Denver Broncos can compete in loaded AFC in 2024 with a strong NFL Draft

In terms of being a potential playoff team in 2024, no one seems to be talking about the Denver Broncos.

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos
Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

The Denver Broncos can come away with a franchise quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft, and could also complete in the loaded AFC beyond that. The Broncos were at one point a threatening Wild Card contending team during the 2023 NFL Season. After a 1-5 start, the Broncos were 7-6 through 13 games and were riding a huge winning streak and mid-season defensive turnaround.

Denver finished 8-9 on the year, a much better record than their 5-12 season in 2022. The Broncos were not a great team by any means in 2023, but the progress they made was clear, and there's a ton of reason to believe that this team could enjoy a 2023 Houston Texans type of arc if they have a strong 2024 NFL Draft.

In 2023, the Broncos had a few things that were holding them back significantly. Firstly, they had a historically bad defense, yes, historically bad. It was the main reason for their 1-5 start, and everyone remembers the 70 points they allowed to the Miami Dolphins. Their passing game was among the worst in the NFL throughout the entire season.

Former QB Russell Wilson was simply not a good fit in Sean Payton's offense, and Wilson's inability to work the intermediate range of the passing game and inability to work the middle of the field was creating a very boom or bust passing offense. Truly, Denver's passing offense was either a deepshot to Courtland Sutton or a short dump-off pass to a running back.

Also, their rushing offense wasn't that special, either. They rushed for the 18th-most yards in the NFL, so that unit was pretty average. And yet, the Broncos managed to win eight games and were in the playoff hunt until the near-end of the season. Here's the thing, is it outrageous to think that

-The Broncos defense doesn't get off to a historically bad start in 2024
-The rushing attack shows a slight improvement
-Sean Payton drafts a QB that fits his offense better than Russell Wilson did

I don't think those three criteria are at all unlikely or unrealistic. Why should they be? There's concrete reasons for each one being the truth in 2024. And in that case, the Denver Broncos could compete in the loaded AFC. Obviously this hinges on getting the QB right, which is much easier said than done.

But heck, why can't the Denver Broncos do that?