ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos weren't even 48 hours into their offseason when John Elway quickly and efficiently outlined the team's top priority to dig out of a 5-11 finish.
The Broncos want, and need, a solution at quarterback. What they have to decide is if the draft, free agency or both will provide that solution.
"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 the Broncos own the No. 5 pick in the 2018 draft in a year that happens to feature a collection of quarterback talent unlike the league's evaluators have seen in some time.
This is the third of a one-a-day look at how the top quarterbacks available in the draft could fit with the Broncos.
Today: Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield
Monday: Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen
In a nutshell: Mayfield easily has the most detailed résumé of the top quarterback prospects. He attempted at least 340 passes in all four of his seasons (one at Texas Tech, three at Oklahoma) and never threw more than nine interceptions in any of those seasons. He finished his college career with 131 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions. His Heisman-winning 2017 season saw him throw for 43 touchdowns and six interceptions. He had 24 300-yard passing games, five games of 400 yards and two of 500 in his career.
Why he fits: He has exactly the personality Elway has made clear he's seeking at quarterback. Mayfield plays with an edgy swagger that bothers some but could serve him well -- if he focuses it on football -- as he navigates a bumpy ride on the NFL learning curve. He also performs at his best in the tightest situations. His game travels nicely -- 58 touchdown passes in home games, 52 in road games and 21 in neutral sites. His completion percentages: 69.4 at home, 69.2 on the road and 65.3 in neutral sites. His performance on third down, in the red zone and in possessions after an error have been worthy of double-takes. His mobility and ability to make the tough throw on the move is a benefit, as is his desire to wring the most out of every play.
The work to be done: With a significant number of his completions coming at or behind the line of scrimmage, Mayfield has made a living making lay-up throws without the best footwork. He will often not step and throw when he has room to do so, electing instead to throw wherever his feet may be in that moment -- with his hips usually open and feet in a straddle position. That will eventually affect accuracy. Also, the video reveals that, like many college quarterbacks, he doesn't often let the ball fly unless the receiver has already cleared the defender by two steps. In the NFL, that will never be an on-time throw because the definition of "open" is far different. He's listed at 6-foot-1, but many scouts want to see what he measures at the Senior Bowl later this month -- his height will be an issue for some teams. He will have to maintain a high release and an understanding of the need to get himself into a position in which he has a throwing lane.
The plan for him would be: Mayfield played four seasons of college football and has dealt with plenty of the scrutiny, both for his play and his off-field behavior (a February 2017 arrest that included charges of public intoxication; not starting Oklahoma's Senior Day game in November because of lewd gestures he made the week before), that comes with the territory as a high-profile NFL rookie. But any team that dives in to select him in the first round will have likely decided his intensity, knowledge of the game and confidence behind center are enough to let him compete for the job from Day 1.
Will it happen?: The Broncos will get an up-close look at Mayfield at the Senior Bowl, so they'll be able to make a decision about his ability to transition as a long-term NFL starter. They also have to decide if that means they think he's a prospect they would pick at No. 5, or move down and gamble on getting later. Coach Vance Joseph has said the Broncos -- as do other NFL teams -- need to do a better job of tailoring their playbooks to players' strengths, including quarterbacks. That means they are open to fitting their offense around what's best for the quarterback better than they did for much of the past season. It would mean Elway has expanded the profile of what he wants given Mayfield would be the shortest quarterback Elway would have selected in the draft in his tenure as the Broncos' chief football decision-maker.