After a very successful first wave of free agency that saw the Denver Broncos, snag two starting-caliber cornerbacks in Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller while also retaining defensive studs like Von Miller, Shelby Harris, and Justin Simmons, GM George Paton is in a rather enviable situation approaching the NFL draft.
The Broncos are a team without a glaring need on the roster.
Yes, Denver could use an upgrade at linebacker and replace Josey Jewell. The Broncos could also certainly consider an offensive tackle to hedge against Ja’Wuan James getting hurt. Looking ahead to the draft, an early investment at cornerback or edge rusher also makes a lot of sense.
However, when it comes to the topic of upgrades, the discussion starts and ends with the quarterback position. Given the Broncos' small commitment to incumbent starter Drew Lock, who was a bottom-5 starting quarterback statistically last season, the team will be linked to the position until the draft comes and goes.
One insider connecting the dots is Sports Illustrated's veteran NFL writer Albert Breer. When asked about the Broncos’ quarterback position in a recent mailbag, Breer laid out the conundrum that lies in front of Paton.
If I were them, and I know they are doing this, I’d be looking very hard at BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Alabama’s Mac Jones, and getting a clear-eyed view on who each of those guys are—not only compared to Lock but also whether they’d have the potential to become, say, top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL. And that would determine how aggressively I’d pursue any of them.
I think, for now, having Drew Lock on the roster gives them the flexibility to take a big swing, either at a Watson (if he ever becomes available) or in the draft or to stand pat. Lock is due $1.13 million in cash this year and $1.45 million in cash next year, and has cap numbers of $1.91 million and $2.23 million the next two years... All of that means continuing forward with Lock, regardless of what else happens, is easy for the team.
If I were them, and I know they are doing this, I’d be looking very hard at BYU’s Wilson, Ohio State’s Fields, North Dakota State’s Lance and Alabama’s Jones, and getting a clear-eyed view on who each of those guys are—not only compared to Lock but also whether they’d have the potential to become, say, top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL. And that would determine how aggressively I’d pursue any of them.
...This really is sort of a restart for Denver, even if it hasn’t been positioned like that. The Broncos have a first-year GM with a coach who hasn’t been to the playoffs going into his third year, which certainly would indicate that Vic Fangio is going to be under evaluation this year, and Denver could well decide after this year to let George Paton bring in his own guy. So Paton’s evaluation of Lock, who he’s not tied to, and the quarterback class is what will determine where this goes…
Will Paton find himself 'in love' with a quarterback to the point where he'd be willing to pay the heavy cost to move up to picks 3-through-5 to secure one? Breer seems to think so, mocking the Broncos to trade up to pick 3 to select Ohio State's Justin Fields in his latest mock draft.
However, just as likely as going up for a new quarterback, the Broncos could judge none of the available signal-callers as being that much better than Lock or worth the cost to move up. Would Denver stay at pick 9 in this scenario?
Trade down? Paton and the Broncos have the flexibility to go a number of ways in the draft which will continue to keep the national media guessing.
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