We’re approaching the midseason point of the Broncos’ schedule. As such, it felt prudent to go ahead and take a stab at where the Broncos stand and areas I feel like they’ll look to address in the draft. Here is the class I pulled in the last mock draft I wrote for Mile High Report, using the Pro Football Network simulator.
Round 1, Pick 11: QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
Round 2, Pick 43: EDGE Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma
Round 3, Pick 75: OT Abraham Lucas, Washington State
Round 4, Pick 111: DB Verone McKinley III, Oregon
Round 5, Pick 143: LB Terrel Bernard, Baylor
Round 6, Pick 175: RB Max Borghi, Washington State
Round 7, Pick 206: WR Jalen Virgil, App State
As a personal goal of doing this series, I will be using a different simulator each time and will do my best to ensure there are no repeat picks as it goes on. I’ll also be shifting priorities for the team as the season develops.
Round 1, Pick 12: EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
Many Broncos fans will want this to be a quarterback at this pick. It very well could be, but given the 2022 QB class is...uninspiring and Paton strikes me as the type to go after a need again instead of reaching for a quarterback just because. With that in mind, EDGE rusher fits the bill. Von Miller’s deal is expiring, and he might be looking for greener pastures at this stage of his career. There’s a steep dropoff to Malik Reed, who is also on the end of his deal. With Bradley Chubb missing significant time due to injury the last several years, this quickly becomes an important position for the Broncos.
Enter George Karlaftis, one of the most dominant pass-rushers in college football this season. The 6’4 275 freak only has 2.5 sacks on the season but had 11 total pressures in the Boilermakers’ upset over Iowa and was virtually unblockable. While he may not be the freakiest of athletes in the sense of a Myles Garrett, Karlaftis has rare movement skills for his size and combines that an effective toolbox of pass-rushing moves and a hot motor. This pick feels like a steal even at pick 12.
Round 2, Pick 43: LB Christian Harris, Alabama
As we all know, the Broncos’ linebackers are currently decimated by injuries. To make matters worse, Denver has seven (7!) linebackers currently slated to be free agents, the most significant being Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell. Given that a (likely) new regime will be hunting for premium talent and/or looking to add a hefty QB contract, it’s hard to say they’ll spend a chunk of cap space bringing back both Johnson and Jewell. As such, it’s not a hard leap to imagine they’ll look to add another talent early on in the draft, depending on a potentially new scheme and how they feel about Baron Browning.
To me, Christian Harris is just too good of a player to pass on at this stage. His physical talent and range just fits in with the style of defense Denver’s been wanting to play on defense and it’s an area they are just sorely lacking in this season. The pairing of him and Browning would be an excellent combination, given each player’s tools.
Round 3, Pick 80: WR Romeo Doubs, Nevada
Courtland Sutton has been nothing short of a star for Denver this season, and I can’t fathom him not being in the team’s future plans despite his contract being up in the offseason. That might mean Tim Patrick’s days in Denver are approaching their finale, simply due to cap space. Denver’s got to find a way to replace his presence in their receiver room.
Doubs is an explosive height/weight/speed receiver at 6’2 200 pounds who uses his physicality well at the catch point. He does a great job tracking the deep ball and adjusting to throws, something Tim Patrick has done well for the team this season.
Round 4, Pick 117: QB Kaleb Eleby, Western Michigan
There has been enough content written about the Broncos’ current quarterback situation that I feel like we all know where the team is at this stage. It’s obvious that Drew Lock isn’t in the cards for this team at all and Bridgewater shouldn’t be more than the bridge for a guy. Regardless of whoever the starter might be, the team is more than likely going to spend a pick on a quarterback at some point in the 2022 NFL Draft.
In this mock, I’ve got Denver taking a developmental QB with some intriguing upside in Kaleb Eleby. Eleby’s got some impressive arm talent and a willingness to let the ball fly downfield in 1-on-1 situations. My friend Cory, who does a lot of quarterback charting (@realcorykinnan on Twitter), charted Eleby with a 68.69% Weighted On-Target Accuracy percentage, which emphasizes downfield and tougher throws and I find to be a better guide for accuracy than just bland completion percentage. Eleby’s number currently ranks him top-5 in all 2022 quarterbacks. He does a good job fitting in tight-window throws and managing the pocket, something that a certain other QB on roster has never been able to grasp. Eleby needs to get better at his post-snap reads in my opinion, but he’s got a fantastic floor with his arm talent, accuracy, and pocket poise.
Round 5, Pick 156: OT Max Mitchell, Louisiana
There are a slew of moves the Broncos could do to fix a very disappointing offensive line, but finding a potential long-term answer at the right tackle spot would be a good start.
Max Mitchell is an athletic tackle whose aggressive playstyle would mesh well with Munchak’s coaching. Mitchell has experience playing both tackle positions in his career, something that Munchak and the Broncos have emphasized in recent years. There’s been an increase in his buzz recently, so getting him at pick 156 felt like a steal.
Round 6, Pick 192: RB Zonovan Knight, NC State
Fans have been pushing for it to be Javonte Williams’s backfield in Denver, and it might just be next year with Melvin Gordon slated as a free agent. However, given Williams’s issues with his vision and processing as a runner, the team might want to add a back with those skills to balance with Williams moving forward.
Knight has been part of NC State’s two-headed monster at running back this season, and NC State does a great job featuring him in outside zone runs that suit his skillset immensely. His mental processing as a runner blends well with his acceleration and ability to string moves together as a runner. Knight’s overall ability as a runner mentally and physically meshes well with Javonte Williams’s physical, hammering style of running.
Round 7, Pick 232: CB Riley Moss, Iowa
George Paton can’t resist a corner, but it is a potential position of need for Denver, given that the team could sell Kyle Fuller and/or Bryce Callahan and the depth takes a hit in the offseason. The team could look at this position a lot earlier than this spot.
Riley Moss was just too good of a value to pass up on. Moss’s four interceptions in six games this season puts him at ten total in his college career. To go with those ball skills, Moss is roughly 6’1 195 and holds the Iowa state record in the 110-meter hurdles. Paton and the Broncos have emphasized special teams work frequently among their acquisitions, and Moss would fit that mold to a T while also adding a talented corner into their depth.