Broncos' past QB failures hanging over evaluation of 2019 QB prospects

David Zalubowski/AP

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The last time the Denver Broncos were poised to do this much up-close-and-personal work on so many of the quarterbacks in the NFL draft, they ended up trading up in the first round to select Paxton Lynch with the 26th pick in 2016.

When Lynch was released last summer after he didn’t beat out Chad Kelly for the backup job, his Broncos career was four starts, four touchdowns and four interceptions to go with a pile of questions left behind, including how something the Broncos were so sure about ended so badly.

As the Broncos prepare for in-house visits with four of the top quarterbacks in the draft -- Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Missouri’s Drew Lock and Duke’s Daniel Jones -- Lynch is still the 6-foot-7, 244-pound elephant in the room.

“ … That position is always one where you’re going to look at everything and that means getting all of the information we can so we can be ready for whatever happens during the draft," said Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway. "… Would we take one? We want the right guy for all of our picks."

Missing on Lynch shattered the Broncos' plans for the future at QB. Trevor Siemian, who not of his own doing other than he was the guy who kept beating Lynch out, became the oft-criticized face of the teamwide frustration on offense that cost coordinators their jobs as he was ultimately traded.

Kelly, who beat Lynch out for the backup job last year, was then released in October after an arrest for criminal trespassing. Now, the Broncos do not have a quarterback on their roster they selected in the draft. And their most significant free-agent signing a year ago -- quarterback Case Keenum – was traded to the Washington Redskins after just one season on the job.

But Keenum’s presence, once Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold were off the board with the No. 1 and No. 3 picks in last year’s draft, respectively, put the Broncos in position to pass on the rest of the quarterbacks in the draft, including Josh Rosen, whom the Arizona Cardinals selected at No. 10 and Lamar Jackson, whom the Baltimore Ravens selected at No. 32.

With the No. 10 pick in this draft, the Broncos, once again, could be in a position to take a QB. The other two times Elway has had a top-10 pick in the draft -- No. 2 in 2011 and No. 5 in last year’s draft -- he selected an edge-rusher in Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, respectively.

So, the Broncos are left to consider this year’s collection of quarterbacks as both coach Vic Fangio and Elway have said they want a passer who “can throw under duress from the pocket," who can also throw on the move. Both have also said the ability to play under center, at least some, as well as the shotgun is a must-have. And with most quarterbacks in college football having been in the shotgun full time, the question becomes how a prospect could adapt and how flexible the Broncos want to be on offense to suit the guy behind center.

The Broncos, under the departed coaching staff, put Keenum in shotgun more than he was under center in 11 of their 16 games last season. But that aligns with much of the league where more than 60 percent of snaps were taken in the shotgun.

It's something the Broncos have to reason with.

However, according to draft analysts, these QB prospects have some of the skills the Broncos want.

According to the scouting report, Murray "displays good overall decision-making skills and shows poise under pressure. ... He displays natural touch and timing as a passer, throwing accurately from a variety of different arm angles. He really excels at off-balance throws but he gets into trouble when he falls off of throws, typically when the pocket is collapsing."

Todd McShay said in his Mock Draft 3.0 that Haskins shows "great anticipation and feel in the pocket." Haskins, like Murray and Lock, played in true spread offenses and almost exclusively in the shotgun.

Lock has the ability, according to scouting reports, to "hang tough in the pocket, but he's also highly capable of extending plays with his feet."

As the Broncos face an organizational crossroads, Fangio knows there's more to look for.

“Good quarterbacks come in all shapes, sizes, styles and personalities … we’re looking for a guy that can produce," Fangio said at the league meetings this past week. “ … He’s got to have leadership intangibles. He’s got to be an accurate passer. Can he throw from the pocket under duress? Does [he] have escapability? Guys make it work all different ways. You have to look at other skill sets. [Do they] fit to what you want to do or can you adapt to what they do well? Do you have the guys on hand that can play that adapted system?"