Jussel: Tebow needs to dazzle or Broncos will take QB from strong draft crop

Bye, as in Bye Week.

Bye, as in goodbye … Kyle Orton. We hardly knew ye.

Hello, Tim Tebow Era.

Yes, Tim Tebow Time is upon us, although it won’t officially start today, instead being on hold until the Denver Broncos actually play a game in Miami next Sunday.

The fairy tale will come true on a day in which the Dolphins actually plan to honor Tebow and the 2009 University of Florida national title team on which the new Bronco starting quarterback played a somewhat large part.

The burning question now: How long will this Tebow Time last? We won’t know that for weeks piled upon weeks, more likely months piled upon months.

Best-case scenario would have Tebow Time lasting a decade plus.

His audition for a starring role, assuming he stays healthy (knock on wood), is now set to last 11 games, enough for John Fox, John Elway, et al, to answer said burning question.

Denver’s brain trust absolutely needs an answer to that question for three reasons:

1.) Andrew Luck;

2.) Landry Jones;

3.) Matt Barkley.

Lest you’ve not been paying attention, those three gentlemen are college quarterbacks … and good ones at that.

Luck, the Stanford star, might be the most-anticipated draft-eligible quarterback since fellow Stanford grad Elway. He is 6-foot-4, 235 pounds of arm, legs and brain all rolled into one package.

College scouting service Scouts Inc., has him as the surefire top pick in the draft despite being a junior (he also would have been the top pick in the last draft) with a grade of 99 out of 100. If you want to compare him in style and attitude to an NFL quarterback you are familiar with, again, think Elway.

Barring a trade of majestic proportion, however, Denver won’t be in position to draft Luck because the Broncos are not going to finish behind all of the struggling teams like Indy (0-5), Miami (0-4) and St. Louis (0-4). Add 1-4 squads like Minnesota, Carolina, Arizona and Jacksonville and Denver’s chances of earning the Luck-y pick are remote at best.

Jones, Oklahoma’s junior standout, isn’t far behind Luck and may well be in play for Denver in the draft. Jones, at 6-4 and 230 pounds, is the third-ranked draft-eligible player according to Scouts Inc., with 95 out of 100 points. He is rated below Luck only because he isn’t quite as mobile. If you want to compare him to an NFL quarterback from what I’ve seen, think Peyton Manning. One could do worse.

Barkley, also an underclassman and at Southern Cal, is a bit shorter than Luck and Jones, but still 6-2 and 220 pounds, plenty big enough to play in the NFL. He would be available in the middle to later stages of the first round.

Of the three, Jones would be the most logical choice for Denver in the upcoming draft, going anywhere in the first round pending individual team needs from second to fifth or sixth — if Tebow doesn’t impress.

Let’s be optimistic and say Tebow leads the Broncos to four, five or six wins the remainder of the season and proves he is worthy of being the face of the franchise. Denver doesn’t have to draft a quarterback and can concentrate instead on improving the rest of the squad.

There will be plenty of talent where the Broncos need help, ranging from North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, a 285-pound pass rusher extraordinaire, to corners Morris Claiborne of LSU and Janoris Jackson of Northern Alabama, to defensive tackle Brandon Thompson of Clemson. Denver’s defense would get an immediate boost from any of those players.

And if the Broncos would want to go offensive, running back Trent Richardson of Alabama and wide receiver Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State are can’t-miss prospects and would fit Denver’s needs.

Offensive tackle Matt Kalil of Southern Cal is rated almost on par as an NFL prospect as Luck, although the Broncos would appear to be well set at the tackle spots.

Denver’s front office and coaching staff have vowed to build through the draft, a process that will take roughly three years to become competitive with the likes of the Chargers and the rapidly improving Raiders in the AFC West.

That process is already one year in, with this year’s class of rookies impressive and gaining experience by the day.

Although improvement is not always evident when a team starts 1-4, the Broncos do have a start.

Now the most pressing need is that answer at quarterback — and it would certainly save at least one year in the rebuilding process if the answer to all the above is Tim Tebow.

Rick Jussel is the former sports editor at The Daily Sentinel. Email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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