Thursday, April 18, 2024

Answering the Biggest Questions in Denver

As promised in the article title, I’m going to be answering the single biggest question everyone outside of the Denver Broncos organisation wants to know. Well, I say single biggest question, I mean 2 biggest questions.

1. What’s the plan at quarterback?
2. Who will Denver take at 10?

In previous features, I’ve gone in depth investigating into some of football’s whirlwind stories including a saving grace in Washington and The Will Grier Story, alongside other scouting pieces for Quarterback prospects Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock and Tyree Jackson.

The big dogs from free agency are done, In my 66 random free agency predictions I managed to call nearly all of Denver’s moves: Kareem Jackson, Ja’wuan James and
Bryce Callahan all coming in for the win and I discussed the Flacco move extensively here.

So let’s start from the beginning of the story on why Denver is not taking a quarterback with the 10th overall pick in the 2019 Draft.

John Elway has his entire career as a general manager riding on this, he’s a lot of things but stupid isn’t one of them. John Elway knows exactly what his future rests on and I’m damn sure he’s not risking it unless it’s for a dead certainty like Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning. – I love some of the prospects coming out at quarterback this year but I couldn’t guarantee you anything about their futures.

Speaking of futures, Joe Flacco has one for a minimum of 2 years. He’s still got an absolute minimum of another 4 years in the game thanks to the sheer size of his arm. The biggest giveaway here, Flacco isn’t going to swap Baltimore’s bench for Denver’s, he doesn’t gain anything as a player, so I’m damn sure he’s got guarantees as a starter. There is no way in hell Flacco is going to move franchise only for the team he moves to, to put him through exactly what he just went through with Baltimore all over again.

At the NFL Combine, John Elway let slip the reason Case Keenum isn’t with Denver anymore and that reason is the height from under centre. If you’re going to be playing for Denver seeing the field cleanly from UC is non-negotiable. These were his remarks regarding Murray, but it’s clear to see what he thinks.

So, who else do know that’s tall, wins and is available? Well it just so happens that Joe Flacco is the tallest QB currently playing at a franchise level in the NFL. Flacco has a track record for being accurate from under center (1,443/2,387 attempts, 64% passing completion, 4.1% touchdown success per throw and a first down thrown 20% of the time).

To put those stats into perspective here are Jared Goff’s stats from under centre in the leagues top UC team, the L.A Rams. Goff has a 58% completion percentage, a 43% first down percentage and a touchdown thrown 7% of the time.

Given the comparison you can certainly see the appeal of Flacco for Elway and the Broncos.

From Flacco to Fangio, do you think that a first-year head coach with a defensive background is going to be able to cope with the teething pains that rookie quarterbacks bring? Elway isn’t going to do what he did with Vance and line up his entire coaching staff as rookies only to them give them a (an almost) rookie QB set up? Would you bank your career on a bunch of first timers unless you were 100% sure that the quarterback was the next Manning or Luck?

This pick is going on what Fangio can do best, his coaching major is as a linebacking coach, it’s what he knows, we’ve got Todd Davies, who’s not athletically amazing, Josey Jewell is going to struggle to play in this kind of defence (he’s a football guy, not an athlete). Aside from these two Denver has very few legitimate options left in the house, potentially Su’a Cravens? Fangio is going to want another Roquan Smith, exactly what Devin White has the size to be.

As far as the fans are concerned Elway is on borrowed time right now, he struck out on Manning and Miller, but since 2015 things have been getting worse and worse. Above anything else, Denver needs to restore it’s winning tradition to some degree, at a bare minimum Fangio and Elway need to have this team riding 9-7.

If Elway was to select a Drew Lock or Dwayne Haskins in the first round it would only take a couple of losses before fans start calling for his name. The ingredients here are all set to create a fantastic recipe devoid of any safety.

Elway will not, under any circumstances take a young quarterback, add a rookie head coach with a pure defensive mind and ask them to save his career because the chances of it backfiring are so much higher than going down the safe route.

Elway not taking a rookie in the first round doesn’t mean he won’t take one at all, however. Denver inquiring into Blake Bortles was interesting, to say the least, but it’s pretty likely that Denver’s back up for the 2019 season comes from this seasons Draft.

A trade is certainly possible but with rumours of not liking Rosen coming out, is there anyone he could realistically trade for and get sufficient value? Trading for someone like Rosen, with his stature as a future star, would also take the logic out of trading for Flacco considering the free agent targets available of back up quality in free agency this year.

In my unprofessional opinion Denver do look towards the draft in the latter rounds to select a quarterback and I think I’ve worked out who it could very well be.

I have no doubt that Elway is attracted to Drew Lock, as you’ve heard a million times he’s an athletic monster, and, well, he is. If he were there in the second round or if Denver trade back at any point then they probably would move for him as a project, but the chances of him being available that late on are almost impossible, such as the needy nature of the NFL.

So who’s realistically in Denver’s budget this year that would be of interest to Elway? three names stand out to me although the last one is a stretch of a reach in my opinion.

If rounds 4-6 is the target for a QB, as I suspect it will be, then I believe number one on their board is Brett Rypien.The 6-foot-2 Boise State product completed 1,035 of 1,617 passes (64 percent) for 3,578 yards, 90 touchdowns and 29 interceptions across four seasons. He also chipped in three rushing TDs and two receiving scores.

The biggest outlier isn’t his numbers though, it’s in the fact that John Elway met with him in January during the Shrine game.

if Rypien is taken, I think Denver will then look to someone many haven’t looked at yet, Tyree Jackson, who you can read more about here. The sheer ceiling he possesses is incredible but that floor is pretty deep also. for a late round project pick, I wouldn’t rule him out.

If by some miracle both QBs have been taken, and that miracle has also left Will Grier on the board then I imagine all eyes would turn to him, he’s not going to set the world alight but he’s a talented jack of all trades and master of none.

I also think there could be potential interest in Clayton Thorson, a QB who could turn out to be the steal of the draft.

Masterminding the steal of the draft is every GM’s dream, so who is John Elway going to steal away with the 10 pick if it’s not a quarterback? The truth is that’s a complicated question to answer when Denver themselves are still trying to work it all out.

My argument for who comes next is based on looking at the team, it’s strengths from the coaching set-up and what they need on the field.

Denver had a good free agency

In free agency, Denver prioritised the offensive tackle and cornerback positions so although being two positions of real strength in coaching it’s very unlikely we see Denver move for a Cornerback or offensive lineman in round one.

Instantly there are 3 names that jump out at me.

  • Devin White
  • T.J. Hockenson
  • Ed Oliver

I Imagine Devin White is top of the board but you’ve got a linebacker-needy Bucs and Lions picking before Denver. He’ll no doubt be number one on our board. The 6-foot, 237-pounder has good athleticism with the ability to cover in the passing game while also being a terrific run defender.

White notched 123 tackles with 12 for a loss, six passes broken up, three sacks and three forced fumbles in 2018. In 2017, he totalled 133 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, three passes broken up and one interception.

That season was a breakout campaign for the sophomore, and if he could have entered the 2018 NFL Draft, he would have graded out similarly to Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds or Georgia’s Roquan Smith. White is a pure football player and could be one of the safer picks in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Given Fangio’s primary coaching speciality is at middle linebacker I see absolutely no reason why this move isn’t considered Denver’s bigger priority. There’s a pretty big hole sitting at Mile High in the middle of the field and whilst I am a fan of Josey Jewell, I’m uncertain as to how well he fits the Fangio system.

Next up is T.J. Hockenson, a player who probably hasn’t got the recognition he deserves this year in all honesty. Tight End has been a silent need in Denver for a few years now Hockenson is a sure thing for me.

I have a theory that this is a player Mike Munchak will press for and such is the level of respect for him I can see it being heard. Hockenson (6-4, 251) was a surprise early entry into the 2019 NFL Draft, but it wasn’t a bad decision as he could be one of the first tight ends selected.

While splitting targets with Noah Fant in 2018, Hockenson totalled 49 receptions for 760 yards with six touchdowns. He has good size and showed some impressive receiving skills in 2018. To go along with being a receiving mismatch weapon, Hockenson is a quality blocker who should quickly develop into a three-down starter in the NFL.

Defensive tackle isn’t as big a need for Denver as other positions are but the Fangio defence requires a big man in the middle to eat up blocks, as good as Shelby Harris is, being big and eating blocks isn’t a speciality of his.

Zach Kerr being re-signed along with the possibility of Domata Peko also coming back may squash the possibility for many. For me, I still think Fangio would quite like to add a 6-foot-4, 342-pounder who had been a tremendous freshman to help Clemson win the 2016 season’s National Championship.

NFL sources were raving about Lawrence in the 2017 preseason, as he was impossible to ignore in 2016. Lawrence was an All-Freshman selection all over the nation, plus was named the ACC Rookie of the Year. He totalled 63 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks and a pass batted for 2016.

Heading into the draft the Broncos do still have several key needs before we crown them as a well-rounded team. The secondary may look a lot better right now but there’s still cause for concern at middle linebacker and defensive tackle, whilst the offensive side of the ball cries out for an offensive guard/centre, a tight end, a wide receiver and arguably a quarterback.

Heading into the draft the Broncos have 8 selections, I’m going to predict the position we spend our draft capital in order.

1) 1st round – Tight End
2) 2nd round – Middle Linebacker
3) 3rd round – Quarterback
4) 4th round – Defensive Tackle
5) 5th round – Offensive Guard
6) 5th round – Cornerback
7) 6th round – Wide Receiver
8) 7th round – Running Back

If Denver goes QB at 10, Elway needs to be surer than he’s ever been in his career, do you think he’s risking that on Lock? Lock is the next closest thing to Josh Allen – A quarterback Elway reportedly took a shine towards last year but the downside of the situation just isn’t worth the career suicide it will cause with a defensive, rookie HC.

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