Mock drafts. Mock drafts. Mock drafts.
While the scores of NFL fans across the league await for free agency to kick off on March 17, what’s there to fill the time in between other than a good old-fashioned mock?
On Friday, one of the pillars of the NFL draft community — ESPN’s Todd McShay — released his third mock draft of 2021.
McShay and his counterpart in Mel Kiper, Jr. did not utilize trades in projecting their mock drafts in years past but recently, ESPN's draftnik duo has begun to sprinkle some into their prognostications.
McShay’s mock draft 3.0 has Broncos GM George Paton making a deal with John Lynch and the San Francisco 49ers. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones joins Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan to try to contend in a quality NFC West division. McShay does not go into detail about what exchange of picks and capital took place, other than Denver receiving San Francisco’s first-round pick at No. 12 overall.
While Denver picking 12 overall is different than a lot of mocks, the results still play out similarly as the Broncos make an attempt to rebuild a secondary by adding talented Virginia Tech cornerback Caleby Farley from Virginia Tech.
In this scenario, the Broncos opt to stick with Drew Lock, pass on Mac Jones, and move back for more draft capital. We still don’t know what new GM George Paton will do at quarterback, but we do know his defense needs some playmakers. What will become of Von Miller, and could Denver target an edge rusher here? Is Justin Simmons returning or might TCU safety Trevon Moehrig be in the cards? The Broncos have a lot of questions to answer, but Farley -- another 2020 opt-out -- can make plays for a group that managed only 10 interceptions last season (tied for third fewest).
McShay makes the obvious choice for Denver. Despite sitting out in 2020, Farley’s 2019 season flashed rare traits for a prospect of his height and length. He's still gaining experience at cornerback as a former high school quarterback who was recruited to play wide receiver, but the tools are impossible to ignore.
Farley also makes sense for Denver given the volume of off-coverage looks Vic Fangio utilizes with his boundary cornerbacks. There is a fair concern with the likes of the other consensus top cornerbacks in this class, like Alabama’s Patrick Surtain (who went No. 10 overall to Dallas ) and South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn (who went 16 overall to Arizona ), on whether they can win off-coverage or if both fit a defense that uses more press coverage on the boundary.
Both are physical and very good in press, but neither has shown the twitch to close space without being an aggressor at the line of scrimmage quite like Farley. Farley is not without concern, however.
Suffering an ACL injury in 2017 and playing through back spasms that caused him to miss time in 2019, his medical checks could certainly be a concern that scares some teams off. If Farley falls when the actual draft is occurring, medicals are the likely culprit.
McShay also laid out some other needs of the Broncos in safety and edge rusher. In this writer’s opinion, there is no safety worth anything beyond a potential late first-round pick. With that said, if the Broncos do move on from Miller, an edge rusher might make sense as paying a draft premium for pass rusher is hardly ever a ‘poor investment’.
Could Paton and Fangio fall in love Michigan’s Kwity Paye (went 14 overall to Minnesota ) or one of the later projected edge rushers? That certainly could happen if Denver looks beyond cornerback.
ESPN's long-time Broncos beat reporter Jeff Legwold also weighed in on McShay’s mock and discussed the Broncos’ selection of Farley at 12 overall:
Cornerback is certainly one of the biggest need positions. The Broncos already released A.J. Bouye, and Bryce Callahan just finished his second straight season on injured reserve. An early run on quarterbacks would push quality defensive players down the board, and Farley has walk-in starter potential.
Of note with McShay’s mock was that the first four picks in the draft were all quarterbacks. Coming off first to the Jaguars was Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, followed by BYU's Zach Wilson to the Jets, Ohio State's Justin Fields to the Panthers (in a trade-up with Miami), and North Dakota State's Trey Lance to the Falcons.
With five quarterbacks in the top-9, McShay noted that “five quarterbacks in the opening nine picks would beat the previous record of five in the first 12 selections (1999).”
No matter how it plays out, the Broncos are going to be able to improve the roster. Will Paton look to replenish the secondary and go cornerback early such as his former employer in Minnesota has done frequently over the last decade?
Anything is possible in mock draft season.
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