With the Denver Broncos sitting at 1-3 and in the midst of a blizzard of injuries, their season seems over before it really had a chance to even start. When your season comes to such an early end, you’re not entirely sold on your current starting quarterback, and a prospect as special as Trevor Lawrence is available in the draft, it’s reasonable to consider tanking.
So, should the Broncos tank for Lawrence? Let’s take a look.
Too early to talk about tanking for Trevor Lawrence
The primary blockade to the Broncos considering tanking for Trevor Lawrence is that it is way too early in the season to feel that pessimistic about this Broncos roster, as hanging 37 points on the Jets with a practice-squad quarterback on a short week proved on Thursday night.
This roster is talented, and they now have a week and a half to prepare for a Patriots team that will be playing on a short week and will likely have either Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer starting at quarterback. Also, Vic Fangio recently said Drew Lock has a 50-50 chance of playing in that game, which makes a win in Foxborough now much more probable. If the Broncos do win that game, they’ll be 2-3 with their starting quarterback back for a home game against the Miami Dolphins.
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The 0-3 hole the Broncos have dug themselves into could quickly disappear.
After Miami, Denver will play the Kansas City Chiefs, but after that, the schedule gets much easier with a bye week and games against the Atlanta Falcons, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers, and somewhat struggling New Orleans Saints up next. 6-5 or 5-6 are both very reasonable outcomes and would completely take the Broncos out of the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes.
Denver has almost completed a rebuild. Why restart?
Don’t let the Broncos’ record and slow start to the season fool you; this roster is talented. Much more talented than the type of 2-14 or 3-13 squad that will be in competition for the number one overall pick to be used on Lawrence.
They also still have two games against the Raiders and Chargers, and a game each against the Falcons and Carolina Panthers left on their schedule. With that schedule and the Broncos getting healthier as the season goes on, they should win enough games to be out of reach of Lawrence.
For them to plunge themselves down far enough to be within the range of the Clemson phenom, they would either need to become a lot less talented or accumulate a lot more draft picks. The path to accomplishing either of those tasks involves trading a lot of talented pieces the Broncos would need in order to compete in the coming years.
That doesn’t sound like an appealing scenario, especially considering that the Broncos have only been able to build this talented roster by being so non-competitive for the past four seasons. Why undo all that suffering and hard work to land Lawrence, just to put yourself in a position to endure more years of hardship, because you had to deconstruct the roster to land him?
Broncos shouldn’t tank for Trevor Lawrence…yet
With the Broncos in a hole that shouldn’t be too difficult to dig out of and a young roster that will be ready to compete in the coming years, it doesn’t make sense to blow the season up to try to attain Trevor Lawrence, yet.
However, if the Broncos season goes from circling the drain to plunging into the sewer, Lawrence should certainly be an option for them. The Broncos need an elite quarterback to be competitive, they aren’t sure whether or not Lock is elite yet, and that means quarterback remains as one of the biggest lingering questions on the Broncos roster.
When Patrick Mahomes signed his record-breaking contract this off-season, it gave the division-rival Chiefs his rights through February of 2032. That means that for the next 11 seasons, the Broncos will have to play maybe the greatest quarterback we have ever seen twice per year and compete with him for the division title. The Los Angeles Chargers also have the young Justin Herbert, who looks pretty good in his own right so far.
With that much competition in their division, if the Broncos want to be consistent competitors they need a special quarterback to go head-to-head with Mahomes, and outside of his rout of the Houston Texans, Lock hasn’t looked like that special quarterback.
If you remove his two outlier performances (superstar performance vs. Texans and blizzard game vs. Chiefs), his career stats look like a purely mediocre starting quarterback. Lock’s thrown for 739 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception while completing 67 percent of his passes for a passer rating of 93.58 and 6.06 yards per attempt. Those figures won’t have Mahomes shaking in his boots.
At this point, you can make a very compelling argument that Trevor Lawrence, a quarterback prospect in the elite and exclusive tier of John Elway, Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck, has a better chance of becoming the type of superstar that could compete with Mahomes than Lock, the latter of Denver’s two 2019 second-round picks, has.
Lastly, as mentioned before, Broncos Country shouldn’t let the injuries fool them, and this roster is almost ready to compete. One of the biggest competitive advantages you can have in today’s NFL is having a quarterback on a rookie deal, and after 2020, the Broncos will have Lock at a discounted rate for just two more years at most. Having Trevor Lawrence on a rookie salary for five years as opposed to having Lock on a rookie deal for two, would extend the Broncos’ championship window.
The Broncos should roll with Lock for now, but if he continues to be nothing more than just fine when he returns, tanking for a generational quarterback prospect won’t be a crazy proposition.