Every year the talk of the NFL draft is about quarterbacks. Since Peyton Manning was taken No. 1 overall in 1998, quarterbacks have been chosen first overall in 11 of 14 drafts. This list has been littered with nearly as many busts as it has game changers. The trend of QBs being overvalued, reached for and rising rapidly on NFL scouts' lists has reached almost alarming heights.
Last year was no different, as Cam Newton went first, and then a run of QBs fell like dominoes as Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder were all taken within the next 12 picks. Although it's too early to tell, history has shown us that not all of these QBs will be a sound investment, and there's a possibility that none of them will be (although Newton looks very good already).
Fast forward to the Denver Broncos' 2012 NFL draft. The signing of a 36-year-old Peyton Manning puts John Elway and company in a precarious situation of drafting for now, but not extinguishing the future. Despite his five-year contract, realistically Manning will only be effective for three. This means that the front office has three years to build a championship team and bring the Lombardi back to Denver.
This also means that each draft pick is crucial. There has been a lot of talk about the Broncos looking long and hard at Brock Osweiler, the behemoth of a quarterback from Arizona State. Osweiler stands at 6'7" and possesses a big arm, but is raw and unproven thus far. However, like recent years, his stock is apparently rising.
Jason Muckley recently wrote that the Broncos should pass on Osweiler and there are more reports that Osweiler is now a possibility to be slated in the first round. I am going to take this a step further and say the Broncos should not draft any quarterback in the first four rounds, period. In fact, they don't necessarily have to draft a QB at all. Here is why:
First, the Broncos invested a lot of money in Peyton Manning: five years and $96 million. I know that contract has clauses that could release the Broncos of this commitment as soon as next year, but for them to make that deal at all—with a lot of Pat Bowlen's money provided up front—means that they believe Peyton will lead them back to their winning ways of the '90s and give them a chance at a title. Otherwise, this deal does not get done.
If that is the case, then the Broncos should ensure that they provide Manning and the rest of the Broncos team the most complete package on the field to let these dreams blossom. This means plugging holes on defense and in the running game well before slating the so-called "quarterback of the future".
Elway appears to love the talents that Osweiler provides, but to take a QB in the first or second round—where Osweiler appears headed—would be foolish. In fact, if the trend of overvaluing quarterbacks continues, the Broncos may actually be able to use this to their advantage and trade down to acquire more picks (just to be clear, I'm not convinced they will have a trade partner, but you never know with teams desperate for a quarterback). This would provide them a lot of flexibility to make moves during the draft.
If the worst happens and Peyton goes down, never to play again, then the Broncos season may slip away with Caleb Hanie at the helm. Fine, then they are in a position to make a move at a more seasoned rookie QB like Matt Barkley or Landry Jones (or another prospect that has not appeared on anyone's radar yet).
If they insist on taking a passer in this year's draft, let it be a late round project like B.J. Coleman or Nick Foles, and let him sit on the sidelines for a while. Any earlier draft pick will hold a clipboard and rarely receive any reps, even in practice, as it is well known that Peyton Manning likes to have all the prep snaps as well.
The point is, if we are committed to making a Super Bowl run, then please field the best team possible in all three aspects of the game before building towards the future. Before planning ahead, embrace the present and if the Peyton Manning experiment fails, there is always next year to acquire a young, talented passer.
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