If you were to fill out or read a Denver Broncos mock draft not long ago, it’d be easy to pencil in a cornerback or edge defender to kick things off, but things have changed a lot of late with only about a month before the 2021 NFL Draft opens.
Longtime face of the franchise Von Miller wasn’t a lock to return after missing all of 2020, especially given his big salary cap hit in an offseason where money was tight. The Broncos also didn’t boast the best-looking cornerback depth chart.
Well, Miller is returning this coming year for at least one more ride, and Denver acquired Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller in free agency. Could this be a precursor to a much splashier first-round draft pick? Find out what we have cooked up for the Broncos in this seven-round mock draft, courtesy of The Draft Network’s simulator.
Denver Broncos mock draft: A trade up for new QB
- First round, 4th pick (via ATL): Mac Jones, QB Alabama
- Second round, 40th pick: Wyatt Davis, iOL, Ohio State
- Third round, 71st pick: Richie Grant, S, UCF
Oh yes, we’re going there. In exchange for incumbent starting quarterback Drew Lock and a 2022 first-round pick, Denver trades up with the Atlanta Falcons from ninth to fourth overall and lands Alabama signal-caller Mac Jones.
Lock gets a fresh start as Matt Ryan‘s heir apparent, and is a great fit in Arthur Smith’s offense. Meanwhile, Jones is as schematically ready as any QB in the 2021 class to step in, and fits the Broncos’ identity better.
Side note: Who else is still available and free agency and could execute offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s West Coast-style system at optimal efficiency? Alex Smith. Not a bad mentor for Jones to have if it comes to pass.
But even if that’s not the case, Jones has the likes of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler to throw to. That’s as talented of a young cast of weapons as there is in the NFL, and Jones will need them to thrive to keep up with the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr in the AFC West division.
No, Jones isn’t the dynamic athlete that Justin Fields or Trey Lance is. One of them will still be available at No. 4, and it was Lance in this simulation. It’s not like Jones is a statue, though. Lest we forget, he also just had the best pure passing season in NCAA history, with a record 77.4% completion rate.
Moving on. To make the rookie QB’s life easier, the Broncos are able to scoop up a gifted interior blocker in Wyatt Davis from Ohio State. Davis is an excellent pass protector, and before the strangely-scheduled season the Buckeyes just had, he was absolutely dominant in 2019, ranking fourth among 440 qualifying guards in Pro Football Focus’ player grades.
We mentioned how Denver plugged some holes on the back end of its defense. Those are more so short fixes, so when someone as versatile, gritty and prolific as Richie Grant is on the board, there’s no way head coach Vic Fangio isn’t going to pound the table for him and demand he be drafted.
Grant logged the following snap counts by position over the past three seasons at UCF: 145 at slot corner, 236 as a box safety and 225 at free safety. If he’s around in Round 3, Grant likely takes over for Kareem Jackson in 2022 as a starter next to Justin Simmons, and until then, contributes all over the field in Year 1.
Denver Broncos mock draft: Productive edge defenders headline Day 3
- Fourth round, 114th pick: Hamilcar Rashed Jr., EDGE, Oregon State
- Fifth round, 152nd pick: Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma
- Sixth round, 191st pick: Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, Iowa
- Sixth round, 216th pick: (via PIT): Patrick Johnson, EDGE, Tulane
- Seventh round, 253rd pick: DJ Daniel, CB, Georgia
The Pittsburgh Steelers flew in and offered their sixth-round choice for two seventh-rounders, the 237th and 239th picks. That seemed like a good deal, because as the draft wears on, it’s less likely you’ll find a diamond in the rough. Who needs three seventh-round picks anyway?
So thanks to that trade with Pittsburgh, the Broncos pick up Tulane’s Patrick Johnson to pair him with the earlier addition of Oregon State product Hamilcar Rashed Jr. in the fourth round. Von Miller is likely in his final season with Denver, Bradley Chubb has been banged up early in his career and there’s not a lot of depth behind them.
Johnson excelled as a three-year college starter with 120 combined tackles, 34 tackles for loss, 21 sacks, 11 passes defensed and six forced fumbles in that span.
Meanwhile, Rashed went off in 2019 with 22.5 TFL, 14 sacks and had a strong sophomore season, too, before being fairly quiet this past year, as he struggled to play with extra weight. Under Fangio’s guidance, Rashed has the chance to bounce back and be a dynamic pro.
As far as seventh-round picks go, DJ Daniel isn’t a bad one. His lack of playing time can be attributed to the talent around him at Georgia, as Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes will probably hear their names called on Day 2 of the 2021 draft. He’s a solid depth option for the Broncos’ secondary.
It’s already a crowded receiving room in the Mile High City, yet Ihmir Smith-Marsette, raw and slender as he is, boasts a big catch radius, great long speed and would have the chance to flourish with a precise downfield passer such as Jones throwing him the ball.
Finally, adding a bruising back like Rhamondre Stevenson who’s nearly 250 pounds but has surprising agility and short-area quickness for his size gives Denver another weapon in the backfield with Melvin Gordon and Royce Freeman.