Expert Analysis


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2024 NFL Draft: Overwhelming Needs Force Teams to Telegraph Picks

The Vikings sack Broncos QB Russell Wilson
Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) is sacked by the Minnesota defense in the first quarter at Empower Field at Mile High on Nov. 19, 2023. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

You don’t ever want to be in the position the Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings find themselves in.

Whether in football or any aspect of life that is competitive, putting yourself into a corner where you have to do something and everyone you are competing with knows it is never a good process.

Yet that is exactly where those three franchises find themselves heading into the 2024 NFL Draft, which begins on Thursday night.

QB-Needy Vikings, Broncos Face Tough Questions

The Vikings and Broncos desperately need to draft quarterbacks and everybody knows it.

That’s a very unenviable position to be in when your first-round selections are at picks 11 and 12, respectively, and signal callers are expected to go off the board in the first three slots to teams that are equally desperate for quarterbacks yet in a much better position to secure one.

That means Minnesota and Denver are in a battle to take the fourth guy at a position that feels like a 50/50 proposition at best in terms of success rate for first-round selections. That is a bad process and a really poor situation to be in no matter what the result.

Could either team possibly pay an exorbitant amount to convince the New England Patriots to move down from No. 3 and hopefully get its quarterback of the future there? Sure, but it would say a lot if the quarterback-needy Patriots were willing to pass on him, wouldn’t it?

Could each team stay where it’s at and hope Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. or Oregon’s Bo Nix falls to them and pick them at that point? Absolutely, and either guy could end up being a franchise quarterback, but it certainly feels like the odds would be stacked against them if that many other teams chose other passers.

And finally, could you argue that these teams don’t really need to draft a quarterback and that the Vikings could roll with Sam Darnold while the Broncos would hitch their wagon to Jarrett

Stidham for a year? That’s not outside the realm of possibility but good luck selling any season tickets or even hope to a fanbase that would surely recognize that a mediocre campaign is the best-case scenario at that point.

Could the Denver Broncos roll with Jarrett Stidham (4) at quarterback this season? Stidham, shown after being knocked down by Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Malcolm Koonce (51) during a Jan. 7, 2024 game at Allegiant Stadium, is in line to start. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Need Is So Obvious Both Teams Acknowledge It

They need quarterbacks. They are very likely to draft quarterbacks high in the draft and everybody knows it. Not only do they know it, they know that everyone else knows it, too.

“You’d say it sure looks like we have to draft a quarterback and yet it’s got to be the right fit, the right one,” Broncos coach Sean Payton said recently. “If we had tip sheets as to what everybody else is picking it would be easier to answer that question. And so, that’s the puzzle here.”

Isn’t that the problem for Payton and the Broncos? While he doesn’t have tip sheets for other teams and who they are picking, the other teams pretty much know who he is picking sooner rather than later: a quarterback.

The same holds true for the Vikings as coach Kevin O’Connell talked about trading up for a new face of the franchise at a recent public appearance.

“We only need one team to be complicit,” O’Connell said. “Hopefully we find that team and that person is on our team. … I may or may not have sent a nice bouquet of flowers to (Patriots owner) Robert Kraft the other day.”

Frankly, the Vikings and Broncos need to move up because even if a quarterback fell to them, there is a pretty good chance a team such as the Raiders would pounce and leapfrog them. That’s because Las Vegas also is searching for a long-term answer at the position and is keenly aware of the desperation in Minnesota and Denver.

>>READ: Insider's Mock Draft

Longtime Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith
The Dallas Cowboys allowed longtime left tackle Tyron Smith, running onto the field at AT&T Stadium before a Sept. 21, 2021 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, to depart in free agency this offseason. It likely forces the Cowboys to take an offensive lineman in the upcoming draft.(Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

Cowboys Confronted By Multiple Needs

That’s precisely the problem that the Cowboys find themselves in at the running back and, to a lesser extent, offensive line positions.

There is absolutely no way that Dallas is going into the season with the running backs it currently has on the roster. It is highly likely the Cowboys will draft an offensive lineman after losing starting left tackle Tyron Smith and center Tyler Biadasz in free agency.

As a result, any team that really likes a particular offensive linemen in the first round or running back in the second and third rounds will be apt to jump in front of the Cowboys’ selections in those rounds to make sure they get the guy they want before Dallas potentially nabs him.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they will take the player the Cowboys were planning to choose. It just means their obvious needs make it easy for others to scheme around the high likelihood of the Cowboys’ positional emphasis.

Some teams plan ahead and try to ensure that this isn’t the case.

“I think what we try to do to the best of our abilities is fill as many needs as we can through free agency so that we can be open to the best players in the draft,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said last week at his pre-draft press conference.

Some teams, like the Cowboys, Broncos and Vikings to name a few, don’t.