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Horse Tracks: Do meetings with premier QB prospects hint at the Broncos trading up?

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By: Nick Burch

Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The QB-needy Denver Broncos need to find their franchise signal caller, but sitting with the 12th draft pick in the NFL Draft are not in ideal position; does the team meeting with the top QB prospects hint at an aggressive move?

With the NFL Combine in Indianapolis taking place this week, the Denver Broncos have been busy meeting with top prospects at the tight end and edge positions, but most notably is their meeting with the top three QB prospects.

Sean Payton and staff met with 2022 Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, 2023 Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels, and 2022 ACC Player of the Year Drake Maye. They prioritized meeting these players before players like JJ McCarthy, Bo Nix, Michael Penix, and Michael Pratt, all QB prospects who are more likely to be available at 12 (or further down) when the Broncos pick.

It is no secret that the Broncos are determined to finally end their near-decade long search for a franchise QB following the Peyton Manning retirement, and any mock draft that doesn’t have the team going QB almost seems like a waste of a read.

Yet, the reality is that if the Broncos stand pat with the #12 pick, there is a near-100% chance the top three QB prospects will not be available, and even someone like McCarthy may be snagged up by someone like the Giants or the Vikings, each of whom pick ahead of Denver.

The team also plans to meet with the aforementioned next tier QB prospects as well, showing they aren’t going all in on just the top three, but with the obvious reality that (barring something bizarre happening) none of Williams, Daniels, or Maye are going to last until the 12th pick. To secure their services, the Broncos are going to have to be about as aggressive as they’ve ever been, as the price of a top-three pick will not come cheap.

Perhaps that is why Payton and staff chose to prioritize meeting with the top three before someone like McCarthy. Trading up for the former Michigan QB may only take a couple spots up and maybe a first and a possible additional first or second (depending on how far the team is willing to trade up for him). For one of the top three, they are going to have to empty their savings, so to say.

These interviews are a great way for the staff to get a sense firsthand the character, charisma, personality, and leadership qualities the player could command in the locker room and in the huddle. Does he possess the intangibles that can rally an entire team, that can lead a team back when the stakes are down, and operate with composure when the pressure is on?

For a young, inexperienced, head coach, it may be easy to be taken on by someone who is simply good at interviewing and selling himself. Sean Payton, though, has been through this gauntlet many times before and is no dummy. He’ll be able to match any poker face put in front of him and will no doubt be able to distinguish a true franchise prospect vs someone putting on a BS display.

As the leader of a team who has been in rebuild since 2016, Payton knows he can’t swing blindly. In fact, he said as much this week at the combine. The man wants his QB, and he wants to make damn sure he gets it right.

So when he meets with the likes of the top three prospects before other prospects, he’s essentially asking each of them, “If I give up as much as a team can give up for you, will you make good on that investment? Will you be the player I need you to be and this team needs you to be? Will you command respect from day one and take immediate control of the offense?”

If any of the big three convinced him enough and answered all of that believably, then don’t be surprised to see the team go all-in to grab a top three pick. Yet, if there is any question at all, expect the Broncos to stay put and look to the next tier, of whom they will interview next.

In any regard, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take (-Michael Jordan -Michael Scott), and by prioritizing a meeting with these young men first, it shows that the team is interested, and they are willing to make an offer if any of them can make a believer out of Sean Payton and staff.

Whether or not any of them did? That answer will come in about two months. Until then, let the speculation begin.

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Originally posted on Mile High Report