For a while, the narrative has been that the Denver Broncos are a quarterback away from contending for the post-season. That still very well could be true, but not in the way many expect or understand.

Denver Broncos path to post-season is by drafting a young quarterback

One thing that I learned while watching the NFL Divisional playoffs this past weekend was that drafting a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft could be the most fruitful way for a team like the Broncos to get back to the playoffs.

When looking at the AFC and NFC Divisional matchups, really, with the exception of the San Francisco 49ers, having a first-round quarterback that you build around is the best path.

The Baltimore Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson, Kansas City drafted Patrick Mahomes, Houston drafted CJ Stroud, Green Bay drafted Jordan Love, Buffalo drafted Josh Allen, and in the cases of Detroit and Tampa Bay, both quarterbacks playing on Sunday were former first overall picks previously.

For years, the Broncos have attempted to add veteran quarterbacks after the departure of Peyton Manning to no avail while thinking the foundation around the position is good enough. However, as Sean Payton and George Paton move forward into 2024, going with a rookie quarterback at 12 should be the top priority for this team.

It isn’t that simple because the Broncos have to gather all of the relevant information possible over the course of the East-West Shrine Bowl, Senior Bowl, NFL Scouting Combine, and Pro Days to make the best-informed decision. They’ll have their eyes on Senior Bowl QBs Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr and could gather even more information with offensive quality control coach Logan Kilgore set to coach tight ends at the event.

Broncos quarterback coach Davis Webb will serve as an offensive coordinator for the East-West Shrine Bowl, where Florida State’s Jordan Travis will be present only for interviews as he continues to rehab from injury.

Other quarterbacks who will be at the event include Kentucky’s Devin Leary, BYU’s Kedon Slovis, Louisville’s Jack Plummer, Western Kentucky’s Austin Reed, and UCF’s John Rhys Plumlee, according to the event release.

If the Broncos decide against a QB at 12 specifically, these could be options for them to look at in the later rounds.

General manager George Paton hasn’t drafted a quarterback over the course of his tenure leading the team, and head coach Sean Payton hasn’t drafted one in the first round over the course of his career and doesn’t have a sample size of being able to develop a QB. While both of these may be true, they aren’t valid reasons for why Denver should avoid drafting a QB in the first round.

If you do things the way they’ve always been done, it’s hard to expect things to change. Internally, if the Broncos believe that some of the top quarterbacks in this year’s class are the best option and fit for them, they need to find a way to make it happen.

Hypothetically, if they draft a rookie quarterback this year that they believe in, the front office has to do everything in their power to build the team around him and what he does best. When you look at all of the teams heading into the AFC and NFC Championship this weekend, each team has built their offense around what the quarterback does well and has added pieces around that player to sustain success.

The only thing the Broncos can’t afford to do this offseason is find themselves reaching for a quarterback they aren’t entirely sure of, similar to how the team reached by picking Paxton Lynch in the 2016 NFL Draft. Denver will have to gather the relevant intel, have conviction, and, more importantly, take the chance if they believe one of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft will help them get back to their winning ways.