Here in Denver, it's getting to be all quarterback talk, all the time.
Three articles over the weekend were focused on the Broncos' options at quarterback and the scenarios that may unfold on draft night.
Let's start with Mark Kiszla’s column for The Denver Post, which posits that General Manager George Paton and the Broncos must make a deal to move up for the opportunity to draft Ohio State's Justin Fields or North Dakota State's Trey Lance or, failing that, trade down from No. 9.
"After missing the playoffs five straight seasons, this team requires bold action," Kiszla writes. "Trade up. Or trade down."
Kiszla's reasoning is simple: With their arm talent and athleticism, Fields and Lance represent the burgeoning model for success at quarterback.
"The NFL of the future will be ruled by quarterbacks with the physical attributes of Fields and Lance, trying to follow the footsteps of Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes," Kiszla writes.
You can count The Gazette's Paul Klee in that camp, as well. In his column, he puts all his chips behind Lance.
"Talk about a pleasant introduction if Paton likes and finds a way to move up and draft Lance, the electric enigma from North Dakota State," Klee writes. "Everyone's welcome to join Team Trey. We are boom or bust, but I promise it's going to be fun."
Preferences for the Broncos' first-round pick may vary, but it seems that what everyone can agree upon is that for even the slightest chance to draft Lance, Fields or any of the top quarterbacks, the Broncos almost certainly have to move up from where they currently sit in the first round. That could get murky since other teams may try to beat them to the punch.
But that still may not be enough, as it's possible that all four of the teams at the top of the draft will select a quarterback. However, "possible" may not even be a strong enough word; The Gazette's Woody Paige says that outcome is all but certain.
"It's possible that Paton will make the major move to a higher spot (perhaps No. 5, possessed by the Bengals) and hope the four teams ahead all don't pick quarterbacks," Paige writes. "But they will. Atlanta wants a young QB to back up Matt Ryan for a couple of seasons. The Broncos would have to offer the Falcons a trade nearly the same as the 49ers made with the Dolphins — exchanging the No. 9 and first-round picks in 2022 and '23, and maybe a fourth, for No. 4."
Of course, there's no guarantee that the Broncos are centrally focused on drafting a top quarterback. All Paton has said to this point is that the position is "in play" at No. 9, and he and Head Coach Vic Fangio have both asserted that they have confidence in Drew Lock's potential to be a quality quarterback in the NFL. Still, with a rare quarterback class like this one and Denver's top-10 pick, it's hard not to take a close look at the tantalizing options.
Below the Fold
One reason this quarterback class is so fascinating is that after Trevor Lawrence and perhaps Zach Wilson (depending on the mock draft), there's really no telling how the next three quarterbacks will fall. Lance has enticing passing and running ability and incredible stats, but he doesn't have a ton of experience, didn't play the best teams college football has to offer and didn't have the chance to put a second full season on tape because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fields has some similar eye-popping skills, but he played top-notch competition in the Big Ten. And Mac Jones, the stereotypical pocket passer, played elite opponents and found incredible success, but there's some question of how he'd have fared without Alabama's all-world receiving corps and offensive line.
Using a statistical model that attempts to adjust for these differences, Alexandre Olbrecht, Jeremy Rosen and Aaron Schatz created projections for each of the 2021 NFL Draft’s quarterback prospects for ESPN. Unsurprisingly, Lawrence and Wilson are the most sure bets to be "upper tier" or "elite" quarterbacks in the NFL. Then, after a bit of gap after Wilson, the edge between Lance and Fields goes to the former Buckeye by a hair.