ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos weren't 48 hours into their offseason before John Elway quickly and efficiently outlined the team's top priority as it tries to dig out from a 5-11 finish.
The Broncos need a quarterback and have to decide if the draft, free agency or both will provide what they seek.
"I think there is no doubt we have to get better at that position," Elway said. “For us to have a chance to get better, we have to get better at that position."
It just so happens that the Broncos have the No. 5 pick in a draft that features a collection of quarterbacks the likes of which the league's evaluators haven't seen in some time.
This is the first of a one-a-day look at how the top quarterbacks on the board could fit with the Broncos.
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen
In a nutshell: With the NFL scouting combine and pro day workouts still weeks away, Rosen is considered the top quarterback prospect on the board by many around the league. Rosen thrust himself onto the college football stage as an 18-year-old by throwing for 351 yards in his first game with the Bruins. He finished with at least 300 yards passing in 17 of his 30 career games, including five matches in which he topped 400 yards.
Why he fits: Just watch him throw the ball. He has a clean, efficient motion with a quick release. His footwork, especially when he sets to throw, is more fundamentally sound than that of most of his contemporaries. Add his arm strength, composure in a collapsing pocket and ability to make tough throws, and you have a top-of-the-board candidate.
The work to be done: He has to learn when to bail after taking a lot of punishment in a Bruins offense that didn't always run the ball well or protect him well enough when it did throw -- a set of circumstances familiar to Broncos quarterbacks this past season. As a result, Rosen missed the last six games of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury and had two concussions in 2017. He was held out of UCLA's bowl game this season. As many gifted college players do, Rosen has often, when pressed, believed he could make throws he shouldn't consider in the NFL. He has taken risks with the ball and at the professional level will pay for many of those with turnovers. Peyton Manning said one of the toughest lessons for a young quarterback is learning what he can and can't do.
The potential plan for him: Rosen has taken some of the heat and lived with the scrutiny an NFL quarterback experiences for things he has done off the field. Rosen had a hot tub installed in his dorm during his freshman season, he wore a profane hat about then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump while golfing at a Trump golf course, and he was quoted by Bleacher Report's Matt Hayes as saying that “football and school don't go together. They just don't." As a result, Rosen understands what it feels like to be at the center of things in the social media age. He played through it and flourished at times. If he ends up with the Broncos, the team would likely build around and protect their rookie starter as he learns just how big the footsteps of Elway and Manning can be.
Will it happen?: Nobody has thrown a pre-draft pass yet, but if things go as people expect in the interviews, private workouts and private visits to come, the Broncos will have to move up from the No. 5 pick, possibly even to No. 1, to get Rosen. Given what people have traded to simply move one spot to get to No. 1 or No. 2, that would be an all-in, better-be-sure decision that could cost multiple first-round picks in future years as well as perhaps an established starter or two. In the deal to move up from No. 15 to No. 1 in 2016 to select Jared Goff, the Rams sent the Tennessee Titans two first-rounders (2016 and 2017), two second-round picks (both in 2016) and two third-round picks (2016 and 2017) as well as fourth- and sixth-round picks in 2016.
Coming Thursday: USC quarterback Sam Darnold