Sam Darnold was considered to be the favorite to be taken first overall for a while, and that could still be the case. However, he struggled this past season, and there was speculation among teams that he would return to school. Darnold surprised them by declaring.
Darnold is still considered a top-10 talent, so he makes a lot of sense for the Broncos, who are desperate for a franchise quarterback. They would probably even have to trade up for Darnold, as some of the other quarterback-hungry teams - Jets, Cardinals, Redskins (if Kirk Cousins leaves) - will have major interest in him.
Rd. 2, Pk. 8
Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
The Broncos were going to consider Haason Reddick if he fell to them in the 2017 NFL Draft, so it would make sense if they addressed their linebacker situation at this juncture. They can't cover tight ends and pass-catching running backs.
Pick change; previously Josh Allen, LB
Rd. 3, Pk. 7
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Aqib Talib turns 32 this offseason, so the Broncos could be interested in adding a cornerback in the early rounds.
Rd. 4, Pk. 6
Mark Walton, RB, Miami
It seems like everyone in Denver's backfield has been a disappointment this season, so the Broncos may go after another running back.
Rd. 4, Pk. 9
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
The Broncos could use another receiver, especially if the Demaryius Thomas trade rumors are true. Thomas has destroyed his body with a terrible diet and is on the decline anyway.
The Broncos could use a left tackle to protect Paxton Lynch, and Bolles could be the target of teams trading up for him.
In his one season at Utah, Bolles (6-5, 297) showed that he is really talented with quick feet and athleticism on the edge. He also is tough in the ground game and plays with a physical mean streak. Bolles had a rough upbringing and some off-the-field issues, but a number of teams say he interviewed well at the combine and they feel he has matured. Some do have concerns about his ongoing mental health, however.
Bolles will need to work on pass protection for NFL speed rushers. He will also be significantly older than most rookies as he turns 25 a few weeks after the 2017 NFL Draft.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
Carlos Watkins, DT/NT, Clemson
The Broncos could use a replacement for Malik Jackson.
Watkins notched 50 tackles with 13.5 for a loss, 10.5 sacks and four passes broken up in 2016. He caused a lot of disruption. To end the season, the senior dominated Ohio State and played well against Alabama. As a junior, Watkins produced a strong season with 34 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, 3.5 sacks, three passes batted and an interception. The 6-foot-3, 312-pounder didn't record many stats in his prior seasons as he was buried on the depth chart by a lot of good talent at Clemson.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida
The Broncos could use more backfield talent.
Mack (5-11, 213) ran well for the Bulls in 2016. He averaged 7.1 yards per carry on the year for 1,187 yards with 15 touchdowns, plus snatched 28 receptions for 227 yards. 2016 was Mack's third straight 1,000-yard season. He had 1,381 yards as a sophomore and 1,041 yards as a freshman. The junior is a sleeper back who could be a nice role player in the NFL.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Jonnu Smith, TE, Florida International
The Broncos could use a receiving tight end for their offense.
Smith made nationwide news in 2016 by suffering a serious injury off the field. His pregnant girlfriend poured boiling water on him after arguing about him not spending enough time with her. The senior totaled 42 receptions for 506 yards with four touchdowns on the year. He had quality production as a junior (36-397-4), sophomore (61-710-8) and freshman (39-388-2).
The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder is a quick, athletic receiving tight end to be a potential mismatch weapon. Some sources have Smith grading out as a third- or fourth-round pick. Multiple team sources have compared Smith to being a Charles Clay-type player in the NFL.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
The Broncos could use receiving competition and a speedy slot candidate.
Westbrook was a clutch receiver for Oklahoma in 2016 with 80 receptions for 1,524 yards with 17 touchdowns. The 6-foot, 178-pounder is very slight for the NFL and needs to add weight in order to hold up. He could fit as a speedy slot receiver. As a junior, Westbrook had 46 catches for 743 yards and four scores.
As I reported in <a href="/nflhotpress/article/228">the Hot Press</a>, the Broncos are aggressively scouting the top quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. Denver clearly doesn't believe in Paxton Lynch, while Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler have proven they are just backup-caliber quarterbacks. <br> <br>
WalterFootball.com was first to report that Allen would enter the 2018 NFL Draft, and he announced his declaration after Wyoming's bowl game. Allen has a great skill set, but is not a well-developed quarterback. He really struggled during 2017 in games against Iowa, Oregon and Hawaii. Allen displayed his big skill set with size, toughness, athleticism, and a strong arm. There were plays where he looked like a young Ben Roethlisberger, but then there were other plays where he showed bad decision-making and inaccuracy. Allen is a definite work in progress who will need some developmental time. In 2017, Allen completed 56 percent of his passes for 1,812 yards with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. He notched five rushing touchdowns as well. <br> <br>
Allen's completion percentage and interception total from 2016 provide evidence for the developmental assessment, too. He completed 56 percent of his passes for 3,203 yards with 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions that season.<br> <br>
Allen (6-5, 222) became a discussed prospect late in the 2016 season, but he wisely decided to return to Wyoming. He has a special skill set, and some draft analysts were projecting him high in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but one general manager told WalterFootball.com that he had Allen as a third-day prospect and thought Allen should improve before going pro. Other team sources that did advance work for National Scouting for the 2018 prospects really liked Allen and compared him to Ben Roethlisberger, so don't be surprised if he is a polarizing prospect. Still, Allen has a great skill set with tons of upside.
As I reported in <a href="/nflhotpress/article/228">the Hot Press</a>, the Broncos are aggressively scouting the top quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. Denver misses out on Jackson and Rosen in this version, but I think the organization would be very happy to get Darnold. <br> <br>
In 2017, the redshirt sophomore has completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,869 yards with 22 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. A general manager, who has scouted Darnold in person this year, told me that he likes the "it factor" that Darnold displays. That general manager thinks there's nothing wrong with Darnold's throwing motion or arm strength, and that Darnold has some similarities to Philip Rivers. Other scouts feel that Darnold is a good prospect with the ability to be a plus starter, but they don't think he's elite, and on tape, they say he is not better than Mitch Trubisky or Deshaun Watson were before the 2017 NFL Draft. <br> <br>
This fall, Darnold has had issues with interceptions and decision-making. He also has admitted to having issues with confidence. Darnold is an accurate passer without an elite skill set, but he has developed good anticipation, feel, and timing. Darnold is a rhythm thrower who would fit best in a West Coast system to maximize his ability to throw accurately in the short to intermediate part of the field. Sources are telling me that they're hearing Darnold wants to return to USC next year rather than enter the 2018 NFL Draft, but he is getting a lot of pressure to enter the draft. <br> <br>
Darnold was very impressive as a redshirt freshman in 2016 and impressed evaluators even though he wasn't being graded yet. Along with a quality skill set, teams like his intangibles and moxie. Darnold completed 67 percent of his passes in 2016 for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The 6-4, 225-pounder led USC on a nine-game winning streak to end the season.
John Elway is a terrible at evaluating college talent and should try to find a veteran quarterback instead. If he is unable to do that he will probably be the GM who talks himself into Mayfield due to his moxie and leadership. However, I just do not see him working out with his style of play and size. Everyone wants to compare him to Brees and Wilson, but neither of those guys went in the first round. They are also the only two out of countless other quarterbacks to pan out in the league in general so comparing them to Mayfield is kind of a disservice to how special those two are. Mayfield's athleticism is not even close to Wilson's and his arm is nowhere near as good as either Brees or Wilson. This pick is made by media hype particularly by college analysts who want every Heisman winner to pan out in the NFL. Which, we know does not happen normally.
Last Mock's Pick: Josh Allen QB Wyoming
The Broncos found their potential franchise left tackle with Garrett Bolles in this past draft so why not try to find him a running mate at the guard spot. Their blockers are still weak across the board and if John Elway is as smart of a GM as I suspect he will try and copy the Dallas model of building up your o-line for offensive success. Nelson is a Pro Bowl guard in the making who can come in right away and solidify a spot in the middle of the line. He would definitely be a massive upgrade over Max Garcia and Ronald Leary.
Last Weeks Selection: Bo Scarborough RB Alabama at Pick # 26
The Broncos grab more offensive line talent go with Garett Bolles. <br> <br>
Williams returned to play in the final couple of games of 2017 before shutting it down to prepare for the 2018 NFL Draft rather than play in his bowl game. He missed seven games during the 2017 season. After some bad performances to start the year, he went down with a torn knee meniscus and strained ligaments. Williams (6-6, 290) started at left tackle as a freshman and sophomore for the Longhorns. He was a steady pass protector and a consistent run blocker. <br> <br>
As we reported <a href="/nflhotpress/article/230">in the Hot Press</a>, Williams was receiving some mid-round grades from evaluators this season. The main issue that sources say is hurting Williams is a lack of strength. One AFC team in need of tackle help said they gave him a late third-round, early fourth-round grade. <br> <br>
I spoke with a NFC general manager who scouted Williams in person during 2017, and they were disappointed in Williams overall. They felt Williams lacked strength and believed him overhyped. This NFC general manager said he thought Williams was a fourth-rounder. Williams had a disappointing 2017 season opener against Maryland, getting flagged for numerous holds, including some that canceled out big plays for his team. He allowed some pressures and hits, too. Williams has some athletic ability, and some evaluators feel he should move inside to guard.