Evaluating the potential “franchise saviors” in the 2018 draft

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Ask just about anyone what the biggest problem has been during the Denver Broncos disastrous 2017 season, and they’ll likely point to the quarterback position.

After cycling through three QBs already, returning back to Trevor Siemian and watching him go out to perform at his worst, something has to change. With the Broncos potentially drafting in the top five for only the fifth time in franchise history it might be time to pull the trigger and take a quarterback.

Free agency could change things, but the draft is always the best way to build a team, and if you can find the right arm in the draft with such a high pick, you’re likely to be set up for over a decade.

With the college football regular season in the books and bowl season on the horizon, the draft class is beginning to take shape. So here are the names all Broncos fans should familiarize themselves with as they look to find out who can be the heir to John Elway and Peyton Manning.

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Rosen’s considered to be the top prospect in the class by most people, primarily because he’s polished and far more NFL ready than most QBs who’ve come out over the past decade.

He’s played in an offense with pro-style concepts and actually played under center. When Rosen’s on, he looks like a pro with finely tuned footwork, smooth mechanics, high-level decision making and a high football IQ. He’s accurate at his best with promising ball placement, and he’s flashed some fine deep ball accuracy as well. He’s also got the frame and ample arm strength to be a top end pick in the draft.

Rosen is the most probable player in the group to go first overall which would mean the Broncos would have to trade up to get him. Rosen’s played behind poor lines, and that’s got him into bad habits. The worst of which is holding onto the ball too long and making risky decisions, his ball placement can also wean at times. Because he’s taken so many hits, the Bruins quarterback also has some injury questions, but the full package of skills and the fact that he’d actually be able to see the field sooner rather than later make him very appealing.

Sam Darnold, QB, USC

I analyzed Darnold here after seeing him live in one of his best outings of the season. He’s had some turnover issues this year, but he’s also put some impressive throws on tape while also proving to be incredibly clutch in the fourth quarter.

He’s a better athlete than Rosen with a nice frame, not to mention he’s a special passer on the move. All that makes the 20-year-old with a 20-3 career record a very appealing gun-slinger, with the type of upside that’ll make GM’s go all in for his talents.

Darnold's ceiling is that of a franchise quarterback, but he also might take a bit more time to develop.

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

While Darnold and Rosen present a bit more certainty after playing high-level D-I footballs, they also could be gone by the time Denver picks.

Wyoming's Josh Allen is a quarterback with otherworldly gifts; an arm that would be stronger than just about any in the NFL, an Elway-approved big frame, and some special talents throwing it on the run as well. We covered him extensively all the way back in 2016 before he decided to go back to school. Unfortunately for Allen, his season back with the Cowboys has been a disappointment, showing some major inconsistencies. He’s especially struggled against power-five competition—we witnessed one such game this year, and it wasn’t pretty.

While Allen is playing in a pro-style offense—the same system that developed Carson Wentz at North Dakota State—he’d require some major grooming as he's still extremely raw and inconsistent. If this is starting to sound familiar stop me now—a quick refresher, Paxton Lynch also came from a G5 school with great upside but little polish.

Are the Broncos ready to undergo another developmental project, this time with a top-five pick? That would be a major roll of the dice which could pay off in a big way but also set the franchise back many years.

The Heisman winners

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

It’s rare to have two likely Heisman winners in the draft and neither be consensus top-three prospect at their position, but that’s where we’re at with this 2018 class.

Jackson has a thin frame at only 213-pounds, but at 6-foot-3 he’d have room to grow. He’s also not a conventional passer from within the pocket, has some issues with his accuracy beyond the numbers, and his footwork is extremely raw.

Jackson is also the best athlete we’ve seen at the position since Michael Vick and has shown some really nice arm talent, especially deep over the seam where his ball-placement is awesome. Jackson is a phenomenal passer on the run. If developed in a pro system that allows him to run from time to time, he could be a nightmare to stop for NFL defenses.

The 2016 Heisman winner would require a full buy-in from the organization and coaching staff, or he’d be a wasted selection, but his natural talents would make him really intriguing. He also might be a reach in the top five but is talented enough to go in the first 15 picks.

There isn’t another guy on this list that would make Broncos fans fall in love within the first couple minutes of the first preseason game than Lamar.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Twitter’s favorite candidate has skyrocketed up draft boards this season, proving he's so much more than just a talented college spread quarterback. Mayfield’s efficiency as a decision maker, added to his constantly improving arm talent from within the pocket has convinced many that he’s an NFL talent and now the first round seems like his likely landing spot.

The hard part with the diminutive quarterback who’ also a magician scrambling and making plays off the script, is that it’s hard for an NFL team to commit building an offense around someone who’s only six feet tall and who likes to get out the pocket.

The college playoffs and draft process will be big for Mayfield, especially his measurements. If he comes in over 220-pounds that’ll be a great start, his hand measurements will also be important as will him answering questions about his off-field behavior.

If all that checks out, would Elway take him? When could the Broncos pounce? The best solution could be waiting for the top of the second round or moving back into the first, but don’t get your hopes up. As fun as he is to watch on Saturdays, he just doesn’t feel like a fit for what this scouting department’s gone after in the past.

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

Rudolph does fit the NFL mold as he’s big and strong-armed, but the Oklahoma State product is another developmental prospect with some concerns under pressure or when he has to work off of his secondary reads.

It’s also worth mentioning that with Broncos scout and former head coach Gary Kubiak being located in Texas, he’s getting plenty of looks at both Rudolph and Mayfield. Rudolph is more of a developmental guy who'd be worth taking in the early second round if the Broncos were to just take the best player available in the top five, but his arm and size might force him to go higher.

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