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Renck: Imagine if the Broncos stay at 12th position in the draft. Could Bo Nix or Michael Penix Jr. be the solution at quarterback?

Oregon quarterback Bo Nix (10) participates in a position drill at the school’s NFL Pro Day, Tuesday, March 12, 2024, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

The Broncos have struggled to find a reliable quarterback since 2015, sometimes experiencing both struggles simultaneously. They have never been without this issue since Peyton Manning retired.

To choose a quarterback or not to choose a quarterback, that is the question.

The Broncos have not made it to the playoffs since winning Super Bowl 50. They have had seven straight losing seasons. Many factors have contributed to this slump, but the most significant is the poor performance from the quarterback position.

The Broncos have struggled or been in search of a quarterback. Sometimes both. Never neither since Peyton Manning retired.

Is there a solution available in the upcoming draft, which is about three weeks away? And is the strategy to go all in or to be patient in the first round or on the second day for Bo Nix from Oregon or Michael Penix Jr. from Washington? These two are competing to be the fifth quarterback chosen and are worthy of our attention.

Most mock drafts predict that three or four quarterbacks will be picked in the first five selections. The Bears seem set on choosing USC’s Caleb Williams. After that, the situation becomes interesting. Will Washington pick Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels, or J.J. McCarthy? What about the Patriots? Are they planning to select one of the remaining two?

Minnesota is the unpredictable factor here. It's hard to find a Vikings fan who doesn't think that the team will trade up for a quarterback, using the 11th and 23rd overall picks. This leaves a single player at the fourth position. I have made it clear that if Daniels is available, he is worth the Broncos investing in another mortgage yet again..

He could transform an average offense into an outstanding one. He produces explosive plays with both his arm and his feet. He gives off a similar vibe to Lamar Jackson. Those who oppose him draw comparisons to Justin Fields. I disagree.

One thing is certain: The Broncos have frustrated their fan base with years of inconsistent and ineffective offense. This has led to a distorted belief that one player can fix all their problems. In reality, it's easier to argue that the Broncos are not ready for a new quarterback and that their roster needs to be replenished in the draft, so they cannot afford to give up any more draft picks.

That's why we must keep Nix and Penix in consideration. Both will be available at the 12th pick and should also be there in the middle of the round. One of them could fall to Day 2. Broncos coach Sean Payton prefers an aggressive approach and isn't too concerned about public opinion. If the right quarterback is available in the top five, I have no doubt he will gladly trade draft picks.

With no certainty that the draft will go their way or that they can find a trade partner with New England and Arizona, what should we know about Nix and Penix? I asked Brock Huard, a former Washington Huskies star, Pac-12 enthusiast, and host of a morning radio show in Seattle. He is deeply involved in the draft process, either by watching game footage or frequently speaking with those who make a living evaluating players.

In my opinion, if the Broncos are going to pick a quarterback at the 12th spot, then he should be expected to be among the top 15 quarterbacks in the league within three years. Penix consistently made impressive throws during his time at Washington. Nix transformed himself into an efficient and intelligent player at Oregon, showcasing his skills in throwing slant passes.

Penix’s throwing strength and athleticism make him a top-tier player. Nix, on the other hand, has a consistent performance but less potential. If the Broncos are interested in Nix, I would suggest trading to the mid-20s, gaining an extra second-round pick, and selecting Nix in that range. However, I feel uneasy about passing on many more talented players at other positions.

Huard firmly believes that Penix will be selected in the first round. Critics have raised concerns about his lack of improvisation and his health, which are connected. The reason he didn't scramble and run is because he aimed to avoid injuries and sacks. Upon reviewing his game footage, you can find numerous impressive NFL throws, including deep overs, daggers, in cuts, out cuts, and go routes.

The system required it and showcased professional tackles and skillful players, along with pre-snap motion and advanced strategies. These were features utilized by his former coach Ryan Grubb, who is now the new offensive coordinator for the Seahawks. Additionally, Penix being left-handed means that substantial improvement from Mike McGlinchey as his blindside protector would be essential if he joins the Denver team. Huard believes that Penix would be a good match for the team and Payton.

Huard explained,“We could because there is a lot of volume. Sean asks a lot from his quarterback, and there is a significant amount to consider. Grubb coached Penix intensively. If you are seeking a quarterback who can make all the throws and spread the ball across the field effectively, Penix is capable. Just watch his semifinal game against Texas.”

Nix demonstrated exceptional performance by throwing 74 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions for Oregon over two seasons. He effectively led the offense with wisdom and accuracy. However, his time at Auburn, where he threw 39 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, gives me pause, as he was benched several times. While I admire Nix, I don't think he belongs in the top 15, considering the possibility that his potential is that of an average NFL starter or reliable backup.

“Nix has a fast release and displays accuracy, throwing a well-executed pass. I appreciate his physique, toughness, and determination,” Huard stated. “However, his throwing strength is average, and he hasn't consistently demonstrated the ability to throw into tight NFL windows with tight and intermediate throws.

The Broncos' quarterback draft appears to be as challenging as solving a Rubik’s Cube. Their late first-round pick would require a significant investment to move up. If they choose to stay put, the dilemma is whether it's worth selecting the fifth quarterback on the board.

If the decision at No. 12 is between Nix and Penix, I favor neither. I suggest trading back, strengthening the roster, and addressing the quarterback situation next season.

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