Each year, The Athletic's Dane Brugler releases a seven-round mock draft just a couple of weeks before the main event. His latest dropped on Thursday. Brugler is one of the most plugged-in journalists in draft media so it's worth paying attention to which prospects he has teams taking.
This article will reveal Brugler's seven-round mock featuring the Denver Broncos' selections and will include the value of each prospect and what information was gleaned from all 32 NFL teams. I'll mix a few of my own thoughts in as we go but if nothing else, I'd recommend paying attention to the positions that he targets for each team.
Brugler nailed the Broncos’ first-round pick last year, predicting Jerry Jeudy to land in Denver. In 2019, Brugler got the pick right for Denver as well — just in the wrong round — as he had them taking Drew Lock at pick 10.
Who does Brugler have the Broncos taking with each selection this year? Let's dive in.
Round 1 | Pick 9: Justin Fields | QB | Ohio State
“How seriously are the Broncos considering a quarterback at No. 9? With a first-year general manager in George Paton (and John Elway not completely out of the picture), it is tough to know. But Drew Lock hasn’t done enough to secure the starting job and Fields’ talent might be too good to pass up.”
Analysis: Brugler did not allow trades in this mock draft. If this ended up being the pick at No. 9 overall with no trade-up needed, it would be a home run for the Broncos. Denver's been linked to Fields by quite a few around the league, and rumored to be interested in trading up, so not sacrificing any kind of capital while still getting the guy would be shocking if this is how it truly played out on April 29.
Fields has been a star from the second he set foot on the football field his junior year of high school. He has not disappointed along the way, showing that he has most everything you could look for in a quarterback: arm strength, athleticism, accuracy, intelligence, toughness, and a hard-working attitude (this has been questioned by some, but those closest to him have shot this down).
One of the biggest advantages of a decision like this would be that the Broncos will now have two gifted players at the quarterback position competing for the chance to be the future of the organization. Whoever won the job between Lock and Fields would stand a great chance at success with all the weapons around them.
Whoever loses would give the Broncos a nice trade piece moving forward. We saw this offseason that quarterbacks, even those coming off a bad year, still commanded huge value on the trade market.
Round 2 | Pick 40: Jabril Cox | LB | LSU
Analysis: There are many reasons this pick makes a lot of sense for the Broncos. Cox is one of the most athletic linebackers in a class that is loaded with athletic players at the position.
Cox has 6-foot-3 length and the speed to stay with some of the top receiving tight ends in the AFC West like Darren Waller and Travis Kelce while also having the size to hold up in the trenches when called upon. Cox still has some development to do when it comes to his run defense, but on day one with the Broncos, he could be played to his strength of helping in the pass game.
One of the underrated reasons the Broncos are likely to be interested in Cox is the fact that he has been a captain on defense everywhere he has gone. In high school, at North Dakota State, and even his lone year at LSU, he was able to win over his teammates trust and be the true general in the middle of the defense. I personally don’t have Cox this high on my big board, but this value is not far off and solves one of the biggest holes on the defense still remaining.
Round 3 | Pick 71: Walker Little | OT | Stanford
Analysis: This is an interesting pick for the Broncos. There is no denying that Walker Little has plenty of talent to play in the NFL. He is big, strong, smart, and athletic. All of those traits are exactly what you want in a developmental tackle prospect.
There are two big issues that make me a little hesitant to be satisfied with this pick by Brugler. The first being that Little does have some injury history that caused him to miss most of the 2019 season. He went down in Stanford's season-opener after showing huge promise his first two years in college.
In fact, he was the first in Stanford history to start as a freshman at the left tackle position. He then went on to earn All-Pac 12 honors his sophomore year. This injury concern is compounded by the fact he chose to then opt out of this past season, meaning his last real work in college football was clear back in 2018.
Right now the Broncos are scheduled to have Ja'Wuan James start at right tackle so barring an injury, it could mean that Little has three years to go before truly being expected to start or garner meaningful snaps.
I trust in Broncos' O-line coach Mike Munchak to maximize a player like Little, but there are less-risky options that were still available at the tackle position when Brugler made this selection.
Round 4 | Pick 114: Michael Carter | RB | North Carolina
Analysis: This might be my favorite pick Brugler made. I love Fields' talent and believe he'll develop into a star, but Carter fits so well into what the Broncos are missing in the weaponry department. The Draft Network says that Carter's ideal role is as a “complementary, 1B back that is featured in the passing game.”
I couldn't agree more. Carter is the perfect third-down running back that this Broncos offense has been missing for years. He brings speed, vision, and receiving skills to the table and will make teams question whether it is a run or pass whenever he's on the field.
I don't project seeing Carter become a bell-cow running back in the NFL, but he could be a part of the one-two punch at the position that makes the Broncos have one of the best running games in the league. He is a little on the smaller side of things for the position and had a couple of injuries early on in his college career, but over the last two years, very few backs have done more than Carter.
Round 5 | Pick 152: Brandon Stephens | CB | SMU
Analysis: Stephens is not a well-known prospect. Some might remember him more for his work at UCLA where he played running back for the first few years of his college career before transferring to SMU to start at cornerback for two years. As a corner, he showed some promise with his length and decent athleticism.
The fact that Stephens made the transition in the middle of his college career, and did not seem to miss a beat with the switch, has some believing his best days are ahead of him. He also had a few NFL teams viewing him as a possible candidate to switch to safety or nickel at the next level. That versatility could go a long way in helping get him drafted.
Stephens is a project, though, as he was just a bit out of position often when scrutinizing his film. This really showed up in his run defense where he had a missed tackle percentage of 16.7%. However, if he landed in Denver, he wouldn't be asked to start right away, giving the team a year to test him out at a few different spots to see where he could fit in best.
Round 6 | Pick 191: Tarron Jackson | EDGE | Costal Carolina
Analysis: If the Broncos are looking for a great player to back up Bradley Chubb and do a lot of the same things, Jackson is the man for the job. Jackson won't be known for winning with quickness and bend around the edge like Von Miller, but if you need a guy that can hold the edge and win with a powerful first strike against an offensive tackle, he can do that and more.
Jackson's game reminds me a bit of Shaquil Barrett when he first came into the NFL. The Coastal Carolina product would be a solid day-one contributor because of his strength and intelligence on the field.
The two big issues that I would point to in Jackson's game, which are why he is a sixth-round pick here instead of a first-rounder, are that of his limited athleticism which then leads to a bit of a limited ceiling. At this point in the draft, though, the Broncos would be getting good value and one that can really add to the edge rotation.
Round 7 | Picks 237: Damar Hamlin | DB | Pittsburgh
Analysis: Hamlin, at the very least, would give the Broncos another special teams player with some decent upside. He has the size and athleticism that if he learns some of the cerebral parts of the game he could really turn into a hidden gem.
Round 7 | Pick 239: Jalen Camp | WR | Georgia Tech
Analysis: Camp is an athletic freak at the wide receiver position. He is 6-foot-3, 223 pounds, and runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash. Most impressively, he broke the wide receiver record on the bench press with a whopping 30 reps. If a team can figure out how to help him develop as a receiver, he could be the steal of the draft. He has a long way to go in his development, though.
Round 7 | Pick 253: Trey Hill | C | Georgia
Analysis: The final pick for the Broncos, Hill would add some versatility to the offensive line. He played both guard and center for the Bulldogs and shows decent ability to hold his point of contact. He isn’t going to win any foot races by any means, but he could stick in the league for a bit as that nice swing guard/center type of player.
If this is how the Broncos drafted come the end of April, I'd be one happy camper. Fields alone would have most fans extremely excited. He's my QB2 in this draft class and he could quickly become a star if put in the right situation.
Beyond the drafting of Fields, this is still a very solid haul. The Broncos finally get their athletic linebacker and some nice pieces added to the trenches for Bill Kollar and Munchak to develop. There are a few risky picks along the way, but honestly, I'd rather the Broncos take some chances than draft guys with limited ceilings.
The Broncos have a nice solid starting 22 so taking some guys that need time to develop makes a lot of sense this year. Overall, Brugler's draft haul for Denver would fully come down to whether Fields turned into the future for the Broncos. If he hits — the rest of the draft is a bonus added to the overall roster.
Follow Carl on Twitter @CarlDumlerMHH.
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