The Denver Broncos entered the 2015 offseason with Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler on their roster. Within the first few days of free agency, they were left with only Trevor Siemian, due to Manning's retirement and Osweiler's southern exodus.
Rumors swirled about a Colin Kaepernick trade or a Robert Griffin III signing, but the only quarterback Denver acquired before the draft was Mark Sanchez. When draft day came, John Elway surrendered the 31st and 94th picks to move up to No. 26 and select Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch.
The Broncos have been proceeding all summer as if Sanchez will be their starter for the 2016 season, with defensive tackle Sylvester Williams recently stating that head coach Gary Kubiak "kind of let us know" that Sanchez will be the starter. Lynch, though, still thinks he's got a shot at playing as soon as possible.
"I definitely think I have the opportunity to better myself and put myself up in that position to play right away or sooner than I had thought," Lynch said, per ESPN.com. "I knew those guys were going to be ahead of me just because of experience -- Trevor his experience in the offense and Mark his experience in the league and me being a rookie, and this is the first time I've seen a playbook like that."
Lynch's assertion that he'll be starting sooner than he thought got me thinking: Just when do first-round quarterbacks tend to make their first career start? Thanks to the Pro-Football-Reference archives, we've got that information at our (virtual) fingertips.
There have been 42 quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 2000. On average, it has taken them 14.1 games to make their first career start. That's a late-Season 1 debut. Since the Matt Ryan-Joe Flacco class of 2008, though, first-round passers have been making their debut after only four games on average. Over the last five seasons, that figure is down to 2.7 games, and that's despite the entire 2014 first-round class (Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater) making delayed debuts.
From 2000 through 2007, only one of 21 quarterbacks drafted in the first round made his first career start in the first game of his first NFL season. Since 2008, 13 of 21 have done so. Since 2011, it's eight of 11.
The 19 top-five picks made their debut the soonest, with an average of 5.8 games passing before they made their first start. That figure rose only to 5.9 games for the nine quarterbacks selected in the remainder of the top half of the first round (picks 6-16), but shot all the way up to 13.3 games for the 14 passers taken in the back of the first, like Lynch.
The Broncos themselves waited until Game 14 of the 2010 season before giving Tim Tebow (pick No. 25) his first start, and did so despite the fact that they went just 3-10 in the first 13 games. Kyle Orton played pretty well in those 13 games though, checking in with a 20-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 87.5 passer rating.
So, while history tells us it's more likely than not that Lynch does indeed make his debut as a starter at some point this season, the small bit of recent Broncos history we can base this guesstimate on suggests it may not be until the back half of the year, provided Sanchez doesn't completely melt down.