General manager John Elway and personnel chief Matt Russell attended Oregon Ducks’ 30-27 win over the Washington Huskies to live scout Herbert on Saturday, according to MMQB’s Albert Breer. That wasn’t the only interesting tidbit Breer had on Herbert during his MMQB column:
“Oregon pulled off a title-race-shifting upset of rival Washington on Saturday. And while it wasn’t potential No. 1 overall pick Justin Herbert’s best day (18-32, 202 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT), it didn’t affect what NFL types think of him too much. “He still looked good,” said one evaluator who was there. “Big, great arm, smooth motion, he can run. He has tools. It’s early, but the guy has top-tier tools.”
Herbert is in play to be a consideration as the top selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, and the Broncos are in play to be in that top selection.
Elway’s job could depend on what he does with this year’s pick. The Hall of Fame quarterback hasn’t had much success leading the Broncos personnel department over the last few years. Signing Peyton Manning is, far and away, the best thing that Elway has done for the Broncos. Recently, Elway’s draft classes have underwhelmed and his free agent acquisitions haven’t been much better.
Certainly, Elway can point to his early draft classes when he landed Von Miller in 2011 and Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan in 2012. However, the Broncos’ draft classes from 2015 through 2017 are devoid of talent, and include quarterback Paxton Lynch, linebacker Shane Ray and offensive lineman Garrett Bolles, all first-round picks who could be considered busts. Bradley Chubb, the fifth overall pick in 2018, enjoyed his breakout performance on Sunday (three sacks, five tackles) after a quiet start to the season. Another strong pick in the first-round would do wonders for Elway’s reputation and his job security.
After all, Elway decided to grab Case Keenum in free agency, a move which has so far been problematic for Denver. Keenum seemed like just what the Broncos needed: a veteran quarterback with a recent track record of winning games. However, Keenum’s 2017 season seemed to be nothing more than a product of the Minnesota Vikings’ system. Elway’s Broncos have not brought the same level of success out of Keenum.
So Elway was smart to show up for Herbert’s performance against Washington, one of the most formidable opponents the Ducks will see all season. In the event the Broncos are picking at No. 1 (or even the top five), Denver’s season will be considered disastrous. At that hypothetically dark point in his career as a general manager, Elway would need to make a move which instills confidence in his ability to identify talent. Hitting on a player like Herbert would do just that.