Mel Kiper Jr. on 2021 NFL draft QBs: Go (real) early, or good luck

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The most likely scenario at quarterback for the Denver Broncos in 2021 is still Drew Lock, despite any and all calls that have been made.

Doesn’t mean that won’t change if one of those calls turns into something more.

And it doesn’t mean the Broncos won’t pursue a quarterback with the No. 9 pick. It’s just that a pursuit of the best quarterbacks in this draft will likely happen well before the No. 9 pick rolls around and anybody picked after will need plenty of work to even push for the team’s backup spot.

As ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. put it recently:

“Quarterback? This year it’s five firsts and maybe Kyle Trask in the second round and lot of just guys.”

And asked if the distance between the top quarterback — Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence — and the rest of the potential first-rounders is still there, Kiper said simply “yes, yes it is.”

So, riding shotgun with Mel, here’s how the quarterback board has started to stack:

At the top

Players: Trevor Lawrence, Clemson; Zach Wilson, Brigham Young; Justin Fields, Ohio State; Trey Lance, North Dakota State; Mac Jones, Alabama.

What Kiper says: “With Justin Fields I didn’t see the progression from last year to this year like I’d hoped and he had some really good moments, but there were a couple of games in there that are concerns as well. [Trey] Lance might be the toughest player to evaluate at any position given he’s just 20 [years old] and played one game this year — I think he’ll just need to sit for a year or two no matter where he’s picked. And Jones, he really helped himself Senior Bowl week.”

The way I see it: For a team like the Broncos, who have dipped their organizational toe into some of the quarterback trade proposals in recent weeks and are still trying to decide if Lock can do what needs to be done to move him along the developmental curve, Lawrence would present the only real walk-in-as-a-rookie solution on this draft board. There are other potential future starters on the board, like Wilson, but after Lawrence, who will likely be gone after the first pick, the decision becomes harder. Would significant growing pains that would come with any of the other quarterbacks really put the Broncos in a better situation in either 2021 or 2022 than they are in right now with Lock?

Group 2

Players: Kyle Trask, Florida; Kellen Mond, Texas A&M; Jamie Newman, Wake Forest/Georgia; Davis Mills, Stanford.

What Kiper says: “After that first group, you see some backup types with the potential to become more in the right situation and if they progress developmentally. I kind of put [Kellen] Mond in that category, a player like [Jamie] Newman, who was one of the players who opted out so he didn’t play any games at Georgia after he transferred there, Davis Mills — a guy like Mills is a player where I think even among NFL teams the evaluation on him is going to vary widely depending on what the team likes in a quarterback.”

The way I see it: After looking at the game video, with plenty of evaluation left to do, Trask may well be the only quarterback left on the board after the top five who finds his way into the second round. After that, the group might be third round, and then third-day picks. That’s a developmental curve and certainly future starters can be found and developed, but in terms of the Broncos’ quarterback decisions for 2021, none of these players would likely impact that very much, even as backups.

Group 3

Players: Sam Ehlinger, Texas; Ian Book, Notre Dame; Shane Buechele, SMU; Feleipe Franks, Arkansas; Peyton Ramsey, Northwestern; Davis Cheek, Elon; K.J. Costello, Mississippi State.

What Kiper says: “Again, you look down the board and I like some of the things guys like [Sam] Ehlinger and [Ian] Book did and you see them against other NFL-type talent on the field. But in the big picture, you’re in a situation this year where that gap between the first-rounders to [Kyle] Trask and then the gap from Trask to the other guys is significant when you’re talking about whole rounds and where they are developmentally. Doesn’t mean people won’t hit on some of those guys, but developmentally there is a lot of work to do with many of those guys.”

The way I see it: This is a group of players where the decision about whether to bring them in will hinge solely on whether teams believe they can repair things in their games to function in the NFL. These players must develop beyond a limited résumé in the passing game in terms of what they were asked to do — progressions, protections — against often overmatched defenses.

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