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Could the Broncos find a franchise passer in the 2022 QB class?

I spoke to Cory Kinnan of With the First Pick to find out.

Capital One Orange Bowl - Texas A&M v North Carolina
Is Sam Howell the next Baker Mayfield?
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Throughout the run up to George Paton’s first draft, I’ll admit I felt a sense of pressure for the Broncos to take a quarterback. Beyond my concerns about Drew Lock’s long term outlook was the fact just about every draft analyst I respect mentioned concerns about the 2022 QB class. When you combine that with the fact the 2021 Broncos look unlikely to secure a top 10 pick again, the last draft looked like their best chance to secure long term stability under center.

Alas, Paton decided Patrick Surtain II made more sense than Justin Fields or Mac Jones.

Which brings us back to Lock. He’s now locked into a heated competition for the starting job with Teddy Bridgewater. The winner will get the first crack at proving the Broncos don’t need a quarterback in 2021, the loser may be relegated to long term QB2 duties in the NFL. Of course, if the winner fails to impress it leaves the Broncos right back in the hunt for a quarterback.

On the chance Denver is looking at quarterbacks again in 2022, I thought it best to do some preliminary digging into the rookie class. So I reached out to With the First Pick’s Cory Kinnan.

1st and 10

It’s probably impossible for any 2022 prospect to reach Trevor Lawrence status, but how do you think the top end of the class stacks up to the last three or four years?

Kinnan: The top end is certainly lacking when comparing to last year, but can’t get any worse than 2019. This class has a similar feel to the 2018 class where there wasn’t a consensus QB1 between Mayfield, Allen, Darnold, or Rosen (and then Lamar may be the best of the bunch).

While nobody really stands out right now, (no first round grades from me) we may see three solid starters develop out of it.

2nd and 7

There’s been persistent hype around Sam Howell, so I took a break from watching Javonte Williams to study him back in February. On this side of his 2021, where do you place him among the ‘22 prospects?

Kinnan: I get the concerns with Sam Howell and the college offense that he runs at North Carolina. It will be interesting to see if the production stays up after losing Williams, Carter, Brown, and Newsome all in one year. Right now, however, I have Howell as my QB2 right behind Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler.

Not only is Howell one of the more accurate passers in the class, but he has performed to the tune of solid production for two straight seasons in the ACC. He isn’t the flashy option, nor does he have the top-end tools of Rattler, but he has plenty of arm talent and can make plays happen out of structure.

3rd and 3

Thanks to Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, and Zach Wilson, it looks like there’s now an expectation that an unheralded QB will emerge as a potential franchise passer every year. Do you think that’s feasible, and if so, who could it be?

Kinnan: Oh man. I do not think Kedon Slovis counts because he is already on people’s radars, but he should have a big year should his shoulder be completely healthy this year (it wasn’t in 2020).

I’ll give you a name from the MAC: Western Michigan’s Kaleb Eleby. He has a big-time arm with Russ-esque arc on his deep ball. His mobility is on the plus end as well. With most of these quarterbacks in the 2022 class, however, he is not tasked with a complete offense and has very little on his plate pre-snap.

His tools, however, make him a threat to jump onto the scene this season.

4th and 9

The Broncos wound up with the 9th overall pick last year despite playing their two best players all of 31 snaps and fielding the 30th best offense by DVOA. Which is to say, it seems improbable to expect another top 10 finish this year. Are there any QBs in this class that show enough promise that George Paton could find a potential answer farther down the board or even outside the first round? If so, who?

Kinnan: I find it hard to believe that Carson Strong of Nevada will fall that far, but if the small school snake bites his stock, then he is certainly a high-profile passer to watch. Boston College’s Phil Jurkovec with another year of development may also be in position to come off the board in the back end of round 1.

In the same vein as Kellen Mond and Davis Mills this year (top of round 3 picks), Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder are more realistically going to fall there than in the top-15. Tools off the charts, both Ridder and Willis, however, struggle to work through concepts efficiently and have ball placement all over the board (not a great recommendation for a team currently with Drew Lock under-center).

Extra Point

Speaking of Drew Lock. Do you think there’s any sort of realistic shot he puts it together and becomes “the guy” in 2021?

The odds are stacked greatly against him. That is not a bet I would ever consider making.