Latest On Broncos’ First-Round Plans

Holding a first-round pick for the first time since they chose Patrick Surtain in 2021, the Broncos obviously enter this draft with a major need at quarterback after releasing Russell Wilson. But they are not flush with ammo to move up to acquire a top QB prospect.

Denver’s 2023 trade for Sean Payton‘s rights cost a 2023 first-rounder and a 2024 second. The Broncos already traded the third-rounder they acquired for Payton to move up for cornerback Riley Moss last year. Denver does hold another third-rounder but is certainly outflanked by Minnesota (two first-round picks) regarding assets to trade for a top-four draft slot. J.J. McCarthy‘s pre-draft rise certainly could make a top-four pick necessary to acquire one of this draft’s top four QBs.

[RELATED: Broncos Host QB Michael Penix Jr. On Visit]

Despite this,’s Tony Pauline notes Payton has “desperately” wanted to move up for a passer. We heard that was the case in February, and the second-year Denver HC is open to a move up the board. But reporting around the Senior Bowl indicated the steep cost would likely steer the Broncos away from yet another trade involving a first-round pick. As it stands now, the Broncos should be considered more likely to trade down than trade up from No. 12 overall,’s Jeff Legwold writes.

The Broncos’ lack of first-round picks over the past two years has certainly impacted the roster. With Jerry Jeudy being traded to the Browns, only two homegrown first-rounders (Surtain, Garett Bolles) are on Denver’s roster. The team has traded three homegrown first-rounders (Noah Fant, Bradley Chubb, Jeudy) since the 2022 deadline. While the Broncos’ QB depth chart may be the NFL’s worst (of the teams not in position to land a passer atop this draft), they could attempt a move down the board to add draft capital while picking up a passer later in Round 1.

Bo Nix and the Broncos have been tied together for several weeks, due partially to the team’s draft slot. Though, no news of a Broncos-Nix “30” visit has emerged. Nix has met with the Raiders and Seahawks and scheduled a Vikings workout. Setting the record for Division I-FBS starts by a quarterback (61), the former Oregon and Auburn arm posted big numbers with the Ducks over the past two seasons. Last year, he closed with a 45-3 TD-INT ratio with the Pac-12 program. This came in a QB-friendly system, one that has generated questions about the Auburn recruit’s ability to function at a high level in an NFL offense.

Nix is 29th on Daniel Jeremiah’s big board, and’s Mel Kiper Jr. has him falling out of Round 1. If Nix falls past the Broncos at No. 12, the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy writes he could experience a Will Levis-like draft slide. Levis tumbled to No. 33 last year.

Still planning to add a veteran to a depth chart that currently houses Jarrett Stidham as the starter, the Broncos’ need here is no secret. While offseason reports have indicated the Broncos would be OK going into the season with Stidham as the starter, an AFC exec told’s Jordan Reid in the above-reference piece there is “no way” heads into the season with the QB room the team currently possesses.

With the Raiders joining the Vikings as a team that will be eyeing QBs, the Broncos have a complex mission. It would indeed be unusual if Payton, who turned 60 earlier this year, agreed to effectively stand down at quarterback this year and go through a stopgap season with Stidham. But the team did not add one of the bridge-type arms in free agency. Though, Ryan Tannehill remains available.

Payton’s 2021 season featured four starters — due to Jameis Winston going down with an ACL tear — and led to a steep quality drop from the Drew Brees era. After making it clear he was not happy with where Wilson was late last season, Payton and GM George Paton will likely attempt to upgrade in the draft. The Broncos will be a team to monitor as the draft moves past its Caleb Williams stage.

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