Vikings just made it harder for Broncos to land QB in the draft

The Minnesota Vikings are up to something...and it could cost the Broncos

Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos / Stephen Maturen/GettyImages

The Denver Broncos are slated to pick 12th overall in the 2024 NFL Draft, and while it's a very welcomed return to the first round after two years without any picks (Russell Wilson trade), the Broncos find themselves in a pretty brutal spot as we get to the middle of the month of March. They have been put in an especially tough spot because the Minnesota Vikings, who already owned the 11th overall pick, have now acquired another 1st-round selection, courtesy of the Houston Texans.

Make no mistake about it -- this is bad news for the Denver Broncos. Not only were the Vikings already one spot ahead of Denver in the 2024 NFL Draft order, but now they have the ammunition to move up even further, target a quarterback of their choosing, and select him.

The Broncos don't have such a luxury.

Add on top of this the fact that the Broncos were seemingly interested in possibly signing Sam Darnold, but the Vikings "beat" them in that regard as well. Minnesota offered Darnold a one-year deal worth $10 million and the Broncos weren't playing in that sandbox.

As a matter of fact, the Broncos haven't been playing in any kind of sandbox at this point whatsoever. Denver fans are now going to be left wondering for the next month what in the world their team is doing at the quarterback position. Russell Wilson is gone. He's been released in one of the most historic moves the NFL has ever seen, a player not playing a single snap of a five-year, $243 million contract.

The Broncos passed on NFL Free Agency at the quarterback position up to this point. We've watched the game of musical chairs at the quarterback position so far this offseason, and at this point, the Broncos are still playing the game. They haven't upgraded the situation with Jarrett Stidham currently as the projected starter. They don't have anyone who could legitimately compete with Stidham as the starter, and they've watched most of the viable options go off the board via free agency or trade.

While there are some options remaining like trading for Justin Fields, trading for Zach Wilson, or signing someone like Ryan Tannehill, Joshua Dobbs, or Jimmy Garoppolo, the options are dwindling by the second.

The team has sat out of free agency (so far). They haven't taken any risks via trade.

With the list of options getting thin, let's talk about the dilemma the Broncos now face with the 2024 NFL Draft. Picking 12th overall is a dilemma in itself. You're relying on a bit of luck and things to go your way if you are banking on a quarterback you actually want falling to that selection. Case in point, Sean Payton has told the story of falling in love with Patrick Mahomes in 2017, only to be jumped by the Chiefs. He was picking 11th in that particular draft class.

There are a handful of quarterback-needy teams ahead of the Broncos right now. The top two picks in the draft are almost certainly going to be quarterbacks. The Broncos' list of targets at the position is instantly diminished by two and there's nothing they can do about it. There's a strong chance now that two of the next four picks after that will be quarterbacks, and the Minnesota Vikings are the most well-equipped to make a splash trade.

That means, at a minimum, the Broncos will have to eliminate three options from their quarterback board, possibly four. The Broncos don't have a second-round pick in 2024, which makes trading up highly difficult, because with the current state of the roster, the team's 2025 first-round pick is really not on the table in a trade scenario.

So what are Sean Payton and the Broncos supposed to do?

Essentially, they have to hope at this point that the guy they really like falls out of the top 6-8 selections. They could probably trade up as high as the 8th overall pick with the capital at their disposal, but if the team has conviction about a quarterback, they had better be absolutely certain they are going to get that player in the first round of this year's draft.

The pressure to acquire a franchise QB via the NFL Draft has arguably never been higher in Denver. Nobody knew the Broncos were going after Jay Cutler in 2006, and nobody really expected Paxton Lynch to save the franchise as a late-first-round selection and dart throw. Sean Payton has put a lot of pressure on himself, which I think he genuinely likes. He is going to believe strongly in his evaluation of the next quarterback of this Denver Broncos team and has stated that he doesn't want the next name to get crossed off the ugly post-Peyton Manning list.

The Broncos must have a plan, right?

They are taking a $53 million dead money hit to get rid of Russell Wilson. They sat out of NFL free agency, where they could have made something work with someone like Kirk Cousins or Baker Mayfield (even though that wasn't unanimously desired by the fan base). They could have signed an upgraded bridge starter, but they didn't. They could have thrown a late-round draft pick at the Patriots for Mac Jones -- who Sean Payton apparently liked in the 2021 NFL Draft -- but they didn't.

Now, they have to deal with the fact so much of the NFL Draft is out of their control. Three quarterbacks -- at a minimum -- will be crossed off their list. Depending on who you ask, there might be four, maybe five legitimate first-round prospects in this year's class:

  • Caleb Williams, USC
  • Drake Maye, North Carolina
  • Jayden Daniels, LSU
  • JJ McCarthy, Michigan
  • Bo Nix, Oregon
  • Michael Penix Jr., Washington

It's entirely possible that by the time the 12th overall pick rolls around, the Broncos will be looking at only Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr., who are not unanimously thought to be 1st-round selections in this year's class.

The Broncos are in a tough spot. It's not an overreaction to the Vikings' recent trade, but Minnesota clearly has a plan post-Kirk Cousins. They might have slightly better overall assets than the Broncos, but Minnesota is still dealing with a lot, and GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is not going to let the opportunity to draft the QB he wants pass him by.

Are the Broncos being too passive? If they have a plan at this point, what is it? Because right now, this whole situation is shaping up to be a lot like (and maybe worse than) 2018 when the Broncos were jumped by the New York Jets in a pre-draft trade so the Jets could ensure one of the top 3 quarterbacks on their board.

To be fair, the Vikings are only ahead of the Broncos for the moment. The Broncos could potentially still move up for the 3rd overall pick if the Patriots put it up for sale. Nothing is set in stone as of yet, and there are still options out there for Denver. Even some desirable ones. But with the way things are shaping up, everyone in Broncos Country has a right to be wondering about the team's process at the moment.