The 2021 NFL season has been disappointing for the Denver Broncos. The Broncos entered the campaign with playoff hopes and instead sit at 5-5 heading into their Week 12 home tilt vs. the Los Angeles Chargers.
Denver's level of inconsistency on a weekly basis from the team has been maddening and now the expectations are low despite the fact the team controls its fate to make the playoffs. Five of the Broncos' seven remaining games are vs. divisional opponents.
With expectations so low, Mile High Huddle is doing what it doturning its attention to the 2022 NFL draft. George Paton's first draft haul as Broncos GM appears to be a home-run class, though it's obviously still way too early to make any overarching declarations.
However, the Broncos are getting great play from multiple rookies, showing why Paton has been viewed as a great talent evaluator. As things stand currently, the Broncos have 11 total picks in the 2022 draft, though this mock draft focuses on just the first three rounds, where the team has five picks.
The Broncos possess their own first-rounder, second, and third-round picks while also having the Los Angeles Rams' second and third-round picks from the Von Miller trade. Without further ado, let's dive into this three-round mock.
Round 1: David Ojabo | Edge | Michigan
While his teammate Aidan Hutchinson garners the lion's share of the attention, Ojabo has been playing lights out. He has 10 sacks on the season, with five forced fumbles, three pass deflections, and 30 tackles.
Ojabo is an exceptional athlete that fires off the snap quickly, which makes him hard for offensive tackles to block. While he doesn't have much production defending the run, his technique is excellent. It's a matter of timing and execution to get off blocks and be more impactful. The ability is there to be a great run defender, he just needs more consistency.
In Denver's post-Miller era, the team has a huge need for pass rusher help. Bradley Chubb has been injured, while Malik Reed and Jonathon Cooper have struggled to be a consistent force. Ojabo could help fill the void at the edge position with Miller no longer in town.
Round 2: Carson Strong | QB | Nevada
Strong is viewed as one of the better quarterback prospects in this class, though concerns about his knee could cause him to fall. He's had multiple surgeries on his knee after initially injuring it in high school.
While he hasn't missed much time at Nevada, it is a significant concern for NFL teams that likely causes him to fall. However, outside of the knee, Strong has just about everything you want in a quarterback with a strong arm and good reads.
While he isn't the most mobile quarterback, Strong does well to maneuver around the pocket to avoid pressure while keeping his eyes downfield. Denver has the weapons locked up to help ease him along with his transition to the NFL while taking advantage of what he brings to the table.
Unfortunately, the knee caused Strong to fall, and this was a point where the risk was worth taking since quarterback is the most valuable position in sports. The Broncos are expected to target a veteran quarterback in the offseason and this mock isn't projecting that. There wasn't a quarterback worth taking when the Broncos picked in the first round, but one fell to them in the second round.
Round 2: Brandon Smith | ILB | Penn State
With three of the Broncos' linebackers set to be free agents, there's a void to be filled. Smith will likely test extremely well athletically during the pre-draft process and end up with a high RAS score, which the Broncos have gravitated towards. Pairing him with Baron Browning would give the Broncos an extremely athletic linebacker corps with tremendous upside in coverage.
Smith's run defense is excellent while his coverage is where he needs work, primarily with his feel. He can overcome some early losses with how athletic he is, but improving the mental aspect to coverage could see him make big plays. Even if Denver brought back one of its linebackers, Smith still makes sense as a year of learning could do wonders for him on the field.
Round 3: Daniel Faalele | OT | Minnesota
There are not many players of Faalele's size as he is 6-foot-9 and about 400 pounds — before trimming down to around 370 pounds before the season. The work to drop his weight has shown up on tape, improving his balance, flexibility, and movement skills. While the technique can still be hit or miss, Faalele's had to play against some formidable pass rushers this season and has more than held his own.
If the Broncos want to focus on being bullies up-front with a power running game, putting Faalele next to Quinn Meinerz could do wonders to open up that side of the field. Despite his height, Faalele plays with good leverage most of the time by keeping his pad level low and playing with a good bend. This would be a move to try and solve the Broncos' issues at right tackle that have plagued them for years.
Round 3: Tariq Woolen | CB | UTSA
Woolen is the best cornerback that no one is talking about. He measures in at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, which makes his appearance on The Athletic's 'Freak List' so jaw-dropping. He ran a laser-timed 4.34 40-yard dash at that size, topping out at 23.33 MPH and ran the 10-yard split in 0.9 seconds.
The kid is fast, and it shows up on tape, but more than that, he isn't afraid to be physical. In coverage, Woolen has been targeted 34 times allowing 21 catches for 245 yards and one touchdown, but he has also intercepted one pass, broken up three more, and allowed a passer rating of 81.1 when targeted.
Missed tackles can be an issue, but he can be a solid player in the NFL if a coaching staff can clean up his technique. This is a prospect that could hear his name called in Round 2 come draft time.
After three rounds in this mock draft, the Broncos walked away with some key additions at positions of need. On top of that, Denver let the board fall to them, with all five players being graded higher than where they were selected.
When the NFL draft arrives, it wouldn't be shocking if three of these picks belong to another team because they'd be included in a trade for a veteran quarterback, like, say, Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson.
Follow Erick on Twitter @ErickTrickel.
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