Mason's Mailbag: Drew Lock will get time to develop as backup

#AskMase How short of a leash do you think Fangio and Co. will give Flacco before they insert Drew Lock in as the starter? I would think last season would motivate Joe Flacco to excel.

-- @Isaiah_61_man (via Twitter)

I don't think the leash will be short. Not when you consider that President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway states that Flacco is still in his "prime." Not when the Broncos expect that their scheme -- which is a descendant of what Flacco ran with the Ravens in 2014 -- can bring Flacco back to the form he displayed that year, when he posted career highs in touchdown passes (27) and quarterback rating, per ESPN's metric (68.2), while finishing with the second-best passer rating (91.0) and third-best average per attempt (7.19 yards) of his first 11 NFL seasons.

"I think the bottom line is [Lock] is coming to compete as a backup. Joe’s the starter," Elway said. "When we look at it, we’re hoping Drew is the future. But Joe is the starter, is going to be the starter and he’s going to battle."

The fact that Elway said he's also looking at Flacco and Lock like Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers from 2005-07, when Rodgers was the Hall of Famer's understudy, is also telling about their sentiments regarding Flacco.

"[Lock] going to have time to sit and watch Joe and take his time and learn and continue to get better," Elway said. "We feel we’re in a good situation there."

Then you must consider the Broncos' first two draft picks Thursday and Friday night. One is the best pass-catching tight end in the draft (Noah Fant); the other is an offensive lineman who allowed just one sack in four seasons, according to Pro Football Focus (Dalton Risner). I doubt the Broncos could have found two more helpful players for Flacco than those two.

In Baltimore, the Ravens averaged 780 yards and 5.5 touchdowns on 75 receptions on a per-year basis from the tight end position during Flacco's 11 seasons as their starting quarterback. Few quarterbacks lean on their tight ends more than Flacco, and now he has a weapon with 4.5 speed who could take his utilization of tight ends to another level entirely.

Do you see a scenario where we go for one of the QBs in next year's draft to increase the chance of landing a franchise QB and letting them battle for the starting spot? Just for the record, Lock was my preferred choice if we did go QB and the fact we were able to get him in the second while picking two instant impact players and a future pick in 2020 was great value.

-- Tormund Giantsbane

I only see that happening if the following scenario transpires: Injury to Joe Flacco or an otherwise catastrophic start to the year forces Lock into the lineup, he doesn't show the progress you hope to see, and the team finishes with three or fewer wins. That would mimic what happened with the Carolina Panthers in 2010. An injury to Matt Moore forced them to toss No. 48 overall pick Jimmy Clausen into the fire. Clausen struggled. Carolina finished 2-14 to earn the No. 1 overall pick, which it used to select Cam Newton.

Whether Lock gets a chance to play in regular-season games or his work is limited to preseason and the practice field, what the Broncos will likely ask from him this season is progress -- specifically, to build off the steps forward he took in the second half of the 2018 season at Missouri, when he pushed his completion percentage to 67.3 percent over the final seven games.

One aspect of Lock that I like is that he knows what he doesn't know -- and he wants to be coached. When I asked him about his pre-draft meeting with the Broncos, it was the critique he received from Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello and Quarterbacks Coach T.C. McCartney that stood out to him.

"I think the coolest [part] was sitting down, watching film with Scangarello and Coach T.C., with them already pointing out some of the things that they want me to work on," Lock said. "They were being real with me right there, and I feel like that was kind of a cool bond that we had right off the bat, that they were taking the time to get into my film, talk to me a little bit about what I need to get better with, and let me start working on it now, just in case I ended up being a Bronco. Now we're here."

With the draft over, what position/roster holes can we (Denver) now consider “filled” and what others do we still need to address via free agency (veterans)?

-- Jayson Mayka

I'd regard the offense as pretty well set. The Broncos could add a veteran offensive tackle to compete behind Ja'Wuan James and Garett Bolles, but they could opt to stand pat, since Risner also has the flexibility to move to right tackle if an injury necessitates it. Don't forget about the presence of Don Barclay, who started 24 games for the Packers from 2013-16 before playing the 2017 campaign for the Lions. He could be a solid interior depth option.

On defense, the recent signing of Billy Winn, the trade for Dekoda Watson and the selections of Dre'Mont Jones and Justin Hollins help settle the depth in the front seven. The Broncos could opt to add another inside linebacker at some point if Hollins ends up factoring more as an edge rusher and if the youth at the position doesn't develop. But for now, Fangio wants to see what Josey Jewell, Alexander Johnson and 2018 sixth-round pick Keishawn Bierria can do.

I am ecstatic about this year's draft. That being said, is Dalton Risner projected to compete (and hopefully start) at center, right guard or is there some shuffling involved?

-- Jose Borrero

Look for Risner to work at right guard. Center could be in play down the line. That depends on how McGovern plays this year and what his future with the Broncos is, since he is in the final year of his rookie contract.

What do you think about the broncos ILBs? Do you think they will add another one and do you think they should?

-- @korn_korni (via Twitter)

You'll see some undrafted inside linebackers added to the team this week, but as for veteran additions, don't bank on it right now.

As I said numerous times over the course of a 29.5-hour broadcast marathon on Orange and Blue 760 and KOA during the draft's three days, you weren't going to cross all the items off the shopping list with surefire starters during a single draft. Some needs had to be kicked down the road a year.

I think the best play is to see how the young players fare for now. It would also be helpful to see how much an increased emphasis on zone coverage can aid Jewell, who should be better suited to the Broncos' defensive scheme than the one they used last year. I expect it will allow him to play to his strengths.

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