The Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos come into the draft having one glaring need — a new signal caller. After Peyton Manning retired, many figured the Broncos would end up re-signing Brock Osweiler as their starting quarterback. Instead, the Houston Texans opened up their wallets and lured Osweiler away with large stacks of cash. Obviously, when you lose not only one quarterback but your top two, you have quite a pressing need. The Broncos went out and acquired Mark Sanchez, but that’s not exactly someone you want to hang your hat on for the future of your franchise. While rumors swirled about the Broncos possibly trading for Colin Kaepernick, it sounded as though the 49ers’ asking price was higher than what John Elway was willing to pay.
Instead, Elway went to the draft to find who he hopes will be the future quarterback for Denver. Let’s take a look at who that rookie ended up being, as well as one other interesting player the Broncos drafted from a dynasty perspective.
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Paxton Lynch, QB Memphis
Round 1, Pick 26
Standing at 6’6” and around 240 lbs, Lynch is the big-bodied quarterback John Elway likes. He is very athletic for his size which allows him to scramble and move around in the pocket to escape pressure, though he prefers to use his legs to extend plays rather than taking off and running. From a physical standpoint, the quarterback from Memphis passes with flying colors. He has a big arm and can push the ball downfield with relative ease. However, as we all know, it takes more than just a physical prowess to succeed at quarterback at the NFL level.
Setting aside Lynch’s physical attributes, let’s glance over the rest of his game as a field general. He shows the ability to be a leader on the field and doesn’t easily get rattled. He also displays fairly good decision-making, which showed on the field as he made great strides each season cutting down on his turnovers. Overall, there is a lot to like about Lynch and his prospects as an NFL quarterback. However, despite his strengths, he does have notable weaknesses that must be addressed.
First off, Lynch needs to improve on his accuracy. While he is not woefully inaccurate by any means, there are definitely issues that pop up from time to time during the course of a game. Some of the accuracy problems probably derive from his throwing mechanics which need to be smoothed out. Another knock on Lynch is his lack of experience playing from under center, something he didn’t do much of while at Memphis. While he certainly has arm strength, he hasn’t quite learned all of the nuances of how to maximize his throwing abilities on the field. He has the ability to make all the throws, but he hasn’t ironed out the smaller details necessary to be a prolific passer at the next level. His touch on throws needs to be improved on, as well as the ability to put the football in the best areas for his wide receivers to succeed. Often, he misjudges how far out front to put the ball on wide receivers in run-and-catch situations.
With Paxton Lynch, it’s all about improving upon the intricacies of playing quarterback and becoming more consistent. I compare Lynch to an aspiring painter — he has all the tools and abilities to paint a good picture, but now needs to improve on his ability to add in all the small details that turn a good picture into a great one. I’d also like to see him make his strengths even greater. If he can become highly accurate throwing on the run, it would make him a very dangerous quarterback with a unique skill set. Can Lynch make these improvements on his game? That will remain to be seen. Overall, I view Lynch as a quarterback with a high ceiling that’ll take time for him to reach. He isn’t a total project by any means, for he does posses positive intangibles many “project” quarterbacks lack completely. However, he doesn’t have enough NFL level strengths to step in right away and be highly productive.
In a typical single-quarterback dynasty league I wouldn’t consider Lynch until the third round of rookie drafts at the earliest. However, in a superflex league, I think he possesses similar upside to Carson Wentz and will be in play anywhere from the 1.04 to the beginning of the second round. He’s going to find himself ranked anywhere from first to third amongst owners for the rookie quarterbacks, so his draft range will be quite wide in a superflex league.
Devontae Booker, RB Utah
Round 4, Pick 136
This pick may have come as a bit of a surprise to some due to the Broncos already having CJ Anderson. However, adding Booker in the fourth round adds quality depth behind Anderson, and down the road the rookie from Utah could even push him for the starting role.
There is a lot to like about Devontae Booker. The highly productive running back is 5’11” and 208 lbs, which may seem slightly undersized for the prospects of a three down back, but he is well built for his frame. He has good footwork and vision, a back who finds holes and hits them with decisiveness. His short-area burst and quickness is a plus, and has the necessary wiggle to make defenders miss. Another thing I noticed with watching Booker is his ability to change directions without losing much speed. Arguably his biggest strength, however, is his versatility; he is a great pass-catcher out of the backfield as well. Booker also shows willingness to pass-protect, which is key in the NFL if you want to find yourself on the field on third downs.
If I had to choose the biggest weakness Booker has, it is his lack of high speed. While looking up film on Booker, you can find him breaking long touchdown runs. However, running away from defenders in the Pac-12 and defenders in the NFL are two different things. As mentioned, his size could bring into question whether he could ever handle the necessary workload to be a bell cow running back. Another issue that plagued Booker in the past is being prone to fumbling the football. As we all know, that’s one thing that can quickly find you in the doghouse with the head coach. He did improve on ball security in his final season at Utah, but it is still something of note.
Overall, I really like Booker quite a bit. He is more of a finesse back than a power back, but he is a tough-nosed runner who is not afraid of contact either. He is one of the most well-rounded running backs from this rookie class, and the fact that he is so good at catching the football adds even more appeal. I think he will quickly find himself competing with Ronnie Hillman, who simply put is an inferior talent to the rookie RB. If he can usurp Hillman on the depth chart, Booker could carve out a decent role in his rookie campaign, although probably not enough to warrant much usage in dynasty this upcoming season.
In the long term, I truly believe the former Utah running back can challenge Anderson for the Broncos starting RB role. I do like Anderson and think he’s a good player, but I don’t think he is an über-talented back that has his starting role locked up for years to come. We have seen how highly the Broncos view Anderson; they gave him such a low tender in free agency, which almost allowed the Miami Dolphins to pry him away. Ultimately the Broncos matched, bringing him back in the fold. One would imagine if John Elway and the rest of Denver’s front office loved their running back, they would’ve given him a high enough tender from the start to keep other teams away.
In a typical dynasty league, I would expect Booker to be selected in the 2.01-2.04 range. Perhaps he could find himself selected with a late first-round selection if an owner is in love with him. In most situations I think the beginning of the second round is where he will land. If Booker slips past the 2.04 pick, I would consider that a steal. Don’t allow the landing spot deter you; I see the Broncos as a much better landing spot than given credit for. Sure, there isn’t a clear path to starting. However, it isn’t as if the Broncos are loaded at RB either. Plus, while CJ Anderson is without question the starter right now, I wouldn’t consider him completely safe from competition in the future either.
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