Will Denver Broncos' next QB come with 31st pick?

By Dane Brugler, The Sports Xchange   |   March 10, 2016 at 2:20 AM
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With Brock Osweiler signing a free agent contract with the Houston Texans, the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos now have to find a replacement at the game's most important position.

General manager John Elway may opt for a short-term Band-Aid solution with a veteran like Robert Griffin III or Colin Kaepernick, but the final pick of the first round should also be a consideration for the Broncos, especially given the contract options teams are given with first-round picks.

Players selected in rounds other than the first can only be given four-year rookie contracts. Players selected in the first round, however, can sign a four-year deal with a team option for a fifth year. Teams often elect to exercise that fifth year if the player has performed well. This is especially true at the quarterback position where -- as Osweiler's massive $72 million, four-year deal with Houston demonstrates -- salary can quickly get out of hand.

Typically, the teams selecting at the tail end of the first round experienced great success the year earlier. Often they are the clubs who participated in the Super Bowl.

Two years ago, the Minnesota Vikings traded back up in the first round to land the last pick (from the Seattle Seahawks) to draft quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

The Broncos aren't likely to be trading the final pick of the first round this year. Elway, head coach Gary Kubiak (who each know a little something about quarterbacks) may instead may opt to draft their next young passer with Michigan State's Connor Cook, Penn State's Christian Hackenberg and perhaps Memphis junior Paxton Lynch (if he is there) each intriguing candidates.

All three are viewed by most scouts as running a distant third, fourth or fifth to the top quarterbacks on NFLDraftScout.com's board -- California's Jared Goff and North Dakota State's Carson Wentz. Goff and Wentz, however, are projected to be long gone by the time the Broncos are on the clock.

Cook is the most polished of the group and comes from a pro-style offense at Michigan State which featured a strong running game and a commitment to defense. As such, his fit with the defensive-oriented Broncos makes some sense. Further, with former Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian the only passer currently on Denver's roster, Cook seems downright logical as competition for last year's seventh-round pick, the 250th overall selection in 2015.

Hackenberg has all of the tools that scouts are looking for and ironically played his best football under Houston head coach Bill O'Brien, who now, of course, is hoping to maximize Osweiler's talent.

After O'Brien left Penn State for the Texans, however, Hackenberg's play plateaued and some would say even regressed. While his size and arm are exciting, Hackenberg remains a very raw passer who struggles to consistently set his feet, resulting in some frighteningly inaccurate passes.

Perhaps the wild card in this scenario is Lynch, who some believe will be drafted quite high based on his size, big arm and exciting athletic ability. A poor performance in the Birmingham Bowl loss to Auburn and a so-so performance during passing drills at the Combine have Lynch's stock lower among scouts than some in the media have suggested.

Should Lynch be available to the Broncos at No. 31, he could be exactly the type of developmental prospect Kubiak and Elway are looking for. His agility and arm, frankly, make him a better fit in the traditional West Coast Offense that Kubiak has preached throughout his career.

Each of the three young passers possess the velocity and courage to make NFL-caliber throws and with a beastly receiver like Demaryius Thomas and speedy option like Emmanuel Sanders ready to help a young quarterback acclimate, the Broncos aren't without tools.

And of course, who better than former quarterbacks Kubiak (and Elway) to foster a young quarterbacks' growth?

--Dane Brugler is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed in partnership with The Sports Xchange and CBSSports.com.

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