The Denver Broncos hold the ninth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and while general manager George Paton said Thursday that he hasn’t made calls to trade up, it could still happen.
Paton could well be in the market for a quarterback upgrade over Drew Lock in the first round, or eventually could bring someone to at least push the young signal-caller:
Lock was uneven last season in his first season under offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. As a rookie when he was pressed into action unexpectedly, Lock posted a 4-1 record as a starter and looked a lot better, despite the fact that he was considered a project of a second-round pick whose development could be destroyed if he played in Year 1.
In any event, Lock’s often scattershot accuracy and questionable decision-making are enough to have Denver looking for another passer through the draft.
Because of Justin Fields‘ recent medical revelation and the fact that Trey Lance is so inexperienced as a player, one of those QB prospects could fall to the Broncos at No. 9. Otherwise, they could get a blue-chip player at a different position and address quarterback at the start of Round 2.
Denver Broncos 3-round mock draft scenarios with trades
1. Drew Lock is gone in a trade up
- TRADE: Broncos send 9th pick, 40th pick and QB Drew Lock to Atlanta Falcons for 4th pick
- First round, 4th pick: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
- Third round, 71st pick: Divine Deablo, S, Virginia Tech
The Broncos don’t take any chances here. Mac Jones has long been linked to the San Francisco 49ers, and we’re assuming he’s their pick at No. 3. That leaves the choice between Fields and Lance, which isn’t an easy one.
However, one of the perks Denver can offer the Atlanta Falcons to move up to No. 4 is a potential heir apparent to Matt Ryan who won’t put pressure on him right away. Lock has the physical tools to get the job done, and would be the ideal developmental option to be groomed until coach Arthur Smith is ready to move off Matty Ice.
Meanwhile, Fields’ medical situation hasn’t hindered him to date, and although it’s run in his family, those close to him have outgrown it as they’ve aged. Fields is used to the big stage and has been heavily scrutinized as a rival to Trevor Lawrence since high school.
Fields should be readier to step in right away than Lance due to his superior experience, and should shine as an NFL rookie with so many quality Broncos skill players around him.
2. The Day 2 QB path
- First round, 9th pick: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
- Second round, 40th pick: Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M
- Third round, 71st pick: Quinn Meinerz, iOL, Wisconsin-Whitewater
Another scenario would see Denver shoring up the offensive line with fast-rising small-school prospect Quinn Meinerz and adding a premier playmaker to its defense in Micah Parsons.
Then, the QB plot would thicken in the second round with the addition of Mond. A four-year starter for the Aggies from a pro-style system, Mond has dual-threat athleticism and a high football IQ that should translate favorably to the NFL if he lands in the right situation.
Mond’s arrival would likely create friction, yet it’s not like the fans would be clamoring for him as much as a first-round pick if Lock encounters some early adversity in 2021. This is a good balance of putting Lock on notice, while also creating ideal conditions for both players to have a full-out training camp competition for the starting job.
If it doesn’t bring out the best in Lock, there’s a strong chance Mond could shock the NFL world with a stellar maiden pro campaign.
3. Trade down, find a veteran mentor in Teddy Bridgewater
- TRADE: Broncos send 9th pick to New England Patriots for 15th, 96th and 120th picks
- First round, 15th pick: Alijah Vera-Tucker, iOL, USC
- Second round, 40th pick: Richie Grant, S, UCF
- Third round, 71st pick: Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina
- TRADE: Broncos send 96th pick, 2022 fourth-rounder to Carolina Panthers for QB Teddy Bridgewater
Because Bridgewater shared some time with Shurmur on the Minnesota Vikings, he’ll have a familiarity with that West Coast system. He can either help Lock get down the nuances of it better, or simply beat him out for the starting job.
It’s been a journeyman career for Bridgewater ever since his career-altering injury in Minnesota. He was the Carolina Panthers’ starter last season and wasn’t quite up to snuff. Bridgewater’s middling arm talent is always going to hold him back from being a long-term starter, but at least in Denver, he’d have a chance to be the guy.
What makes Bridgewater appealing to the Broncos is his old-school demeanor and playing style. He’s accurate, a good decision-maker and is the ultimate game manager. Basically the antithesis of the gunslinger mentality Lock plays with.
If some of Bridgewater’s best attributes can rub off on Lock, and the seasoned vet can operate an offense with Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant as his primary weapons, this has the makings of a win-win situation in the Mile High City.