Any time a former 1st Round QB does something, it’s news. Naturally, when the Denver Broncos’ 26th overall selection from the 2016 Draft made his way up to Canada people took notice.
While I think the Roughriders is a good fit for Pax, I think it’s also important to temper expectations as well. 2019 West Division Most Outstanding Player: Cody Fajardo remains entrenched as this team’s franchise quarterback, and is among the brightest rising stars in the CFL. He’s currently signed through 2022, and if he replicates his 2019 breakout season a longer extension is all but guaranteed.
Fajardo is a massive part of the reason why Saskatchewan is ranked 2nd in the CFL’s initial power rankings, and the fact that Paxton Lynch is a recognizable name in America won’t change any of that. Furthermore, incumbent backup Isaac Harker is entering his second straight season as QB2 and is more familiar with both OC Jason Maas’ offense and the CFL game.
Lynch’s biggest asset has always been his physical tools, and while his athleticism, big frame, and big arm are what earned him spots in Denver, then Seattle and Pittsburgh his processing and decision making were what needed work.
As a Broncos fan, it seemed the key issues were vision and ball placement. These are battles that all young QB prospects have to push through as they adjust to the NFL game, but Lynch has yet to prove he can adjust to the pros after a successful run at Memphis.
Though hopes were high for Lynch after the 2016 draft, he was edged out for the starting job in Denver by Trevor Siemian in back to back years, then by Chad Kelly for the backup job after the team signed veteran Case Keenum. There were also questions surrounding his commitment to the game, and it seemed that he was out-worked by Siemian in the offseasons. A first round pick who lost his spot on the depth chart to 7th round picks in 3 straight years is clearly a prospect in need of more development, and while he’s in a good situation as QB3 here, he’s got a ways to go.
I appreciate his candor and humility in saying that moving to the CFL has been an adjustment, because while Canada may offer opportunities for players looking to continue their careers, it is certainly not “easier” competition. In fact, for a quarterback looking to improve their ability to read defenses, having to factor for 12 defenders makes that an even taller order.
Like I said, I think this is a good situation for the 27 year old passer who can sit and learn the new aspects of the game behind an established 1-2 at quarterback. Adjusting to the new field, rules, looks and motions in the CFL will be a process, but I do believe he has talent to offer this league. If he can dial in his cannon of an arm, learn to read defenses and work hard in his role, Paxton Lynch could become a quality player in the CFL. It seems like he’s already made a good impression in Saskatchewan, as our own Matt Lyons quoted HC Craig Dickerson saying:
“You don’t want a guy that comes up here thinking he’s going to dominate and gets a dose of reality, but that’s not Paxton, he knows he’s going to have to work, prepare and play well to compete against these guys.”
With his natural talents, the CFL could become a great fit for him, his field-stretching arm and his scrambling ability. TSN’s Dave Naylor mentioned a couple of key points, first that Lynch was limited by injuries in Denver, and also had 3 offensive coordinators in 2 years, the combination of which surely impacted his development. Second, that 9 other NFL first round QB’s have made their way to Canada without much success before Lynch. I have no doubt it will be a challenge for him, but with this opportunity could come out of the other side a much better player, and I wish the best for him in Saskatchewan.
Interestingly, Lynch is actually the third quarterback who’s played in both Denver and Saskatchewan, after Frank Tripucka in the 50s-60s and John Hufnagel, who played in both cities back in the 70s before his coaching days.
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