Editor's Note: In the weeks leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, Andrew Mason will evaluate each position group. He will take a look at the best time to draft prospects at each position and address how he believes the Broncos will approach the position groups. Up first: quarterbacks.
IDEAL DRAFT RANGE: Rounds 1-2. In recent years, the late-round late-bloomer, best epitomized by 2000 Patriots sixth-rounder Tom Brady, has become nearly extinct. Of the 32 quarterbacks projected at the current time to be starters this fall, just five were drafted after the second round, and only one of that quintet (Seattle's Russell Wilson) entered the league after 2005.
That leaves 22 first-rounders, five second-rounders (including Drew Brees and Colin Kaepernick) and the rest.
The draft haul from 2006-11 relative to current starters illustrates the imbalance. In those six years, 16 quarterbacks were taken in the first round; 10 of those are first-teamers now. Four of the 11 second-round quarterbacks in that span are starters. But for those in the third round or lower, it's a shutout: 0-of-46.
If you really want a quarterback, even from this year's relatively fallow crop, you'd better pick one early.
BRONCOS OUTLOOK: If the Broncos wanted to shock the NFL, they'd take a quarterback in the first two rounds. But the chances of a quarterback being the best player available at any of their spots early in the draft is beyond remote; if anything, quarterbacks like West Virginia's Geno Smith, USC's Matt Barkley and Florida State's E.J. Manuel are likely to go ahead of their logical draft place, a product of the premium placed on quarterbacks and the desperate need of some teams to find that franchise passer.
The Broncos don't have to panic and reach for a quarterback. And perhaps no position is less of an immediate need.
But that doesn't mean a quarterback isn't in the offing. The Broncos had four quarterbacks at training camp last year; they have just three on the roster now. And given the potential trade value of a low-round or undrafted quarterback who exceeds all expectations in his development, there's justification for using a late-round pick on a quarterback almost every year.
Say you draft three quarterbacks late in three years of seventh rounds, and you develop one into a prospect who eventually nets a third-round pick in return. If you subscribe to the draft value chart that sets a point value for each pick, then you've netted approximately four times the yield in value for the three seventh-rounders combined.
*(Unfortunately, that's the best way to get value unless the NFL can re-develop a minor-league system like NFL Europe once was; that league provided crucial developmental snaps for Super Bowl quarterbacks Jake Delhomme, Kurt Warner and Brad Johnson, two of whom were undrafted.) *
If the Broncos fish out a rookie quarterback from the draft pool, they'll draw from the lesser-known end of it, at least in terms of media attention.
QUARTERBACKS IN DENVER'S POTENTIAL RANGE:
Sean Renfree, Duke:A torn pectoral muscle suffered late in Duke's Belk Bowl loss to Cincinnati means that he won't be able to throw at anything approximating full strength before the draft, so teams will have to trust the tape. What they'll see is a quarterback who is fairly accurate (he had a 66.3 percent completion percentage) but has a shaky touchdown-to-interception ratio (51 to 40 for his career). His ceiling is likely as an NFL backup, but he's bright enough to absorb a complicated offensive system like Duke's under David Cutcliffe.
Matt Scott, Arizona: For a while, it looked like Nick Foles' replacement at Arizona would slip to the late rounds and out of the draft, but Scott's star is rising after an outstanding Combine workout, and he's likely ascending beyond the range of when the Broncos would seek to add a quarterback and could fly off the board on the second day of the daft. Scott has issues -- accuracy on the run, an unusual delivery -- that will need some smoothing out.
Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech:Was it the system? Was it the receiver? Or was it Cameron's work alone? It's a combination of all three, although Sonny Dykes' system and wide receiver Quinton Patton's emergence didn't hurt. Still, someone has to get credit for starting 2012 with 428 passes without an interception. Cameron's measurables aren't notable, and it's fair to question whether he can make the leap when he had everything -- including weak WAC opposition -- breaking for him at Louisiana Tech.
Collin Klein, Kansas State: He maintains that he's focused on only being a pro quarterback, which doesn't help his draft stock; if he acquiesced to a potential position move, his stock might rise a bit. His athleticism isn't the question -- as evidenced by his strength as a runner -- but he's also not necessarily the type of runner who'll avoid contact, and his 40 time of 4.78 seconds at the Combine means he won't elude anyone.
Brad Sorensen, Southern Utah: A Latter Day-Saints mission means he's overaged for a quarterback prospect (25), but he has a smooth, well-crafted delivery, a solid TD-to-INT ratio (61-to-27), has classic quarterback measurables (6-foot-5, 229, big hands), footwork that wasn't illustrated by his 40 time (which he credits to playing soccer while on his mission in Spain) and didn't perform well against FBS-level competition.
Others of note in the late-round/UDFA range: Jeff Tuel, Washington State; Matt McGloin, Penn State; Dayne Crist, Kansas; Ryan Griffin, Tulane; Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt.