The Denver Broncos made a mistake in the 2021 NFL Draft that will come back to bite them.
2021 was such an unusual year all around. After football programs around the nation felt the effects of the pandemic, we knew that it would play a factor in the 2021 NFL Draft – and it certainly did. This year was the smallest draft class on record (in terms of the number of eligible prospects). This no doubt had to do with the number of players who elected to opt-out of the 2020 season.
The Denver Broncos held the 9th overall pick in the NFL Draft. Anytime you are picking this high, it’s hard to mess up too bad. However, that’s exactly what new general manager, George Patton, and the team managed to do (and we thought John Elway was bad).
Drew Lock is clearly no the answer in Denver. They know it, and we know it. However, despite desperately needing a quality franchise quarterback, Patton and his front office staff really let one slip away here.
With the 9th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos selected Alabama cornerback, Patrick Surtain. Under normal circumstances, I see absolutely no issue with this. Surtain is a legitimate first-round prospect and I had him ranked as my 8th overall prospect in this year’s draft. However, I do have an issue with the Broncos passing on a franchise passer in order to fill a different position of need.
Justin Fields was the clear and obvious choice for the Broncos
There’s no doubt that Denver needed help at the cornerback position. Patrick Surtain is a high-floor prospect who still has the upside to be one of the best defensive backs in the game – just like his father before him. However, it’s incredibly hard to justify passing on a franchise quarterback like Justin Fields because you have a cornerback rated slightly higher than him.
I’m sorry, but under what circumstances should trading for a quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater prevent you from drafting a player like Justin Fields? George Paton gives his reasoning behind passing on both Justin Fields and Mac Jones with the 9th overall pick, via Broncos Wire:
“We’ve had these discussions [about Jones possibly being there] before the draft and in all of our meetings. Were we surprised he dropped? Maybe a little bit, but we set our board and Surtain was really high on our board. It was in play, definitely. Our board fell to where Surtain was there, and we couldn’t pass him up. He was just too talented, too unique. Too good off the field, too good on the field. I’m familiar with his dad and his family. It was a home run for the Broncos.”
I don’t disagree that Surtain will be an amazing football player, but I do disagree with Paton’s philosophy of building a winning football team. Obviously, nothing is more important than finding a franchise quarterback. While Bridgewater might be able to hold down the fort and maybe even help this team to a .500 record, he won’t do much more.
Fields, on the other hand, is one of the best quarterback prospects to ever come out of high school, and he did nothing to hurt his status during his time at Ohio State. If anything, he solidified the thoughts I had on him, to begin with. The worst part about this is that Denver didn’t even need to trade up. Fields fell into their lap at pick 9 and they still elected to pass on him.
Perhaps we will find out Paton got this one right. But even if Justin Fields ends up busting in the NFL, I still think the Broncos made the wrong move by passing on him. Patrick Surtain could be the best cornerback in the league, but it won’t mean much if you still don’t have a quarterback that can lead your term to victory.