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Horse Tracks: Payton tests QB draft prospects to see how they handle adversity

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By: Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann

“If we send them info at 5 p.m. the prior day — and we send them more than they have time to study — did they handle it really well? did they struggle?”

Sean Payton once again revealed during the NFL owner’s meeting his preference for a “quick-processor” at quarterback.

It hasn’t been a secret as he’s been saying this in different ways since Week 17.

But in his Monday comments, he did reveal an interesting way he “tests” this quality on soon-to-be-rookie QBs.

He doesn’t just watch film from a game where they have prepared for a particular opponent, or look at their overly-practiced throws during a pro day. Payton likes to stress them a little by sending too much information the night before to see how they deal with it.

I like this idea a lot. Not only can Payton see what kind of attitude they have about being given all that information late, but more importantly they can observe the new QB’s process for trying to deal with the information.

I imagine it’s a lot less about how well a QB does with the info, but more about how he prioritizes what to learn and how serious he is about trying to learn it.

Of all the ways coaches and scouts try to figure out the right QB for their team, this is as good as any. It seems Payton could find out a lot about a player that is more important to him than just watching the young guy throw.

With that in mind, I’m going to steal and share Scotty Payne’s knowledge here to mention that among this year’s top college quarterbacks, the two most likely to fit Payton’s “quick processor” requirement — and be available — are Bo Nix and Michael Penix.

JJ McCarthy has been rumored to be a favorite of Payton’s, and the former Michigan QB among others did get a private workout with the Broncos last week, but McCarthy’s stock keeps rising so it’s unlikely the Broncos have enough to trade up as high as they’d need to in order to nab him.

But if Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye and McCarthy are likely to go as the top four quarterbacks – probably in high enough spots Denver cannot trade up to – then Nix might be there at 12.

Nix has the most experience of this year’s quarterback draft class having played 61 games over five years at two different major programs and throwing 113 touchdowns but just 26 interceptions. He also scored 38 rushing touchdowns on more than 1,600 yards in addition to all the TD passes. Also noteworthy, Nix has had five offensive coordinators and three head coaches in those five years.

Among his best traits are the ability to throw accurately on a designed rollout, thrive in the quick passing game and go through his progressions quickly and still make the correct read. – Scotty Payne, Mile High Report

Penix transferred from Indiana to the University of Washington in 2022 where he was able to stay healthy and play 28 games over two seasons. At Washington, Penix threw nearly twice as many yards and touchdowns (with just four more interceptions) as he did at Indiana. Among his attributes are a high football IQ – which bodes well in a Payton offense:

Penix has a very good command of his offense, with an understanding of the various passing concepts as well as the blocking schemes. Penix understands where his answers are in any given play and also understands where pressure is likely to come from. – Chris Pflum, Big Blue View

Payton, who acknowledged it was “realistic” for the Broncos to consider trading up to draft a quarterback next month, also pointed out another reality — that only one or two of the young QBs taken at the top of the draft will be successful.

“I think the key is, what’s the fit relative to your team?” Payton said Monday, noting this year’s class is a good group of QBs. “Certainly, they’re well-prepared, they’ve been well-coached. They’ve been well-coached in college relative to the game. And you see the success on the field.”

Payton also addressed not adding any free agent QBs yet (or likely at all), saying he felt the Broncos were still considered a desirable place to be as a quarterback but that Denver was being very judicious and felt good with its current room should a rookie be coming in.

Payton still talked up his backup QB Jarrett Stidham, noting he was excited to see him “compete to be the starter” but also admitted the Broncos are “still in the midst of assembling our roster.”

“We have to get better in a lot of areas,” Payton said, “and we’re excited to do that.”

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Originally posted on Mile High Report