The Denver Broncos are coming off of a disappointing 5-11 season, but there is reason to be hopeful for 2021. New GM George Paton made some intriguing additions in free agency, especially when it came to the secondary. Not only did he retain starting safeties Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons, he also added cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby. While the defense should be better this season, the quarterback issue still looms large as we inch toward training camp.
Denver didn't add competition at quarterback via the 2021 NFL Draft, but still put together an impressive class. The Broncos drafted one of the best defensive prospects in Patrick Surtain II out of Alabama, grabbed a talented running back who can push Melvin Gordon in UNC's Javonte Williams, and also took a quality offensive lineman in Quinn Meinerz. Denver had one of the best drafts of any NFL team -- but it wasn't perfect.
Below, we are going to discuss one thing the Broncos didn't do in the 2021 NFL Draft, and also break down one thing they definitely got right.
Drafting a quarterback
Drew Lock disappointed in his first full season as starter, and his status as QB1 is up in the air. The Broncos' quarterback situation over the past couple of weeks has been wild to watch. Denver traded for Teddy Bridgewater prior to the draft, then reportedly put together an intriguing trade package for Aaron Rodgers the day of the draft before Justin Fields somehow fell past them to No. 11 overall! The Broncos acquiring Rodgers would obviously be ideal, but how likely is that? I'm also out on Bridgewater, as the Carolina Panthers certainly regret the three-year, $63 million contract they offered him last offseason. In 2020, he threw for 3,733 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while going 4-11 as the starter. Broncos fans can hold out hope for Rodgers, but the best way to upgrade the quarterback room was to draft one.
I did not expect Fields to fall to the Broncos, and he's someone I would have considered with my first pick. The Ohio State star passed for 41 touchdowns, three interceptions and was a Heisman finalist in 2019, and then led the Buckeyes to the national championship game this past season. He's a two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and never lost a conference game as the starter. Surtain was a great pick, and you can make an argument Denver made the right decision by selecting him. Still, I would have taken a quarterback with one of my first draft picks. Denver could have gotten ahead of the second run on signal-callers by taking one with its second-round pick, or even traded further down in the second if the goal was acquiring more selections. Bridgewater isn't going to be your franchise quarterback and Lock's future is up in the air. Selecting Fields or taking a flier on someone like Kyle Trask or Kellen Mond would have been a good move. This is something we will unfortunately have to revisit if Fields becomes a star with the Chicago Bears.
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Broncos bolster their defense
The Broncos had the No. 21 overall defense when it came to yards allowed per game last season, and their pass defense was pretty pedestrian. Injuries definitely affected this team in 2020, but Denver did a great job in the draft adding defensive talent as well as depth. In all, the Broncos attributed 70% of their picks to the defense. Surtain is a cornerback who can come in, start from Day 1 and potentially develop into an elite player at his position, and Baron Browning is a versatile piece who could play at any linebacker spot. Denver also took two safeties in Caden Sterns out of Texas and Jamar Johnson out of Indiana, drafted a very fast slot cornerback in LSU's Kary Vincent Jr. and then added depth with its final two picks in Jonathon Cooper and Marquiss Spencer. Vic Fangio's defense is going to be much better in 2021.