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Future Broncos: Let’s Talk Quarterbacks

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The Denver Broncos have four quarterbacks on their roster, but it is hard to believe any of them are the team’s legitimate future at the position. If John Elway and his staff feel the same way, the Broncos could be in pursuit of a franchise quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft. But which highly-touted collegiate passer should they target?

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NCAA Football: UCLA at Stanford Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Brock Osweiler, Chad Kelly, Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian.

It’s clear the Broncos have an abundance of options at the quarterback position, but what isn’t so clear is whether or not any of the aforementioned players are the team’s long-term solution. Anything is possible, but my gut tells me that none of them are the franchise’s future and this coming offseason, John Elway and his staff will make a big move to acquire a quarterback capable of leading the Broncos to the promise land — no matter what the cost.

There is no question that Denver’s greatest strength is it’s top-tier defense, which is ranked number one in the National Football League in respect to yards allowed and tenth in points given up per game. Their weekly performances should be good enough to give the Broncos an upper hand or an even chance at winning every contest, but the team’s lackluster production on offense has left the defense feeling destitute and has created tensions in the locker room. Many fans have feel this season and last has been wasted due to the lack of efficacy on offense, in particular the quarterback position, which has been a major reason Denver has ranked in the bottom half of the league in in that time frame. If that doesn’t change, the direction of the franchise will continue to descend into a downward spiral, and future seasons will continue to be jeopardized if the offense fails to turn things around.

The best thing the Broncos can do moving forward to ensure their ability to compete for championships on a yearly basis — which is the standard they set themselves to — is to find a signal caller who can get the offense rolling in the right production and help fulfill that lofty goal. It’s an easy idea to dream up, but it is far harder to execute — because no matter how much we wish, franchise quarterbacks don’t grow on trees.

Some believe Denver would be wise to make a move at Kirk Cousins or Drew Brees in free agency. I don’t disagree with that idea at all. Their potential acquisitions would likely make the Broncos one of the top teams to fear in 2018 and a true Super Bowl contender, but Brees has been adamant about wanting to end his career in the bayou and Cousins, for as good as he is, may receive an even bigger contract than Matthew Stafford did from the Detroit Lions earlier this season. Is he really worth that investment? Only time will tell, but the Broncos could certainly make the moves necessary to free up the cap space to do so.

If those options come up dry, some have even suggested the Broncos make a move for Andrew Luck. Luck is rumored to be unhappy in Indianapolis (which is agent denies) — but the chances of him being a member of the Broncos next season (in my humble opinion) are slim and none. Unless the Broncos were able to come up with an unbelievable offer the Colts couldn’t refuse, I simply don’t see that coming to fruition.

If the Broncos aren’t able to find a franchise signal caller in free agency or via trade, that would leave them in quite a predicament. Perhaps the most likely (and risky) plan would be for Elway and his staff to make a gargantuan leap up the draft boards (though they are on pace to secure a top ten selection if they continue to struggle offensively) to secure one of college football’s best quarterback prospects.

But just who is the nation’s top draft eligible quarterback?

There is a ton of collegiate football left to be played this year and a lot can happen between now and the time the NFL Combine and Pro Days come around. Scouts from NFL clubs seemed to have a mixed opinion on this year’s class, but a recent survey of eight talent evaluators had USC redshirt sophomore Sam Darnold leading the list. Darnold possesses many elite traits scouts look for in a franchise quarterback, but some are wary as to whether or not he will buck the trend of former Trojan signal callers who fell short in the NFL after stellar collegiate careers.

Not far behind Darnold was UCLA’s Josh Rosen, who entered this season widely-regarded as the nation’s top signal caller. Rosen has strung together some quality come from behind victories and has had great numbers. On the field, Rosen has almost everything you look for in a top draft pick, but his injury history and questions concerning his overall character might cause some teams to pause on him if he declares for the 2018 NFL Draft.

Rosen was followed by Josh Allen of Wyoming, who received a ton of hype leading up to this college season based off his sophomore campaign in Laramie. To date, he has had a mediocre year production wise, but comes from the same coaching pipeline that developed Carson Wentz. That will certainly have teams intrigued given Carson’s ascension to greatness in his second season with the Philadelphia Eagles. Allen arguably has the best physical attributes of any quarterback eligible for April’s draft festivities, but he is far from a finished project. He might not be there now, but in time, there are those who believe he could very well be the best of this year’s crop of talent if he chooses to declare — but his 56.1 percent career completion percentage will be highly scrutinized.

If eye-popping stats are what you look for most when evaluating prospects — you probably adore Luke Falk (Washington State) and Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State), who came in fourth and fifth in Sports Illustrated’s scout rankings. They certainly are talented players, but are definitely reaping the benefits from offensive systems that are predicated on perpetually throwing the ball. In my assessment of the limited tape I’ve seen of them, there is no way they are day one starters and appear to be one to two year projects at the very least — much like our very own Lynch.

Much to my surprise, the two quarterbacks who have taken the nation by storm with their jaw-dropping performances and incredible gridiron play were near the bottom of the list. Those two players are Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson. I believe they are better prospects than most listed above and have turned in some of the most memorable college football performances this year. Mayfield might not have the size teams desire at the position, but he has improved every single year. When the games are the biggest and it matters the most, he seems to always come up in the clutch. If you weren’t excited about his 2016 numbers — just take a look at ProFootballFocus’ breakdown of his play to date in 2017 — it’s quite impressive.

In respect to Jackson, there is no doubt he is far from a finished project as a pocket passer. That being said, he does make a lot of throws on the run and rushes for a lot of yards, and in my opinion his dynamic play-making ability is second to none in the country. If placed with the right team and the right coach, he has the ability to be an absolute game-changer in the big leagues, but the question with Jackson is how long is it before he is ready to be a starter in the NFL? It’s doubtful you can plug him into any system and get immediate results and the likelihood is that you would have to simply an offense and tailor it to what he does best. Would the Broncos be willing to roll the dice and do that? We will just have to wait and see.

At any case, if the Broncos do opt to make make a big move and select a quarterback early in the 2018 NFL Draft — I am of the opinion that they should play from the get go. The wait and see approach that the Broncos have taken with the handful of quarterbacks they have selected in Elway’s tenure as GM hasn’t paid off. If you want to see what a player is made of — throw him into the fire immediately and see if he rises like a phoenix from the ashes.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. It’s time for the Broncos to finally figure out the long-standing problem they have had at the quarterback position. And if they do decide to gamble on a prospect in the draft, hopefully it finally pays off — because the Osweilers, Lynchs, Siemians, Tebows and Cutlers of years past certainly haven’t lived up to the Broncos standard.

As always, thank you for reading! Feel free to sound off in the comments section and talk about the team’s quarterback situation and how you feel about them potentially drafting another signal caller early in the 2018 NFL Draft.