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What if the Broncos sold the farm for Justin Fields?

Could George Paton trade up for a quarterback? Should he?

With the NFL Draft less than a month away, it feels like the biggest question hanging over the Denver Broncos is what George Paton will choose to do at quarterback. Now that all the best options in free agency are long gone, there’s only three real options in front of him:

Will the new general manager spend his first draft acquiring a new signal caller?

Will Paton trade for competition before OTAs begin?

Are the Broncos Locked in to their 2020 starter?

I’ve already shared how I view the options ahead of the Broncos, but I think it’s time to take a look at how the decision could impact the whole roster. What follows is potential scenarios where I play the role of George Paton and aggressively pursue an alternative to Drew Lock.

In this scenario, I kept true to my 4 Simple Rules for the NFL draft.

What does the cap look like right now?

According to Over the Cap, the Broncos currently have $26,439,494 in cap space. This figure accounts for the rollover amount from 2020. Keep in mind that the top 51 contracts are what count against a team’s cap and that the 51st contract on the Broncos is currently a $780,000 cap number, so rookie contracts will impact this.

What about the QB question?

In this scenario, we are going to explore how the Broncos’ draft could go if George Paton decides it makes sense to be aggressive in an attempt to acquire a franchise quarterback.

Cut

Jeff Driskel - Quarterback (frees up $2.5 million vs. $750,000 dead)*

*This will occur in the dead season between the draft and OTAs once we have a replacement.

Extended

Bradley Chubb - ED (5th year option: $12.716 million for 2022)

What about free agency?

My approach to free agency in this scenario is to wait and see how the draft falls after the QB trade. Moving multiple picks means there aren’t as many chances at cost-controlled rookies, but the Broncos’ cap situation is good enough that I believe we can address this between May and training camp. I discuss my plans for the veteran market in my Final Thoughts.

What about the 2021 Draft?

For this scenario, I went with The Draft Network’s Mock Draft simulator. Any complaints about the picks should be directed at them. Like the rest of this scenario, my plan for this draft is to explore every avenue to improve the Broncos.

The trade up

It currently looks likely that quarterbacks will go 1-2-3 in the NFL Draft. While I think everyone knows Trevor Lawrence will go to the Jacksonville Jaguars, we don’t know with 100% certainty that the New York Jets will take Zach Wilson. There’s currently a raging debate about who the San Francisco 49ers traded up to acquire. The timing of their deal as well as Matt Ryan’s contract restructure leads me to believe it’s Trey Lance, but I won’t bet on it.

With so many questions, I would call the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, and Detroit Lions to try to determine what it would cost me to make a move and then I would wait until the Niners get their guy to move up. There’s obviously a risk that the Carolina Panthers or someone like the New England Patriots will swoop in early, but trading up without knowing who it will net seems reckless.

I’m generally opposed to trading future picks because there’s no telling where they’ll land, but quarterbacks are valuable enough that they’re worth bending for. Before the Lawrence pick is in, I write down a reminder that I won’t overspend to get up. If a trade up costs three first round picks, I’ll wait and see what happens with Deshaun Watson. Failing that, it isn’t like we can’t work with Drew Lock for another year if need be.

The first two picks roll in: Lawrence and Wilson. Baited breath as the clock ticks down on San Francisco. As I thought, Trey Lance will be a 49er. There’s a text from Terry Fontenot, but I leave the Falcons on read. They shock the world by grabbing Mac Jones.

Now I’m sweating Carolina.

I pick up the phone. Before the day began, the Bengals wanted two firsts and change, but now they’re asking for two firsts, two seconds, and a third. Quick glance at my sticky note. There’s been rumors for weeks that Joe Burrow has been lobbying for Ja’Marr Chase. I’ll call their bluff.

We move up to six for two firsts and a third.

T.6. Justin Fields - QB - Ohio State

As the second passer on my board, Fields is the best combination of athleticism and accuracy in this draft class. Standing at 6’3 and 230 lbs. he’s a long bomber who has the poise to hang in the pocket in order for his receivers to get open downfield. When things break down, he’s a 4.4 athlete who can create out of structure or make something on his own. To reach his potential, he’ll need to become better at throwing with anticipation and speeding up his process, but Mike Shula loves him and I have no problem taking the chance.

T.60. Asante Samuel Jr. - CB - Florida State

Jason Licht calls as we barrel toward the end of Day 1 to see if we’re interested in a swap with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I tell him thanks, but no thanks. Without the 2022 first or this year’s third, keeping picks in the top four rounds makes too much sense. They grab Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike at 32.

I’m too jazzed to sleep after the first night. After months of speculation, there’s finally a clear direction for where we’re headed. With Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert locked into the AFC West, it makes sense to grab a signal caller that can go toe-to-toe. It feels as if I’ve only just closed my eyes when I have a text from the Mickey Loomis. A quick call and we have a plan in place that leads to a trade down from 40 to recoup some capital.

Lock is fighting for playing time on the New Orleans Saints.

After Baron Browning joins the Los Angeles Rams, I’m left with three good choices when it’s time to pick. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound. Samuel is the highest player on my board. A very athletic corner with good instincts, closing speed, and the ability to mirror and match, Samuel gives Fangio another inside/outside option to groom under Bryce Callahan, Kyle Fuller, and Ronald Darby.

T.98. Ar’Darius Washington - DB - TCU

T.99. Cameron McGrone - LB - Michigan

When the Dallas Cowboys’ pick is up, my phone goes off. I don’t call Jerry back until we’re two picks away from 98. Don’t ask me how, but Jones gives me his second third for a bunch of Day 3 flotsam. Four picks for just one, but I’d rather have two bites from the apple with the way the board has fallen.

Ar’Darius Washington is a diminutive Horned Frog whose ceiling looks a lot like the Honey Badger. He plays big with no fear, running the alley or chasing down ball carriers in space and combines it with tremendous instincts. Worst case scenario he can settle in as a slot corner, but I suspect he’ll become the heir to Kareem Jackson.

Cameron McGrone gives us a toolsy linebacker to compete with Josey Jewell and Justin Strnad. He needs to get better at stacking at the point of attack and his length causes him issues separating from blocks, but he’s a very good athlete who can drop in space or run sideline to sideline. I trust Fangio can coach him up.

114. Kylin Hill - RB - Mississippi State

After another night of fitful sleep, I’m double-fisting Redbull and coffee on day three. Good thing too, because I need the energy to argue with the scouts for Hill over East Carolina’s D’Ante Smith. As tempting as the Purple Pirate is, this tackle class is still pretty loaded while the number of quality backs is starting to dry up.

With Melvin Gordon set to become a free agent after the 2021 season, it only makes too much sense to grab a 214 lb. Bulldog from Mississippi. Hill’s 2020 got derailed by a coaching change and COVID-19, but he’s shown off good contact balance along with the skill set to become a reliable contributor on third downs.

The top 11 running backs in the 2021 draft class | Touchdown Wire

NFL Comparison: Garrison Hearst. This is a bit of a throwback, but it’s tough to find 5-foot-10 backs in the 215-pound range who run with Hill’s power and contact balance, and I’m not going to compare him to LaDainian Tomlinson. Like Hearst, who gained 7.966 yards on the ground and added 2,065 more yards in the air over his career from 1993 through 2004, Hill has a nice combination of agility, speed, strength, and wiggle, with untapped potential in the passing game. He’s not a foundation back per se, but if your team is looking for a thunder back to complement someone else’s lightning, you might want to start right here.

T.133. Stone Forsythe - OT - Florida

It strikes me as crazy that Forsythe is still available around four-five turn. Standing 6-foot-8 and weighing in at 329 pounds, the former Gator gives Mike Munchak a developmental tackle with the kind of length and athleticism to turn into a very good right tackle down the road. With Ja’Wuan James and Garett Bolles set to count for a combined $35 million against the cap in 2022, it pays to invest in depth behind them.

191. Chris Rumph - ED - Duke

With questions about his length, size, and play strength, it’s easy to overlook how Rumph was leaned on as the key disruptor in the Blue Devils’ pass rush. They moved him around to play a Joker role off the ball as well as asking him to attack from both edges. With questions facing Von Miller, Malik Reed, and Bradley Chubb in 2022, it makes sense to grab another potential outside backer with juice for third downs. Early on he can fight with Derrek Tuszka for playing time.

Final Thoughts

Before we pick Rumph, we’re already calling agents for Amen Ogbongbemiga, Avery Williams, Paris Ford, and Cole Van Lanen. The Badger winds up with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but both O and Ford become Broncos. They’ll compete to fill out the depth charts at safety and linebacker, and while neither provides the kind of raw athletic testing to wow scouts, each possesses the mental aptitude to outplay their limitations.

Without Lock on the roster, it pays to chase a veteran bridge for Fields. Now that C.J. Beathard is a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, there’s reason to believe Alex Smith could be interested. We provide him a chance to start early while he gives us the kind of invaluable mentor to help the rookie prepare to become the new face of the franchise.

Top to bottom, I love the potential of this draft class. While the trade up cost me a future first round pick, it didn’t prove difficult to turn the second rounder into additional capital by sliding down the board a little. Thanks to my affinity for wheeling and dealing, I was able to grab my second ranked passer and still fill out the depth chart.

The Field of Dreams?

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