Decision Time: Broncos could start over at quarterback or take impact defender with first-round pick – The Denver Post
Intriguing quarterbacks who have 22 and 17 college starts, respectively.
The no-doubt best defensive player who spent the last three years covering the SEC’s top receivers.
Or the coverage linebacker who coach Vic Fangio has coveted since being hired by the Broncos two years ago.
The Broncos have the ninth pick in Thursday’s NFL draft and, of course, have myriad options, but let’s cut it down to four players.
Select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields or North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance and (another) new era of Broncos football will be christened.
Add Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II or Penn State inside linebacker Micah Parsons and an already-formidable-on-paper defense becomes even more threatening.
“We feel the ninth pick is fertile ground,” general manager George Paton said. “There is going to be a really good, impact player there.”
Or at No. 7 if Paton swings for the fences to move up for Fields. Or at No. 14 if he moves down and Parsons is still on the board.
Does Wednesday’s trade for Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (for a sixth-round pick) complicate things? No. In fact, it may crystallize the Broncos’ strategy — find a way to get Fields or Lance, allow them to learn from Bridgewater and take over when the coaching staff deems them ready. If you’re coach Vic Fangio, adding a first-round quarterback instead of a highly-rated defensive player won’t sting as much because Bridgewater is in the fold.
Paton joined the Broncos with a six-year contract Jan. 13 so the pressure to “hit” on his first draft pick is self-administered. But to get this franchise untracked, his first choice must be impactful, either immediately (Surtain/Parsons), at some point of this year (Fields) or maybe the start of 2022 (Lance).
Here is a look at each player:
School: Ohio State.
About Fields: Played one year at Georgia (12 games as backup) before transferring to Ohio State. … In two years for Buckeyes, had 63 touchdown passes, nine interceptions and 15 rushing touchdowns. … Went 20-2 as starter for Ohio State. … Completed an impressive 70.2% of passes last year. … Ran 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds at first Pro Day. … Paton and Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur attended his first and second throwing sessions, respectively.
Why he makes sense: The Broncos try again to stop their quarterback tumult. Fields’ showcase game was the College Football Playoff semifinal against Clemson. He was 22-of-28 passing for 385 yards and six touchdowns, showing downfield accuracy (56-yard touchdown) and a willingness to work the middle of the field. The Broncos could use Fields’ athleticism to move him out of the pocket and let him run for explosive plays. He should be drafted with the idea he will start at some point this year.
Quote: “I think the good thing about (Fields) is he can work out of the shotgun, he can work under center and if you’re a team that really has an ability to control the line of scrimmage and run the football and want to work out off play-action like Baker Mayfield is doing a lot in Cleveland, Justin Fields can do that.” — ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit.
School: North Dakota State.
Age: 20 (turns 21 on May 9).
About Lance: Will be third consecutive NDSU quarterback to be drafted, preceded by Carson Wentz (No. 2 overall to Philadelphia in 2016) and Easton Stick (fifth round to Chargers in ’19). … Redshirted in ’18 (two games played) and went 16-0 to win FCS championship in ’19 (28 touchdowns/14 rushing touchdowns), setting NCAA record for most pass attempts in a season without interception (287) . … Career starting record of 17-0. … Played one game in ’20 because FCS season was moved to spring.
Why he makes sense: The Broncos would take a long view by drafting Lance — the consensus is he needs to fine tune his game before he can win against NFL defenses. But, wow, his athleticism and arm strength jump off the video of his FCS championship game against James Madison. He scrambled to convert a third-and-11. His first two deep shots drew pass interference penalties. And in the red zone, he looked left and right before working back to the middle for a 13-yard dart. Paton played his first quarterback card by acquiring Bridgewater, a veteran of 49 starts who could serve as place-holder/mentor for Lance.
Quote: “I like his size, his athleticism, his intelligence, his character. I think he has it all. I don’t think he’s missing anything.” — former NFL general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
Patrick Surtain II
About Surtain: Son of former NFL cornerback Patrick Surtain, who was son’s high school coach. … Top-ranked cornerback nationally out of high school who started 38 of his 41 games for Crimson Tide. … Statistics — 117 tackles, four forced fumbles, 31 pass break-ups, four interceptions. … First-team All-America last year for national champions. … Ran 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds at Pro Day. … Expected to be fourth top-10 Alabama defensive back since 1980.
Why he makes sense: If Fields is unavailable and Carolina passes on Surtain at No. 8, the Broncos would go the “Best Player Available” route. Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan are free agents after the year so Surtain would start in 2022, but for this year, his talent would allow the Broncos to create ways to get him on the field. What stood out from his 2019 tape was how he worked inside and outside, showing good ball skills (high-pointed an interception), physicality (tackling tight ends and bigger receivers) and make-up speed (was looking back at the safety at the snap, but still broke up a pass downfield).
Quote: “Most (college) teams still run man (coverage). It may be zone, but within the zone so you can see enough of their stops and starts, the ability to mirror in and out of cuts, the ball skills, the playing with their back to the ball. They throw the ball a lot in college and you can see them play the ball or not play the ball.” — Paton on college cornerbacks.
Position: Inside linebacker.
School: Penn State.
Age: 21 (turns 22 on May 26).
About Parsons: Top-five recruit nationally and No. 1 in Pennsylvania out of high school. … Started one of 13 games as true freshman but led team in tackles (83). … Started 12 of 13 games as sophomore in ’19 and had 109 tackles (14 for lost yardage), five sacks, four forced fumbles and five pass break-ups. Consensus All-America. … Seven double-digit tackle games as sophomore. … Opted out of 2020 season. … Ran the 40-yard dash in a posted 4.36 seconds at Pro Day.
Why he makes sense: Parsons would provide Fangio with an immediate coverage linebacker who would challenge for every-down duty from the start of training camp. In his last college game (vs. Memphis in the Cotton Bowl), Parsons showed his eye-popping athleticism playing off the ball, covering a lot of ground in a short amount of time. And he would immediately become one of the league’s best blitzing linebackers.
Quote: “I think with Parsons, (his strength) is the ability to do everything. Off the ball, you can rush him a little bit. As impressive as his range and instincts are against the run, to me, it’s what he does in coverage (that stands out).” — NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah.
Source: Read Full Article