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Could college players, NFL benefit from a developmental league?

Patrick Chiotti of Pro Football Network talked with Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright about cornerbacks he likes in this draft class as well as giving players time to develop in the NFL - which got me thinking...

Virginia Tech at Miami Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Patrick Chiotti (key-AUGHT-ee) of Pro Football Network joined the Broncos Country Tonight crew on Friday to talk drafting a cornerback in the first round and maybe even doubling up on the position in early rounds to help build some depth for Vic Fangio’s defense.

“I definitely think that’s the way the Broncos should go,” Chiotti said, noting that most of his Broncos’ mocks include two or even three early DBs. “I definitely think with the top guys out there - Caleb Farley or Patrick Surtain II - [drafting] at nine, that’s a realistic option if they don’t get a bigger name in free agency. Can’t go wrong with either of those guys. Both very technically sound, very good football players, both would be a good fit in Vic Fangio’s system.”

But if Farley is still on the board at nine, that’s Chiotti’s choice for the Broncos.

And Chiotti also believes that this defensive backs class is the one to use for building to the future with the defense.

“If you are going to double-dip, this is a great class to do that,” Chiotti said. “This is the class where you build that defense because you have so many holes upcoming.”

Some of his top choices beyond the Farley/Surtain option include Syracuse cornerback Trill Williams - “he would be a fantastic option if he’s there in the second round;” Camryn Bynum out of Cal - “fantastic add to this defense, an experienced corner, very physical, also has good ball skills;” and Paulson Adebo out of Stanford, who reminds Chiotti of Richard Sherman - “very technical, very good at reading routes, and a very physical corner.”

“If going to build up a secondary, which we clearly saw last season was an issue, this is the class to do that,” Chiotti added.

The conversation inevitably shifted to quarterbacks for Denver with the usual discussion about how to approach improving Drew Lock next season (assuming there’s no Deshaun Watson available) and what development needs to happen.

“If [Watson coming here] is not going to happen, let’s stop talking about it and look at what’s in front of us,” Chiotti said, arguing that Lock doesn’t have to be a top 10 quarterback for the Broncos, he just needs to show real improvement. “You have to give a player time to develop. ...If he takes this offseason and really puts in that work and really starts to develop into a quality starting quarterback - good enough to win football games and score points - that’s what we’re looking for. We’re not looking for him to be Patrick Mahomes.”

I would possibly slightly disagree on what “we are looking for” in Lock because I think Lock needs to show more than just “a little bit of improvement” to prove he’s our unequivocal starter for at least a few more years.

But this comment sparked an interesting conversation between me and Chiotti on Twitter - that carried over slightly into my chat on Broncos Country Tonight - about the lack of time to really develop quarterbacks - or just have pro-ready QBs - in the NFL. And just about any position for that matter.

One of the things that frustrates me every year at this time is the debate over which top college quarterbacks will be ready Week 1 and which ones will be “projects.”

And the answer is generally that very few if any are truly able to come in and be the starter NFL teams need. But because of the money invested, because of the desire and urgency to turn a bad team around, the top college QBs often go in underprepared for the expectations or at least the .

Obviously this isn’t always a problem, and some quarterbacks have enough early success for the team to build up around the QB in a relatively short period of time. But if you look at the top QBs we were all talking about the last three or four draft classes, not too many have seen much success and many have struggled - Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch, Mitch Tribusky, Blake Bortles, Daniel Jones, Drew Lock.

The ones who have done better generally have been drafted as the No. 3 or 4 or later QB and gone to better teams - Patrick Mahomes, to some extent, but also Justin Herbert and even Josh Allen - likely sitting for a while and getting some experience before going in to lead the team.

So I mentioned it on Twitter and during my segment on Broncos Country Tonight, and Edwards pointed out that he and Andrew Mason when they worked together on Orange And Blue Radio often talked about a developmental league for the NFL.

Then low and behold, Mase showed up on my Twitter timeline with exactly what I’d like to see:

I know the obstacles to this - primarily owners and money.

But like Mase pointed out later, if owners could see the overall benefit to the league and to improved competition all-around, there could be buy-in. It would be similar to a minor league baseball system where every franchise has its own developmental team, which could give it room to develop players - even earlier than they need them - so they can call them up when ready and needed.

Anyway, I’m a fan of the idea because I’m tired of the NFL ruining potentially good players primarily because we don’t have a college football system that can really get enough players ready for the NFL as soon as teams really need them.

But I’m curious what you think...


Do you like the idea of a developmental league for the NFL (similar to the Minor League system in baseball)?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Awesome idea!
    (206 votes)
  • 4%
    You’re ridiculous.
    (15 votes)
  • 35%
    I like it, but I don’t see how it can happen.
    (119 votes)
340 votes total Vote Now