INDIANAPOLIS -- When the Denver Broncos' football decision-makers, including John Elway, departed from the scouting combine earlier this week, they had some more information in hand about the top prospects in the draft.
They had a long list of answers from face-to-face discussions with those players, they had a pile of medical information, and they had seen the on-field workouts.
But in the weeks to come, they still have to decide if quarterback is still high on their list of draft priorities, and whether they think any of the quarterbacks in this draft can help them fill out what is still an unfinished long-term plan at the position.
“I think that being 6-10, you evaluate every position," Elway said at the combine. And as for this year’s draft class behind center, Elway added: “We’re still in the process of studying them. We’ll keep looking at them. I think that there are a lot of people excited about next year’s class. But we’re going to spend the time on this year’s class and see where we come out on that. I think there’s some good players in this draft too."
The Broncos have the framework of a trade in place for Joe Flacco to be their starting quarterback. That deal, for what is expected to be one of their two fourth-round draft picks in exchange for Flacco, 34, will become official on or shortly after March 13 when the new league year begins.
Elway has also said his “preference" would be that last year's starter -- Case Keenum -- stays (if Keenum is willing to take a pay cut) to be Flacco’s backup. Keenum is set to earn an $18 million base salary at the moment and is guaranteed, whether he’s on a roster or not, $7 million of that base salary.
Making Flacco the Broncos' starter and trying to keep Keenum might well say everything about what Elway really thinks about this year’s draft class of quarterbacks, and what he thinks about the ability of any of those quarterbacks to move into the lineup quickly.
It was clear as the combine drew to a close that, no matter how optimistic the league’s talent evaluators are about Oklahoma's Kyler Murray and Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins -- the top two quarterbacks in this draft -- most in the league do not think either player is as NFL ready as Baker Mayfield, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, was a year ago.
With Flacco on board, possibly Keenum, as well as the No. 10 pick in hand, that leaves Elway to decide if the top quarterbacks are worth surrendering the bounty of draft picks -- and potential impact players that could come with them -- that it would take to move up in the draft. Or, if the Broncos believe one of the other quarterbacks down the board is worth bringing in to develop.
In the end, the Broncos are in need of solution that goes beyond Flacco and Keenum. They do not have a quarterback on their current roster they selected in the draft, as none of the five Elway has selected since being hired in 2011 remains with the team. But to use a premium pick on a quarterback the organization isn't totally sold on, or isn't up to the challenge, is no solution either.
“We’re going to do everything we can, at every position, to get back to playing the way we need to play," Elway said. “That includes quarterback and every other position on the field."