ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Paxton Lynch is stepping into the long shadows of John Elway, Peyton Manning — and maybe even Mark Sanchez.
The Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos selected the Memphis quarterback with the 26th overall pick of the first round in the NFL draft Thursday night.
Elway said he still might add another veteran quarterback to the mix but declared that Lynch’s selection puts an end to Denver’s dalliance with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Elway called Paxton a “big, athletic, strong young guy that fits us perfectly” after engineering a trade to select the quarterback whom scouts say needs some seasoning.
Lynch, who is 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds with a strong arm and nimble legs, is considered an ideal fit for coach Gary Kubiak’s play-action offense. The question is: how soon will he develop into the starter?
Kubiak insisted Lynch will compete for the starting job right away with Sanchez, whom the Broncos acquired two months ago from Philadelphia, and 2015 seventh-rounder Trevor Siemian, who took just one snap as a rookie last year.
“They’re all going to compete,” Kubiak said. “The great thing about our situation with Mark and Trevor and Paxton now is they’re all coming up together. Even though Mark’s a veteran player, he’s new in our system so the growth together will be a good situation for all three of them.
“But there are no givens on our team. Everybody competes and I’m expecting him to come in here and make up some ground really quickly.”
The Broncos found themselves searching for a quarterback after Brock Osweiler bolted to the Houston Texans in free agency just 48 hours after Manning retired.
This marked the first time in his six seasons as general manager that Elway chose an offensive player with his top pick.
Lynch said he knows he’s stepping into a QB-crazed town.
“There have been a lot of great quarterbacks that have come through Denver and a good one obviously last year with Peyton,” Lynch said. “So, I know there are a lot of shoes to fill. But I’m glad I’m on a team now and I’m ready to go up there and get to work.”
Lynch insisted he’ll be a quick study in the NFL, too.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a project,” Lynch said, “but obviously every quarterback coming out of college has stuff they need to work on and they’re not primed for the NFL just because they’ve never played in that system. I don’t think any quarterback is ready, so I guess you could technically say every quarterback’s a project. But there are some good quarterbacks on the roster, so I know that will be good competition between all of us.”
While fans fretted for the last two months about who would lead the Broncos’ Super Bowl title defense, Elway stayed patient, explaining he had faith in Sanchez and Siemian and also wanted to keep his options open.
Despite valuable defensive players sliding down the board, Lynch was his top target all along, Elway said.
He began working the phones at noon and started trying to trade up with the Atlanta Falcons at No. 17 before finally finding a trade partner in Seattle at No. 26.
He sent the Seahawks the final pick of the first round and a third-rounder (94th overall) to move up five spots. That leaves him with two selections Friday, one in the second round and one in the third.
“Paxton was the guy that we had targeted. So it was a long night,” Elway said. “It was a long couple of months, actually.”
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton