As we approach the 2016 NFL draft, we know that the Denver Broncos will likely draft a quarterback in the first three rounds. The question to ask is how many other teams will be drafting QBs early.
My belief is that, this year, it’s likely one draft prospect comes off the board early in the first round, but the others tumble down the draft board and are taken later in the first round. I also expect the other more notable prospects to come off the board in the next two rounds. This is because this year’s class doesn’t have as many prospects who are considered to be ready to make the jump to the NFL as rookies and that teams seems to be more focused on addressing other positions of need in the first round.
What other teams do will impact what the Broncos can do at the position. Would it be better to try trading out of the first round, for example? Or would it be better to use that first-round pick to address another position and wait until the later rounds to see which QB prospect falls down the board and represents good value at the end of the second or third round?
Let’s examine the teams, in order that they will draft in the first round, and how likely they are to select a quarterback early.
Cleveland: This is the obvious one: I wouldn’t expect the Browns to do anything but take a quarterback with their first pick. They could trade down a couple of spots, but I’m not seeing a lot of teams who want to move up the board to chase after a prospect. So I believe Cleveland stands pat and takes its QB of choice.
Dallas: We know Tony Romo isn’t getting any younger, but the Cowboys are a team that is hoping to get Romo and Dez Bryant back at full strength and thus contend for the playoffs again. So I’m betting it’s more likely the Cowboys draft at another position at which they could use some immediate help, making them a favorite to take a defensive player they like. It’s more likely the Cowboys wait until the second day of the draft and find a QB they can develop for a year or two.
San Francisco: The narrative is that the Niners are destined to cut or trade Colin Kaepernick, but I’m not convinced. If they fail to get a trade offer that appeals to them, I believe the Niners will keep Kaepernick and see if he can fare better under Chip Kelly’s guidance. They could still take a quarterback on day two, but that’s the earliest I would expect it to happen.
Chicago: There was talk last year that the Bears were prepared to move Jay Cutler elsewhere but a trade never materialized. Since the Bears are a team that likely believes they can take steps closer to playoff contention with the right players, I expect them to draft for other needs in the first round and wait on selecting a quarterback.
Philadelphia: The Eagles have already committed a lot of money to two quarterbacks, so it doesn’t seem likely they will draft one in the first round. As with Dallas, the Eagles likely believe they can get back into playoff contention this season, so it makes more sense for them to draft for another need where they could use immediate help.
Los Angeles: Now this is where it gets interesting. The Rams say they are committed to Case Keenum as the starter and it doesn’t appear they will move on from Nick Foles. But if one of the top two QB prospects falls down the board, they could very well consider him. The Rams appear to be set at most other positions, so unless there’s a prospect at another position they really covet, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them draft a passer.
New York Jets: Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to play a game of chess with the Jets and everyone seems to believe Geno Smith has no chance of ever taking another snap for them. So you would think it makes sense for the Jets to draft a QB in the first round, particularly if one falls down to them. But the longer Fitzpatrick waits, the more likely he goes back to the Jets and takes a deal closer to what the Jets think he’s worth. If he re-signs, it’s less likely the Jets take a QB in the first round and more likely they wait until day two. If not, then the Jets’ chances of taking a QB in the first round increase.
Washington: The Crimson Potatoes placed the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins but there’s no telling if he will prove to be the long-term answer. With that said, I wouldn’t expect Washington to use its first-round pick on a QB, but wouldn’t rule out the team taking one on day two.
Arizona: The Cardinals could be thinking about drafting their quarterback of the future, given that there’s no telling how much longer Carson Palmer will last. I think it all depends on what players at other positions of need are available at this point. If the Cardinals see another player who they like and at a position at which they need help, they are more likely to go that route. If not, they could draft a quarterback if there is one worth taking at that point.
Denver: And then there’s the Broncos. They’ve been reportedly linked to Dak Prescott, who is almost certain to be available in the second round when the Broncos pick, and might even be available when they pick in the third round. I believe the Broncos will play the waiting game and not draft a QB until day two.
As far as the prospects themselves, let’s look at how I think they might fall, given that I expect the Niners to keep Colin Kaepernick and that Ryan Fitzpatrick will eventually re-sign with the Jets. (Note: All this could change once I have a chance to sit down and do a mock draft, in which I like to project trades, so assume these picks happen only if nobody moves around the draft board.)
Carson Wentz: It seems likely he’s going to Cleveland with the No. 2 overall pick.
Jared Goff: He’s projected by Walter Football as a top 10 pick but I think he is more likely to slide out of the top 10. I’ll predict he goes to Los Angeles with the No. 15 overall pick.
Paxton Lynch: I think it makes sense for the Cardinals to draft him and sit behind Carson Palmer for a year or two. So I’ll predict he’s drafted at No. 29 overall.
Connor Cook: The second round seems about right for him. I could see him going to the Niners with their pick, giving them a fallback option behind Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert.
Dak Prescott: If the Broncos like him that much, they could take him with their second-round pick, which is really just one pick away from being a third-round pick. Or perhaps they can find a team that wants to trade back up into the second round to get a player they like, allowing the Broncos to take Prescott early in the third.
Christian Hackenburg: I think he’s sliding to the third round and it would make sense for the Dallas Cowboys to take him then.
The rest I expect to be taken on Day 3 of the draft, so that’s where the likes of Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington and the Jets are most likely to take a QB prospect. I can’t see the Jets cutting ties with Geno Smith, because he gives them a cheap backup. The Bears are probably hoping they can find their next QB in next year’s draft, while Philly and Washington will likely ride it out with their current top two and only be interested in a developmental player.