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Denver Broncos expected to draft quarterback with No. 9 pick, top targets

The Denver Broncos are just a few days away from making their top selection in the 2021 NFL Draft and with draft day closing in, the clock might be ticking down for quarterback Drew Lock.

Lock, the 42nd pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, has disappointed thus far as Denver’s starting quarterback. Picked by former general manager John Elway, Lock is 8-19 as a starter with 18 career interceptions and a 79.1 passer rating. After regressing in his second season, the Broncos are seriously weighing a change at quarterback.

Denver explored a Matthew Stafford trade and came up short. The front office also expressed interest in acquiring Deshaun Watson, but ongoing sexual misconduct allegations have put his NFL future in jeopardy. Additionally, the Broncos have been connected to Teddy Bridgewater.

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New general manager George Paton is undeniably looking for someone who can put this team over the top, or at the very least challenge Lock for the starting job. With the NFL Draft closing in, it seems there’s an increasing likelihood that competition is found.

NFL Draft insider Tony Pauline said Wednesday that he believes the Broncos will draft a quarterback at No. 9 overall, assuming one of the passers they like is on the board.

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It’s a foregone conclusion that both Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson will be long gone by the time Denver is on the clock. With the Broncos currently not exploring a move up, they seem ready to take their chances. Given the depth of the 2021 quarterback class, it could work out for them.

Broncos quarterback options in 2021 NFL Draft

There are plenty of NFL Draft rumors hinting at the variety of directions some of the top-10 picks will go. The San Francisco 49ers will be taking a quarterback at No.3, the speculation centers on a debate between Trey Lance and Mac Jones. The decision will have ramifications for the Broncos.

Denver could explore trading up to the No. 4 pick, but it would be expensive. While the Atlanta Falcons wouldn’t ask for the same kind of return the Miami Dolphins received from the 49ers, they would still want multiple first-round picks. As a result, the expectation is the Broncos won’t make that big of a climb.

Read More: Denver Broncos haven’t called to trade up in 2021 NFL Draft

Notably, Paton said during a recent press conference that he spoke to Miami’s general manager Chris Grier. The Dolphins are open to trading down from No. 6 and it would likely come at a more affordable price for the Broncos. Importantly, it would put them ahead of teams seeking a long-term quarterback (Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers).

The Broncos attended Justin Fields‘ second Pro Day and he might be exactly the quarterback worth trading up for. While he has received some criticism for issues progressing through reads, film analysis shows those concerns are overblown. Fields is arguably the second-best quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft and one general manager believes he could be even better than Lawrence.

Fields would be ideal for Denver. He is ready to start immediately and the Broncos have a strong supporting cast to help him succeed. He can also fit into a variety of schemes. If the Broncos are hoping he falls to No. 9, they will likely be disappointed.

Related: NFL insider expects big Denver Broncos quarterback trade before 2021 NFL Draft

Trey Lance is another intriguing option for Denver. He only played in one game last season and there are fair concerns about how his skill will translate from the FCS to the NFL. But in terms of pure physical tools, there’s an argument that Lance’s skill set gives him the highest upside in the class. He might not beat Lock for the job immediately in training camp, but it might only be a few weeks into the season after a few multi-interception games before Lock is benched and Lance took over.

Denver is one of the landing spots that makes sense for Mac Jones. He thrived at Alabama last season, but benefitted from an NFL-caliber receiving corps and a dominant offensive line. If he lands on the wrong team, Jones is put at risk of his limited physical tools being exposed.

But the Broncos have done a great job creating a foundation to help a young quarterback succeed. The offensive line is underrated and Denver’s receiving corps is loaded with playmakers. Jones might not become a top-10 quarterback in his prime, but he would be good enough to take advantage of the talent around him.