Denver Broncos: 9 young players who must shine in 2021

Denver Broncos WR #10 Jerry Jeudy. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos WR #10 Jerry Jeudy. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /
10 of 10
Drew Lock, Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos QB #3 Drew Lock. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports /

Denver Broncos young players who must shine in 2021

1. Drew Lock, QB

At this point in time, no player matters more to the immediate and future success of the Denver Broncos than quarterback Drew Lock.

After his first “full” season of time on task, it’s clear that Lock made progression. John Elway said the Broncos saw enough from their young QB to believe he can be a good quarterback in the NFL for a long time, but Elway noted also that it’s going to “take some time”.

Up to this point, the Broncos have had exactly zero games with their top projected personnel for the 2020 season offensively. That group would look like this:

QB: Drew Lock
RB: Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay
WR: Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick
WR: Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler
TE: Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam
LT: Garett Bolles
LG: Dalton Risner
C: Lloyd Cushenberry
RG: Graham Glasgow
RT: Ja’Wuan James

All of those players are (or can easily be) under contract for the 2021 season and beyond. If you’re wondering why so many fans want to run it back with an offense that has struggled throughout 2020, this is it.

This is one of the most talented young units in the entire NFL. Over the course of the season, we’ve started to see Pat Shurmur’s offense take for these young guys. As Shurmur noted himself, the Broncos’ offense has at least 1,000 snaps less of time on the field than the next youngest offense in the league.

These guys are raw but talented, and more time on task is going to make them all better.

Lock, specifically, has areas he can make strides in but there is nothing the coaching staff feels is not correctible at this point.

Can Lock make strides in his consistency? Decision making? Does he have what it takes to be the kind of quarterback that can help get the Broncos back to the Super Bowl?

That’s the question everyone has to be asking in Denver right now and you have to be able to see the forest through the 2020 trees. Lock is not a finished product. At the age of 24, he has plenty of time to get better and better, and we certainly know he has the work ethic to do it.

His talent is undeniable. His work habits and understanding of the game seem obvious. What can Lock do with a second year in the same scheme with mostly the same teammates around him? How much better can the Broncos’ offense be in 2021 with their successes and failures to look back on from 2020?

The Broncos need Drew Lock to take that next step in 2021 for everyone’s sake. His progression (or lack of it) will determine if this team is in postseason contention — and ultimately who keeps jobs — in 2021 and beyond.