Some Denver Broncos fans might have an eye or two on the NFL playoffs this month, but here we’re keeping one eye on who will deny Tom Brady another ring and one eye on who the Broncos should draft in April.
The perennial draft question for the Broncos is will John Elway finally find their new franchise quarterback?
He’s tried a few times and failed.
Meanwhile AFC West rivals Kansas City traded up in the first round in 2017 and landed their guy Patrick Mahomes, Houston traded up to grab former Clemson star DeSean Watson, and the Baltimore Ravens traded back into the first round in 2018 to land their guy in Lamar Jackson.
All three were players the Broncos could have drafted, but didn’t.
Of course, the last time Elway traded up in the first round to get his quarterback was in 2016. We all know how Paxton Lynch worked out.
So will Elway pull the trigger in 2019 after admitting that current starter Case Keenum is “a short-term fix”?
CBS sports writer Ryan Wilson has the Broncos drafting Duke quarterback Daniel Jones 10th overall with Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins already off the board.
CBS writer Chris Trapasso also has the Broncos taking Jones 10th overall.
The old joke is that Elway likes big, athletic quarterbacks. It didn’t work out with Lynch, or 2012 second-round pick Brock Osweiler, but Jones could be the next athletic quarterback gamble the Broncos could take.
The big difference, however, could be that Jones has been coached by David Cutcliffe, who also coached Peyton Manning and brother Eli.
Jones isn’t a finished article but could learn a lot from Keenum and new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, who worked with quarterbacks in San Francisco.
Here’s what Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told ESPNU radio host Mark Packer after watching the Jones for the first time ahead of Clemson’s game with Duke in Death Valley last November.
“We have not played Duke since 2012 and we have not had a lot of crossover tape with Duke, so I put the tape in and I usually start from their last game and I go from there,” Swinney said.
“But I am watching this Duke-North Carolina game, and I could not believe what I was seeing.
“This kid was unbelievable. This kid is huge. First of all, he is a 6-5, 220-pound quarterback, but he rushed for 186 yards.
“I’m talking a 72-yard run, 50-yard run, and he is pulling away from guys. He is not explosive latterly, but when he gets going, this guy can leave you. He has legit track speed straight ahead.”
While Jones set the Duke single-game rushing record in the 42-35 win over rivals North Carolina, his passing has also impressed throughout the season.
“He is incredibly accurate. He is very strong-armed,” Swinney added. “I just kept watching him and kept watching him, and I am like, ‘Oh my Lord!’
“He is very knowledgeable and is obviously very well coached with [head coach David Cutcliffe]. He is a pro. He is going to be a high pick in the draft for sure.
“I did not know a whole lot about him prior to our preparation for him, but I tell you what, he got my attention really quick, and he got our team’s attention.
“This is a very talented quarterback with good veteran receivers and good tight ends, and they have an excellent scheme that features him. Everything goes through the quarterback.”
Our friends at Pro Football Focus aren’t as impressed as Clemson’s head coach.
“The 2019 draft class is a decidedly weak quarterback class and when that’s the case, an off-the-wall name always seems to get first-round hype at some point in the process,” said PFF’s Michael Renner.
“It looks as if Jones will be that guy this year. The Duke quarterback’s 79.7 passing grade this season represents a monstrous jump over his 2017 campaign where he earned a 57.8 passing grade, but he simply hasn’t had enough special throws down the field to warrant the hype.
“Jones’ 13 big-time throws this season rank 71st in the country, and he has almost as many turnover-worthy plays (11) as he does big-time throws.”
Jones had a solid, if unspectacular, 2018 season for the Blue Devils and, after declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft, accepted an invitation to be one of eight quarterbacks at the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile on January 26.
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden will coach Jones and fellow first-round prospect Drew Lock as part of the North team against Kyle Shanahan’s South team.
If he shines in Mobile and at the NFL Combine, Jones could certainly find several suitors when the 2019 NFL Draft rolls into Nashville in April.