After last week’s blockbuster deal — which saw the New York Jets move up to No. 3 overall in the NFL draft and the Indianapolis Colts moving down to No. 6, the formerly blurry view of the top four picks now begins to clear for the Denver Broncos, who remain at No. 5 overall.
The updated draft order now looks like this:
- Cleveland Browns
- New York Giants
- New York Jets
- Cleveland Browns
- Denver Broncos
As the dust settles following the Jets’ leap into the top five, it’s clear that the top four picks have now become more predictable — a very good thing for the Denver Broncos, even if they would have preferred that that the quarterback-starved Jets would have picked after they did.
The Jets-Colts trade clears up a lot of question marks.
When they were at No. 3, the Colts were the only team in the top five that wasn’t in the mix for a quarterback. The Jets, however, have made no secret that they want one, and moving into the No. 3 position is a dead giveaway — they’re picking a quarterback.
The Jets traded major assets to move up to get a quarterback. It’s only natural that they would try and go as high as possible, which means that it’s reasonable to infer that neither the Browns or Giants wanted to deal their pick because they also want a quarterback, and had no intention of letting someone leapfrog them to do so.
Unless one of those two teams thinks Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is the next Barry Sanders, quarterbacks are now the likely picks at No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 overall.
At least three quarterbacks are likely off the board when the Broncos select at No. 5.
There are four high-profile quarterbacks in the draft — and the Broncos have the fifth pick. However, with Cleveland picking at No. 4 — and likely already grabbing their preferred QB prospect with the first overall pick — there’s no reason to think that they’ll pick another. Instead, the Browns will almost certainly select the best non-quarterback they can find. It’s reasonable to expect Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen to be off the board when the Broncos pick — which may allow Heisman winner Baker Mayfield to fall into their laps.
However, for the Broncos to ensure that they get either Darnold, Rosen or Allen, the Broncos might have to do some trading of their own…
A Trubisky-like trade up?
If Denver has a particular player in mind — and is willing to move draft picks to get him, a very ‘Trubisky-like’ deal could be made by Denver; moving up to No. 2 in a trade with the Giants to cut in front of the Jets, and get their preferred quarterback of the future. A scenario like this would only make sense, however, if Broncos are in love with Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, who is expected to be selected no later than No. 3 to the Jets.
To refresh your memory, the Bears moved the No. 3 pick overall, their third-round pick (No. 67 overall), a fourth-round pick (No. 111) and a 2018 third-round pick to move up one spot to No. 2 and take Mitchell Trubisky last year. A similar deal might get the job done for the Broncos, if they decide that they can’t live without a particular player — and they believe the Jets would take him first.
The Giants would benefit from the move down to No. 5, receiving major assets and one of the top two non-quarterbacks available in the draft. This deal presumes that the Giants don’t have any desire to pull the trigger on a rookie quarterback; casting their lot with 37-year old Eli Manning in the short term.
A scenario where Denver picks No. 1 overall — by picking No. 5.
In the event where Denver does want a quarterback, but runs into a worst-case scenario where all four high-profile arms are gone within the first four picks (which would probably include the Browns trading down from No. 4), the Broncos — theoretically — would get the first selection in the NFL draft.
The first shot at ‘non-quarterback’ talent, that is.
That means the Broncos could land either Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson, one of the best offensive line prospects in years, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, a world-class athlete at running back, or N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb, a pass-rusher who wreaks havoc on offenses. All three players would usually merit discussion as the top pick overall in almost any other draft, but quarterback-needy teams can’t afford to wait, meaning that the true cream of the crop will drop.
The Broncos have already solved their quarterback situation in the short-term with the signing of Case Keenum and may simply want the most talented player available; this scenario gets them their prize.
We know the quarterbacks are going to start the parade when commissioner Roger Goodell takes the podium, but who goes where?
No. 1 overall: Cleveland Browns — Sam Darnold
It would be foolish for Cleveland to pass on a talent like Darnold. Possessing what many consider has the highest potential, Darnold’s rare skill set of size, accuracy and natural leadership — even at his age — while putting up monster numbers at USC make him the best pick available.
The entire Cleveland brass was in attendance at Darnold’s pro day, after skipping Baker Mayfield’s and Josh Rosen’s pro days. There’s no reason for smokescreens at No. 1 overall, so there’s no funny business here. They’re going quarterback, period.
The Browns will get their shot at the best quarterback and the best non-quarterback in the draft; a rare opportunity that is only in danger if the Browns don’t select a quarterback at first overall. If they selected the best non-quarterback at No. 1, the Browns shouldn’t expect Darnold to be there when they pick again at No. 4. That makes the choice to pick Darnold a near no-brainer for the Browns.
No. 2 overall: New York Giants — Josh Rosen
Assuming no further trades are made, it’s very telling that the Jets moved to No. 3 overall and not No. 2, indicating that finding Eli Manning‘s replacement is too high on the priority list for the Giants to give up the pick. They’ll find themselves with an ideal scenario; an opportunity to groom the young UCLA product under Manning’s wing.
If selecting a non-quarterback was the plan all along, then making a deal with the Jets would have made more sense. Saquon Barkley is the only potential player at this pick that would validate holding the pick for a king’s ransom.
No. 3 overall: New York Jets — Josh Allen
Many Bronco fans may read this and thank the Jets for taking Allen off the board.
Many are skeptical of Allen’s inaccuracy, and history isn’t on his side when it comes to improving in this category at the NFL level. Allen has an incredibly high ceiling, however, and will boast one of the strongest arms in the league the moment he’s selected.
Allen is both young and raw, but if he developed correctly, he could become the best quarterback in the class.
No. 4 overall: Cleveland Browns — Saquon Barkley
The biggest winner in the Jets-Colts trade? Cleveland. They get their quarterback of the future at No. 1, and now get the best non-quarterback available Barkley, who’s the final piece of a complete overhaul of the offense in only one off-season for new general manager John Dorsey.
No. 5 overall: Denver Broncos — ?
Franchise-altering pieces are all over the board here, including one of the talented arms they’ve had their eye on the whole time. There are two front-runners for the Broncos’ selection: Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and Notre Dame offensive lineman Quenton Nelson.
The selection the Broncos should make: Baker Mayfield
The quarterback that Denver may have wanted the whole time falls right into their lap. The After coaching him at the Senior Bowl, and then sending the largest contingent of any team to his pro day, the Broncos have clearly had Mayfield on their radar for some time. Selecting the Oklahoma product at No. 5 overall means the Broncos believe they’ve finally found their solution at quarterback for the long term.
Mayfield is a fiery, electric player who walked-on twice to a college campus, only to earn himself the starting job and excel in every area of the game, culminating in a Heisman Trophy. Mayfield threw for 14,607 yards, 131 touchdowns and only 30 interceptions in his college career. The senior completed 68% of his passes last season.
The Broncos simply can’t have a question mark at quarterback anymore. After experiencing one of the worst eras the franchise has ever seen at quarterback over the last two seasons, Mayfield ensures a future path that the Broncos can follow. Passing on Nelson, who has All-Pro potential, would be an extremely difficult decision. It’s a close call, but in a quarterback league, the need for Mayfield wins out in the end.
Mayfield would be the third early-round quarterback that John Elway has drafted; the last two — Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch — were eventually exposed as big-time misses. Elway can’t miss here, but he can’t miss this opportunity, either.
However, Elway’s decision to sign Keenum may also signal his desire to stay away from the quarterback position in the draft for the time being. That’s a risk; if the Broncos decide against selecting Mayfield and he becomes a star in the NFL, it’ll be a crushing blow to fans, who will be forever screaming about ‘what could have been’ for every play that Mayfield makes in another uniform.
The selection the Broncos will make: Quenton Nelson
With the signing of Case Keenum to a contract that averages $18 million per season, the quarterback position is sewn up. Building around him now becomes the priority. Nelson’s selection would mark the first time that the Broncos picked offensive linemen with their top picks in back-to-back years since the 1976-1977 drafts. Perhaps it’s worth noting that the Broncos won the AFC Championship following that 1977 draft…
Nelson is strong, bench-pressing an impressive 35 reps of 225lbs. The 6-5, 329-pound blocking machine is technically sound, so the transition to the NFL is expected to be an easy one, and as NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein explained, he has a rare combination of size, power and athleticism, all wrapped up in a body that is ‘built like a bank safe.’
Simply put, Nelson is a ‘can’t miss’ player at the Broncos’ biggest area of need. A beefy, naturally talented offensive lineman, Nelson is smooth, smart and plays with a mean streak. Whether he plays on the left or right side, Nelson would be an immediate starter on an offensive line that’s been porous for years.
The Broncos spent a ton of money on Keenum, and drafting a rookie quarterback six weeks later is likely to fracture the team’s fan base with every poor throw that Keenum, like every quarterback, will inevitably make. With Keenum taking the snaps in the short term, expect the Broncos to select the would-be starting guard over the would-be backup quarterback with the fifth pick — Quenton Nelson will be coming to Denver.