of 'boom or bust' elite-tool QB prospects like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Justin Herbert, it's worth pondering whether Paton will be willing to bet on Lance’s high-end traits and football character.
Friday's trip to Fargo will factor greatly into the Broncos' brass decision on Lance and whether he's worth the No. 9 overall pick.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickKendellMHH.
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