Monday, the NFL landscape changed in the wake of another blockbuster quarterback trade. Just three weeks before the NFL draw, the New York Jets traded QB Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for multiple draft picks.
By acquiring the 23-year-old former first-round pick from USC, the Panthers have all but broadcast that the team has no plans to select a QB with the number 8 overall pick. While the theory of the Denver Broncos trading it in for the No.4 overall roster with the Atlanta Falcons rests on the hopes and dreams of the fan base, that pie in the sky scenario could become a reality.
According to Sports illustratedAlbert Breer, the Falcons have reportedly had “ exploratory talks ” with teams about trade in this year’s design. Could Broncos GM George Paton be one of the teams on the horn with Atlanta?
If so, the dramatic jump from pick # 9 to # 4 in the first round would no doubt be for Denver to draft a QB – presumably Justin Fields of Ohio or Mac Jones of Alabama.
But for every theory and opinion, there is a counter-argument in the ever-changing April news cycle commonly referred to as “the season of lies.” Last week, ESPN concept expert Todd McShay released his mock draft version 4.0 in which he projected the Broncos to select Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II with the # 9 overall pick.
The prediction meant Denver chose to pass on Fields who ultimately fell with the No.11 pick for the New England Patriots. In McShay’s latest mock, Surtain was the first defender to be taken off the board, which would be the last roster for the first defensive prospect drafted since Washington called Champ Bailey with the No. 7 overall pick in 1999.
On Monday, McShay revealed that the Broncos’ evaluation of incumbent QB Drew Lock is not over.
“Denver at nine is interesting,” McShay said Monday during a conference call with national reporters. “I don’t know if they gave up on Drew Lock. I think if they keep putting people around him and supporting him better, he can have a very successful career.”
Lock has started in 18 games for the past two seasons, passing for 3,953 yards and 23 touchdowns, with 18 interceptions and completing 59.1% of his passes. While the former Missouri second-round QB has shown flashes of NFL potential, his decline in sales and his inconsistency with his throwing mechanics have caused great concern.
But to be fair, the change of crimes from ex-offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello to Pat Shurmur and the COVID-19 pandemic certainly had an effect on the young QB. While the challenges are understandable, they’re no excuses, and the NFL isn’t waiting for anyone as Lock enters his third NFL season.
So, is it any wonder it’s hard to figure out what the Broncos will do to Lock?
“The difficulty lies in McShay’s understanding of the evaluation of the Drew Lock team,” Aric DiLalla wrote on the team website. “McShay said he made an effort about the decision, and suggested Denver was one of the more difficult teams to predict in the top 10 selections.”
The latest buzz from the NFL rumor mill projects Fields will slide into the top 10. This, of course, would suggest that Atlanta selects a non-QB with the number 4 overall pick.
This means that the Broncos could potentially stare into the course of redemption or have a recurring nightmare. In this scenario, the Broncos would have the option to select the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, or the best player available according to the team, much like the 2015 draft in which Denver decided not to get QB from Wyoming to draft. Josh Allen and instead drafted Bradley Chubb at pick # 5.
“It wouldn’t shock me at all, to be honest, if Fields was the choice there when he is available,” said McShay. “He’s still evolving in terms of processing. He loves seeing his receiver open rather than anticipating throws. But I ranked him ahead of Mac Jones.”
According to the ESPN design expert, the Broncos could very well enter 2021 with Lock as the starting QB. McShay did say he could envision a scenario where Denver “absolutely pulled the trigger,” in drafting Fields, and left both options on the table.
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