Joe Flacco says he’ll prove he’s the starter whether Broncos draft a QB or not

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — You just might have to excuse Joe Flacco at the moment, because if you listen closely, tucked somewhere in the calm demeanor is a guy staring down a potential repeat of history.

A guy who already has made it clear he believes he’s the Denver Broncos‘ quarterback of the present no matter if the team uses the No. 10 pick next Thursday in the NFL draft on a quarterback of the future, and a guy who pretty much said bring it on.

“If we do, that’s completely out of my control,” Flacco said this week. “I’m going to go out here and compete. He’s going to have to come out here and be on the field with me every day, too, and I’m ready for that.”

The Broncos sent a fourth-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens earlier this offseason to acquire Flacco after the one-year audition of Case Keenum didn’t go as well as the team had hoped in a 6-10 meltdown. Flacco is now in line to be the fifth quarterback to start a regular-season game for the team since Peyton Manning retired after the 2015 season.

And the biggest reason the Broncos were able to trade a middle-round draft pick for a quarterback who has started 178 games, playoffs included, and been a Super Bowl MVP, is because the Ravens selected a quarterback — Lamar Jackson — with the final pick in the first round of last year’s draft. Flacco got hurt, Jackson went in the lineup, then Flacco got healthy and Jackson stayed in the lineup and helped win the AFC North.

While Flacco handled it all with professional grace and has made it clear since his arrival in Denver, he believes he can still play “at a high level and win games” and aims to prove it to his new teammates.

“I think I had a pretty good outlook on it last year,” Flacco said. “… I want to get this team to be the best it is with me at the quarterback position; obviously, that’s not of the most importance to draft a quarterback.”

But the Broncos, for the second year in a row, hold a top-10 pick and do not have a quarterback on their roster they selected in the draft. They’ve swung and missed on Paxton Lynch, shipped out Trevor Siemian after he beat Lynch out twice for the starting job, briefly tried a second stint with Brock Osweiler and sent Keenum on his way after one season.

They also have had this draft’s top quarterbacks — Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, Missouri’s Drew Lock and Duke’s Daniel Jones — to the team complex for visits in recent weeks. Murray and Haskins could be selected among the draft’s first 10 picks and the Broncos have to decide overall whether either one of them is worth their pick.

“I don’t really care if they take a quarterback or not, whether it’s [at No.] 10 or whatnot. The only thing I care about is, like I said, I want this team to be as good as it can with me at quarterback,” Flacco said. “So if we feel like as a team, as an organization, we can add value to our team with the 10th pick, then I’m all for getting a guy who can add value to the team with me as the understood quarterback.”

Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway, who has spent some time on the sideline this week watching Flacco go through his first minicamp with the team, has called Flacco a “perfect fit” for the offense.

Flacco said he’ll be on a plane, back to see his family, next Thursday as the first round of the draft unfolds.

“It’s my job — the first thing I want to do is prove to everyone on this football team, the guys that play on this field, that I can play and I can be their quarterback,” Flacco said. “Because then anything is possible. If they really believe that I’m the guy — I believe that I’m the guy — if they start to believe that I’m the guy, that’s when your leadership can take off and your team can take off … I just have to keep my head down and play football, and those things will happen.”

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