GM George Paton showed in his first year that he does an excellent job of keeping the true target for the Denver Broncos relatively quiet. While some were able to guess Denver wanted Patrick Surtain II at ninth overall in the 2021 NFL draft, most of the reports had the Broncos going elsewhere.
That unpredictability caught the Dallas Cowboys off-guard as they wanted Surtain, but Denver got him the pick before instead of Dallas moving up to get him. This year, looking around at mock drafts from around the web, uncertainty is a significant factor, but the lack of clarity stretches beyond which prospect(s) is the apple of Paton's eye.
Denver has the uncertainty of who its next head coach will be and what the team will do to acquire a veteran quarterback. If the Broncos get lucky and land Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers, the odds are they won't have pick No. 9 pick anymore.
Looking at credible six mock drafts from around the web, draft analysts have the Broncos drafting all over the place. The Broncos select a prospect at four different positions, but each mock has a different prospect being the selection.
Unfortunately, there isn't any bead on what the Broncos may end up doing with so much unknown at this time. For now, let's go around the web in a mock draft roundup to see what conventional wisdom foresees the Broncos doing on draft day.
George Karlaftis | Edge | Purdue
-Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports
Karlaftis is an NFL-ready, three-down defensive end who can help keep the Broncos pass rush afloat.
Karlaftis is a fun prospect to watch because he is such a physical edge and does an outstanding job converting speed to power. He can provide a boost to a Broncos pass rush that saw Von Miller be the third leading defender in total pressures in 2021, despite being traded about halfway through the season.
There is a concern about length with Karlaftis, and some draft analysts have commented about him falling somewhere on Day 2 due to that length. However, when it's a problem for Karlaftis, it's hard for him to overcome it, and those issues with length were highlighted in a poor performance against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Andrew Booth Jr | CB | Clemson
-Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network
Man, do I hate not getting the Broncos a quarterback here. Looking over Denver's roster, it is quite clear that they have the potential to be a really, really good football team. And yet here they are, picking at No. 9 in the draft after finishing third in the NFL in scoring defense. Naturally, my pick here is on the defense. Hear me out. Andrew Booth Jr. plays a premium position. You know this, Denver fans, as you reaped the benefits of drafting Patrick Surtain II last year in the first round. Great player. Very productive. And with two of your other top cornerbacks (Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan) set to hit free agency this spring, wouldn't it be swell to have ANOTHER good, young, productive outside cornerback to help you defend Justin Herbert, Derek Carr (maybe?), and Patrick Mahomes? I'd like to think so. And until Callahan and Fuller ink new deals, I'm going to take a more talented player (Booth Jr.) over forcing a quarterback. Maybe a veteran will be available via trade with a mid-round pick to help bridge the transition on offense. Thanks for attending my TED talk.
Pairing another young rookie corner with Surtain isn't a terrible idea as it could give Denver a great duo for years if they both pan out. Adding to it is that, according to Paton, finding a franchise corner is harder than quarterback, so taking another shot for that franchise option could make sense.
Joking aside, Booth is a great prospect, and if you can develop him and Surtain, you have two lockdown corners in a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert.
With a new coaching staff coming in and a new defensive scheme, a versatile cover corner like Booth is a good way to go. Having that versatility and potentially two lockdown corners would allow Denver to shift coverages and let the corners work on an island or even bait quarterbacks by shifting up coverage looks to get more interceptions.
Kenny Pickett | QB | Pittsburgh
-Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports
There will be plenty of teams talking themselves into QBs in this draft and the Broncos (along with Carolina, Atlanta, New Orleans, WFT, Pittsburgh and Detroit) will be in the running in a decidedly weak class. Pickett had a great 2021 season for Pitt and he'll have several opportunities during the pre-draft process, starting with the Senior Bowl, to prove he's QB1. For now, we'll wait to see if any of those Rodgers-to-Denver rumors from last offseason materialize in the coming weeks and months.
With so much unknown about the Broncos' quarterback situation, many drafniks are linking Denver to a quarterback at nine overall. Pickett is viewed by many as the top in the class, but there are plenty of warts to his game that give one pause for an early first-round pick to be used on him.
Of course, part of that concern is him being a one-year wonder, though that has been seen in the NFL multiple times with a wide range of success. The more significant concern is Pickett's hand size and handling a smaller football in college in lousy weather.
One example is his game against North Carolina, where Pickett did fine on paper, but the stats don't tell the whole story. The game started with bad weather, but it got a lot worse as it went on, and as it deteriorated, so did Pickett.
A good portion of his stats came when the weather wasn't terrible, which is why the stats don't tell the whole story here.
Matt Corral | QB | Ole Miss
-Josh Edwards of CBS Sports
Neither Teddy Bridgewater nor Drew Lock is the answer in Denver. Many have linked Aaron Rodgers to Mile High, but if that does not come to fruition then help must come elsewhere. Corral is a player with a diverse skillset who showed improved decision-making in 2021.
The first line is spot on as neither Bridgewater nor Lock are or were franchise quarterbacks entering the season, but the Broncos wanted to try and skate by with them. The Broncos have to find an answer as they have a good amount of talent to place around a quarterback. In terms of Corral, if Pickett isn't someone's top quarterback, Corral often is.
Corral is a toolsy quarterback, but a few draft analysts have questions about his football IQ. Coming out of Ole Miss, he works in a heavy run-pass option offense that easily hits a schemed-open wide receiver, which doesn't help ease those concerns about his football IQ.
What Corral does in meetings/interviews will be vital to easing those misgivings as he tries to show he can transition to a more pro-style offense with more complicated reads. Denver has had plenty of issues with recently-drafted quarterbacks and their football IQ/ability to read defenses.
Nakobe Dean | LB | Georgia
-Mel Kiper Jr of ESPN
The Broncos need a quarterback, of course, but the feeling I get is that they're more likely to try to add a veteran in either the trade or free-agent market. They have a solid roster, and a veteran could help them win right away. This could change as we get closer to the draft -- and they hire a coach -- but I'm going to stay away from quarterback here for now. Denver could be a great spot for the draft's best off-ball linebacker, Dean, who was the leader of the spectacular Georgia defense. He makes tackle after tackle and can run sideline to sideline to make plays, and he has three-down potential because of his ability to cover tight ends and running backs. He'll also help as a blitzer -- he had six sacks in 2021. The Broncos have the Rams' second- and third-round picks from the Von Miller trade, so general manager George Paton has a real chance to get this team back to the playoffs if he can nail a few early selections, as he did with Pat Surtain II and Javonte Williams last year.
Dean could be a leader at linebacker as he holds everyone around him accountable. He offers great ability as a blitzer and has excellent range laterally and vertically. The concern will be his size and his ability to get off blocks, which could see him limited in what role, position, and scheme he can thrive in at the NFL level.
It would be a questionable move because of positional value and what the Broncos have gotten out of their linebackers over the years, with Baron Browning being the highest-drafted. Multiple undrafted free agents have come to Denver and played well.
But, of course, there is a question of whether the scheme did that, and with a new defense set to arrive along with that new head coach, that may not be replicated. That means we could see Denver make an investment at the position.
Devin Lloyd | LB | Utah
-Dane Brugler of The Athletic
The Broncos said “no thanks” to Justin Fields and Mac Jones at No. 9 overall last year. Will they pass on the quarterback position again a year later? We’ll see if Denver is able to find an upgrade at the position prior to the draft or if it buys into one of the quarterbacks in this draft class. Denver landed an impact defender with the ninth pick last year, and it could do that again with Lloyd. A former safety, he has outstanding eyes and explosion to drive downhill (22.0 tackles for loss in 2021) and the athleticism to make plays in coverage (four interceptions, two pick-sixes in 2021).
Lloyd is a complete linebacker with solid size that can make plays everywhere on the field — just don't let him get matched up against wide receivers in coverage. While the positional value is low, Lloyd is among the better linebacker prospects to come out over the last few years. He offers up scheme and role versatility because he can do much for defense.
Sideline-to-sideline or dropping into coverage, Lloyd has a history of making plays for Utah, but he has to settle down and speed up his reads. There are multiple instances on tape of him overpursuing the play, but his athleticism helps make up for that. There are no off-field red flags about Lloyd, with much praise going around about his leadership and maturity on and off the field.
There are still a few months until the 2022 draft, which includes the final stretch of the pre-draft process, including the Senior Bowl, the NFL Scouting Combine, pro days, and private workouts. A lot can change between now and then, including which team holds the ninth overall pick.
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