Broncos’ Rumored Draft Target Draws Ominous Comparison to Super Bowl QB

The Denver Broncos may want to pump the brakes on their rumored interest in one of the top quarterback targets in the 2024 draft.

Denver has been increasingly tied to former Michigan Wolverine J.J. McCarthy. But they may want to temper that interest amid the conflicting reports first about his ceiling, and then about the interest in him around the league.

“Remember when Colin Kaepernick was with (Jim) Harbaugh out in San Francisco?’’ former NFL quarterback Jim Miller said, per 9News’ Mike Klis on March 31. “Everything was a fastball. He could never make touch throws. He could never go up and down, over the linebacker because everything was a three-quarter (delivery) fastball. (McCarthy’s) a lot like that and he misses a lot of throws over the middle where he’s behind the receiver.”

Circling back to watching JJ McCarthy.
This time vs. Indiana 2023.
Boy did they give him trouble early. Michigan pass protection was 🗑️but also off target throws, poor pocket manipulation, missed reads.
But he gets it going eventually with a Sunday throw into a Sunday window 🎯 pic.twitter.com/iR1qAv3F82

— Dan Schneier (@DanSchneierNFL) March 28, 2024

Kaepernick notably never completed more than 62.4% of his passes in six NFL seasons.

He completed 58.4% of his passes in leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013, going 12-4 with a career-high 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

The 49ers ranked 30th in passing yards that season. The league’s No. 3-ranked rushing attack – which Kaepernick was a big part of – and the No. 5 overall defense sparked their run to the Super Bowl, not the quarterback’s passing ability.

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He had the fewest among passers with at least 58 starts from 2011 to 2016, per Stathead.

Critics have pointed to McCarthy’s lack of exposure as a passer at Michigan. His 22.1 attempts per game in 2023 were the fewest among the top QB prospects the Broncos could select in the draft.

Much like Harbaugh’s 49ers, this past season’s Wolverines were keyed by their rushing attack – Michigan back Blake Corum finished seventh in carries – and a stout defense that allowed the fewest points in the nation.

McCarthy has supporters too, though.

Chris Simms: ‘You Can’t Look at Stats’ With J.J. McCarthy

GettyJ.J. McCarthy #9 of the Michigan Wolverines.

NBC Sports’ Chris Simms also pointed to the system McCarthy played in as a hindrance to what he could be at the next level.

“There’s so many things he does well. You can’t look at stats,” Simms said on the “Chris Simms Unbuttoned” podcast on March 8. “It’s Michigan, the way they played. It’s not sexy, it’s not conducive to ‘quarterback-friendly’. ‘Quarterback-friendly’ and Michigan with Jim Harbaugh as head coach do not go together in the same sentence.

“That’s what’s awesome too. Because you gotta be mentally tough, know how to play the game. And really he’s played the game like a NFL football player the last few years already. It’s not always easy to play the way he played.”

Miller also said teams would like McCarthy’s pedigree.

“I’m not saying he can’t win games and can’t win at the next level,” Miller said. “Because he ran a structured offense at Michigan and I’m sure a lot of teams like that.”

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McCarthy could very well slide closer to the Broncos’ current draft slot. They have the No. 12 overall pick as things stand. That could make trading up to get him less expensive barring the break out of a bidding war.

McCarthy rode a postseason rise in analyst mock draft boards.

His processing ability garnered comparisons to former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. And his projected draft slot got as high as No. 2 overall to the Washington Commanders. That chatter has cooled considerably.

J.J. McCarthy Could Slide Closer to Broncos’ Pick in Draft

GettyJ.J. McCarthy #9 of the Michigan Wolverines.

Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith reported on April 2 that North Carolina’s Drake Maye had regained his slot as the projected No. 2 quarterback to come off the board on FanDuel.

Reigning Heisman-winner Jayden Daniels – Miller’s top-ranked quarterback prospect in the class – had jumped into that slot behind Caleb Williams much in a way that McCarthy has in recent days.

But the doubt about McCarthy’s rise is permeating NFL circles more.

“I’ve talked to a lot of scouts,” an anonymous AFC executive said, per The Athletic’s Alec Lewis on “#92Noon!” on April 1. “I think a lot of that, him being picked that high, is [media creation].”

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