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How good is the 2021 quarterback class for the Broncos?

I spoke with Matt Williams to find out just how good this 2021 NFL Draft class is at quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

This will be my fourth year digging into the NFL Draft for Mile High Report. It’s a passion as well as an immense undertaking. Along the way I’ve met a ton of awesome people devoted to the game of football, including the mysterious Caddy to the Lama who became a friend. Lost in the tapeless wilderness, Matt Williams came through and provided me All-22 time and again. Without him, I wouldn’t have had a chance to study Jerry Jeudy, or K.J. Hamler, or the majority of the 2020 class. Along the way we’ve had countless conversations about prospects, it was he who called me out for missing on Gardner Minshew in 2019. Last year it was his faith in McTelvin Agim that opened my eyes to the former Razorback.

Given the opportunity I had to pick his brain on the 2021 QB class.

1st and 10

There’s been plenty of talk about the 2021 QB class. When I spoke with PFF’s Austin Gayle earlier this week he said both Zach Wilson and Justin Fields would be first overall picks if it weren’t for Trevor Lawrence. What are your thoughts on them, and should the Broncos consider moving up for either?

Williams: Depending on who you talk to, Fields might be QB one right now, that’s how talented he is. He checks a lot of the boxes you look for when scouting QBs; he’s a Ryan Tannehill equivalent athlete, an A level arm which isn’t a cannon, but he can make every throw, a smart decision maker that can work through multiple reads and has shown what I feel is one of the most important things is growth from year to year. Fields is nowhere near the same player he was at Georgia. Every category is a + in growth which seems trivial, but people would be amazed how that small of thing translates to being an NFL QB. It’s what set guys like Dak Prescott and Daniel Jones apart from other QBs in their respected classes in my evaluations. I think there will be some obvious rookie adjustment time to the NFL playbook and speed that always pose a threat to long term NFL success for rookie QBs, but Fields has all the ability to be an NFL franchise QB, I doubt Denver has the ammunition or guts to give up what I expect to be an RG3 level bounty to draft Fields.

Wilson on the other hand is a little different. I really like a lot of his tape, his ability to throw from different arm angles and off platform is probably the best in the class. For Denver fans, I see a Jake Plummer type of player there, but I have a lot of questions that give me pause. The level of competition he played against vs the other top QBs must be part of the evaluation, especially since some of the higher ranked teams on their schedule were able to frustrate him with tighter coverage, shrinking the windows in their zones, and by masking pressures with zone blitzes or what have started to be called creepers. His overall size as a player combined with his injury history is always something to put in the notes for me, if a player has injury problems in college, its very rare nowadays that that player gets healthier in the NFL. It can happen, it’s just less likely. Finally, I think he is still developing on the field. His best plays are where the defense is stagnant, just sitting in their coverages and scramble plays where he runs around and makes the play after the play. Both of those get a lot tougher in the NFL. I love his talent and his potential, but you have to have a real clean record to be a blue-chip player for me and all those question marks make him a 2nd round QB.

2nd and 7

Most consider Trey Lance the other top ten quarterback in this class and he looks like he’ll be one of the wilder projections in recent memory. What do you think of him? If the Broncos were to draft him how could they best maximize his skillset?

Williams: This is your “Cam Newton” QB of this draft. Amazing athlete but if you’re looking for a guy who can drop back and take advantage of all of Denver’s weapons he’s gonna need a year or two to cook before I think he will be a viable NFL starting QB. He’s super smart on the whiteboard but the tape shows us that he still relies on his athleticism instead of his arm, passing up easy throws and easy reads, choosing to run the ball instead. He has an absolute cannon and can make every single throw, its just the post snap recognition and decision making isn’t there yet.

If you wanted to start him year one, you’d have to do what Carolina did with Newton. Your run game would have to incorporate not only everything Shurmur already does with single back and I formations, but they would have to add QB run game out of pistol and shotgun. Then develop a passing game around quick decision passing concepts and a PA/Boot game. His physical talent and ceiling is higher than Drew Lock’s coming out of Missouri but his day one floor is lower. Two problems I have with Trey Lance in Denver is the offense isn’t really built for that type of QB right now and I don’t know if a lot of people have the patience that he is going to need to succeed long term.

3rd and 3

I haven’t really watched him yet. Do you think the talk about Mac Jones as a first round guy is justified? Is he a QB1? Would he fit in the Shurmur offense?

Williams: I was talking with Nick Kendell on Twitter the other day and that Mac Jones really reminds both of us of Kyle Orton. He doesn’t have an elite arm but will attempt throws that more physically talented QBs would pass up, which could get him into some trouble in the NFL when the windows are smaller and the speed is faster. First round is rich for me, I really want more than 1 year starting at that position just because with a year of tape on you, defensive coordinators make your life significantly harder and the QBs who can adjust to that are the ones who have the best chance to succeed in the NFL. He’s not a RD 1 QB for me, he’s not going to beat anyone with his legs and without elite arm talent to attack teams from the pocket, he doesn’t have the elite trait I want with that pick.

4th and inches

If the Broncos don’t chase a QB in the first round they could still chase an arm further down the board. You saw Gardner Minshew coming, who intrigues you in this class?

Williams: After the top four-five guys, it’s not really a great class. A lot of the high potential guys with intrigue took advantage of the new COVID rules and went back for another year but there are a few guys I’ll have my eye on.

KJ Costello is a guy I have talked about for a couple of years who has flashed big time ability, unfortunately those flashes have been further and farther in between the last couple of years. His 2019 Arizona and 2020 LSU games can give you hope of potential there but there’s still a lot of bad plays that you have to get through to find it. I’d be looking at him day 3/UDFA.

Peyton Ramsey is another of my day 2 day 3 favorites. He replaced an injured Michael Penix Jr. at Indiana in 2019 and played good enough to get the starting job at Northwestern when he transferred early 2020. This guy is Gardner Minshew without the huge character. A capable player in his own right but his physical makeup and his arm ability fit that profile. There really isn’t anyone in the class on day 3 I would want seeing the field anytime real soon.

Extra Point

What do you think the Broncos should do at quarterback this offseason?

Williams: If I’m running the team, I’m covering all my bases trying to upgrade the QB position. Best option is being able to get Deshuan Watson for hopefully not a kings ransom. If the cost is just too high, I want Stafford, who is, in my opinion, a top 10 QB and with Denver’s weapons instantly elevates the offense to it’s highest levels since the Manning era. Again, based on cost, if Stafford is too much, I’m trying to do everything I can to get a proven veteran QB to backup Lock. Someone like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jamies Winston, Tyrod Taylor. Anyone with proven ability who can step in and at least distribute the ball to the weapons if Lock doesn’t develop. My last option is a rookie. In such an uncertain year with so many limitations on the ability to scout players, I don’t want to be breaking in what is likely a developmental rookie QB in an important year for my HC. There are always going to be more QBs, we’re in an age were there are more QBs succeeding in the NFL at different levels in different schemes all over the league.