The Denver Broncos may be picking in the top five of the NFL Draft, but that has more to do with inept quarterback play than a roster in need of an overhaul. From a defensive perspective, Denver boasts one of the best units in the NFL with Pro Bowl-caliber talent at every level. Offensively there are pieces in place but no triggerman to keep the unit on schedule.
General manager John Elway has failed to find an adequate quarterback since Peyton Manning retired. It’s time for that to change and stop wasting a championship-caliber defense. While Denver figures to be firmly in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, there is no guarantee it will ultimately land the prized free agent. For the sake of this mock draft, let’s assume Cousins signs elsewhere.
Using the FanSpeak On The Clock Mock Draft Simulator, here is one realistic scenario that would make sense for the Broncos.
Round 1, pick 5: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Elway has managed the Broncos’ quarterback position poorly after Peyton Manning. Paxton Lynch was never worthy of a first-round selection, and relying on Trevor Siemian as the bridge quarterback is laughable. In the meantime, Denver is wasting a championship defense.
Elway could right the ship by turning in the card for Mayfield, who is an exciting passer. His accuracy to all levels of the field and ability to make plays off-script are tremendous. A fiery competitor, Mayfield could take the offense to new heights and turn Denver into an immediate threat again in the AFC West.
Round 2, pick 40: Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
After investing in its quarterback of the future in the first round, protecting him and building the rushing attack are the next priorities. Hernandez can immediately step in at left guard and provide a dominant run blocker alongside Garrett Bolles.
Round 3, pick 71: Fred Warner, LB, BYU
Denver is in need of a rangy linebacker who can drop into pass coverage alongside Brandon Marshall. Warner can fill that position and solidify the second level of the Broncos’ defense.
Round 4, pick 102: John Kelly, RB, Tennessee
The Broncos can wait until early Day 3 to add to the backfield — Kelly would be an outstanding fit.
Kelly runs with terrific balance and power in his north-south style of attack. His ability to deal with wave after wave of tacklers and continue to battle is impressive. Offering three-down upside, his hands and route-running skills are excellent and he excels in pass protection.
Round 4, pick 105: Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Lotulelei was a more highly regarded prospect entering the season but failed to take the next step as a senior. With that said, he still offers outstanding power at the point of attack and can eventually take over for Domata Peko at nose tackle. Peko becomes a free agent after next season.
Round 5, pick 133: Durham Smythe, TE, Notre Dame
Even if Jake Butt proves he’s healthy and a viable starter, the Broncos’ depth chart is lacking at the tight end position. Smythe is among the top blockers in the class and offers underrated receiving upside. He is the perfect complement to a healthy Butt.
Round 6, pick 168: Will Richardson, OT, North Carolina State
A 6-foot-6, 322-pound four-year starter in the ACC, Richardson is a developmental tackle who offers upside to become a starter in time. He can step in and become the backup to Bolles and Menelik Watson as the swing tackle.
Round 7, pick 199: Greg Stroman, CB, Virginia Tech
Coming from Bud Foster’s defense at Virginia Tech, Stroman has the upside to play inside or outside. He has outstanding ball skills, good route anticipation, and is willing to play physically. He is a tad undersized and lacks long speed, but Stroman has a natural feel in coverage and can provide quality depth for Denver.