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ESPN's McShay: Denver's belief in Drew Lock could lead Broncos to pass on Justin Fields

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — If one of the top four quarterbacks remains on the board when the Broncos are poised to make the ninth-overall selection later this month, ESPN's Todd McShay believes it's not quite certain that Denver would draft a signal-caller.

In his most recent mock draft, McShay projected the Broncos would pass on Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields in favor of Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II. Fields, a two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, fell to No. 11 and the New England Patriots in McShay's mock draft.

McShay said he labored over the decision, and he suggested that Denver was one of the more difficult teams to predict in the top 10 selections. The difficulty lays in McShay's understanding of the team's evaluation of Drew Lock, a 2019 second-round pick.

"Denver at nine is interesting," McShay said on a conference call Monday. "I don't know that they've given up on Drew Lock. I think if they continue to put people around him and support him better, he can have a really successful career."

In 18 career starts over the past two seasons, Lock has completed 59.1 percent of his passes for 3,953 yards, 23 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and a 79.1 quarterback rating. In 13 games in 2020, Lock played several games that suggested he could be the long-term answer in Denver. He recorded a quarterback rating above 90.0 on four occasions, including a 149.5 rating in a win against the Panthers. In that victory over Carolina, Lock completed 77.8 percent of his passes for 280 yards, a career-high four touchdowns and no interceptions. He threw another three touchdowns in a 21-point comeback win over the Chargers and 339 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 17 game against the Raiders.

Lock, though, struggled to avoid turnovers during much of the year. He posted five games with multiple interceptions, including a four-interception game against the Raiders in Week 10. He also lost three fumbles during the season, and he turned the ball over at least once in all but two games. Over his final four games, though, Lock posted a 7-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Lock's inconsistencies have led several draft analysts to suggest that Denver could be in the market for a quarterback, though most have opined that the Broncos would need to move up in the draft to select a player of Fields' caliber. If Fields is indeed on the board at nine, McShay said the Broncos could certainly make sense as a landing spot for the Buckeye quarterback.

"It wouldn't shock me at all, to be totally honest, if Fields was the pick there if he's available," McShay said. "He's still developing in terms of processing. He loves to see his receiver open vs. anticipating throws. But I have him ranked ahead of Mac Jones."

McShay's intel, though, suggests that Jones will be picked third by the 49ers. That selection caused Trey Lance to fall to seventh to the Panthers, which in turn pushed Fields down the board.

The Broncos have evaluated several of the top quarterback prospects in person, as General Manager George Paton attended pro days featuring Fields, Lance and BYU's Zach Wilson. Denver also sent a contingent to Alabama, where Jones threw for scouts.

And while McShay believes Denver "absolutely could pull the trigger" and select Fields, his comments Monday suggest it's far from a sure thing.

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