Locked Out: The Denver Broncos Quarterback Search Continues

  • Denver Broncos
  • Drew Lock
By Tyler Fangman January 5, 2021 0 Comment
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In a promising first season for the Denver Broncos, Drew Lock went (4-1) as a starter, had a 64% completion rate, and a 7/3 touchdown to interceptions ratio. It looked like John Elway finally found his guy after five tumultuous seasons with subpar quarterback play.

Drew Locks First Two Seasons With the Broncos

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Lock’s stats in the final games of the 2019 season might be a little more inflated than people think. In those starts,  Lock faced coverage units ranked 18th or worse according to Pro Football Focus (18th Kansas City, 24th Houston, 28th Detroit, 29th Oakland). Then the wheels fell off for Lock in the 2020 season.

Many people could blame it on a plethora of injuries for the Broncos offense. The Broncos are on their sixth offensive coordinator in six years. Then there is of course the pandemic that could have helped stunt the growth of Lock due to a modified offseason schedule. Or maybe it was just the dreaded sophomore slump coming for its next victim.

Drew Lock’s stats this year include a 57% completion rate and a 16/15 touchdown to interception ratio. In half of the games Lock played in this year, he had at least one turnover while in five games he had multiple. He had five turnovers against a Raiders team who just previously fired their defensive coordinator.

The problem is in a division with Patrick Mahomes and rookie sensation, Justin Herbert, there is a shorter leash in allowing a quarterback the time to fully develop. Denver could be in the market for a replacement as soon as next year, whether it be through the draft or in free agency. Here are some potential replacements if Drew finds himself locked out of Mile High:

1. Justin Fields – Ohio State

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Justin Fields was looking at potentially being the second pick in the draft, but with the Jets winning their way out of the first pick, and the Jaguars now locked in on Trevor Lawrence, there is talk that the Jets may pass on a quarterback early. Sam Darnold is talented enough and still under contract and the Jets have far more needs than quarterback alone.

Fields had some struggles this season before his stellar performance against the Clemson Tigers. He had a 78.6% completion rate, six touchdown passes, and 385 yards through the air. Fields’ quick decision making, deep-ball accuracy, and mobility could help Denver with big-play ability. Add in Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy KJ Hamler and Noah Fant to a young offensive core and Fields could be exactly what the Broncos need for long-term success.

In this abbreviated season, Fields had a 73.4% completion rate, 1,906 yards passing, 21 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Fields is the clear-cut choice for Denver if he falls or if they could try and move up in the draft to nab the future franchise quarterback.

2. Trey Lance Jr. – North Dakota State

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This may come as a surprise to many since he comes from the FCS and only got to play in one game this season. Since most of the FCS decided to cancel their season due to COVID-19, Lance did not have much of an opportunity to showcase his skills and growth from 2019 to now.

However, in 2019, Lance threw for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions.  He also had a 66.7% completion percentage. The 6’4 226 pound quarterback has terrific mobility as well. It may take a little time for him to adjust to the NFL level, but the athletic ability and raw talent of Lance might be something worth developing. The last two quarterbacks for the Bison are currently on NFL teams. (Carson Wentz, Easton Stick) and Lance Jr. will be the next to come from the very successful program.

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3. Sam Darnold – New York Jets

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Sam Darnold would likely only come available via trade if the Jets drafted a quarterback early, but the Bronco pick ninth in the draft and many of the top quarterbacks are likely to be gone by then. The verdict is still out on Darnold since the Adam Gase experience was an absolute mess in New York, but, there is enough of sample size on Darnold where he could still be a serviceable starter with the right pieces around him.

With better talent at skill positions in Denver and an offensive line that would be an upgrade over anything Darnold has had in New York, there is reason to believe that Darnold just needs a change of scenery. It would be interesting to see what Darnold could do in a full season with better talent at nearly every position and a coach not named Adam Gase.

4. Kyle Trask – Florida

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Denver could take a chance on Kyle Trask in the second round or even later if they believe they have more pressing needs with the ninth overall pick. Trask, a Heisman finalist, had an excellent year for Florida this season. He had a 68.9% completion rate, throwing for 4,283 yards, 43 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions.

One of Trask’s favorite targets was his big-bodied Tight End Kyle Pitts. Pitts is likely a top-15 pick himself and owes some of his stats to Trask on accurately placed balls. What makes Trask such an interesting prospect is to see what kind of success a player like Noah Fant would have with Trask throwing the ball.

5. Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions
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Matthew Stafford would likely be a bridge quarterback that allows Drew Lock to stay on the Broncos roster and learn from a veteran who has had much success in the NFL. This would allow Denver to address other needs in the draft while getting steady quarterback play.

Stafford is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league, and there are rumors that Detroit will be moving on from him this season depending on what they do with the coaching staff. This would be a big surprise if Denver took a chance on the aging quarterback with so many young guns in their division. It could work for a couple of seasons in Denver with many young weapons at Mile High.

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