Despite Denver Broncos starting quarterback Russell Wilson having a statistically impressive start to the season, the organization may be headed in a different direction at the position starting in the 2024 offseason. Wilson has struggled against elite defenses to consistently get the ball out on time and has shown major regressions in pocket presence and overall IQ. Turning 35 years old in a few weeks, it comes as no surprise to many that his ability to read defenses on a consistent basis behind a much-improved offensive line has taken a hit.
Many believe that Wilson's regression over the last two or three years is a result of the number of hits/sacks he had to absorb behind the Seahawks' offensive line during his time in Seattle. This would explain his bad habit of looking straight toward the ground when pressure appears in his face rather than keeping his eyes downfield and maneuvering the pocket like he was able to during his prime. However, if head coach Sean Payton and the Broncos wish to get younger at the position and find themselves wanting to avoid the remainder of Wilson's contract (will have to pay the dead cap), a potential option at quarterback late in the first round could be a longterm fit for the franchise.
In Sean Payton's offense, not much is asked of the quarterback in terms of managing the game. In Weeks 6-8, Wilson has averaged just 23.3 pass attempts while the offense has run the ball at a premium. Prior to Week 10, the Broncos were also 30th in the NFL with 29.1 pass attempts per game. Payton has done a phenomenal job of putting his quarterback in good positions to make plays and relieving the stress from his shoulders. With that being said, it is pretty evident and non-negotiable that Wilson should not be earning a $48.5M annual average salary to have one of the easiest game-managing jobs in the league. With Sean Payton, the Broncos can replicate that same exact play, if not better, out of a young quarterback on a rookie contract.
LSU senior quarterback Jayden Daniels is a serious option for the Denver Broncos that could fall right into their lap in the first round. In fact, with the Broncos currently holding the ninth-overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, they may be even able to trade back, acquire more capital, and still draft the top Heisman candidate. Daniels is a dual-threat quarterback who is an extreme threat with both his legs and arms and possesses traits that could take Denver's offense to the next level. He has improved miles from his sophomore year to his senior year in terms of being a drop-back passer and distributing the ball all over the field.
Daniels, 22, has thrown for 3,164 yards, 30 touchdowns, and just four interceptions in 10 games in 2023. In addition, the speedy signal-caller has rushed 114 times for 918 yards and eight touchdowns. Most recently, Daniels became the first player in FBS history to record at least 350 passing yards and 200 rushing yards in a single game (Nov. 11 vs. Florida).
If he doesn't remind you of former Heisman-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson, then I'm not sure who else will.
In 2023, Daniels has completed an impressive 71.4% of his passes and is not only cooking in the short and intermediate game but has also been an incredibly efficient deep passer. With a career-high 202.1 passing efficiency rating on the year, there is no doubt that Daniels can be extremely efficient in a Sean Payton offense with the right pieces established around him.
My current draft projection for the multi-talented star is in the late first round. However, with two games remaining on LSU's schedule against Georgia State and Texas A&M, I see his stock improving to early to mid-first-round range meaning if the Broncos finish with roughly a bottom-12 pick in the draft, they'll likely need to trade a future first-round pick to move up to select him.
I believe Daniels will have a Jalen Hurts-type arch in the NFL where he struggles his rookie year to pick things up but will eventually blossom into a star with the proper coaching and development. If the Broncos, once again, find themselves not making the postseason this year, Jayden Daniels seems to be the most realistic and logical option as the team's next franchise quarterback.