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Six years ago, Paxton Lynch had just turned 22 years old and was only a couple of months away from being tapped as the future of the reigning Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. And on Tuesday, the 28-year-old quarterback was tapped to be Shea Patterson’s backup with the Michigan Panthers of the new edition of the USFL.

Now, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that’s probably not the career trajectory Lynch had in mind when he left Memphis early to pursue a career in professional football. But that’s where we are, ladies and gentlemen. Once the 26th pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, Lynch was taken with the 101st and final selection of the first day of the USFL Draft. But hey, it’s still a gig as a pro football player, right?

So how did Lynch get to this point? Let’s take a quick look, shall we?

Paxton Lynch was the 26th pick of the 2016 NFL Draft and seen as the Denver Broncos’ replacement for Peyton Manning

Paxton Lynch scrambles for the ball for the Denver Broncos in a matchup with the Atlanta Falcons in October 2016
Quarterback Paxton Lynch of the Denver Broncos recovers his own fumble in the second quarter of the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Sports Authority Field at Mile High | Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Following a stellar career at the University of Memphis, where he threw for 8,863 yards with 59 touchdowns against 23 interceptions in three seasons, also adding 687 yards and 17 scores on the ground, Lynch chose to forgo his final year of eligibility and entered the 2016 NFL Draft.

Expected to be the third quarterback taken behind Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, who were taken with the first two picks, respectively, the 6-foot-7, 244-pounder was indeed the third signal-caller off the board. After losing Manning to retirement following their Super Bowl 50 victory, the Broncos traded up in a deal with the Seattle Seahawks to nab Lynch with the 26th pick of the first round.

Just to put what comes next in perspective, Lynch was taken ahead of the likes of Derrick Henry and Michael Thomas. And he was also selected 109 spots ahead of Dak Prescott.

He appeared in just five NFL games

Lynch was given a chance to win the starting job in Denver as a rookie but lost out to Trevor Siemian, the 250th pick of the 2015 NFL Draft. He got his first chance to play in a regular-season game in Week 4 of the 2016 season when Siemian went down with a shoulder injury, completing 14 of 24 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown in a 27-7 victory.

Lynch made his first NFL start the following week and completed 23 of 35 passes for 223 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a 23-16 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. He was sacked six times in the game, a franchise rookie record. He returned to the bench the following week as Siemian returned from injury. Lynch made an additional start in Week 13 against the Jacksonville Jaguars when Siemian was again out with an injury, completing 12 of 24 passes for 104 yards with no TDs and no picks.

During the 2017 preseason, Lynch injured his shoulder and wasn’t on the active roster until Week 11. Brock Osweiler, who won Super Bowl 50 with Denver but played the 2016 campaign with the Houston Texans, had returned to the Broncos, giving Lynch yet another QB with whom to compete. But he did make two starts and completed 30 of 45 passes for 295 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. His appearance against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 31, 2017, was his last.

Lynch was demoted to third-string after Denver’s first preseason outing in 2018 and was cut ahead of the start of the regular season. After nobody picked him up in 2018, he signed with the Seattle Seahawks in 2019 but was waived during final cuts. He then latched on with the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad. Lynch was once promoted to the active roster but never saw a second of playing time. He was released by Pittsburgh ahead of the 2020 regular season.

Lynch’s 792 passing yards are the fewest by a quarterback drafted in the first round from 2000 to 2019.

Lynch was the 101st and final player taken on Day 1 of the USFL Draft


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In June 2021, Lynch signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL. But just as it was the last few years of his NFL career, he never took a single regular-season snap. He was actually the team’s third-string quarterback and was inactive the entire season.

The Texas native recently requested and was granted his release from the team to enter the USFL portal. As his agent explained on Twitter, Lynch thinks it will be easier on his family if he returns to the United States.

For those unaware, the USFL Draft format is quite interesting. Instead of just picking any player from the portal, each of the eight teams must choose a player at a specific position in every round. For example, Tuesday’s first round was designated for only quarterbacks. Michigan’s Shea Patterson was taken with the No. 1 overall pick by the Michigan Panthers.

Rounds 2-4 were reserved for edge rushers/defensive ends. Rounds 5-7 were reserved for offensive tackles. And Rounds 8-11 were reserved for cornerbacks. The 12th and final round of the day was reserved again for only quarterbacks. And with the 101st and last pick of the afternoon (there were a few compensatory picks thrown in), the Michigan Panthers selected Mr. Paxton Lynch.

Oddly enough, Brady White, who was the quarterback at Memphis from 2018 to 2020, was taken at No. 100 by the Tampa Bay Bandits.

Given his ties to the state, it’s already assumed that Patterson will be the Panthers’ starting QB when the team’s ten-game season kicks off in April. It’s been quite the fall for Lynch, but perhaps he’ll get his chance here at some point. Or maybe he asks for his release from the Panthers at some point when the new XFL truly gets going. Or perhaps this is his last shot at a life in pro football. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.

Stats courtesy of Sports Reference