The Denver Broncos have had a real problem at quarterback over the years. Since John Elway retired in 1998, they have not had a single quarterback who has started for the team for over four seasons. Other than Peyton Manning—who had a very successful four-year stint in the 2010s—none of them were very good either. Whether it is Tim Tebow, Joe Flacco or Jay Cutler, nothing ever seemed to work out for this team under center.
That makes the prospect of Drew Lock so exciting. The 2019 second-round pick started five games last season, posted a 4-1 record, and played better than any quarterback has for this franchise since Manning.
Five games might just be a fluke, though, and any Lock doubters are still standing on solid ground. Denver has managed to put a good team around Lock, though, and the pieces are in place for him to succeed this season.
Can he do it?
The NFL season is almost upon us! Over the next few weeks I will be previewing each of the 32 NFL teams, and ranking them 1-32 as to how likely I believe they are to win Super Bowl LV. This week we continue the list with teams who could truly contend for title this year.
11. Denver Broncos
While Lock is the face of the franchise, and he will absorb a majority of the pressure around the team, he has a ton of tools around.
Denver spent the 15th overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft on Jerry Jeudy, the best overall receiver in the draft this year. Jeudy joins a receiver room that also includes Courtland Sutton, who took a huge Year 2 leap in 2019, entering the ranks of the potential elite at the position. Tight end Noah Fant, their first-round pick in 2019, had an impressive rookie season as well and is a much better third receiving option than many other teams have.
The Broncos also feature one of the better three headed rushing attacks. Phillip Lindsay has been one of the most efficient rushers we have ever seen since he entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2018. Denver added Melvin Gordon this offseason as well, after the running backs long drawn-out contract dispute with the rival Los Angeles Chargers. Throw in Royce Freeman, the guy who was expected to have Lindsay’s role. Most importantly, all three of these running backs can feature as receivers for Lock.
The offense should be high powered, and has the ability to score a ton of points on any given week. The defense has potential to be great as well, but is not full-proof.
Denver’s top cornerback is A.J. Bouye, who arrived in a trade this offseason, is the team’s top corner. Bouye was one of the best corners in the league back in 2017 when he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but has since fallen off.
The Broncos should also be excited for the addition of Bryce Callahan, one of their star free agent signing last year who missed the entire 2019 season due to an injury. Callahan was one of the keys to the Chicago Bears 2018 defense that led the team to the playoffs, and his coverage and playmaking ability make him a boon to the defense if he can stay healthy.
A third big addition this season was that of Jurrell Casey. The former Tennessee Titans star defensive tackle was dealt to the Broncos for a seventh-round pick, landing Denver a great interior pass rusher for pennies. Casey notched five sacks last season and totaled 51 over his nine-year career with Tennessee. Now Casey gets to play alongside Von Miller [Editor’s note: This was written before Miller’s potential season-ending injury] another elite pass rusher, and the duo can form a devastating pass rush for opponents upfront. Bradley Chubb, one of the league’s budding superstars at defensive end, features as well.
Denver has great skill position players, a potentially elite pass rushing group and a secondary with enough potential to at least hold their own throughout the season. The roster has the makings of a team that compete for a playoff spot.
But it will all come down to their quarterback. Poor quarterback play has doomed teams in the past, and none of the skill position talent will really matter if Lock does not play well. Denver has potential as high as their altitude, they just need their young quarterback to prove the last five games of the season was not a fluke.