MILE HIGH MONDAY

The Combine shakes up the QB draft board, impacting the Broncos

Mar 4, 2024, 5:45 AM

The NFL Scouting Combine has wrapped up. I learned so much in one week about the players on the field, but I also found out some interesting tidbits of information about how the draft could go.

I like picking up quality information at the Combine. There’s a lot I can’t report (yet), but these whispers are clues as to what teams are thinking about these prospects and the draft.

I also like contemplating life and sports when driving around with the top down on my old Jeep Wrangler TJ! The following is a result of those trips during the week.

Buckle up, let’s take a ride through my thoughts.

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McCarthy’s Stock Rising

If the Broncos want Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy, they might have to move up to get him. The Denver Broncos have the No. 12 overall pick in the first round, but that might not be high enough as we could see four quarterbacks selected in the top 10 of the draft. Entering the Combine, McCarthy was one of the players I felt had the most to gain (or lose) during the week.

Broncos head coach Sean Payton reportedly loves McCarthy, and it’s easy to see why. During his Combine interview with the media, McCarthy showed off his relaxed personality, while expressing his love for teammates and the game of football. I like how McCarthy meditates and uses a relaxed approach while also having a great fire and desire to win (which is all he’s done as a prep and collegian).

On the field, McCarthy looked good in quarterback drills on Saturday. He doesn’t have a rocket arm, but with his anticipation and pass placement he doesn’t need to throw it on a rope. I like his timing as a passer, and his footwork might be the best in this class. I felt McCarthy’s out routes could have used more zip, but I feel like his football intelligence will keep him ahead of the defense.

I was impressed with McCarthy at the podium and on the football field. If Payton does love McCarthy, the team had better make a move up to make sure they can get him in the first round. McCarthy impressed every team that was interested in him at the Combine.

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Good for Penix, Great for Denver

Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix has an injury history that reads like “Infinite Jest.” That’s a long book, and Penix has a long injury history. Medical checks were huge for Penix at the Combine, even though he’s had two healthy seasons over the last two years.

His physical tools are elite, and that’s easy to see. Everyone was waiting for medical reports, and according to reports Penix passed with flying colors. After having two shoulder injuries and two knee injuries in college, Penix needed to have clean medicals in order to build momentum for his services.

I’ve heard the New England Patriots like Penix, but they may not select him No. 3 overall. Instead, I could see a team like the Patriots passing on Penix in the top 10 but moving back into the end of the first round to select him. The Patriots passing on a quarterback with the third-overall pick means someone like McCarthy or Drake Maye could be pushed down to them. The Broncos are likely to move up from the 12 spot, and the Patriots may be willing to deal. The Patriots could move back and assemble more picks while still securing a good player at 12 and then having more draft capital to move back into the end of the first round for Penix.

If teams liked Penix on film (they should), then he’s going to rise back up draft boards. How far can he rise? We are fixing to find out.

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Polarizing Prospect

While McCarthy’s stock is rising, and Penix is working his way back into the first-round conversation, North Carolina’s Drake Maye seems to be falling. By falling, I mean he may not be the No. 2 overall pick. I still believe Maye is going to be selected in the top 10, but there are varying reports about which teams like him.

Maye is one of the most-polarizing prospects in this class. His physical gifts are easy to see, and Maye can run a modern offense with his arm talent and athleticism. There are some wild plays with Maye, but I like the fact that he has some arm arrogance. Some throws will be avoided by quarterbacks, but Maye wants to push the ball and attack the defense as much as possible.

I felt Maye seemed a bit nervous in his Combine interview. He’s young, and it’s a big moment for all these players, but I would have liked to have seen Maye show more composure or confidence (that I know he has) at the podium. Guys like McCarthy, Penix and Jayden Daniels sounded great at the podium. It doesn’t mean they’ll be stars and Maye won’t, but it was a lost moment that he could have done better at. Maye is my No. 3 quarterback in this class behind Daniels and Caleb Williams, and the Combine didn’t do anything to change that.

It’s all about fit in the NFL, and I think Maye would fit with the Broncos. If McCarthy is not their primary target, then Maye could be on that board given how he could work under the guidance of Payton.

***

RIP Mort

On Sunday, the news came out that longtime ESPN Insider Chris Mortensen had passed away at the age of 72. Mortensen is one of the all-time greats when it comes to football reporting. I was a huge fan of him on TV for many years before I got to meet him, and he was a kind man who was helpful with everyone he met.

I first met Mortensen at Broncos training camp in 2008. I had been covering camp as a credentialed media member for about five years, but I had just gone to my second Senior Bowl earlier that year. Mortensen and I immediately hit it off when talking about the Senior Bowl. He told me years ago when he was a newspaper reporter, someone told him he should go to the Senior Bowl if he wanted a job in the NFL. He heeded that advice, and soon Mortensen showed his star ability on the TV for all of us to see on ESPN.

Mortensen always took time to chat with younger reporters. He’s the king of NFL insiders, yet he was as kind and humble as you can be. Mortensen came through with great information, and he has a sterling reputation all throughout the league. I know how much Mortensen meant to friends like Daniel Jeremiah and Adam Schefter, and his impact on this game will be remembered for years to come because of the people he influenced with his time and attention.

Do you have any favorite memories of Mortensen? Hit me up on social media and let me know!

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