With the 26th pick of the 2016 NFL draft, the Denver Broncos select Paxton Lynch, Quarterback, Memphis. Thrown straight into the fire with the defending champions. He is mature, has elite arm talent, however he has a lot to work on. He wasn’t given much responsibility at college, and before he can be successful he needs to learn the tools of the trade. He needs to sit and learn, if he is thrown straight into the line-up he will struggle mightily. He could become a very Quarterback and he is in a very good situation with a top rated defence. If he is going to succeed early, it will be here. Quarterback is the most important position in football, and the Broncos looked to fix their situation aggressively with a first round selection.
There’s no doubt that Lynch had a breakout 2015 that led to his decision to enter the draft this year, but he did not come out of nowhere by any means, having 39 starts over the last three seasons, and really flashing a lot of potential prior to this season. All the same traits were there, but only in inconsistent flashes during 2014. His game really came together though in his junior year that led to a fantastic season for both he and the Tigers as a whole. The highlight was the win over Ole Miss in which Lynch had the game of his career with 384 yards (at 72.2% completion rate) and 3 touchdown passes against top opposition. There’s no question that his season slowed down late in the year, culminating in an undeniably awful performance in the bowl game versus Auburn, but that should not detract from his exciting potential or from what a great season it was overall. The first thing that stands out about the junior is his huge 6ft 7, 244 lb frame, but he is also a smooth athlete with a fantastic arm and is surprisingly dangerous with his legs. Lynch shows excellent polish and technique as a thrower, with impressive touch on his throws. A real stand out about his game is how well that technique holds up when throwing on the run when moving outside the pocket, keeping a consistent motion and losing none of the velocity. Though he allows a few passes to get away from him, his accuracy is generally good, and has the strength to get the ball deep and to make any throw. That said, there is certainly frustration in watching him fit a perfect throw into a tight window down field, only for him to then on the next play bounce a simple short out route into the ground in front of his receiver that he should have made in his sleep. Building on that, Lynch also does work from a fairly simplistic offense that lacks many NFL level throws and reads, and includes a lot of quick releases and pre-determined throws requiring no reads and very little progression work. There are times, such as on a very poor interception against Houston, when he goes with his pre-snap first read target even when clearly not open – he needs to realise when a play isn’t there and use a bit more common sense and initiative. All these are legitimate concerns. However, what should be hugely encouraging to teams that he can improve on the questions, is how well he has progressed year on year. After a 9:10 TD to INT ratio in his first year, he improved those numbers to 22:9 in 2014, then 28:4 this year. The completion rate has increased from 58%, to 63%, to 67%. Hopefully that progress will continue at the next level too. He’s another that needs to develop but has so much upside that warrants a first round selection.