Broncos need to keep Chris Harris Jr for the short-term

Broncos need to keep Chris Harris Jr for the short-term

Chris Harris Jr has so far stayed away from the Broncos’ OTAs, but his contract situation is one of the biggest talking points.

It would have been inconceivable that the star cornerback could play for another team in the NFL, but it becomes more of a possibility as each day passes.

We know his side wants $15 million a year, which would make Harris one of the highest-paid corners in the league, but we also know that general manager John Elway is notoriously tight when it comes to paying players market value.

That talks are underway, even if they are in their infancy, is at least a positive step in the right direction.

The Broncos didn’t take a cornerback in the 2019 NFL Draft last month after landing Bryce Callahan and Kareem Jackson in free agency, although the latter has been playing more safety in Vic Fangio’s defense.

If Harris walks, the Broncos will have a massive hole in their secondary following the departures of Bradley Roby (Houston) and Tramaine Brock (Arizona).

Yes, Callahan is also an excellent slot corner, but it means the Broncos will have to hope Isaac Yiadom can step up in his second year or one of the undrafted rookies emerges as a potential starter or third corner, or the plan to move Jackson around will be stifled.

NFL Network’s James Palmer reported Friday that the Broncos could be looking at a short-term extension for Harris, which could see his salary rise close to his demands.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise, given what we know about contracts offered to corners in their 30s.

The Broncos signed Jackson, aged 31, to a $33 million deal over three years this offseason, but such deals are rare.

Josh Norman, whose $75m five-year contract with Washington gives him an average of $15m a year, got his deal in 2016.

Miami signed Xavien Howard to a five-year extension earlier this month worth $75m with a $15.05m a year average, with $27.18 million fully guaranteed at signing and $46 million in total guarantees, according to Pro Football Talk, but Howard is 25.

The issue for Harris, who turns 30 in June, is that teams don’t often offer big contracts to aging corners, and not many organizations will add a premium for performing above a previous contract’s value.

A two- or three-year extension in 2019, would keep Harris under contract through 2021 or 2022. If the incentives can top up the base salary, which seems the likeliest outcome, it could work for both parties.

Harris has talked of retiring a Bronco, but that will depend on whether he takes a short-term deal, and how he performs in that period. Even then, it’s not a given.

Yiadom might not be the future of the Broncos’ secondary, but the front office will look to get younger at the position in 2020 or 2021.

Widely regarded as one of the smartest players on and off the field, the Broncos cannot afford to lose another leader, especially one that can mentor the youngsters who one day could take his place.

That concept shouldn’t be too alien to Harris, who was mentored by Champ Bailey before the Broncos released the Hall of Famer in 2014 at the age of 35 after 10 seasons in Denver.

Keeping Harris on the roster for at least two more seasons is imperative for the Broncos to bounce back from back-to-back losing seasons.

Flacco to take all first-team reps at Broncos OTAs

For all the excitement about Denver’s second-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock won’t be taking reps away from Joe Flacco when the Broncos begin OTAs today.

Head coach Vic Fangio confirmed after rookie minicamp that Flacco would take the first-team reps with Lock and fellow rookie Brett Rypien randomly sharing second- and third-team reps with Kevin Hogan.

The announcement should come as no surprise given the narrative since general manager John Elway traded up to take Lock with the 42nd overall pick at the 2019 NFL Draft last month.

Lock and his hose might be the future in the Mile High City, but the Broncos didn’t trade a fourth-round pick to Baltimore for no reason and Elway is content to roll with former Super Bowl MVP Flacco until Lock is good to go at the NFL level.

It’s a luxury few teams get to have. How long it lasts remains to be seen, especially if Flacco can stay healthy and performs well.

For now, Lock will compete with veteran Hogan for the backup job as he learns his craft without the pressure of a quarterback competition we saw after the Broncos traded up in the first round to take Paxton Lynch in 2016.

In other news ahead of OTAs, star cornerback Chris Harris Jr. will be absent as he waits on a new contract, while new signing Kareem Jackson will continue to see work at safety.

Second-round pick Dalton Risner will continue to see time at left guard but is also expected to play some tackle and center as the Broncos work out his best position.

Second-year corner Isaac Yiadom will be limited, receiver Emmanuel Sanders will not go, while Phillip Lindsay, Jake Butt, Bryce Callahan, and Ronald Leary will see some time in OTAs as they come back from injury.

After the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets both ended their seasons with game seven defeats in the playoffs this past week, we have just 11 weeks until the Broncos take the field at the Pro Football Hall of Fame game in Canton to kick off five preseason games.

There’s a lot of work to be done for new head coach Fangio as he assembles his first 53-man roster, but the offseason program is about to hit a new level.

It’s not quite time for Ryan Koenigsberg’s perennial call to resonate across Broncos Country, but it’s getting closer.

The Broncos are almost back, again.

Broncos complete initial 90-man roster for 2019

Broncos complete initial 90-man roster for 2019

The Denver Broncos have completed their initial 90-man roster for the 2019 season after signing seven college free agents Thursday.

After general manager drafted six new players in the 2019 NFL Draft last month, he also traded for veteran linebacker/special teamer Dekoda Watson and added 17 college free agents.

After the initial wave of college free agents signed, Denver added Pittsburgh fullback George Aston, UConn center Ryan Crozier, Stanford cornerback Alijah Holder, Samford wide receiver Kelvin McKnight, Nevada linebacker Malik Reed, and Colorado State linebacker Josh Watson.

To make room for the new acquisitions, the Broncos waived quarterback Garrett Grayson and wide receiver Chad Hansen.

The Broncos’ 17 college free agent signings are:

Brett RypienQBBoise State
Joe DineenLBKansas
Devontae JacksonRBWest Georgia
Quinn BaileyOTArizona State
Trinity BensonWREast Central
Brian WallaceOTArkansas
John LeglueOGTulane
Jaylen JohnsonDEWashington
Romell GuerrierWRFlorida Tech
Ahmad GoodenDESamford
Austin FortTEWyoming
George AstonFBPittsburgh
Ryan CrozierCUConn
Alijah HolderCBStanford
Kelvin McKnightWRSamford
Malik ReedLBNevada
Josh WatsonLBColorado State
Broncos improve offense after 2019 NFL Draft tradefest

Broncos improve offense after 2019 NFL Draft tradefest

The 2019 NFL Draft is in the books and the Denver Broncos drafted six players — their smallest class since 2014 — after three days of wheeling and dealing by general manager John Elway.

So it’s time to see what new toys Broncos Country can look forward to for the upcoming season.

Welcome to Broncos Country, class of 2019!

Round 1

#20 Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Finally, the Broncos have a tight end that can be an immediate and long-term difference maker.

Yes, Fant isn’t the inside linebacker that many in Broncos Country wanted, but the Iowa standout’s size makes him an athletic, vertical-threat weapon for Joe Flacco in Rich Scangarello’s offense, and he could also see plenty of action in the slot in a Travis Kelce or George Kittle role.

The Broncos will improve their offense massively if Fant has close to being as explosive as former Iowa teammate Kittle was in San Francisco last year.

Factoring in the extra picks from trading down from 10 places from #10, this was a solid move by Elway in the first round.

Round 2

#41 Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State

Irrespective of what the Broncos did in round one, Colorado native Risner was my guy for the second round, even over Drew Lock. He had a first-round grade from several draft analysts and should be an immediate starter and a focal point of the Broncos’ offensive line for a decade. This selection is one of the steals of the 2019 NFL Draft.

The Broncos’ new offensive line coach Mike Munchak probably pounded the table to get this high-character, nasty trench monster too, and it’s a perfect match as he transitions to the NFL and fixes a few weaknesses.

Risner’s versatility means the Broncos have options for 2019 and in the future with likely starting center Connor McGovern a free agent in 2020. If the newly-minted Ju’wuan James doesn’t work out at right tackle, Risner could also slide out there.

#42 Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

Let’s get it out of the way: Drew Lock could be the Broncos’ quarterback of the future. Mocked to the Broncos as high as #5 in a trade-up scenario, that he fell to the second round makes him a great value pick by general manager John Elway, despite giving up draft capital to trade up from #52 to see off Green Bay and New England.

In the space of 23 picks, the Broncos selected three first-round talents and those three players are as good as the three taken by Oakland in the first round.

The Mizzou QB wasn’t my guy in the 2019 NFL Draft, but it’s hard to argue with what the Broncos did in their maneuvers to get him.

The Paxton Lynch debacle may be in the rearview mirror, but Lock doesn’t have to win the job in training camp.

Time will tell if Lock can develop into the starter and franchise quarterback many expect him to be, but he has a Super Bowl MVP to learn from in Flacco and an offensive coordinator in Scangarello, who made Nick Mullens and a host of other no-name QBs look good when he was quarterbacks coach of the 49ers.

Round 3

#71 Dre’Mont Jones, DL, Ohio State

Jones is a sneaky good pick-up for the Broncos in the third round. He will bring plenty of pass rush from the inside and is solid against the run, albeit susceptible to double teams because of his lack of size against bigger guards and tackles.

The Ohio State defensive lineman increased his sack count from one in 2017 to 10 in 2018 as he played 500 pass rush snaps, and he will be a useful addition in Vic Fangio’s defense as a three tech.

Round 5

#156 Justin Hollins, LB, Oregon

The Texas native was tipped to be a sixth-round pick or later by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, but the Broncos picked up the versatile linebacker in the fifth, which could be seen as a reach.

A former defensive end before transitioning to linebacker in his junior year, it is easy to see why head coach Fangio wanted him for his defense. Can play inside and out, can rush the passer and play in coverage, and could make up for the loss of Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett to free agency if asked to play edge.

Hollins is a developmental player but has the perfect coach in Fangio to help him make it in the NFL.

Round 6

Juwann Winfree, WR, Colorado

Winfree is a sleeper pick in a superb draft for the Broncos, who traded two picks to move up for the wide receiver.

Injuries — including a torn ACL in 2016 — derailed Winfree’s college career, which contributed to his fall, while he wasn’t targeted a lot at Colorado, but he should see some time on special teams as he tries to force his way into a receiver room led by Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, and Tim Patrick.

At 6-3, 210 pounds, Winfree ran a 4.5 40-yard dash, and his size and speed could make him a threat as a big slot receiver and a blocker, but he also possesses solid route running and an ability to make defenders look silly, as he did against USC in the video below.

Overall Grade: A

Despite drafting six players in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Broncos has a superb weekend, emphasized by the three first-round talents acquired on days one and two.

Fant and Risner will be day one starters, while Lock will have time to learn the intricacies of the NFL from Flacco and receive the keys to the franchise when ready.

For a second year, the Broncos selected high-character guys that will have an impact on and off the field.

The players taken in the later rounds will also get a chance to make it.

There are still some holes on the roster to be addressed, but there is a notable improvement to the offense.

Broncos 2019 college free agent tracker

Broncos 2019 college free agent tracker

Sun has set on the 2019 NFL Draft after a stunning first visit to Nashville, 254 players made it to the NFL with hundreds more waiting for calls.

The Denver Broncos have a thing for finding undrafted gems. Look no further than Ring of Famer Rod Smith, Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and last year’s steal of the decade in Phillip Lindsay.

After plenty of wheeling and dealing, Broncos general manager John Elway turned eight initial draft picks into six rookies and veteran linebacker Dekoda Watson, who spent the 2016 season in the Mile High City.

Here’s a reminder of who the Broncos selected in the 2019 NFL Draft:

120Noah FantTight EndIowa
241Dalton RisnerOffensive LineKansas
242Drew LockQuarterbackMissouri
371Dre’Mont JonesDefensive LineOhio State
5156Justin HollinsEdge RusherOregon
6187Juwann WinfreeWide ReceiverColorado

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Now, it’s time to unearth the next gem, so we’ll be tracking all the college free agents that sign with the Broncos in the coming days.

The following college free agents have signed with the Broncos, led by Boise State QB Brett Rypien, who was ranked seventh in the Pro Football Focus top-10 quarterbacks list for the 2019 NFL Draft.

Brett RypienQBBoise State
Joe DineenLBKansas
Devontae JacksonRBWest Georgia
Quinn BaileyOTArizona State
Trinity BensonWREast Central
Brian WallaceOTArkansas
John LeglueOGTulane
Jaylen JohnsonDEWashington
Romell GuerrierWRFlorida Tech
Ahmad GoodenDESamford
Austin FortTEWyoming
Elway bosses another draft for Broncos

Elway bosses another draft for Broncos

Few fans in Broncos Country could have imagined that the Denver Broncos would land three first-round talents in the 2019 NFL Draft, but that’s just what general manager John Elway achieved over three days of wheeling and dealing.

The Broncos selected six players in the 2019 NFL Draft

The initial dismay at trading down from #10 to #20 in the first round, which meant eschewing the chance to draft Michigan linebacker Devin Bush, and a longer night for those of us in Europe, turned to delirium 24 hours later when the Broncos traded up to the 42nd pick.

In the space of 23 picks, the Broncos selected Iowa tight end Noah Fant, Kansas State offensive lineman Dalton Risner, and Missouri quarterback Drew Lock, which is impressive.

Fant’s Iowa teammate T.J. Hockenson was the tight end mocked to the Broncos often behind Lock, but he went to Detroit at #8.

Not only did the Broncos receive extra capital by trading down but, in Fant, they also found a legitimate pass-catching tight end absent from the roster since 2014.

In Risner, the Broncos landed a high-character young man with a nasty streak on the gridiron. He’s also plenty versatile and hails from Wiggins, Colorado. We’ll hear all of those points mentioned a lot in his rookie season.

The Broncos would draft Lock anywhere from #5 to #20, according to several analysts’ mock drafts. Few had him sliding as far as he did. The temptation to get him was too much for Elway to resist, despite taking Risner at #41.

In Ohio State’s Dre‘Mont Jones, the Broncos have a defensive lineman that gets plenty of interior quarterback pressure and could be a three-down guy or used in rotation as Vic Fangio mixes up the defensive fronts.

Oregon’s Justin Hollins is a reach in the fifth round, but he could develop under Fangio’s tutelage. He’s plenty versatile, which Fangio likes, so could appear inside or out, on the line or in coverage.

At the very least, he could be in the mix to spell Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. As well as getting after the quarterback, he’s also partial to a strip or two, which could help the defensive takeaways.

The Broncos’ sixth-round pick seems like another reach, mainly because Elway traded away two picks.

Juwann Winfree didn’t have a whole load of production at Colorado because of injuries and not being Laviska Shenault but has size and speed on his side. To make the 53-man roster, he’ll have to be a training camp star.

Despite the last two picks, Elway’s work at the top of the draft to snatch three great offensive players was superb, and it’s difficult to knock him for swinging at developmental players in the later rounds.

Time, of course, will tell just how well Elway did, but at this early stage let us say that he won again, and the Broncos should have a strong core on offense over the next few seasons.

Broncos out of race for 2020 quarterback?

Broncos out of race for 2020 quarterback?

Much was said about how stronger the 2020 quarterback class will be and that the Denver Broncos would find their quarterback of the future next year.

Broncos general manager John Elway likes Oregon’s Justin Herbert, who decided to stay in school rather than declare for the 2019 NFL Draft.

Herbert will declare in 2020, but Elway couldn’t wait when Missouri’s Drew Lock was still available at #42 in the 2019 NFL Draft last week, trading with Cincinnati to move up from #52.

With Lock joining Joe Flacco in the Mile High City, and both quarterbacks on favorable contracts, the Broncos don’t necessarily need to go after a quarterback in the 2020 draft, but that shouldn’t stop Elway from keeping his options open.

Still fresh in the memory is that Arizona traded up to take Josh Rosen 10th overall in 2018 only to draft Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray with the first-overall pick in 2019 then trade Rosen to Miami for a second-round pick.

If Flacco isn’t hitting his prime as Elway has declared and Lock isn’t the answer for the Broncos, it is inconceivable that they are not active in finding the guy in 2020, unless they really like Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, who won’t come out until 2021 at the earliest.

Not only will Herbert declare in 2020, but Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa will also be a headline quarterback.

Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Washington’s Jacob Eason, and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts should also be in the conversation.

John Elway is a known fan of Oregon QB Justin Herbert

The teams in desperate need of a franchise quarterback are thin at present, so the Broncos could be aggressive in getting their guy, whether that turns out to be Herbert or another quarterback.

Despite trading for Rosen, Miami will be in play, while Cincinnati could look for an instant upgrade on Andy Dalton, who doesn’t have a strong career behind him.

Other teams that could be in the market include Tampa Bay and Tennessee, despite taking quarterbacks first and second overall in 2015. Both Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be unrestricted free agents in 2020.

New England will continue to look for the heir to Tom Brady (42), while the Los Angeles Chargers could make a move to find an heir to Philip Rivers (38), and New Orleans could pounce for a successor to Drew Brees (40).

Never count out Oakland with Jon Gruden as head coach and the fact that Derek Carr has no further guaranteed money.

Even the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys could look to move on from Jared Goff and Dak Prescott if they do not want to pay an exorbitant salary for a franchise quarterback.

But Elway has spoken of giving Lock the Aaron Rodgers treatment, sitting behind Flacco to learn before receiving the keys to the franchise.

That should preclude the Broncos from the race for a quarterback in 2020, but it will depend on how Flacco and Lock perform in 2019 and if they are the right fit for the Broncos’ offense.

Arizona drafting Murray was mostly based on him being the best fit for Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. If neither Flacco nor Lock flourish in Rich Scangarello’s offense, the Broncos should seriously consider going again in 2020.

Broncos trade up to draft QB Drew Lock

Broncos trade up to draft QB Drew Lock

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John Elway ignored the calls in Broncos Country to draft a quarterback with the 10th overall pick, trading down 10 places to land Iowa tight end Noah Fant and some much-needed draft capital.

That capital came in useful on day two of the 2019 NFL Draft.

One pick after taking Kansas State OL Dalton Risner — a Colorado native — with the 41st overall pick, the Broncos sent their second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks to Cincinnati to select Missouri’s Drew Lock, the quarterback many experts had the Broncos taking at #10.

Whether or not Lock is the quarterback you wanted the Broncos to draft, the organization’s front office deserves praise for creatively landing three players that could have been first-round picks.

The Broncos’ new quarterback was mocked as high as #5, with the Broncos having to trade up to get him, while Risner was mocked as a late first-round selection but was always likely to be an early-to-mid second round pick.

The Broncos played it superbly, moving from #52 to 42 to grab Lock ahead of other teams. Head coach Vic Fangio mentioned they had to move up to get him.

Benjamin Allbright believes that the Green Bay Packers were interested with the 44th overall pick, while the New England Patriots at #45 could also have been in play.

The issue for Fangio and offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello now is how they manage Lock’s development. We’ve seen all too often what happens when the Broncos have a young quarterback on the roster. The clamor to play Lock if Joe Flacco struggles will be intense.

Pro Football Focus profile Broncos quarterback Drew Lock

On the plus side, Drew Lock is not Paxton Lynch and the Mizzou alum will take the time to learn behind a former Super Bowl MVP.

For the first time since Peyton Manning was in Denver, the Broncos have the luxury of having a veteran that knows how to win and the time to develop a quarterback that could be the future of the franchise.

But ideally, the Broncos can ride Flacco as long as it takes to get Lock NFL ready. Scangarello has shown he can develop quarterbacks from his time in San Francisco, which has to give Broncos Country confidence that Lock will not fall the way of Elway’s other quarterback draft choices.

Versatile lineman Risner can play across the line but is likely to slot in at guard for the Broncos if Connor McGovern starts at center.

The Broncos also boosted their defensive line options on the second day of the 2019 draft with Ohio State’s defensive tackle Dre’mont Jones.

Fangio said that Jones will play defensive end in their nickel packages, but he can play across the defensive line and will be a useful weapon for the Broncos that addresses depth needs.

The Broncos have three picks in the last three rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft, pending any trades:

Fifth #148
Fifth #156
Seventh #237

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Broncos draft Iowa TE Noah Fant after trade with Steelers

Broncos draft Iowa TE Noah Fant after trade with Steelers

It wasn’t what many in Broncos Country wanted, but Denver Broncos general manager John Elway passed on a number of day-one starters with the 10th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft to trade down 10 places with the Pittsburgh Steelers, acquire the 52nd-overall pick, and a 2020 third-round pick.

No quarterback, no inside linebacker, no interior offensive or defensive linemen, it was another position of need that the Broncos addressed.

Debate rages on social media over the value of the pick and whether Elway made the right move.

Before Elway and new head coach Vic Fangio made statements to the media, Andrew Mason, the venerable football encyclopedia from the Denver Broncos website and Orange & Blue 760, crunched the numbers and determined that the Broncos gained value from the trade.

The net result, the Broncos passed on the chance to get a difference maker on defense in Michigan linebacker Devin Bush — as well as other highly-coveted players — but picked up a legitimate weapon for new quarterback Joe Flacco in the sizeable form of Iowa tight end Noah Fant.

It is no secret that the Broncos have struggled at tight end since the departure of Julius Thomas in 2015 after his Pro Bowl seasons in 2013 and 2014, but Fant gives Rich Scangarello’s offense a huge weapon over the middle and a fantastic red zone target.

As the San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach last year, Scangarello had input into making Fant’s former Iowa teammate George Kittle into an uncoverable monster in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, despite using four different quarterbacks.

It’s also worth remembering that Flacco forged a fantastic relationship on and off the field with tight end Dennis Pitta in Baltimore and Scangarello — and Fangio, appraising the pick from his razor-sharp defensive mind — will hope the 34-year-old quarterback can find that chemistry with Fant, who not only possesses mismatch size at 6-5, 241 pounds, but also elite speed that leaves defenders for dead.

Pro Football Focus profiles the Denver Broncos’ 2019 first-round pick

Fant ranked 10th among tight ends in this class by Pro Football Focus, with the noticeable knock being his blocking, but the Broncos have other bodies that can fill that role while making their new acquisition a focal point of the passing game.

With a top 100 loaded with starting-caliber talent, the additional second-round pick gives Elway and the Broncos a chance to select two players on Friday that could become starters in their rookie season.

Interior offensive line is still a need, as is a defensive tackle, but with several top cornerbacks falling into round two, Elway could be tempted to pick up an insurance option on day two if the deteriorating situation with Chris Harris Jr. results in the leader of the Broncos’ secondary leaving the Mile High City in 2019.

Broncos should trade for Russell Wilson

Broncos should trade for Russell Wilson

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The Denver Broncos should trade for Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, according to Broncos Europe TV’s Michael McQuaid.

It’s not a particularly fresh take, but it would be a bold move by John Elway to snap up a genuinely elite NFL quarterback just weeks after the Broncos traded a 2019 fourth-round pick for Joe Flacco.

“If he’s available, go get Russell Wilson right now,” McQuaid said. “There’s a guy that guarantees the next five years for this team in regards to the quarterback position. A guy that’s going to help this offense while we still have that core on defense.

“What have we got to lose? Why not offer them Flacco? Maybe a first round this year, first round next year, or one of our more senior players? 

“Why not offer someone who’s been talking — or hinting — about leaving Denver: maybe Chris Harris Jr?

“I think we need to make the move now. Will Elway make that move? It’s anybody’s guess, but I’d love to be able to see something there.

While both are Super Bowl winners, 34-year-old Flacco has plenty of detractors from his time in Baltimore and lost his job in 2018 to a guy whose most significant weakness is throwing the ball.

Flacco has never been selected to the Pro Bowl but is a Super Bowl MVP. That was in 2012. Times have changed and his production has remained average at best.

Wilson, on the other hand, continually excites and mostly gets the job done given time and space to operate. There’s a reason why the 2012 third-round pick is a six-time Pro Bowler and went to back-to-back Super Bowls. His efficiency is impressive.

He can make up for offensive line deficiencies to some extent with his mobility and accuracy downfield. Certainly more than the quarterbacks the Broncos have rolled through in recent seasons, and certainly more than Flacco, who is a big-bodied quarterback.

Embed from Getty Images

Wilson is waiting on the Seahawks to offer him a new deal, one that could make him the league’s highest-paid player, but it appears unlikely to meet the player’s deadline of April 15.

If the Seahawks don’t cough up the big bucks, Wilson would be an unrestricted free agent in 2020.

We could see a Kirk Cousins situation play out. The franchise tag is inevitable for such a valuable player, but with an underwhelming quarterback class in the 2019 NFL Draft next week, it’s understandable that quarterback-needy teams should be interested.

That includes the Broncos, despite Flacco having three years on his current deal which carried over from Baltimore, but Wilson’s suitors also include the New York Giants, who boast two first-round picks in this year’s draft and are actively looking for Eli Manning’s successor.

Factor in that Wilson’s wife reportedly wants to be in New York City more and that Wilson’s baseball career is now in New York with the Yankees, and the football Giants make a lot of sense.

Embed from Getty Images

So the Broncos front office would have to move fast to bring Wilson to Denver to play football nine years after the Colorado Rockies selected him in the 2010 MLB Draft.

It would likely mean losing at least one player. As Benjamin Allbright noted, the Broncos could deal Flacco and Harris, as well as two first-round picks.

“Does John Elway have that managerial instinct to get Russell Wilson?” McQuaid later mused in his video.

“Because it would immediately give us that step up that we need to compete in the AFC West next season.

“This is arguably the Seahawks’ best player. A guy that has done so much for Seattle — won a Super Bowl and destroyed us, been to another Super Bowl. A player with tonnes of experience and is still in his prime compared to Joe Flacco.”

For now, the Broncos are content to roll with their fifth different starting quarterback in three seasons with Flacco at the helm. Drafting a quarterback of the future remains on the radar, something Elway has been woeful at during his career as general manager.

He passed up on drafting Wilson three times in 2012. After taking defensive end Derek Wolfe with the 36th overall pick, Elway took Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler with the 57th overall pick, then running back Ronnie Hillman with the 67th overall pick. Seattle took Wilson eight picks later.

Not drafting Wilson haunted the Broncos after Super Bowl XLVIII, not taking the chance to get him again could lead to future nightmares for Elway and the Broncos front office.

Broncos Europe TV’s Michael McQuaid makes the argument to bring Wilson to Denver
Charley Casserly Mock 2.0

Charley Casserly Mock 2.0

Broncos Pick (10): T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

ESPN’s Draft Expert Mel Kiper Jr. also had the Broncos taking Hockenson in his Mock 3.0 last month — which we reviewed, and you can check out here — so we won’t repeat much of that analysis.

Hockenson could really end up going anywhere in this draft but the consensus seems to be between #10 and #25.

He’s a weapon for any team that takes him and is still young with room to grow.

T.J. Hockenson could become a favorite target for Broncos QB Joe Flacco

How does Hockenson fit with the Broncos?

As noted in Kiper’s Mock 3.0 review, the Broncos currently have three tight ends they drafted within the last 3 years in Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt, and Troy Fumagalli.

None of them has been able to live up to their true potential yet because of injury so it could be high-time the Broncos pick a guy that doesn’t have an injury history and can start week one.

Hockenson would immediately leapfrog all of those guys and become Joe Flacco’s primary tight end target. Flacco thrives with talented tight ends so this wouldn’t be the worst choice the Broncos could make at #10.

Who was still available?

Casserly has some trades happening in the round one, unlike most mocks up until this point, but none that directly affect the Broncos.

However, in his mock, he still has players like Devin Bush and Dwayne Haskins available when the Broncos pick at #10.

It’s safe to assume most of Broncos Country would lose their minds if the team passed on a talented inside linebacker or a potential quarterback of the future for a tight end, but as John Elway said he believes Flacco is still in his prime and may focus on surrounding him with pieces that will help him succeed now.

Broncos to face Falcons in 2019 Hall of Fame game

The Denver Broncos will kick off the 2019 season by facing the Atlanta Falcons in the Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Thursday, August 1.

It will be a week of celebration for the Broncos in Ohio with owner Pat Bowlen finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with former cornerback Champ Bailey who, like the Falcons’ Tony Gonzalez, is a first-ballot inductee.

“With Mr. Bowlen and Champ Bailey part of this year’s induction class, it’s an honor for the Broncos to play in the Hall of Fame Game,” head coach Vic Fangio told the Denver Broncos website.

“We’re looking forward to seeing a lot of Broncos fans in Canton, and it’s also special for us to help kick off the NFL’s 100th season. Football-wise, it gives our team an extra week of training camp and additional practices that we’ll use to our advantage.”

The confirmation from the NFL means the Broncos will have five preseason games in Vic Fangio’s first season as head coach.

With an early start to the season, the Broncos and Falcons will begin their training camp early.

The Broncos’ last appearance in the game was in 2004 when John Elway entered the Hall.

Elway wants Keenum to stay with Broncos in 2019

The Denver Broncos are open to keeping quarterback Case Keenum in 2019 despite trading for former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco.

While president of football operations/general manager John Elway cannot comment on the Flacco move until March 13, it was little surprise that he fielded questions about the future of Keenum, who Elway described as “the perfect fit for us” just 12 months ago when “we got our guy.”

Fast forward through a disappointing 6-10 season and Elway described Keenum as a “short-term fix” in January then reached an agreement last month to send a fourth-round pick to Baltimore for Flacco.

Keenum is no longer the guy but has one year remaining on the two-year $36 million deal he signed barely 12 months ago, and Elway is leaving it up to the quarterback to decide his future.

With $21m against the salary cap in 2019, Keenum will have to decide between restructuring his contract to remain in Denver as a backup or looking elsewhere, where he could also be limited to a backup role or a bridge role while grooming his replacement.

The Broncos would clear Keenum’s $18m base salary with a pre-June 1st trade, carrying $3m — from a guaranteed bonus — in dead money but, if they didn’t find a trade partner, the team would save just $11m and face a costly dead cap hit of $10m.

Possible landing spots for Keenum include Miami likely to move on from Ryan Tannehill under new head coach Brian Flores, Arizona, where Kliff Kingsbury — his position coach in college — is a rookie head coach in the NFL, while Washington could also be interested as they monitor whether Alex Smith will be able to play after his gruesome leg injury.

The Redskins have long-term backup Colt McCoy under contract, but he is also coming off a broken leg, so Keenum could provide some insurance without having to go all-in on a quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Broncos will pick up 2019 options on Sanders, Wolfe

The Denver Broncos will return two veterans to the roster in 2019 after picking up the options on Emmanuel Sanders and Derek Wolfe.

Despite rumors that the Broncos could move on from Sanders, who suffered a season-ending torn Achilles in 2018, president of football operations/general manager John Elway confirmed that the team’s most-experienced receiver would return.

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Sanders will be the leader in a wide receiver room that will also feature Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, and Tim Patrick, all of whom are entering their second season in the league.

“They’re good football players,” Elway said of Sanders and Wolfe at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“That’s why we plan on exercising, and it’s different situations, but we’re planning on exercising both of those.”

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Wolfe, a second-round draft pick in 2012, played 16 games in 2018 after two injury-hit years and, while his production was limited to 43 tackles, 1.5 sacks, an interception and six passes defensed in 2018, the team will welcome his return with new head coach Vic Fangio planning to revamp the Broncos’ defense.

Elway also confirmed that the Broncos are evaluating the situation with pending free agent Matt Paradis, who is expected to gain significant interest after establishing himself as one of the best centers.

Paradis suffered a season-ending broken leg in week nine against Houston, the first time he had missed game time for the Broncos despite dealing with several injuries over the years and having hip surgery last offseason.

“Obviously, we’ve told him that we would like to have him back, but he’s coming off of a pretty significant injury,” Elway said.

“So, we have to evaluate that process. Matt has been a great warrior for us for four years.”

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Left guard Ron Leary will also return in 2019, while the Broncos are working on a deal for versatile lineman Billy Turner, and would like to bring back right tackle Jared Veldheer, who is a free agent.

“I’d love to bring all our guys back, but there’s only so much we can do,” Elway added.

“So that’s why until you get to the market and see where everything is, that’s where everything becomes realistic, because we can talk about it and evaluate and say what we’d like right now, but until we see what’s out there and what’s involved, it’s hard to be concrete with which direction.”

Despite trading with Baltimore for quarterback Joe Flacco, which is expected to be officially confirmed when the new league year begins on March 13, the Broncos retain an interest in keeping Case Keenum on the roster.

“Well, there has to be an adjustment of the contract — first of all — and that’s going to be up to him,” Elway said.

“As I told Case when I talked to him, different options and that we’re going to work with him, and give him time to think about it.

“So, we’ll circle back with Case and see where he is, and go from there.”

The Broncos will let 2014 first-round pick Bradley Roby hit free agency after a disappointing 2018 season.

John Elway meets the media at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine

What signing Joe Flacco means for the Denver Broncos’ future

Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway sure knows how to make a splash when the water was reasonably calm. Elway crept right up to the edge of the dock and, without warning, jumped in, cannonball-style and got everyone else soaked.

Elway did make a metaphorical splash recently when he and the Baltimore Ravens “agreed in principle” to trade Joe Flacco to Denver for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Right now, most Broncos fans and analysts are still trying to sort out the why of the trade when the team already had a veteran bridge quarterback in Case Keenum.

But that question won’t and can’t be answered until the official start of the new league year on March 13th when the trade becomes finalized.

So instead of focusing on the why let’s take a look at the potential impact this trade could have on the organization moving forward into free agency and the draft.

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Goodbye, Case

At first, there were some thoughts that both Keenum and Flacco would restructure their contracts to be more team friendly and then the Broncos could keep both on the roster for now.

That notion was quickly put to bed when reports came out saying that Elway spoke with Keenum to let him know the Broncos are moving on and his services are no longer required.

He’s still under contract so the Broncos will either trade him to a team willing to take on the final year of his deal, or they’ll have to cut bait and swallow $10 million in dead money.

Arizona has reportedly reached out to the Broncos about a deal — likely because new head coach Kliff Kingsbury was Keenum’s position coach at Houston — but it would make more sense for teams to wait until the Broncos are forced to release Keenum, which seems inevitable.

Will the Broncos take a QB or another defensive stud with the 10th overall pick?

Draft Impact

This trade could have a large impact on how the Broncos approach the draft in April, or it could have absolutely no impact at all.

Most experts haven’t reached a consensus about who the Broncos might draft. So far, draft analysts have mocked Missouri quarterback Drew Lock, LSU linebacker Devin White and Georgia cornerback DeAndre Baker to the Broncos, so it’s still entirely up in the air.

It’s well known that Elway is infatuated with Lock but does he see him as worthy of the 10th overall pick when Oregon’s Justin Herbert — the other guy Elway is in love with — will be available in the 2020 draft and is much more talented.

The Broncos certainly have plenty of holes to fill and there is talent in other positions of need that will be available at number 10, so it all depends on how Elway views his new quarterback.

Flacco has guarantees for 2019; after that, the Broncos could let him go without financial penalty.

If the 34-year-old is a one-year rental investment, then Elway will most likely draft a QB in the first round, but if he believes that he can get two or three solid years from Flacco, then Elway may wait until the more impressive 2020 class to target a franchise quarterback.

That doesn’t mean the Broncos don’t draft a quarterback in the later rounds — they should — but it would allow them to pick a player worthy of the 10th overall selection.

They could also decide to trade back in order to gather more picks that they could either use to build the team now or as trade bait for next year in order to secure a high first-round pick.

So, as we already established, everything is completely up in the air.

Free Agency

Sadly, Flacco is not going to attract any top free agents as Manning did in 2012. This is very much a lateral move that provides the Broncos a potential three-year window with an experienced quarterback whose contract has zero guaranteed money after this year.

Flacco does have playoff experience and a Super Bowl MVP to his name from his time in Baltimore, so that could attract some veterans who are on their last attempt to get their own ring, but he doesn’t solve many of the problems the Broncos currently have on their roster.

The new coaching staff will likely have a greater impact on who the Broncos attract in free agency than Flacco does. No high-impact offensive players will want to come to a team that is currently renting their quarterback while waiting to see what the draft brings them.

Flacco may have some impact on offensive linemen the Broncos want to bring in, but again his influence would be minimal since he won’t be the future of this team.

For any free agent, the Broncos drafting a quarterback or not will likely have a greater impact on whether or not they would want to sign with Denver than Flacco will.

Current Broncos Players

It is still to be seen how Flacco will impact the current roster. There are still so many other holes to fill and the draft hasn’t even happened yet so we have no idea what Flacco’s ultimate role will be moving forward.

However, it has to instill some confidence in current Broncos players to have a quarterback on their team that has 10 playoff wins, including Super Bowl XLVII.

He has the knowledge and experience to run the offense the Broncos will be running under new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello. He is seen as a leader in the locker room and a team player.

The Broncos have a lot of young pieces that will see the field a lot in 2019 and need an experienced leader that understands the game to help guide them, especially in close games that require a calm but demanding presence.

Flacco knows all about playing until the final whistle, as many Broncos fans will never forget — or forgive — how he defeated Denver in the 2012 playoffs on his way to his first Super Bowl victory.

On that run he also defeated Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Foxborough, so he also knows a thing or two about winning in harsh environments.

Flacco isn’t the same guy he was back then and he hasn’t sniffed the playoffs since 2014, but that experience is invaluable to a young team looking for direction. 

Broncos to send fo​urth-round pick in trade for Ravens QB Joe Flacco

The Denver Broncos will have a new starting quarterback in 2019 after they agreed “in principle” to trade for Baltimore’s Joe Flacco.

The Broncos are expected to send a fourth-round pick for the former Super Bowl MVP when the move is officially announced at the start of the league season next month.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported the move before other details of the move leaked out through various media members, despite a prohibition on teams talking about the deal or terms.

The news likely signals the end in the Mile High City for 2018 starter Case Keenum, who has one year remaining on a two-year deal, despite president of football operations/general manager John Elway describing Keenum as “the perfect fit” last March.

After a 6-10 season and the firing of head coach Vance Joseph, Elway revised his verdict on Keenum as “a short-term fix”.

With the Broncos holding the 10th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, there was an expectation that Elway would go after a quarterback, despite the consensus of a weak quarterback class.

But the move for a veteran that turned 34 in January could see the Broncos’ plans change under new head coach Vic Fangio.

Flacco lost his starting job in Baltimore last season after a hip injury sidelined him and rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson carried the Ravens to the postseason.

Despite winning Super Bowl XLVII, there is a belief that Flacco is nothing more than a big-bodied average quarterback that has been on the decline, with his best season coming in 2014 under former Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak.

Pro Football Focus breaks down how Joe Flacco compares to Case Keenum

Who should the Broncos take in the 2019 NFL Draft?

A new head coach, new offensive and defensive coordinators, and a renewed sense of urgency in the Mile High City means the Denver Broncos’ future rests on a successful 2019 NFL Draft class.

Do the Broncos risk taking a quarterback early in a weak class with several needs on defense?

With an ever-growing influx of mock drafts in recent weeks, we rounded up Broncos Europe contributors to give their thoughts on who the Denver Broncos should select with the 10th overall pick in the 2019 draft.

As with the expert draft analysts, we couldn’t reach a consensus either.

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Colum: We have to go all out to get Dwayne Haskins. The New York Jets at three are the most likely to be willing to trade and it won’t be cheap but we’ll go nowhere without a QB.

Kade: A defensive player such as Greedy Williams, Devin White, or Deandre Baker.

John Elway has a much better track record of drafting good defensive players than he does offensive and therefore should use their highest pick on one of the best defenders in the draft.

The Broncos have obvious needs at cornerback behind Chris Harris Jr. with how poorly Bradley Roby performed and the likelihood that Roby will leave in free agency.

So either Williams or Baker could come in right away and fill that spot to get the No Fly Zone back on track.

White is a beast of a linebacker. He is fast enough to keep up with running backs and probably most tight ends, can get to the QB, and seems to have a nose for the ball.

The Broncos wouldn’t need to trade up for one of these players and could even potentially trade down a few spots to pick up some more draft capital from another quarterback needy team wanting to move up.

Elway showed he could find starter-quality players in last year’s draft and he needs to do that again this year, so stockpiling more picks wouldn’t be the worst move if the player they want would still be available later in the first round.

Several mock drafts have the Broncos taking Missouri’s Drew Lock

Mark: Drew Lock is a raw talent and could be the future, so if he is there at 10, Elway may strike.

For years now, the Broncos haven’t had speed in the middle of the field, and LSU linebacker Devin White has that in abundance.

He can make big plays for the defense and maybe, just maybe, the Broncos could be able to cover a tight end for once.

Gareth: If the Broncos can strike a deal with the New York Jets that doesn’t mean selling the farm to see off other quarterback-needy teams, they should go after Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. Not only is he the best quarterback in the 2019 class, but he’s the best fit for the West Coast offense.

If the asking price is too much, the best thing the Broncos can do is hold position at 10 and draft the best cornerback available to take over from Bradley Roby. The Broncos should hit on either Greedy Williams or Deandre Baker, but even Byron Murphy would be a great addition.

Devin White would be a nice pick at inside linebacker, especially if Brandon Marshall leaves, but cornerback has to be the priority.

Broncos trade up for Haskins in PFF mock

Broncos trade up for Haskins in PFF mock

Pro Football Focus analyst Mike Renner thinks the Denver Broncos will trade up to third to take Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

Haskins is widely tipped to be the first quarterback off the board and out of John Elway’s reach with the Broncos owning the 10th overall pick, but Renner’s post-Super Bowl mock proposes a trade with the New York Jets.

“John Elway can’t look his fanbase in the eyes if he goes into 2019 with Case Keenum as the quarterback,” Renner said.

“He also can’t sit back and see where the chips fall with multiple QB-needy teams in front of him.

“It won’t be cheap, but the Broncos have to make a move.”

Dwayne Haskins is widely tipped to be the first QB drafted in 2019

The rebuilding Jets are in a perfect position with the third overall pick. They moved up from sixth to third in 2018 to draft quarterback Sam Darnold.

With a new head coach in 2019, and audibly playing the long game, the Jets would welcome a sizable haul of draft picks.

Haskins’ most likely destination appears to be the New York Giants with the sixth overall pick, but the Jets would be happy to see their city rivals miss out on the best quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Elway could also place a call to friend John Lynch in San Francisco if he feels a move to second overall is needed to land the New Jersey native, but moving to third is more likely.

Either way, the Broncos can expect to part with several picks over the next two or three seasons to have a chance of landing Haskins.

HOF continues bias against Broncos with Atwater snub

You tossers! You had one job to do!

The so-called esteemed men and women of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee royally ballsed up this year by again overlooking Denver Broncos legend Steve Atwater.

It is no secret that #27 and Broncos owner Pat Bowlen have a bond that goes back to when Atwater was a first-round draft pick.

Remember, it was Atwater who, last year, delivered the news to Mr. B that he was a finalist in the contributor category.

It would have been fitting beyond expression that the time to correct the mistake of Atwater not being in the Hall of Fame is the time that the Hall finally accepted Mr. B.

The latter happened, the former did not.

The Broncos will have seven Hall of Famers in August 2019, assuming we’re not counting Brian Dawkins (Philadelphia) or Ty Law (New England) who were in Denver at the end of their respective careers.

Yes, Mr. B going in alongside another of his favorites in Champ Bailey is unique, but it could have been exceptional with the induction of Atwater as well.

We should be happy for the Bowlen family and everyone lucky enough to know Mr. B, we should be happy also for Champ, a first-ballot Hall of Famer and — tragically — the first Broncos defender to be enshrined.

But that’s just it. As great a player Champ was, and as great a person as he is, he shouldn’t be the first Broncos defender in the Hall of Fame. Not even the second.

That’s an honor that shouldn’t belong to Atwater either, because the Broncos can go back further and point to Randy Gradishar as another exceptional player consistently overlooked. See also: Tom Jackson, Rod Smith, Tom Nalen, Karl Mecklenburg, and John Lynch.

Those tasked with honoring the best of the best to grace the gridiron failed again. The bias remains but that’s to be expected when you consider John Elway was the first Bronco enshrined in 2004.

What do they have against Atwater? Is it merely East Coast bias, not enough places and too many talented players, or something more than that?

Whatever it is, the Broncos have been treated woefully by the Hall of Fame considering the club’s achievements over the years.

Perhaps, however, there is hope after all. Our friend Ryan Koenigsberg from BSN Denver, who is in Atlanta this weekend, had this to report Saturday night.

That there is momentum building around Atwater has to be a good thing.

With talk that the 2020 class could be extended to celebrate the NFL’s centenary, the door to the Hall of Fame would be wide open for some snubbed Broncos to make it after years of coming up short.

Some might see that as a cheap way of doing it, but the Hall of Fame is the Hall of Fame. It makes no difference if someone is a first-ballot inductee or they made it a decade later: they’re all Hall of Famers.

The truth remains that Steve Atwater should be in the Hall of Fame. Make all the arguments you want for other players, but few have better credentials than #27.

For too long, Broncos Country celebrates when the Hall of Fame finally gets it right. The Mad Fanatic even wrote a song commemorating Terrell Davis earning his gold jacket in 2018 and performed at his party in Canton.

The Hall of Fame finally got it right with TD. What about the other snubbed Broncos?

Congratulations to Mr. B and Champ Bailey. They join a slowly-growing group of the best to do it in Orange and Blue.

Peyton Manning will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2021, and DeMarcus Ware will follow in 2022, but while these recently retired players will get in on the first attempt, one can’t help but look back on those snubbed.

As much as the campaign will go on to get Atwater into the Hall of Fame, Broncos Country should not rest until the Hall of Fame also recognizes Gradishar, Mecklenburg, and Lynch.

Even with that quartet in the Hall of Fame, there will be more work to do. Broncos Country needs to keep banging on the door of the Hall of Fame to make sure they finally get it right for the many other Broncos players ignored.

CBS mock draft has Broncos taking QB Daniel Jones

CBS mocks have Broncos taking QB Daniel Jones

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.”

Daniel Jones is a big-bodied, dual-threat quarterback that could tempt John Elway

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.”

Pro Football Focus labeled Jones as overrated despite his rise up their draft board in 2018.

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.