The Sam Darnold trade to the Carolina Panthers has created an opportunity for the Denver Broncos to acquire one of the top quarterbacks in the upcoming NFL draft class. With Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson likely spoken for at picks No. 1 and 2 overall, GM George Paton has an opening to go on the offensive and to trade up to draft a highly touted quarterback like Ohio State's Justin Fields or North Dakota State'sTrey Lance.
Both Fields and Lance have the talent and potential to become any team's long-sought-after franchise quarterback. But Paton would have to pay a king’s ransom to move up to pick No. 4 overall to secure one of them.
The Broncos would have to surrender multiple first-round draft picks, along with later-round selections. Despite some of the recent moves to acquire talent, the Broncos still have several roster holes to fill.
In any deal, Paton would lose his current No. 9 pick, which would likely be the top defensive prospect in the draft. Foregoing that would be a real blow to Vic Fangio’s plan to build a defense dominant enough to slow the Kansas City Chiefs' potent offense.
The methodical and deliberate Paton will have to decide whether to play it safe by staying with the No. 9 pick or place his chips in the middle of the table to go after talented yet untested Fields or Lance. But if the Broncos were to trade up, which would make more sense?
The 6-foot-3, 223-pound Fields is a Heisman Trophy finalist and an elite playmaker. He possesses all the skills you would expect of the new generation of NFL quarterbacks with a cannon for an arm and the ability to be accurate with his deep-ball throws.
Fields is a dual-threat and makes plays with his legs. During the recent Ohio State Pro Day, he impressed NFL coaches and executives by running the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds — the second-fastest time since Robert Griffin III ran a 4.41-second 40 in 2012.
Fields' ability to throw all routes and scramble out of pressure places defenses under maximum strain. Although Fields is uber-talented, he has a problem forcing the ball into tight coverage, sometimes due to not accurately assessing defensive schemes.
Fields will need to invest energy into improving this skill-set to be successful at the next level. Despite his flaws, scouts believe Fields is more NFL-ready than Lance.
Lance reminds me of a mobile Ben Roethlisberger. The 6-foot-3, 224-pound prospect out of North Dakota State is a phenomenal athlete who could possess generational talent. Although not as NFL-prepared as Fields, Lance has a higher ceiling. He is an immensely effective pocket passer that can quickly diagnose defensive coverages and make the right read.
In 2019, Lance did not throw an interception. He has a powerful arm and the ball gets out of his hands ridiculously fast, leaving defenders minimal time to react. Although he does not have Fields' straight-line speed, he can gain large chunks of yards with his feet.
The NFL personnel experts recognize Lance’s athletic gifts but are uneasy about the level of competition he faced in college and the small sample size of games played. He has one full season of play to evaluate.
Any GM that selects Lance is making a huge bet on his potential. A team that selects him, will plan on him taking a longer ramp-up plan to prepare him to compete against NFL-caliber talent. Lance should not be counted on as a day-one starter.
The Answer: It's Fields
If the Broncos trade-up, it would have to be for Fields. Again, he's NFL-ready and could make an out-of-the-box impact, which is what a team is expecting by trading up and drafting a QB in the top-5. Lance is going to take some time to marinate.
Paton is at a fork in the road and without a clear path forward with his decision to obtain a quarterback. But it is his call to make. Based on his methodical approach, I'm betting that he will take a 'don’t break into the piggy bank' approach to addressing the quarterback position.
Broncos fans, don’t yell at the messenger but prepare yourself for a quarterback camp battle between Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater.
Follow Mike on Twitter @MHHEvans.
Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!