The Denver Broncos have everything in place for a quarterback to succeed in their offense. They’ve stacked the deck with Jerry Jeudy, Cortland Sutton, K.J. Hamler, Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, and Melvin Gordon. Literally, every player on that list is better than any of the weapons the 2020 New England Patriots trotted out, even a one-legged Courtland Sutton. But, they have one guy holding him back: the quarterback.
Drew Lock beguiled us all with a hot start to his NFL career, both on the field and on the sidelines. But, he not only failed to take a step forward in 2020, he also failed to really… do anything. The Broncos gave him every weapon in the world, investing in all of those guys I listed above in the last three seasons to give Lock zero excuses. Lock failed to live up to expectations, averaging 225 passing yards per game while throwing nearly as many picks (15) as touchdowns (16). Lock rushed for three more touchdowns, but he also coughed up three more fumbles to the opposition, evening out that ledger.
Most damningly, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com’s advanced statistics, Drew Lock had the biggest difference in the NFL last season between his intended air yards and completed air yards. That means he aired it out a ton, but only really completed the dump offs and shorter passes.
But, this isn’t about Drew Lock. He should be a thing of the past for the Denver Broncos. Instead, let’s look towards the future to gauge who would be best in the Denver Broncos’ offense for 2021, from available guys.
This is probably the best free-agent acquisition for the Broncos, but it’s impossible to get over his 30 interception season (that also included 30 touchdowns and a league-leading 5,109 yards) as the last time we saw him. Winston is likely the #1 QB free agent option this offseason, and given that the Saints just scratched and clawed their way into making themselves only $31 million over the cap, he’s probably gone in 2021.
This is the most fun of the bridge quarterbacks and a guy who I included solely because it would be fun to watch Ryan Fitzpatrick go absolutely bonkers in Denver with all that weaponry. Fitzpatrick isn’t the best quarterback option, but his high-variance playstyle would be the best to see from an outside observer perspective. That is to say, for lookie-loos and fantasy football players.
This is a worst-case scenario for Broncos fans since only this addition likely means that Drew Lock is still under center in week one of 2021. Adding Smith, who helped mentor Colin Kaepernick and (more importantly) Patrick Mahomes, could be a great guy to push Drew Lock to improve in 2021. Don’t forget that Mahomes had decision-making issues coming out of school, and his main problem was his picks… and he has 11 picks in the last two seasons, combined. Signing Alex Smith likely means he’s there to mentor Drew Lock, which means more Drew Lock for the Broncos in 2021. If the Broncos get Smith and a rookie, then we’re talking.
See the Alex Smith comparison above. If the Broncos’ brass really thinks Tyrod played a role in helping to coach up Justin Herbert, you could see it. But, ultimately, this spells another year of Drew Lock and living in QB Limbo.
Pro Football Focus Pipe Dreams
I don’t think Watson ends up a Bronco, but mostly because I think three firsts and two seconds won’t do it. That’s just restocking the cupboard after Bill O’Brien knocked everything over and spilled contents everywhere. It would be an incredibly stupid trade for Jack Easterby and the Texans’ brass to make before the 2021 NFL Draft, especially since they are committed to making it work with Watson. Watson seems dug in and willing to miss the season. This is a situation where the Texans blink first, and I’m not so sure they do that. But boy, would that be fun.
This is fine as a high-floor fallback option. We’ve seen Dalton run a competent-enough ship with players around him. If the Broncos take Dalton out of free agency, it’s likely they end up with one of these guys in the draft…
Justin Fields or Zach Wilson
Getting one of these guys is predicated on nobody moving past the Broncos in the draft. As it currently sits, Trevor Lawrence is the presumptive #1 pick, with either Justin Fields or Zach Wilson going to the Jets. After that, it’s a bunch of teams who probably aren’t in a prime position to use a top pick on a quarterback (three of the teams picking ahead of the Broncos took a QB in the first two rounds last year), the Lions, the Falcons and the #8 pick Carolina Panthers. It’s likely that Carolina takes whoever is left from Fields and Wilson, blocking Denver. The Broncos would need to trade up to get one of these two guys, but I don’t think they will. I think they stand pat and add someone who could be the next Josh Allen…
Trey Lance is a high-variance quarterback who has immense upside. He’s also massive and could reasonably be seen as an upgraded version of Lock. I like him as a baby Josh Allen type, though Chris Simms doesn’t think his arm is as special as Allen’s… and I agree. Still, Lance could just slide right into the Drew Lock role in the team (run a little, bomb it out) and immediately jump the offense forward. He played just one game in 2020 thanks to COVID shuffling and reshuffling the entire NCAA deck but in 2019 his rushing and passing combined for nearly 3,900 yards and 42 touchdowns (zero picks!) in just sixteen games. Granted, this was against lesser competition, but to bomb it out like that without an interception is truly special.
I’m not worried about Lance’s showcase game. He, and every other NDSU player, was pushing it hard to try to impress scouts. Everyone has a bad day, and that was Lance’s.
Ultimately, I think the best bet for Denver is to go with a middling guy like Alex Smith or Andy Dalton and an upside guy in the first ten picks of the draft. I doubt they end up with Jameis unless he falls into their lap. I would love to see Ryan Fitzpatrick there from a purely selfish standpoint, too.
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