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Who is chasing a QB in the 2021 NFL Draft?

Who do the Broncos need to worry about if they’re after a rookie quarterback?

There is little doubt the NFL is a passing league. A franchise either has a passer they’re comfortable with, are trying to acquire one, or they just signed Andy Dalton.

Which brings us to George Paton and the Denver Broncos.

From his first press conference and every moment since, the Broncos’ new general manager has made it clear he would be looking at signal callers this offseason.

“The quarterback is the most important position in sports. If you don’t have stability at quarterback, you’re going to have a hard time sustaining winning. So, very important, but I don’t think the focus should be taken off the defense just because you want a franchise quarterback. I think we all want the franchise quarterback, and that’s the number one goal is trying to draft and develop or acquire any way you can. When I was in Minnesota, I think we went to the playoffs with six different quarterbacks if I’m not mistaken. That’s not ideal, but you can still win if you don’t have the franchise guy. You can still win, but obviously we’re looking.”

It should come as no surprise that the Denver Broncos are evaluating quarterbacks in 2021. However, their odds of acquiring one is dependent on a myriad of factors. Unless George Paton is waiting to trade for Deshaun Watson, the best road forward is trade for another team’s disappointment or draft a rookie passer if he wants to upgrade on Drew Lock.

With Watson’s status a huge question mark due to the current investigation into sexual assault allegations against him, I thought it best to look beyond him to the other alternatives. What follows is a team-by-team QB breakdown. For clarity’s sake I set the format similar to a mock draft so as to present where each team is located on the board in relation to the Broncos. My hope is that this helps illuminate who stands in the way if Paton is chasing a QB while also shining a light on who may be willing to wheel and deal with Denver if the Broncos want to use a rookie prospect as a way to move down the board.

All depth charts courtesy of Ourlads. All contract numbers courtesy of Over the Cap.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

Current depth chart: Gardner Minshew, Jake Luton

There are bettors who would make a ton of money if Trevor Lawrence is not a Jaguar.

2. New York Jets

Current depth chart: Sam Darnold, James Morgan, Mike White

For all intents and purposes, the draft starts at two. Most expect Joe Douglas to take Zach Wilson and find a trade partner to move Sam Darnold. If Douglas decides Darnold is the wagon to hitch his fortunes to, it would make a ton of sense for the Jets to move down and acquire extra picks.

3. Houston Texans (Miami Dolphins)

Current depth chart: Deshaun Watson, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Finley

I don’t feel I know anywhere near enough to even try to speculate on the allegations against Deshaun Watson, so I won’t. What we do know is that he wants to be traded and that Nick Caserio said in January that he wouldn’t be moved. If the Texans move on from Watson, there is little doubt they would be back in the quarterback market.

As for the third overall pick, Miami acquired it in the Laremy Tunsil trade. With Tua already atop the depth chart, it seems unlikely they’ll take a QB if it isn’t Watson. If the Jets are locked into Wilson, the Dolphins become then become a potential trade partner for any team looking to jump the Falcons and Eagles.

4. Atlanta Falcons

Current depth chart: Matt Ryan

It’s Terry Fontenot’s first year as general manager, so they’re a bit of a wildcard. The Falcons restructured Matt Ryan’s contract last week which means it would now cost more than $40 million to move him in 2022. While there remains a real possibility Arthur Smith takes this chance to grab a quarterback to groom behind the veteran, it looks unlikely. Right now I expect Atlanta to chase the top non-QB on their board. They could also be a trade down candidate.

5. Cincinnati Bengals

Current depth chart: Joe Burrow, Kyle Shurmur

Joe Burrow’s rookie season didn’t go as hoped, but there’s no indication Cincinnati will chase a replacement. It’s worth noting that the notoriously frugal Bengals could be a trade down candidate.

6. Philadelphia Eagles

Current depth chart: Jalen Hurts, Khalil Tate

The Eagles’ owner has reportedly told his front office and coaching staff to prioritize making Jalen Hurts successful in 2021. They also recently signed Joe Flacco to a $3.5 million deal to backup Hurts in 2021. I’m going to venture a guess and say they’re out of the rookie QB race.

Despite all that, it’s hard to ignore that they’re a prime spot for a QB. Hurts was a second round pick and didn’t light the world on fire as a rookie. If they don’t take a passer, it’d make a ton of sense for Howie Roseman to move down the board in an effort to collect extra ammo to rebuild his tattered roster.

7. Detroit Lions

Current depth chart: Jared Goff, Tim Boyle, David Blough

The Lions’ approach to free agency suggests they’re set to tank the 2021 season. It would make a ton of sense for Brad Holmes to catch a sliding QB if an opportunity should present itself or at least use him to move down. It may be a weird fit with the current roster now that Detroit has made it harder to move on from Goff.

8. Carolina Panthers

Current depth chart: Teddy Bridgewater, P.J. Walker, Will Grier, Tommy Stevens

Last week Joe Person reported that the Panthers see Watson as their “plan A, B, and C” and that’s worth remembering. If those plans turn to ash, I expect them to be very aggressive in an effort to upgrade on Bridgewater.

9. Denver Broncos

Current depth chart: Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, Jeff Driskel

If for whatever reason Paton’s left at nine without a QB prospect he sees as worthy, Denver looks like a prime slide down candidate. Dallas could also compete for offers if any team is looking to move up, which could complicate a potential trade down.

10. Dallas Cowboys

Current depth chart: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Garrett Gilbert, Ben DiNucci

Prescott just signed a $160 million extension. They’re probably chasing a defensive player.

11. New York Giants

Current depth chart: Daniel Jones, Mike Glennon, Clayton Thorson

Dave Gettleman has never traded down in the NFL Draft and Jones is entering year three. They’ll pick at 11 or move up.

12. San Francisco 49ers

Current depth chart: Jimmy Garoppolo, Josh Rosen, Josh Johnson

It’s no secret the 49ers want to upgrade on Jimmy G. They could wind up with Watson or taking a swing to move up the board. It’s also possible they sit at 12 and take Mac Jones. I don’t expect them to trade down, but it can’t be ruled out.

13. Los Angeles Chargers

Current depth chart: Justin Herbert, Easton Stick

Herbert just won OROY, and if not for Gettleman or the Charger’s lack of fans, Tom Telesco’s draft strategy would earn him flak.

14. Minnesota Vikings

Current depth chart: Kirk Cousins, Jake Browning, Nate Stanley

In his most honest moment, I bet Rick Spielman would tell you he wants to find an upgrade on Cousins. If anyone has had that kind of talk with Spielman, it’s George Paton. Both surely know Cousins’ contract makes moving him ruinous for the current roster. It’d be shocking for Minny to chase a rookie passer, though they could be a trade down candidate if someone slips.

15. New England Patriots

Current depth chart: Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Jacob Dolegala

Belichick has never drafted a quarterback in the first round of an NFL draft until now. Newton is on a one-year deal and the style of offense Josh McDaniels used to maximize his skillset in 2020 could make a ton of sense for Trey Lance. Mac Jones has been compared to Tom Brady, and while I think that’s a stretch, he could make sense in Foxboro. Add up the Pats very aggre$$ive free agency and they look like prime trade up candidates.

It’s also worth remembering that Belichick has been doing this so long that he’s taken just about every other approach you can think of in the draft. New England is a true wildcard.

16. Arizona Cardinals

Current depth chart: Kyler Murray, Chris Streveler, Cole McDonald

Steve Keim did take first round quarterbacks back-to-back, but I can’t see the Cards grabbing a passer here. With only five picks in the draft thanks to the Deandre Hopkins trade, they do look like a prime candidate to move down if an opportunity should arise. Keim has shown a willingness to wheel and deal in both directions.

17. Las Vegas Raiders

Current depth chart: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, Nate Peterman, Kyle Sloter

Back in Februrary, there was talk that Carr was heading for a contract extension and if that happens, Gruden is probably done chasing expensive QBs for a hot minute. Until then they remain in play for Russell Wilson, a dark horse candidate for Watson, and a potential dance partner for a rookie passer.

18. Miami Dolphins

Current depth chart: Tua Tagovailoa, Jacoby Brissett, Jake Rudock, Reid Sinnett

Touched on the Dolphins at 3. I suspect they’re in an either/or with Watson and Tagovailoa.

19. Washington Football Team

Current depth chart: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen, Steven Montez

Fitzmagic turns 39 in November and Taylor Heinicke has thrown 121 passes in his NFL career. It’s hard to believe they wouldn’t take a quarterback. What’s tough to suss out is the price Martin Mayhew would pay to go and get one in the first year of his second stint as a general manager.

20. Chicago Bears

Current depth chart: Andy Dalton, Nick Foles

Desperation hits everyone a little differently.

Ryan Pace offered the Seahawks three first round picks, one third round pick, and two players in exchange for Russell Wilson. Jon Schneider and Pete Carroll said no. Pace responded by signing Andy Dalton to a one-year deal after he promised he’d be the starter. There is belief in some corners that Nick Foles will be on the move. There remains a possibility da Bears aren’t done with their attempt to deal for Wilson.

21. Indianapolis Colts

Current depth chart: Carson Wentz, Jacob Eason, Jalen Morton

It only feels like Wentz has been a Colt for a month, and he didn’t don the two until last week.

22. Tennessee Titans

Current depth chart: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside, DeShone Kizer

We’re about to find out how Tannehill looks sans Corey Davis, Arthur, and Jonnu Smith.

23. Seattle Seahawks (New York Jets)

Current depth chart: Russell Wilson, Danny Etling, Alex McGough

It sure looks like the Seahawks are headed for a messy divorce with Russell Wilson. The teams he’s reportedly interested in make a potential deal quite complicated because few return a pick that would set Seattle up to chase a quarterback. As it currently stands, they don’t pick until 56 thanks to the Jamal Adams’ trade.

As for New York, it’s hard to imagine they wait until 23 to take a passer when they have a shot at everyone but Trevor Lawrence at two.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers

Current depth chart: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins

2021 is going to be a Big Ben retirement tour on a cap-strapped roster. Kevin Colbert’s contract extension only runs through the 2022 draft. Barring untold faith in Haskins, it would be prudent to chase a successor to Roethlisberger. With that said I expect them to chase immediate help so the last hurrah makes it past the eight win mark.

25. Los Angeles Rams (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Current depth chart: Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins, Devlin Hodges

Trading Goff for Stafford ensures Les Snead won’t do first round picks anymore. and Urban Meyer didn’t come out of retirement to wait until 25 to take his QB.

26. Cleveland Browns

Current depth chart: Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum, Kyle Lauletta

Early last season Mayfield had a couple shaky games, but there’s little reason to believe Andrew Berry is chasing a replacement. Odds are they’re chasing the BPA at a position of relative need here, but don’t rule out a trade down.

27. Baltimore Ravens

Current depth chart: Lamar Jackson, Trace McSorley, Tyler Huntley

According to the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin, Jackson is in the early stages of a contract extension.

“Two sources said Jackson and the Ravens have started talking about a contract extension, but the sides are far apart. One problem for Jackson is that he still has two years left on his deal and is only making $1.77 million in 2021.”

28. New Orleans Saints

Current depth chart: Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston, Trevor Siemian

There’s an increasingly vocal part of my brain that says Wilson eventually lands with Sean Payton. Before you say the math won’t work, remember that Micky Loomis is a magician. If there’s a way to make it happen, he’ll find it.

It’s easy to picture Mac Jones playing point guard in the Drew Brees offense, but I don’t think they’re burning multiple drafts to move up for a prospect. Rookie contracts are their best path out of cap hell.

29. Green Bay Packers

Current depth chart: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love

Doubt they give up on Love so soon.

30. Buffalo Bills

Current depth chart: Josh Allen, Mitch Trubisky, Jake Fromm, Davis Webb

Allen looks like a 25-year-old MVP candidate and Trubisky’s short-term insurance for a Super Bowl contender.

31. Kansas City Chiefs

Current depth chart: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Jordan Ta’amu, Anthony Gordon

Mahomes looks like a 26-year-old MVP candidate, and Henne is short-term insurance for a Super Bowl contender.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Current depth chart: Tom Brady

Brady looks like a 44-year-old MVP candidate.