I’ve mentioned this a few times over the last year, but up until this point in my NFL fandom I’ve always put off deep dives into the draft prospects until I knew the Broncos were out of the playoff hunt. If I made one big mistake since joining Mile High Report, it was the belief that I could continue to do that. Since January, I’ve done all I could to keep up with what I thought Broncos Country deserved to know as far as draft hopefuls, but can confidently tell you I’m going to be studying the college game closer during Autumn next year.
What that means for the next two GIF Horses is that I’ll be presenting you with two big boards. One will be the quarterbacks, because anyone who’s turned on a TV can tell you Denver needs one, and the other will be everyone else. These are players that fit the schemes I see the new coaching staff installing for the 2019 Broncos. I made an effort to study players that I thought would be in reach, would make an impact, and also looked like they made sense for Elway and the front office. So if you’re upset that I didn’t look at Nick Bosa, that’s why. Anyways, let’s kick it off with the obvious. This draft class is the worst QB class I’ve seen since 2013. Keep that in mind as you look at these arms and my thoughts on them.
I’ve always looked at quarterbacks on a sliding tier scale, but have only just begun to formalize this in a way to best explain my views on it. It goes as follows:
Andrew Luck was the best QB that has come out since I really caught the NFL bug, but Baker Mayfield hit this exclusive club for me. These are the guys you’d trade your draft for a chance at. They’re the no-brainers. Started a long time, killed it, the questions and concerns are minor compared to the promise they show on film.
This is the group you’re realistically hoping to draft from. They may have a major question and some other lingering concerns but offer so much promise that there’s hope they can correct the issues to the point where it isn’t debilitating. They started enough games that you feel confident in their growth and pass the eyeball test. They won’t always “hit,” but you feel good as you complete your evaluation of them. Josh Rosen, Deshaun Watson, Jay Cutler, Marcus Mariota, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger are all names that fit this tier.
This is the group you tend to draft first rounders from. There’s usually a couple major questions you’re left trying to answer as you watch the tape, as well as some other lingering concerns. You can sell yourself on the hope that they’ll pan out, but get that roller coaster rush the first time they suit up in the NFL. A few guys that come to mind: Carson Wentz was here in part because he was coming out of nowhere. Sam Darnold didn’t play enough for me, had supporting cast and turnover questions. Jameis Winston had character concerns. I had Russell Wilson here because of his height (oops).
These are the projects and solid backups. It’s a weird group, but they tend to be the guys that work out as decent number twos, but will usually break your heart if they’re forced to carry the franchise. Often times they go in the first because of upside. My big miss here was Cam Newton. I was concerned about his ability to read an NFL defense and wondered if he’d be overly dependent on his athletic ability to succeed. I found both of these things impossible to answer because he played one year at Auburn and underestimated how much the Panthers would bend to his considerable talents. For one reason or another Blaine Gabbert, Paxton Lynch, Andy Dalton, Colt McCoy, and Matt Leinart were C-Tier guys coming out.
They look the part, but aren’t it. Mega busts in the first, but could be passable backup types with development. This was probably the biggest miss I’ve made in the years I’ve followed the draft. I thought Matt Ryan wasn’t accurate enough at Boston College (59.9% career completion rate) and thought he got overdrafted. For varius reasons JaMarcus Russell, Jake Locker, Johnny Manziel, and Christian Hackenberg were D-tier guys.
Camp arms. They may stick to rosters because of the overall lack of talent at the position but you don’t sleep well at night if they’re one broken finger away from the action.
So now that you follow my thinking a little, here’s where the 2019 QB class stands.
1. Kyler Murray
By this point in the process, I’m willing to bet you’re probably Murray’d out. Since he decided he didn’t want to play baseball, he’s gotten a ton of love. At the Combine he was the biggest point of conversation because he got measured. Just imagine what things would have turned into if he had participated in any other drill.
Beyond the human element aspect of the Murray story, there’s one big reason why he’s gotten so much love from the media. He looks like the one quarterback close to a sure thing to pan out from this draft. You combine that with the fact that he’ll be the first person ever drafted in the top ten in both baseball and football drafts and it’s pretty remarkable.
There’s one big reason for that: Murray was the very definition of electrifying his one year starting for Oklahoma. His 2018 passing efficiency rating was second to one player. Ever. He averaged 11.6 yards per attempt on his way to 4361 yards and 42 touchdowns through the air. Then he added another 1001 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. When you turn on the tape, Kyler Murray looks like Madden 2003 Michael Vick on Pro-Mode. The game came easy to him.
Murray doesn’t come without warts. Big ones. The two obvious ones are his commitment to the game and his size. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he’s out of the league in 5 years to chase a long career in baseball. He also has a troubling habit of locking on to his main target and hanging around to make it happen. This makes sense, as he has the athleticism to buy himself time and the arm talent to launch the ball from whatever platform to the open receiver. It won’t be as easy in the NFL, and in order to unlock his full potential, he needs to become something closer to a full field reader to win from the pocket at times.
Those three issues combined with his one year as a starter tempers some of my enthusiasm for Murray, but don’t get me wrong: if he somehow fell within reach of the Broncos, I’d jump for joy when he dons an orange cap. It’s exciting to think about what his mobility could do as a bootleg threat married to the outside zone. Edge defenders would have to respect Murray’s legs, which would open cutback opportunities for Phillip Lindsay and company. Then when Scangarello goes the air, Murray has more than enough arm to get Courtland Sutton the ball on 9 routes.
Joe’s Grade: B-Tier
2. Drew Lock
I’ve already written a GIF Horse about Lock and you should check it out here, but let me share a few thoughts with the light at the end of the tunnel in sight.
A. I think Drew Lock is going to be the Broncos selection at 10th overall.
B. I think he’s an exceptional fit in what I believe Scangarello offense is going to look like.
C. He still scares the hell out of me.
My biggest concern with Lock is that he’ll be rushed into action too soon. Media and fan pressure will be immense from the minute Elway calls him on April 25th. The PR team will sell us on Joe Flacco as the starter, but it’s not as if Lamar Jackson didn’t just supplant him in Baltimore. I strongly believe that the Missouri Tiger needs a redshirt year to reach his ceiling. Rushed into action he’ll resort to survival tactics, and many of the crippling inconsistencies you see in his college tape will linger into his pro career.
If he has the time to truly iron out his issues, I think he has a franchise arm. The good plays are hard to ignore, but they don’t erase the bad ones.
Joe’s Grade: C-Tier
3. Dwayne Haskins
For those of you who didn’t see my review of Haskins last week, here’s a quick rundown:
A. His floor is higher than Lock’s.
B. I don’t think he’s an ideal scheme fit.
C. I think the interest Elway’s shown in him is because he’s gathering intelligence on a potential rival, and to possibly cause a team to trade above Denver for him.
I shared my concerns about Haskins’ game at length last week, but the one I didn’t elaborate on is how his limited mobility would basically do the opposite of what Murray could. Remember how odd the statuesque Peyton Manning looked in the Kubiak offense? That’s kind of the starting point for Haskins. Combine that with the fact that most of the hope for his vertical passing game is just that, and he seems like a poor choice at 10.
This isn’t necessarily an indictment of Haskins. If he’s given a chance to develop as he should, he could be a solid fit for an offense that’s built around the short to intermediate game that eventually places a lot on his plate pre-snap. But all reports suggest that the Broncos are looking for an outside zone boot action type offense and that’s be an odd fit for Haskins’ talent.
Joe’s Grade: C-Tier
4. Brett Rypien
There’s a noticeably large gap between the top 3 arms in this class and the Boise State Bronco. (There’s also a noticeably large gap between the top 3 in this class and 2018, but...) If you’re looking for a spot starter who can do everything a backup needs to do, Rypien’s your guy. He’s a rhythm passer you can do things with. His limitations are clear and he’ll probably always be the guy coaches are looking to upgrade on, but he does all the mental aspects of the position well and isn’t gun shy in the face of pressure.
I looked at Rypien at length here and here, but the short story is that I think a lot of him.
Joe’s Grade: C-Tier
5. Will Grier
I’ve gone back and forth on Grier and Jones a number of times. I believe Jones is held in higher regard with the Broncos brass, as he’s taller, bigger, and a far better athlete. Meanwhile, Grier looks like the better thrower. His ball placement is every bit as good as Jones’ in the short game and is vastly superior to the Blue Devil’s the farther down the field he goes. In fact, he’s so accurate that he’s the QB from this class with the best chance to vastly outperform expectations, if he lands in the right situation.
If Jones looks like the Day 1 guy who will have a sort of second career as a backup, Grier looks like the next “gun for hire” type of QB. The arm may never be enough to settle on as for a team to settle on him as a long term starter, but it is plenty good enough to start until that appendage is located. He’s also a strong leader and carry’s the kind of moxie you can’t help but love. It gets him in trouble, but it’s also the “never say die” attitude you want in a signal caller.
I wrote about Grier at length here. I think he’s better than the narrative that’s surrounded him most of this draft season, but I wouldn’t bet a 1st or 2nd that he’s much more than a so-so starter and decent backup.
Joe’s Grade: C-Tier
6. Daniel Jones
If you’re looking for a poor man’s combination of Kyler Murray’s mobility, Dwayne Haskins pre-snap reads, and Drew Lock’s experience, Daniel Jones may be your quarterback in this class.
I wrote about Daniel Jones more here.
It comes down to this: would you rather get Brett Rypien on Day 3 of the draft or Daniel Jones on Day 1? I’ve now gone back to look at his game and there are things that I really do like. He’s just a bad value where it looks like he’ll go. Jones’ best chance to make it as a starter is to a team like Washington or Cincinnati, teams that can live with the short game and weaponize their quarterback’s mobility, but aren’t looking for a reliable deep ball. My favorite team for him is the New York Giants, where he could work in the Pat Shurmur system and compare David Cutcliffe stories with Eli Manning.
My bet is he’s forced to start far too early, gets labeled a bust with the expectations that come with a first round label, and has a second career as a halfway decent backup. Sort of like Brett Rypien’s likely career.
Only it will cost more to get to experience it.
Joe’s Grade: C-Tier
7. Ryan Finley
I wrote about Finley at length here, but will expand those thoughts a bit. I think Finley fits in much the same way Daniel Jones does. He’s got plus-mobility and brings some of the cerebral aspects you’re looking for in a quarterback, so that’s promising.
Finley is also pretty accurate. I don’t think he’s got surgical precision as he enters the league, but when he’s at his best, he can place the ball in places to really help receivers. Most of the time he puts it in the ballpark though. I think his ball is more consistently on point than that of Lock, Jackson, and Jones’ but his arm talent is a step below all three. He’s also prone to making boneheaded decisions under pressure like the ones Lock’s gotten grilled for.
As a pro, I expect him to be a spot starter at best who could find some degree of success if he has a lot of help around him.
Joe’s Grade: D-Tier
8. Tyree Jackson
Tyree Jackson is the kind of project I used to love grabbing back when I played a lot of Madden. Arm strength and mobility have always been the hardest stats to bump, but in that rookie year, you just run a lot, eat a few bad throws, and dump all the extra points into accuracy once you win MVP.
If only it were that easy to turn a shotgun into a sniper rifle.
I wrote at length about Jackson here, but the hard truth is he’ll need so much work on his mechanics that it’s a lot like a complete rebuild. NFL history has proven these kind of guys rarely, if ever, work out. However, if you’re keen on proving Jackson is the exception, he’s got an exciting Howitzer of an arm.
Joe’s Grade: D-Tier
The Best of the Rest
There you have it: the quarterbacks in the draft I’d be happy about spending a pick on. If I had to round out the list to 10, my next two guys would be Jordan Ta’amu and Easton Stick. Both have tools you look for, but the Broncos would be better off spending draft capital on a raw tackle prospect that flashed something, or a even special teamer.
As for Clayton Thorson and Jarrett Stidham, they’re a type all to themselves. They look like they should be guys coming off the bus, but show so little on tape that they’re probably not much more than camp arms. I know both have garnered NFL interest lately, but if either succeed, it will be as a complete exception to everything you look for when evaluating prospects, and it’s foolish to bet on exceptions.
Let me know how wrong I am in the comments Broncos Country!