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Broncos Draft Prospects: Quarterback

IDEAL DRAFT RANGE: If you're looking for a starter, you don't want to wait long.

Of the 32 quarterbacks projected to start this year -- obviously subject to change pending further roster moves and draft picks -- 18 came into the league as first-round picks. Ten more were selected in the second and third rounds. Just two of 28 starters were taken in the fourth round or later, and two more came from the undrafted ranks, although two of them, Cleveland's Brian Hoyer and Oakland's Matt McGloin, seem likely to be surpassed by pickups in the weeks and months to come.

There are no current starting quarterbacks who were taken in the third round or later from the 2006-11 drafts -- a ghastly 0-for-46. But the trend has changed in recent years, thanks to the emergence of 2012 third-rounders Russell Wilson (Seattle) and Nick Foles (Philadelphia). At some point in the future, Washington's Kirk Cousins, a fourth-rounder in 2012, will likely be a starter -- albeit for another team, unless Robert Griffin III has more injuries. Mike Glennon, a third-round pick for Tampa Bay last year, started 13 games and showed promise, but was effectively demoted Wednesday when the Bucs signed Josh McCown, who was selected in the third round a dozen years ago by Arizona.

But if you have patience for the developmental process, the middle-to-late rounds this year have some intriguing prospects.

RECENT BRONCOS HISTORY: Zac Dysert became the fourth quarterback taken in the last five Broncos drafts when the Broncos nabbed him with the 234th pick last year. He was their first seventh-round quarterback since 2004, when the Broncos picked Matt Mauck and Bradlee Van Pelt with the 225th and 250th overall selections, respectively.

In 2012, Brock Osweiler was one of Denver's two second-round picks. He became just the fifth quarterback taken by the Broncos in the first three rounds since the common draft was instituted in 1967. (Acquiring three Ring of Fame quarterbacks via trade -- Charley Johnson, Craig Morton and John Elway -- skews this a bit.) Three of the previous four early-round Broncos quarterbacks eventually became full-time starters (Brian Griese, Tim Tebow and Jay Cutler), but none were with the team for longer than five seasons. In fact, the only quarterback drafted by the Broncos to play for the team for longer than five seasons is Gary Kubiak (nine seasons, 1983-91).

Since 1986 the Broncos have drafted 13 quarterbacks -- but just nine in 23 drafts from 1986-2008 before their recent run. Five were taken in the first three rounds, eight in rounds four and later. Only one of those eight late-round quarterbacks ever started a regular-season game for the Broncos: 2000 seventh-round pick Jarious Jackson, who struggled so greatly in that one start (Week 17 of 2003 at Green Bay, when the Broncos were locked into their playoff seed) that he was benched in the second quarter for veteran Danny Kanell.

BRONCOS OUTLOOK: Don't be surprised if the Broncos add a quarterback at some point in early May; they took four quarterbacks into the summer last year after drafting Dysert and signing Ryan Katz, who was waived in the preseason. But unless a quarterback the Broncos like unexpectedly falls into the late rounds -- as was the case with Dysert last year -- it is more likely an extra quarterback will come from the pool of undrafted players.

For the future, Manning is under contract through the 2016 season, as is Dysert. Osweiler's contract expires first, in 2015, and if Manning remains upright to that point -- remember, the only starts he's ever missed were when he sat out all of 2011 because of neck surgeries -- the Broncos will face a fascinating choice: do they offer Osweiler an extension, having invested years in his development, but relatively few regular-season snaps?

That decision may depend on the development of Dysert -- or anybody else the Broncos add. Quarterback is too vital to a team's hopes to not consider with every draft. The appreciation of developing quarterbacks means that a properly developed late-round pick can be flipped for a selection three or four rounds higher, even if he never plays a regular-season snap in the uniform of the team that picked him.

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