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Denver quarterbacks

Bet heavily on Nix

I've seen a couple recent stories on Denver rookie Bo Nix. He's been impressive in practices, which is not surprising his status as the most experienced college passer in history (a record 61 starts). The curious sidelight has been the dutiful reports that he's competing with Jarett Stidham and Zach Wilson.

I'm comfortable enough that Nix will be a Week 1 starter to draft him as a backup in early leagues. Stidham has been in Denver's offense longer and started last year after Russell Wilson got benched, so I guess he must be considered a possibility. But starting two games against the Chargers and Raiders, leading the offense to 14-16 points while throwing 2 TDs and taking 7 sacks, does not signify a realistic 2024 option. He's a former fourth-rounder who's been in the league since 2019.

And Wilson? We can definitely stick a fork in him. (Perhaps this barely needs to be said, but one of the stories I saw yesterday began with the premise, "What if all Wilson needed was a change of scenery?" So apparently it does.)

The former No. 2 overall pick has been in the league three years and started 33 games. That's a pretty good-sized sample set to call things one way or another. He didn't get great coaching with the Jets, perhaps, and he wasn't blessed with a great offensive line or a wealth of talented skill players. But he had some good players there and plenty of chances, but still put up the worst numbers of any semi-regular starter since entering the league. So it's not gonna happen.

For illustration's sake, here are the per-game numbers of all quarterbacks to start at least half the time the last three seasons. There are 28 of them. Wilson ranks next to last in passing yards, last in touchdown passes, and last in fantasy points per game. I don't think it's a given that he even makes the 53-man roster.

QUARTERBACKS PER GAME, 2021-2023 (25+ STARTS)
PlayerStPYdRkTDPRkPtsRk
Josh Allen50259.98th2.005th28.71st
Jalen Hurts47227.718th1.3018th26.12nd
Patrick Mahomes50285.42nd2.102nd25.83rd
Lamar Jackson40220.120th1.4316th24.24th
Joe Burrow42271.34th2.004th23.85th
Dak Prescott45262.87th2.131st23.66th
Tom Brady34294.41st2.003rd23.67th
Kyler Murray33241.014th1.4515th23.48th
Justin Herbert47274.23rd1.779th23.19th
Kirk Cousins41270.75th1.956th22.510th
Matthew Stafford41266.86th1.838th21.211th
Justin Fields38173.828th1.0525th20.812th
Geno Smith35242.213th1.5412th20.513th
Tua Tagovailoa42254.010th1.6710th20.314th
Aaron Rodgers34229.717th1.857th20.315th
Russell Wilson44220.619th1.5213th20.116th
Jared Goff48255.49th1.6311th20.117th
Trevor Lawrence50235.416th1.1623rd19.818th
Derek Carr49249.111th1.4714th18.919th
Daniel Jones33198.226th.8227th18.920th
Jimmy Garoppolo31235.415th1.3517th18.421st
Taylor Heinicke28209.724th1.2520th17.922nd
Matt Ryan29242.212th1.1722nd17.923rd
Ryan Tannehill37208.625th1.0326th17.424th
Baker Mayfield41215.422nd1.2719th17.325th
Davis Mills26216.621st1.2321st16.926th
Mac Jones42212.323rd1.1024th16.027th
Zach Wilson33186.527th.6728th14.628th

As for Nix, I don't think anyone should be building a fantasy roster around him. Maybe not even a dynasty one. I think Sean Payton is a different guy than the one overseeing some high-flying Saints offenses back in Drew Brees' heyday. The vast majority of those teams, after all, faltered in the playoffs, and I don't think Denver has the skill players to put up big offensive numbers anytime soon. Payton knows he's not going to be outdueling Mahomes or Herbert (if the Charger opted to go that route). Better to have a more conservative offense, protect the football, maybe win some lower-scoring games.

But he's going to be in the lineup. In the last 15 years, there have been 48 quarterbacks drafted in the first round. Thirty-six of them (75 percent) have started more than half their rookie seasons. Several of the exceptions (Watson, Richardson) got injured. Every 5-6 years you have a rookie sitting behind a veteran (Mahomes, Love), but needless to say the Broncos don't have one of those capable veterans ahead of him.

Forget any stories suggesting there's a quarterback competition in Denver. There isn't. It's Nix's job; anything else is just talk.

--Andy Richardson

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