The Broncos are one of the front-runners to acquire Kirk Cousins. John Elway is going to push hard for him, and Cousins has expressed desire to play there. This mock draft will assume that Cousins goes to Denver.
If quarterback is out of the picture at No. 5 overall, I believe this pick will be Quenton Nelson. This may seem a bit too early for a guard, but Nelson is the best player in this class behind Saquon Barkley. Besides, the Redskins used the fifth-overall selection on Brandon Scherff several years ago, and that panned out. Denver desperately needs to improve its blocking, and Nelson is the only prospect worth taking at No. 5.
Rd. 2, Pk. 8
Leighton Vander Esch, ILB, Boise State
The Broncos were going to consider Haason Reddick at No. 20 if he fell to them, but the Cardinals scooped him up seven picks earlier. Here's some linebacker help that Denver desperately needs.
Rd. 3, Pk. 7
D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
There was talk that the Broncos would part ways with Demaryius Thomas this offseason, but that doesn't appear to be the case anymore. Still, Denver needs a third receiver, one who can eventually replace Thomas.
Rd. 3, Pk. 35
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. 6
Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State
Aqib Talib turns 32 this offseason and could be released, as Charlie Campbell first reported, so the Broncos could be interested in adding a cornerback in the early rounds.
Pick change; previously Mark Walton, RB
Rd. 4, Pk. 9
Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan
Here's another offensive line upgrade for the Broncos, as they need to bolster their front as best as possible for Kirk Cousins, or whomever their next quarterback might be.
Pick change; previously Tarvarus McFadden, CB
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Breeland Speaks, DE/3-4DE, Ole Miss
Derek Wolfe has had trouble staying healthy, so here's an insurance policy in case that continues.
Pick change; previously Chukwuma Okorafor, OT
Rd. 5, Pk. 26
Josh Sweat, DE/3-4OLB, Florida State
Teams can never have enough edge rushers. The Broncos have tons of picks, so they might use one on the position.
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.
I think there is a good chance that Denver lands Kirk Cousins this offseason. That would allow the Broncos to add another talent to help build for another shot at the Super Bowl while they still have an excellent defense. Denver could use more help on the offensive line to reestablish a rushing attack and protect its veteran signal-caller. Here's a difference-maker on the interior for the Broncos, and Nelson could help Garett Bolles. <br> <br>
Nelson was exceptional throughout 2017, dominating opponents on a weekly basis. He has superb strength to blast open holes and is a true road-grader as a run blocker. As a pass protector, Nelson is very athletic with balance, agility, and quickness to shut down pass-rushers. Some league sources say that Nelson is the highest graded guard they've ever scouted, and that includes the likes of Logan Mankins and David DeCastro. <br> <br>
The 6-foot-5, 325-pound Nelson was dominant in 2016 as well, showing strength at the point of attack to open holes in the ground game and athleticism in pass protection. That year, teams sources told me that Nelson was receiving first-round grades prior to him deciding to return for his senior season. One general manager told me in fall 2017 that they have Nelson as clearly the best guard prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft. They have Nelson as a top-five prospect at any position.
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.
Before getting into the picks themselves, here are the pre-draft stipulations that occur in this particular mock draft scenario:
1) The Jets are able to land QB Kirk Cousins in free agency (explained during their pick)
2) The Browns arrange a trade of picks with the Seahawks well in advance of the draft; Cleveland would give picks #35, #65, and #101 (a total of 939 value points) for Seattle's #18 (worth 900 value points). Cleveland is willing to give up more in draft value to secure a third first round pick in the early going (March) and plan accordingly. The Seahawks love to do trades like this, and without 2nd and 3rd round picks from the Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown trades, recouping the top picks in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round makes a ton of sense.
3) When it comes to picks, the Browns have enough quantity, but they’re still seeking quality, so a trade-up from #18 to #8 makes sense. This could happen in advance of the draft or on draft day. The Bears, who are not likely to satisfy their needs at WR in free agency, would be much wiser anticipatorily trading down into the mid-first. Based on value alone, a WR prospect should not go top-15 in this draft. Moving down ten spots to #18 is a sweet deal for Chicago considering that they get Cleveland’s prized #33 overall pick in the deal. Chicago’s #8 and #105 (a total of 1,484 value points) for Cleveland’s #18, #33, and #219 (a total of 1,483.4 value points) makes for an even deal.
By the time the draft rolls around, here would be the changes in draft order within the top 4 rounds:
8) Cleveland Browns (from Chicago Bears)
18) Chicago Bears (from Seattle Seahawks through Cleveland Browns)
33) Chicago Bears (from Cleveland Browns)
35) Seattle Seahawks (from Cleveland Browns)
65) Seattle Seahawks (from Cleveland Browns)
101) Seattle Seahawks (from Cleveland Browns)
105) Cleveland Browns (from Chicago Bears)
Alright, let’s get this draft started!
Although the Browns add A.J. McCarron in free agency, the QB position isn’t answered, and a top-10 draft pick should be devoted to the position. However, should it be the #1 overall pick? Many, included Walt and Charlie, don’t seem to think so.
Meanwhile, if Denver strikes out on Kirk Cousins, I don’t think John Elway will look to add a middling starter via free agency after the middling QBs the Broncos have trotted out for the last few seasons. Sure, some of the free agent QBs available would be an upgrade over the Siemian/Osweiler/Lynch enigma, but that isn’t saying much. Rather, if Elway is confident in his ability to build the rest of the team all while surrendering what it takes to move up to #1, it makes sense to make the move to draft the most pro-ready QB in the draft, Josh Rosen.
The chances of Darnold being available at #5 are slim. Not only are the Giants a marked threat to take him at #2, but other teams could be jockeying to move up for a QB, and the Browns could be fielding multiple offers. Denver’s #5 and #40 (2,200 total value points) pull the Broncos within 800 value points of equaling the value of Cleveland’s #1 pick. Dealing their 2019 first rounder to Cleveland makes up for that difference. The Browns obtained slightly more moving down from #2 to #8 in the Carson Wentz trade, but they’re nonetheless happy to do business here, as they regain a pick at the top of the 2nd round all while maintaining three top-ten picks.
For the Broncos, Darnold is in place, the QB quandary should be finally answered, and it’s time to move on to building the rest of the team in rounds 3-7.
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
I only like Rosen to DEN because of Elway. From all reports, Rosen is a brat and a "pretty" boy. Mostly what people thought of Elway coming out. I think Elway can mentor and calm these bad traits. I wouldn't touch this kid with a 10ft pole. I wouldn't draft him in the 7th. He will be out of the league within 5 years.
With the quarterback position still an issue for the Broncos, Denver turns to Rosen, who is excellent throwing to the intermediate level and has the zip and touch to attack defenses down the field. He posted the best grade of his career in 2017, finishing at 85.8, though he’s been consistent year-to-year, as he graded at 84.5 in 2015 as a sophomore and 84.9 in 2014 as a freshman. Rosen has some boom-or-bust to his game, but if he can cut down on the poor decisions, he as the talent to become a long-time starter.