The Denver Broncos are one of those teams in the NFL that seems to always be in the mix. Since acquiring John Elway in 1983, Denver has just six losing seasons over the last 36 years. Their consistency has been unmatched in the AFC West landscape.
With that said, their 2017 season and first under head coach Vance Joseph was a disaster. They compiled a 5-11 record, rotated subpar quarterbacks and finished 27th in the NFL in points scored. Even their normally magnificent defense faltered as they ranked 22nd in points allowed. Therefore, the question begs to be asked: What will the Broncos do with the fifth overall selection in upcoming NFL draft?
It’s very likely a top-rated quarterback will be available at five, but will Denver even go there? If he’s available, will Denver go after pass-rushing specialist Bradley Chubb to line up across from Von Miller? Will they opt for the best offensive lineman of the draft, Quinton Nelson, to give new quarterback Case Keenum and veteran running back C.J. Anderson some help? Finally, could they trade up to get the exact quarterback they want, or will they trade down to stockpile draft picks as teams such as the Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals may want the fifth selection to get their quarterback of the future?
The Broncos are in a position where they could compete for a division championship right away if this fifth pick decision goes well. If it doesn’t work out, they could be among the worst teams in the NFL once again. Even worse, a bad draft and another poor season from coach Vance Joseph could set the Broncos back years as Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders, the Los Angeles Chargers improving defense, and the Kansas City Chiefs led by Patrick Mahomes emerge. Yes, this fifth pick is a big deal!
Broncos fans are skeptical about the quarterback position. Keenum had a fine season with the Minnesota Vikings, but his career hasn’t exactly been on the level of a superstar. Aside from a miracle, his last six quarters as a Viking were brutal. Likewise, Denver’s offensive line is nowhere near as good as Minnesota’s so that won’t especially when Keenum throws up one of those lollipops he’s been known to do.
The alternative is Paxton Lynch. When Lynch has been on the field, the Broncos offense has been stagnant. However, it’s been difficult to even get Lynch on the field due to injury. Lynch’s lack of success may be a lesson for Elway to not go after his quarterback via the draft. Even if the goal is to draft a quarterback, the guy they want might be gone by the fifth pick. Here’s how: The Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and New York Jets take Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen respectively. Then, the Browns trade their fourth pick to Buffalo who grabs Baker Mayfield.
In this scenario, Denver won’t draft a quarterback. Rather, they’ll obtain the best player on their board. Is that Chubb or Nelson? While I believe it would be one of those players, don’t discount Denver going after Penn State freak, Saquon Barkley. The Broncos only carry three running backs on their active roster: C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson. Anderson’s body could be due for a breakdown, Booker isn’t number one running back material and Henderson is a sixth-round draft pick competing for a spot on special teams. Barkley just may be this season’s Ezekiel Elliott or Kareem Hunt.
The Broncos themselves probably won’t know what they’ll do until draft day. They still might know what they’ll do until the fourth choice is made. Whatever happens, this will be the compelling move the Broncos make since signing Peyton Manning prior to the 2012 season. That move panned out well, thank you very much. Here we are six years later primed for another potential franchise-altering day for the Broncos.
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills