DENVER — My choice is Baker Mayfield. Since the Broncos have engaged in pre-NFL draft meetings with the Big Baker Brand four times, they’re either A) BFF (Broncos Friends Forever) or B) buying the Baker buzz, too.
We’ll find out on Thursday. Thank goodness. The NFL draft isn’t three days long. It’s three months loooong. Bless their hearts, a solid chunk of local sports media just missed one helluva Avalanche season.
So we’ll make this quick: I prefer Mayfield, if he’s there at No. 5, because his passing efficiency set NCAA records, his swag would balance a lopsided locker room, he should have the knucklehead out of his system by now, and, since I'm always honest with you guys, Baker-to-the-Broncos would approach Tim Tebow-levels of storylines. The only thing worse than losing is losing and being boring, and there’s nothing boring about Bad Baker.
“I think that what he’s done, the numbers he’s put up and the success he’s had the last three years at Oklahoma,” Broncos general manager John Elway said, “I think he’s overcome the (6 foot, 5/8 inches) size issue.”
This isn’t one of those apocalyptic pleas that says the Broncos MUST DRAFT BAKER MAYFIELD OR WE WILL RIOT IN THE STREETS. What qualifies as a good pick at Dove Valley these days is defined by a relatively low bar: if they draft prospects who don't eat weed during a traffic stop (Carlos Henderson), get yanked out of a team meeting for being late (Isaiah McKenzie) or arrive here without anyone knowing his position (DeMarcus Walker), they’re already a step ahead of 2017. Mostly, I hope the Broncos draft a class of rookies who conduct themselves like professionals. They'll probably win more games that way, anyway.
One big reason the 2015 Broncos were so good was their level of football intellect. Take the control tower of the “No Fly Zone,” for example. Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. thought and studied the game as thoroughly as any athletes I’ve covered. The quarterback in Super Bowl 50 was pretty smart, too, if I remember right. Let’s get some thinkers in here.
Mayfield is one. There’s a test in use called the Athletic Intelligence Quotient. According to Sports Illustrated, Mayfield recorded the second-highest score of the 63 quarterbacks who have taken the AIC.
Mayfield is a smart aleck, but at least he’s a smarty pants. If the Broncos whiff on this draft, it won't be for a lack of football brains. Elway, Gary Kubiak (the right guy to pick the right guy) and other personnel types were wise to meet with Mayfield at the Senior Bowl, scouting combine, Oklahoma pro day and on a private visit to the UCHealth Training Center.
You know what happens on the fifth date. You take the next step and build a Super Bowl champion together.
When it comes to the draft, the Denver-based voice that’s worth your time is Jeff Legwold's. His “Top 100” list should be available on Amazon. And Leggy has Bad Baker as the top-rated quarterback in the Class of 2018. Why? Mayfield’s ability to quickly and effectively process information.
OK, OK. There’s one problem with the Broncos drafting Mayfield. He might not be there at 5. The Jets stand in the way at No. 3. Harumph.
North Carolina State pass-rusher Bradley Chubb would be my second choice, followed by Alabama playmaker Minkah Fitzpatrick (after trading away Aqib Talib, "Fitz" would be a touch-and-go for the "No Fly Zone").
I doubt the Broncos are interested in either.
None of us know what will happen, by the way — not in the first round on Thursday, second and third rounds on Friday, or fourth through seventh rounds on Saturday. But the draft is entertaining and over-the-top, which makes the Broncos’ decision to announce their Saturday picks at Casa Bonita in Lakewood a perfect one. Give a high-5 to the team’s game day and marketing department. And give me Garett Bolles in the sopapilla-eating contest.
I can’t see Elway taking Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson. His history as an executive screams big splash, from Peyton to DeMarcus to (yes) moving up to take Paxton, and drafting an offensive guard is dropping a penny into a wishing well. Only ripples and a dream. And there’s this: the Broncos used a top-five pick on a guard in 1983. After they gave it some more thought, they changed three decades of franchise history by trading Chris Hinton for a quarterback. Thirty-five years later, if that quarterback hits on a quarterback at No. 5, Elway could change another three decades of history.
The Broncos should make the next 13 years a Baker’s dozen.