The Denver Broncos have made the decision to bench big-money starting quarterback Russell Wilson and are approaching QB purgatory once again. Head coach Sean Payton really likes Jarrett Stidham, who will start the final two games of the season, but are the Broncos preparing to go all-in on a young quarterback in 2024?
It's something Sean Payton has never done as an NFL head coach. The highest-drafted quarterback for Payton when he was with the Saints was Garrett Grayson, a third-round pick. Of course, Payton had Drew Brees for most of his tenure with the Saints, but even at the end of his time there with rumors of New Orleans looking at QBs in so many draft classes late in Brees's career, the Saints never pulled the trigger.
Taking a QB in round one would be uncharted waters for Sean Payton, but I think we could see the Broncos do it in 2024. Let's take a look at a four-round Denver Broncos mock draft after the decision to bench Russ.
1. JJ McCarthy, QB, Michigan
I'm torn with the idea of the Broncos taking a quarterback in the first round of this draft class. On the one hand, Sean Payton has been public about his love for USC quarterback Caleb Williams. And the Chicago Bears are either going to put that 1st overall pick up for sale or they're going to trade Justin Fields.
More realistically, with the Broncos picking somewhere in the 10-18 range, I think we're talking about the JJ McCarthy, Bo Nix, or Michael Penix types. I don't think the Broncos need to back themselves into a QB corner with their first-round pick, but I also think there's going to be tremendous value in getting a young QB in the building as quickly as possible. Sean Payton is going to want that player to learn the ropes before playing, and I think McCarthy is a solid fit.
He's going to need to develop some areas of his game as a true dropback passer, but we know that the Broncos are going to want to establish an identity as a run-first team and McCarthy has the makings of a great point guard in the NFL with playmaker traits.