During his appearances on Radio Row last week at Super Bowl LVIII, Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton spoke about the "quick processor" he's looking for in a quarterback. Payton had his ideal quarterback for over a decade in New Orleans in Drew Brees, who fit the "quick processor" ideal to a T.
"I think it's important that they're quick processors," Payton told the Jim Rome Show from radio row. "Let me give you an example; this was a strength of Drew's. It's a strength of [Patrick] Mahomes. These guys have to operate quickly in six or seven seconds. It's the hardest thing for us to evaluate."
Scanning the quarterback class in the 2024 NFL draft, which prospects have that "quick processor?" While there's a gap in arm talent and overall athleticism compared to the 'Big 3' quarterbacks, Oregon's Bo Nix rises to the top for his ability to quickly diagnose and deliver from under center.
Amid all the rumors on the pre-draft trail thus far, Nix has been the QB most linked to the Broncos at No. 12 overall. The Ducks star has also been compared to Brees.
Perhaps that's why the oddsmakers have tapped the Broncos as the most likely to land Nix in the draft. The Broncos sit at +260 odds to draft Nix, followed by the Minnesota Vikings at +470, and the Las Vegas Raiders at +555, according to FanDuel.
Barring a blockbuster trade-up in the draft, the Big 3 quarterbacks are out of reach for the Broncos — USC's Caleb Williams, UNC's Drake Maye, and LSU's Jayden Daniels. The next tier of signal-callers will be within range at No. 12 overall — including Nix, Washington's Michael Penix Jr., and Michigan's J.J. McCarthy — although new Los Angeles Chargers head coach Jim Harbaugh predicts that his former starter at Michigan will end up being the first quarterback drafted this year.
Among those three quarterbacks, Penix is the least likely to be drafted by the Broncos, per Kyle Odegard of BettingOdds.com.
- Nix +260
- McCarthy +600
- Penix +900
Nix is viewed as a solid first-round pick, even if he's not currently viewed as a top-10 guy. His floor seems to be early Round 2.
The same could be said for Penix, although his injury history, including a pair of ACL tears, will likely tank his stock somewhat. Credible mock drafts (if there is such a thing) predict Penix landing all over the place, from the top-10 to the second round. He is a southpaw, but if he didn't have those injury red flags, he'd be a bonafide first-round prospect.
McCarthy is the sleeper here. Although he wasn't asked to carry the team on his shoulders at Michigan, and Harbaugh's system didn't allow for prolific quarterback production, McCarthy went 27-1 as a starter, culminating in a National Championship as the Wolverines vanquished Penix and the Washington Huskies last month.
Super Bowl LVIII offered Payton and the Broncos the eye-opening realization that not only will they have to contend with a three-time World Champion Patrick Mahomes for the next decade-plus — who's only 28 years old — but also that the pursuit of the Lombardi Trophy is an all-or-nothing endeavor.
You either have a franchise quarterback and 'all' things are possible, or you don't, and 'nothing' — not even all the Von Millers, Justin Simmonses, and Patrick Surtains — can get you over the hump. The Trent Dilfers and Brad Johnsons of NFL canon are the exceptions that prove the rule.
If the Russell Wilson era is truly over, then the Broncos should stop at nothing to maneuver for a quarterback who can make "all" of Payton's dreams come true. However, it's the day after Super Bowl LVIII, and there's still a long row left to hoe for the Broncos until Draft Day arrives, and a lot could change between now and then.
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