NFL News & Analysis

What QB Bo Nix can do for the Denver Broncos

2TA8CX8 Oregon Ducks quarter back Bo Nix (10) drops back to pass during a college football regular season game against the Oregon State Beavers, Friday, November 24, 2023, at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, OR. (Brandon Sloter/Image of Sport) Photo via Newscom

• Pressure is no match for Bo Nix: Of the 11 drafted quarterbacks in 2024, Nix stands well above the pack with an 86.2 pressured passing grade over the past two seasons.

• Nix will fit in with Sean Payton's philosophy: The Oregon product's 95.5 passing grade on throws of 20-plus yards downfield ranked third in the class, and his 28.3% big-time throw rate on such plays placed fourth.

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The Denver Broncos quarterback room heading into the 2024 NFL Draft was one of the league's worst on paper. While it wasn’t a surprise to see the team add a quarterback during the three-day event — and especially Oregon's Bo Nix, as the two were linked throughout the draft process — the fact it happened at No. 12 overall was unexpected.

Nix was reportedly the third quarterback on the Broncos' big board, after Caleb Williams and Jayden Daniels. NFL teams' boards widely vary, but considering that Nix was arguably the best quarterback in college football over the past two seasons, the Broncos may have ended up with their answer after years of searching in the post-Peyton Manning era.

Play Under Pressure

NFL quarterbacks must be able to perform when the pressure is on. Pressure comes in many forms: pressure of the situation and physical pressure in the presence of a pass rusher or a closing pocket. Nix was the best signal-caller in the nation in the latter over the past two seasons.

His 86.2 pressured passing grade was the best of the 11 quarterbacks drafted in 2024, far exceeding Michael Penix Jr.‘s 65.1 mark that ranked second. His completion percentage was also the highest, at 55.4%, with he and the Minnesota VikingsJ.J. McCarthy being the only quarterbacks in the class above 50%. His passer rating, accuracy rate and uncatchable throw rate were all also tops in the class.

Quarterback Pressured Passing Grade (2022-23)
Bo Nix, Oregon 86.2
Michael Penix Jr., Washington 65.1
Drake Maye, North Carolina 61.3
Caleb Williams, USC 61.0
Joe Milton III, Tennessee 61.0

If there is a knock on Nix, it's that his average depth of target was by far the lowest in the class, at 9.9 yards. The shorter the throw, the easier it is to be accurate. That said, finding a positive play when under pressure is key, and no one was better than Nix at doing that over the past two years.

The Oregon offense generated a positive play on 47.8% of his pressured dropbacks, with the Michigan offense ranking a distant second (41.6%). The 0.276 expected points added per pressured dropback was light-years better than Michigan’s -0.017. Nix handled pressure like a seasoned pro in college, a good indicator that he’ll be able to transfer the skill set to the NFL.

How Nix fits with Sean Payton

A Sean Payton offense is all about the quick game, a dedication to the run game and taking shots deep downfield. The quick game is heavy on stick and spacing concepts, two plays Oregon ran frequently and from which Nix excelled. Nix already does a good job with his pre-snap reads and avoids negative plays, traits Payton covets at the position.

Drew Brees, arguably the most accurate quarterback in NFL history, accomplished that with incredible anticipation and footwork. Nix will still need to improve in those areas at the NFL level, as he tends to fade away from throws when he doesn’t need to and occasionally gets sloppy with his footwork.

The shot plays Payton likes to call can be executed by Nix at a high level. His 95.5 passing grade on throws of 20-plus yards downfield ranked third in the class, and his 28.3% big-time throw rate on such plays placed fourth. Payton doesn’t marry this with play action very often, producing the third-lowest rate in the NFL with Drew Brees and just a 22.8% clip with Russell Wilson in 2023.

Click here to see Bo Nix's 2024 NFL Draft profile.

What to Expect

Nix should be the day-one starter for the Broncos in 2024. While drafting a quarterback early is often a tell-tale sign of that, sometimes the roster doesn’t need it (looking at you, Atlanta). Nix, on the other hand, walks into a quarterback room with very little competition for the starting job.

Wide receiver Courtland Sutton is reportedly unhappy with his contract, but if he’s on the field for the Broncos, he is a reliable, big-bodied threat to go along with elite deep weapon Marvin Mims Jr. Tim Patrick returns from multiple injuries the past two years and can be a good intermediate target for Nix. The Broncos also drafted Troy Franklin, an Oregon wide receiver with whom Nix will immediately have chemistry.

Nix will endure his struggles as any rookie does, but if Denver can protect him, he has quality receiving options to distribute the ball to and can develop into a reliable NFL starting quarterback.


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