Evaluating franchise quarterback options for the Broncos

Nov 9, 2019; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) celebrates after throwing a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against the LSU Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium. LSU won 46-41. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos search for a franchise quarterback continues, but they will have options as soon as the offseason begins, some that will become more clear with results from the rest of the season.

Assuming Denver gets a look at Drew Lock in the regular season, the Broncos will have to decide between running with the young Missouri product or pursue another option in the NFL Draft for 2020.

So to discuss the 2020 options as a whole, let’s line them up side-by-side and compare several of the high-profile names and find who fits Denver best.

Here’s a look at some of the options Denver could be looking at in 2020 and making a case for each on the Broncos Blitz podcast is host Ronnie Kohrt and why each could make sense in 2020.

Drew Lock 

Lock is the logical pick right now because the job is his to lose. Denver spent a 2nd round pick in 2019 because they believed in him and he is next in line, but does that still ring true today?

Denver has yet to show major enthusiasm in looking at him on the field, even though it’s the most logical move for the Broncos to see as much of him as possible before the season is over.

From preseason, Lock’s footwork still needs work and trusts his arm too much. He’s so talented, it’s almost a flaw. Cutting corners on fundamentals like stepping into throws and setting your foundation before throwing because he mentally knows he can make up for it with it by pure arm talent only gets you so far in the NFL before shaky fundamentals kill your career.

Joe Burrow

The young signal-caller at LSU has all the skills you want in a young quarterback to excel at the NFL level. Size, arm strength, footwork, and moxie. Burrow’s stock hit the highest peak (as well as his Heisman candidacy) after beating Alabama to claim the title for No. 1 team in the country.

Burrow still flashes inaccuracy and bad ball placement when facing pressure – particularly up the middle – but Burrow is quickly cleaning up one of the few weaknesses in his game as the senior is completing 78% of his passes inside SEC games and has always been careful with the football, throwing 51 touchdowns and only nine interceptions in his career.

The issue for Denver with Burrow is going to be available. Going hand-and-hand with Tagovailoa, one of the two will be gone with the expected first pick overall being held by Cincinnati. The draft from there gets a bit more transparent as several teams inside the top seven all have quarterbacks of the future, but this doesn’t mean they’ll be available wherever Denver finishes regardless. A Burrow selection would likely demand a trade-up if Denver wants to go get ‘their guy,’ and that’s assuming Cincinnati would even let him become available to the world, which is trending to be unlikely at this pace. To describe Denver’s chances of landing Burrow? Highly unlikely, but we’ve seen crazier things happen.

Tua Tagovailoa

Tagovailoa has been the consensus best player in college until an ankle issue allowed Joe Burrow to take that title, but Tagovailoa is showing every bit of what it takes to be a franchise quarterback.

The leadership of stepping into the National Championship game cold and delivering a game-winning touchdown in overtime to beat Georgia shows his clutch moxie and competitive fire inside. But potentially even more revealing, gritting through a bad ankle to throw 31 touchdowns vs only three interceptions in 2019.

His arm isn’t a cannon, but it’ll make any NFL throw and his natural aggression to attack defenses should fit well in a vertical offense. His ability to cycle through reads and the total package of size, athleticism, accuracy and what’s above the shoulders should make him a 2020 franchise quarterback pick.

Tagovailoa has a gifted deep ball with placement and accuracy that is outstanding. His uncanny ability to consistently hit receivers in stride with perfect touch is very good. His mobility makes him a major threat to offenses and defensive coordinators and his accuracy has only improved with more games, completing 69% of his passes in 2018 and 70% of his passes so far in 2019.

Tagovailoa has been challenged at the highest of levels, playing in arguably the most competitive conference and has passed every test with flying colors. He’s done it on College Football’s biggest stage. There isn’t much to dislike about the 6-1 218 lb future NFL franchise quarterback.

Justin Herbert

His size? Tall. His arm? Big time. Herbert possesses some skills that others in the draft class simply do not have. His accuracy is a bit underrated and his ball placement has improved greatly.

That said, you can notice a drop in accuracy and composure when he feels the heat and has to improve on this, particularly if he’s drafted high to a team with poor offensive line play.

The bigger worry is can Herbert translate a college ‘one-read’ offense to the NFL. Herbert possessing skills that absolutely translate to the NFL, but only can pay off if he makes that jump. That’s a big ask and for a franchise that was so scarred by the failed selection of Paxton Lynch. Trusting another quarterback that resembles some of the same characteristics – whether positive or not – and him failing as a pick would lead to devastating consequences in the front office.

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