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2016 NFL Draft: Evaluating the quarterback prospects

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Which of these prospects will soon be the next Denver Broncos quarterback?

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After the Denver Broncos lost quarterback Brock Osweiler to the Houston Texans at the start of free Agency, the Broncos have been on the lookout for a replacement quarterback since.

The Broncos have looked into trading for San Fransisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but trade talks have since stalled. Those talks figure to ramp up again in the next week or so and some even believe that in the end, Kaepernick will be a Denver Bronco.

Even if the Broncos trade for Colin Kaepernick, they still figure to select a quarterback in the first three round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

So let's take a look at the quarterback prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft and see what round the Broncos should select these prospects.

The Top Three

There are three quarterbacks who are expected to be first-round prospects in this year's NFL Draft. Two of which will be long gone by the time the Broncos pick, and another who could be a favorite of John Elway and the Broncos decision makers.

North Dakota State Quarterback, Carson Wentz

The North Dakota State quarterback has been a fast-rising prospect since the Senior Bowl and is now considered a favorite to be a top 5 pick in this year's draft. Some even believe he is the favorite to join the Cleveland Browns who pick second. Could a team trade with the Tennessee Titans for the number one overall and take Wentz? We shall see.

I'm not going to spend too much time on Wentz because he will likely be off the board in the first three picks of the draft.

Cal Quarterback, Jared Goff

Goff is probably the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft and is in the running to be the first quarterback off the board in April's NFL Draft.

Like Wentz, Goff figures to be long gone by the time the Broncos select in the first-round of the draft. Even if Goff slipped a little bit, I think Broncos General Manager John Elway would pass.

He has a slim frame and has small hands at 9". During February's NFL Scouting Combine, Elway stressed the importance of a quarterback having big hands.

So this is something to think about when looking at quarterback prospects for the Broncos.

Memphis Quarterback, Paxton Lynch

If you're looking for a quarterback in the first round for the Denver Broncos, this is the guy. Lynch is considered the third-ranked quarterback in year's draft and is expected to be a mid to late first round pick.

Lynch is a Brock Osweiler clone physically. He is listed at 6'7", 244lbs and has 10 1/4" sized hands. He has a big arm and is surprisingly athletic for a guy of his size and stature.

Lynch would be an ideal fit for the Broncos.

Yes, he probably needs some time to develop into an NFL passer, but Gary Kubiak can give his young quarterback a strong running game and a strong defense to help him in his rookie season. Also, Kubiak's system is very quarterback friendly, and this could be beneficial for Lynch early on.

Lynch can effectively run Kubiak's patented play-action bootleg play. He has the athleticism to roll out and hit the tight end crossing the middle of the field and the arm strength to throw the deep ball to either Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders.

He might be raw, but is probably the best fit for the Broncos going forward.

Day Two Quarterback Prospects

After the top three quarterbacks, there are four "tier two" quarterback prospect who the Broncos may consider during the second day(rounds 2 and 3) if they do not take one in the first-round.

Michigan State Quarterback, Connor Cook

Cook is considered the fourth overall quarterback in this year's draft by many and could be in play for the Broncos in the second round, and maybe even in the late first round. With that said, he is most likely a second round selection in next month's NFL Draft.

NFL Network's Bucky Brooks believes the Denver Broncos are a place where Connor Cook could excel.

Teams like the Broncos, Cowboys and Bears would rank as ideal fits, based on their commitment to playing complementary football (strong running game and stingy defense). Cook understands how to play within those guidelines following a three-year run as the Spartans' starter under Mark Dantonio -- in East Lansing, he was expected to take care of the ball and act as a selective playmaker.

Connor Cook has all the pieces to be a good quarterback but has never put it all together.

He played four seasons at Michigan State and played all four years in a pro-style offense so there shouldn't be any issues there. He is comfortable under center, reading defenses, and has a quick release. He is also athletic enough to run Kubiak's offense.

However, while there is plenty to like about Cook, there are plenty of questions about him.

He has accuracy issues, questions about his leadership and character, doesn't take over big games and looks more like a game manager in the NFL than a playmaking quarterback.

Cook is a "safe" pick in the second round. He looks the part and has experience in a pro-style offense, but probably has a lower ceiling of the other three quarterback's in this group.

Penn State Quarterback, Christian Hackenberg

Probably one of the tougher prospects to figure out in this entire draft is Christian Hackenberg. He looks the part, has a bunch of potential, but could be a huge success or a complete dud.

He is listed a 6'4", 223lbs and has 9" hands. He has the arm talent, size, and athleticism to be a successful NFL player, but his awful accuracy issues are very concerning.

"The tape is just terrible over the last two years, but he has traits and leadership. His freshman tape is good, but how do you discount everything you've seen for two years? That freshman tape is going to lead a team to overdraft him."

He is inaccurate and also folds under pressure. He was sacked 82 times over the past two seasons at Penn State and just folds under pressure. He completed well under 45% of his passes when teams sent 5 or 6 man blitzes at him.

In his defense, he played behind a terrible offensive line while at Penn State, and the offensive system wasn't team friendly.

The Broncos were reportedly among the teams watching Hackenberg during his Pro Day. The team does its due diligence every offseason at the quarterback position, so they could just be doing their homework on Hackenberg.

Or maybe Kubiak believes he can fix Hackenberg and get the most out of him?

I could see Hackenberg going anywhere from the early second round to late in the third round. He is a tough prospect to figure out.

Ohio State Quarterback Cardale Jones

One year ago, Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones was coming off a National Championship win at Ohio State and was debating if he should or shouldn't enter the 2015 NFL Draft. If he did, he would have probably been a first round pick and the third overall quarterback selected in the draft.

But he elected to stay in college for one more year and is now fighting to be a second round pick.

Jones size, arm talent, and athleticism jump out at you right away, but Jones is very very very raw.

"You want to buy into the size and arm but his accuracy and game management just aren't there yet. He doesn't even have 300 passes under his belt! Compare him to (Teddy) Bridewater and (Derek) Carr. Blows those guys away with the physical stuff but he can't touch their poise and leadership as young quarterbacks."

Jones is far from NFL ready and probably needs to sit at least one season before he is even considered to touch an NFL field.

Now with all that said, there is a lot to like about him.

He has great size(6'5", 253lbs), has a rocket arm, and has great athleticism for a man of his size. Those things you cannot teach. Add in that he is very raw and needs to be coached up, a team could view Jones are high upside project for them.

What he does need work at is all the other parts of being a quarterback. The mechanics, footwork, reading defenses, leadership, and just learning the position. He is very inexperienced and just needs time to grow before he should ever hit an NFL field.

If the Broncos are looking for an immediate need at quarterback, Jones is probably not their guy. He needs to sit behind a starter for a few years and learn the position. If they do end up trading for Kaepernick, Jones would be an ideal project for Gary Kubiak, Rick Dennison, Greg Knapp, and John Elway.

I think he could be in play for the Broncos in the late second or with one of their late third round picks.

Mississippi State Quarterback Dak Prescott

He is a favorite of mine, and I even thought he was an option for the Broncos at 31, but things have changed. Dak had a strong Senior Bowl and Combine showing on and off the field, and continued that into his Pro Day, but all that positive was erased after he was arrested a DUI.

This arrest will cost Prescott some money in the draft. He was probably a second round pick before the arrest. Now? He is probably a late third or fourth round pick. Teams do not want their face of their Franchise arrested and have their mug shot circulate the internet.

It was a very dumb mistake from Dak, but it appears it was just a fluke mistake by him. He was considered a high-character person who was a leader at Mississippi State. So teams will have to do their homework on Prescott and figure out if this was a one-time thing or a problem for the quarterback.

The Broncos have shown in the past that they will roll dice on a player with some off the field issues. Cornerback Bradley Roby and linebacker Shane Ray had some off the field problems like Dak prior to the draft, and both fell to the Broncos. Neither player has had any issues since they joined the team.

Before this arrest, the Broncos were "enamored" with Dak Prescott, could they snatch him up later in the draft now?

There is a lot to like about Dak on the field.

He has a quick release, has good pocket presence, a quick release, is improving, tons of athleticism, and potential to be a starting NFL quarterback in the league.

He needs to improve his mechanics, poise in the pocket and work on his progressions, but there is a lot of potential there.

If the Broncos are still enamored with Prescott, I could see them taking him with one of their late third round picks.

Late Round Prospects

After you get past the first and second tier quarterbacks, you start looking at your late round prospects. These guys are not viewed at future starters but as backups and project players.

North Carolina State Quarterback, Jacoby Brissett

I view Brissett has a potential late third round prospect, but more likely goes into the fourth round.

He is another bigger quarterback who has the athleticism to challenge defenses with his feet. He is listed a 6'4", 231lbs, and ran a 4.9 at the Combine, but he looks faster on film.

Brissett is gifted with NFL tools but will need some coaching, developing and refinement to get to that point.

If the Broncos do trade for Colin Kaepernick, Brissett would be a nice addition to the team will have an opportunity to learn behind Kaepernick and let him develop for a few seasons.

Stanford Quarterback, Kevin Hogan

If you're looking for a late-round developmental quarterback in the sixth or seventh round? Well, then Kevin Hogan is your guy.

Hogan has the size, mobility, intelligence, accuracy, and experience in a pro-style offense. He has all the making of a backup quarterback in the NFL.

"Some coach is going to fall in love with the person and bang on the table to take him late. In the sixth or seventh? That's fine."

Hogan will just need to work on his mechanics and footwork if he wants to stick in the NFL.

Arkansas Quarterback, Brandon Allen

Brandon Allen is a favorite of some but lacks a few important traits that coaches and GM's look for in a quarterback.

He is smaller than you like. He is listed at 6'1", 217lbs but only has 8 7/8 inch hands. That's very small in the NFL and something that decision makers will hold against him when deciding if they should draft him or not. Also, while he does have an "NFL arm" he doesn't have a very strong one. He will not stretch the field on you too much.

Now there are some things to like about him. He is accurate, mobile, and has a quick release.

I do not believe he will be high on the Broncos draft board. John Elway likes quarterbacks with bigger hands, and Allen's hands are nearly two inches smaller than Elway's hands.

Apparently size does matter in this case.

Allen figures to be a late-round pick and could grow into a decent backup in the league.