Denver Broncos: The big question in the 2021 NFL Draft
By Noah Smith
As George Paton wraps up an impressive Free Agency period, his focus now turns to the NFL Draft. A shocking move by the San Fransisco 49ers has many in Broncos Country curious if Paton has a similar plan up his sleeve for the Denver Broncos.
The quarterback position has been a huge question mark for the Denver Broncos ever since Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset following Super Bowl 50. Countless quarterbacks have been deemed “the guy”, only to fall flat.
While the jury is still out on Drew Lock’s future, one thing is certain: the team needs better quarterback play to contend in a loaded AFC West. Whether George Paton believes in a massive step forward from Lock or is looking to replace the young signal-caller has yet to be decided.
The Denver Broncos are in a position to be able to grab one of the “Big Five” at quarterback this year, consisting of Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, Trey Lance, and Justin Fields. After the 49ers move to acquire the 3rd overall pick, it’s clear that three quarterbacks will be coming off the board in the top three picks.
If the Broncos want to grab a quarterback in this year’s class, they will undoubtedly have to move into the top 5 picks. Other teams like the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots will likely inquire about moving up to grab a young quarterback as well.
So, the Big Question: Should the Denver Broncos make a move to acquire a Top 5 Pick?
Yes… Sort of.
George Paton has made it known that he enjoys scouting quarterbacks, in-person preferably. Paton will likely do his due diligence on all of the “Big Five” leading up to the NFL Draft and will have a good feel for each quarterback come draft day.
In order for a trade into the top five picks of the NFL Draft to make sense for the Broncos, Paton will need to identify at least four of the five quarterbacks as suitable upgrades over Drew Lock.
With the Jacksonville Jaguars being a lock to take Lawrence, and the New York Jets seeming locked in on Zach Wilson, the biggest question is what the 49ers will do.
Many signs point to the 49ers being interested in former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, a traditional pocket-passer who had an outstanding season at Alabama. This would leave the Broncos with either Trey Lance or Justin Fields to pick from.
If either Lance or Fields is available at number four overall, the Denver Broncos should be very interested in grabbing a quarterback. Both have excellent tools and rare athleticism for the position, but will both need some refinement at the NFL level.
Which of the two QB’s fit what the Denver Broncos want to do on offense?
To me, it’s Justin Fields.
Fields is a high-level athlete, an accurate passer, and a legitimate threat to take it to the house every time he breaks the pocket. Fields’ size and strength make him a tough tackle in space and reportedly clocked in a 4.41 40-yard dash.
There are legitimate concerns about Fields’ ability to process quickly and make decisions under pressure, however. Fields’ worst games of the season came against the best defenses he played against, including Indiana and Northwestern in the Big 10 Championship.
However, Fields’ leadership and toughness were on full display in those games. Even after inefficient games through the air, Fields used his legs to help the team to a win, showing he is willing to do what is necessary to help his team win.
Fields also showed his toughness after a targeting call in the 2020 College Football Semi-Finals against Clemson. After leaving the game momentarily, he returned to torch the Tigers’ secondary to the tune of six touchdowns. Fields’ grittiness and leadership on the field are infectious and were a big reason for Ohio State’s success in 2019 and 2020.
If the Broncos want Fields, they will need to move into the top five picks to grab him. Teams around the NFL have reportedly been all over the place on their evaluation of Justin Fields, but there will certainly be a handful of teams interested in bringing in the talented quarterback.
The Denver Broncos could also fall in love with the tools of Trey Lance from North Dakota State, but if the Broncos are picking a quarterback in the top five they will likely expect him to play early. Lance has all the tools to be an outstanding player but would benefit from learning behind an established veteran.
Fields’ accuracy and ability to create offense outside of the pocket will help him buy time in his development in the NFL and could start day one for the Broncos if needed. Overall, if the Denver Broncos want to grab a young signal-caller in the NFL Draft, Justin Fields makes plenty of sense as a fit for Denver.