ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Happy NFL Draft Eve!
If the day before the draft is any indication, we could be in for fireworks when the 2021 NFL Draft officially kicks off on Thursday.
The Broncos agreed to trade for Teddy Bridgewater on Wednesday, and we begin this edition of "Ask Aric" with a question about how that could impact the team's decisions on Thursday. We'll also answer other quarterback-related questions, as well as a few inquiries about other positions that could be of interest to Denver.
After months of debate, the Broncos will soon be on the clock. Before we get there, here are the answers to a few of your final questions.
If you'd like to leave a question for a future mailbag, click here.
Do you think the trade for Bridgewater increases the chances or lowers the chances for the Broncos to make a Round 1 acquisition of a QB? - @crudamYT
I'm truly not sure how much it moves the needle. I think all options are still open for the Broncos. The relatively low acquisition price they agreed to pay Carolina means that Denver could still use draft capital to move up without mortgaging the future. They also could still stay put at No. 9 and see if a quarterback they want falls to them at that selection. I don't think either of those options are off the board after agreeing to trade for Bridgewater. In a lot of ways, Bridgewater would be a perfect quarterback to help mentor a young quarterback. That said, the Broncos have more flexibility after the trade. They don't _have _to make a desperate trade to move up if they don't think it's in their long-term best interest. They could very well decide to move forward with an improved quarterback room of Drew Lock and Bridgewater. General Manager George Paton has said several times that the Broncos believe Lock can take a step forward, and perhaps the first true competition of his NFL career would push him toward more rapid improvement. Perhaps the best part of this move is that it makes the Broncos better without giving the rest of the NFL any real indication of what Paton plans to do next.
Expecting the unexpected and we take a running back in the first round, who do you think it would be? - Brandon W.
Brandon, I don't think that would be entirely out of the realm of possibility if the team trades back into the low teens. If, for example, Washington wanted to come up from No. 19 to take a quarterback and Denver wanted to accrue extra picks, that could be in the range where taking a running back makes sense. Najee Harris and Travis Etienne are widely considered the top options, and of those two, I think Etienne makes more sense. He could be a home-run hitter in Year 1 that complements Melvin Gordon III, and he could potentially transition into a starting role in 2022 if Gordon doesn't re-sign with the Broncos. Both he and Harris are very capable as pass-catchers, which would be a valuable asset to the Broncos' offense. I think Denver will add a running back at some point, even if it's not likely to happen in the first round.
Thoughts on viability of trading down for someone like Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah? - Mark T.
If the Broncos traded into the teens, Owusu-Koramoah could certainly be an option. He has positional versatility and the coverage skills teams desire for a modern-day linebacker. George Paton was at Notre Dame's pro day when he worked out, so it's possible he's on the team's radar. As a former ACC Defensive Player of the Year and consensus All-American, it's clear he has talent. The biggest question with JOK will be where you play him. Is he a linebacker that can cover a tight end or running back in the slot? Is he a safety that plays close to the line of scrimmage? Last year, Clemson's Isaiah Simmons struggled to adjust in Arizona because he didn't have a natural position. Any team that drafts JOK — or a similar player — will need a plan to make sure they can fit in and make a near-immediate contribution. If Denver trades down to the No. 15 range, there's probably a good chance that Micah Parsons and Jamin Davis are both available. Both players are more traditional linebackers, so the Broncos' choice will depend on what they're looking for at the position. And that's without mentioning the host of other positions — tackle, cornerback, running back — that the Broncos could consider after a trade down too.
What three positions are your Top 3 for Round 1? - Gary F.
QB, LB, CB — in that order.
In this league — and particularly in this division — you need an elite quarterback to win consistently. Perhaps Drew Lock can become that player, but I'd add a quarterback with elite upside in the draft to give the Broncos yet another option in their search to find a franchise quarterback. Linebacker is a position where an elite playmaker like a Parsons, Davis or Owusu-Koramoah could make an immediate impact in Denver. Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell are solid starters, but the team must continue to find players who can cover tight ends and running backs, particularly when they face Travis Kelce and Darren Waller a combined four times per season. Finally, while the Broncos seem set in the secondary for this season, Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan are both only under contract through 2021. All four of the top cornerbacks — Patrick Surtain II, Jaycee Horn, Caleb Farley and Greg Newsome II — could be elite, Pro Bowl-type players. It makes sense to me to get one of those guys for the future.
If 49ers turn and pick [Trey] Lance, New England gives (cap-strapped) Atlanta a ransom to move up for [Justin] Fields, does Mac Jones drop all the way to 9? - William H.
Quite possibly. But another team could see a historic run on quarterbacks — it would be the first time ever that four QBs would go in the top four picks — and decide to make a move. Detroit and Carolina have both been rumored as destinations for teams looking to trade ahead of the Broncos. But yes, I think in this scenario, Jones would make it to No. 9. Even if that's the case, we have no idea which of the quarterbacks the Broncos would deem worthy of drafting in the ninth spot. If Denver didn't think Jones was the right move at No. 9, the Broncos could be the one to trade down with a quarterback-needy team and get a haul of picks. For what it's worth, I also don't think we're going to see four quarterbacks go with the first four picks. Every year, there's chatter about how early the QBs will go. Two years ago, there was talk that Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones, Dwayne Haskins and Lock could all go in the top 10-to-12 picks. Haskins ended up at 15, and Lock fell to 42. I'll be a bit surprised if QBs sweep the top four spots.
Would past draft history (i.e. 2018 passing on Josh Allen) have any impact on new GM George Paton's approach toward QBs in this year's draft? - @Brsutton14
I don't think anything that's happened in Denver — outside of the makeup of the roster — will have an impact on Paton's decisions. For example, I don't think the Broncos are likely to draft a tight end or wide receiver at No. 9, regardless of how the board falls, because of the team's wealth of resources at the position. That said, I'm sure Paton is not going to be making his decision about who to draft based on which quarterbacks were drafted or not drafted in the past. Paton won't be deciding whether to draft Fields, Lance or Jones because the team passed on Josh Allen.
If we pick QB in 1st round, should Denver go back to 1st round for Zaven Collins, Caleb Farley or JOK? - @ferpatrp
Well, that kind of depends on what it takes to get a quarterback. If the Broncos trade picks to move up in the Top 10, I wouldn't think they'd use additional capital to get back into the first round. If they snag a QB at nine without moving, then trading back in could make sense if a high-quality prospect starts to fall. In Paton's nine drafts in Minnesota as the team's assistant GM, the Vikings traded back into the first round on three occasions. I'm unsure if JOK would still be there in the late 20s, but Collins is another talented linebacker who could be an option. Farley's medicals could push him down, and he may be worth it if the Broncos are comfortable with his health. I'd maybe add Davis and Miami's Jaelan Phillips as other trade-back-in-worthy players.
If Denver does not go with QB in first round, what QB can you see them taking later? - Reggie
To be honest, I'd be somewhat surprised if the Broncos took a quarterback after Round 1. After adding Teddy Bridgewater, Denver has both a quality veteran and a young quarterback who may still break through to another level. Now, it may be worth adding a Fields, Lance or Jones for their potential upside, but I'm not sure that any of the quarterbacks who will be available in Round 2 and beyond would be a significant upgrade. Davis Mills might be the name I'm most intrigued by after Day 1. He started just 11 games in college because of injuries and COVID-19, but he was a former top recruit and could be a sleeper pick among QBs.