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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 the proceedings off, but things have changed a lot as the 2021 NFL Draft nears.
After retaining Von Miller and picking up Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller in free agency, the Broncos went aggressive on offense the day before the draft. They traded a mere sixth-round pick to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
So, is Bridgewater going to battle it out with Drew Lock for the starting gig, or is Lock on the way out, with Bridgewater slated to mentor a splashy first-round draft pick?
Here is our final Broncos seven-round mock draft, courtesy of The Draft Network’s simulator, which explores how the QB depth chart might shape up in the Mile High City.
Denver Broncos mock draft: A trade up for new QB
- First round, 4th pick (via ATL): Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
- Second round, 40th pick: Wyatt Davis, iOL, Ohio State
- Third round, 71st pick: Richie Grant, S, UCF
Some may believe the Broncos will be content to stick with incumbent starter Lock battling it out with Bridgewater. Instead, Bridgewater lives up to the first proper word in his surname, as in “Bridge.” Meanwhile, in exchange for Lock and a 2022 first-round pick, Denver trades up with the Atlanta Falcons from ninth to fourth overall and lands North Dakota State signal-caller Trey Lance.
Lock gets a fresh start as Matt Ryan‘s heir apparent, and is a great fit in Arthur Smith’s offense. Lance is a superior athlete to Lock, hails from a pro-style offense, has superior upside and gives the chance a much better chance to have a star at the most important position in a division featuring Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr.
Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s West Coast-style system needs an efficient distributor to hum at maximum efficiency. Bridgewater certainly fits that structured, pragmatic and somewhat antiquated purist approach to offense, but in any event, he’s simply keeping the seat warm until Lance is ready.
If and when Lance does suit up for Denver, he’d have 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 Lance can grow alongside them as he embarks on an exciting career.
Moving on. Regardless of who’d start from the jump under center, the Broncos need to improve their offensive line. In this simulation, they 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: Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, Iowa
- Fifth round, 152nd pick: Elerson Smith, EDGE, Northern Iowa
- Sixth round, 191st pick: Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma
- 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 Northern Iowa product Elerson Smith in the fourth round. 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, Smith went off in 2019 with 21.5 TFL and 14 sacks before opting out this past year. Under Fangio’s guidance, Smith has the chance to capitalize on his immense potential 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 Denver, 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 an explosive downfield passer such as Lance 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.