As the calendar turns towards the snowy months, it becomes hard to overlook how we’re just past the halfway mark of the NFL season. At 5-4 the Broncos remain alive the playoff chase, but that doesn’t mean George Paton can slack on his early draft prep, and he isn’t. He’s using his time to scout the 2022 quarterback class. The first year general manager sent five different evaluators to Mississippi last weekend to scout Liberty’s Malik Willis play against Matt Corral and Ole Miss, and he traveled to Pittsburgh to catch the Panthers game against the Tarheels on Thursday.
The Broncos are scouting Kenny Pickett and Sam Howell. https://t.co/oI2z8sDSHC— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) November 10, 2021
Outside of the obvious need for a franchise quarterback, the Broncos 2022 needs remain murky. Roughly a third of this year’s roster is playing on expiring contracts, including core contributors such as:
- WR Courtland Sutton
- WR Tim Patrick
- RB Melvin Gordon
- RT Bobby Massie
- ED Malik Reed
- S Kareem Jackson
- CB Kyle Fuller
- LB Kenny Young
- QB Teddy Bridgewater
In addition to the names above, the Broncos will have to make decisions on injured players who will be free agents in 2022 such as linebackers Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson, as well as cornerback Bryce Callahan. Their absences gives Paton and the rest of the front office a chance to evaluate replacements over the remaining eight games.
Inspired by @JuMosq, I took a look at the current makeup of the Broncos roster to see how much things have changed since week 1.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) November 12, 2021
Numbers are offensive/defensive snap counts. pic.twitter.com/CiD5r3b3Jk
With so many questions looming over the direction of the franchise, I thought it’d be fun to take a stab at a very early first round mock draft to see where Broncos’ Country lands on Denver’s biggest needs.
A quick heads up, the draft order is set as if the season ended today.If you’re unfamiliar with the format, it’s the same as last year’s Vote Mocks: I’ll set the table with the selections up until the Broncos’ pick. From there, you decide what George Paton should do.
Let’s get started.
1. Detroit Lions - ED, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Ideally, the Lions would be rewarded for their efforts to secure the worst record in football with a franchise quarterback. Throughout the offseason leading up to the 2021 campaign there was faith that Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattle would play his way into the top spot of what most considered a weak QB crop. Instead, the sophomore passer played his way to the bench and no other signal caller has taken the kind of Zach Wilson or Joe Burrow-esque leap this class desperately needed. At present, it looks like a huge reach to take any passer in the top five of the draft.
They don’t get any better than Kayvon Thibodeaux pic.twitter.com/iYqytWEgwc— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) October 23, 2021
2. Houston Texans - S, Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
Nick Caserio currently oversees what’s arguably the weakest roster in football, so the Texans could go any number of directions with this pick. With no appealing option to replace Deshaun Watson, Tyrod Taylor, and Davis Mills this high in the order, Houston elects instead to shirk positional value altogether and chase the best player available. At 6’4 and 220 lbs. with game changing athleticism, Kyle Hamilton offers the skillset to develop into an elite difference maker on the second and third levels of a defense.
Kyle Hamilton from the opposite hash for his second INT of the night. Unbelievable play. pic.twitter.com/HNsDRCsA6y— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) September 6, 2021
3. New York Jets - OT, Evan Neal, Alabama
Like Houston, the Jets have the holes and cap space to go in any number of directions with this pick. After taking Zach Wilson ahead of Trey Lance, Justin Fields, and Mac Jones in 2021, I suspect there will be a pressing urge to do what it takes to support him with another foundational offensive piece. Evan Neal offers left/right versatility which makes him an ideal addition to a line that features two first round picks on the left side in Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker, and he has the power and quickness to dominate in Mike LeFleur’s offense.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars - OT, Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
Early mock drafts are an exercise in what I like to call “best-guesswork” and few teams look as unpredictable as the Jags right now. There’s been rampant speculation Urban Meyer wouldn’t lost the 2021 season since the week leading up to their week two contest with the Broncos, and with more than $60 million in cap space they have the kind of wiggle room to aggressively overhaul their roster in free agency next spring. Their needs could change drastically over the coming months.
We do know Trevor Lawrence will be back barring something completely insane, and it’d make a ton of sense to give him help. Enter the monstrous Ekwonu, who has the play strength, athleticism, and demeanor to develop into the best tackle from this class.
Maybe the most violent snatch-and-finish I’ve seen from a college blocker.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) November 8, 2021
LT Ikem Ekwonu has some truly special abilities. One of the best players in the draft! pic.twitter.com/0LPGQVJx9p
5. Washington Football Team - QB, Matt Corral, Ole Miss
If Dan Snyder’s willing to eat the dead money required to part ways with Williams Jackson III there’s a decent argument for LSU’s Derek Stingley here, as the Tiger looked like a future Hall of Famer his first two seasons in Baton Rouge. Failing that, it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see Washington shrug about the class and take the first passer off the board here. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s played in all of one game this season and Taylor Heinicke looks best served as a QB2. Matt Corral currently looks like the best signal caller in this class, but I’ll admit I’d have five different 2021 passers over him if you combined both crops.
T6. Philadelphia Eagles (from MIA) - CB, Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
Philly came into this season a capped out mess and their roster has rather obvious holes that are showing up in every game this season. Chief among them is their defense is extremely reliant on veterans who have already played their best football, usually a couple years ago. Stingley should help in that regard as he can quickly step into the starting lineup or Steven Nelson.
Unreal closing speed from Derek Stingley pic.twitter.com/PP1hVofhYT— Ben Glassmire (@BenGlassmireNFL) September 5, 2021
7. Philadelphia Eagles - ED, Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
Assuming Jonathan Gannon does not take over for Vic Fangio as the Broncos head coach and that he is not fired from his post as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, the best way to make his defense remotely close to functional is provide him with pass rushers who can create without help. Enter Hutchinson, who has all the tools you look for as well as a diverse pass rush repertoire developed over years battling in the Big Ten.
8. New York Giants - OC, Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
The G-Men are another tough team to peg down because if they finish with yet another pick in the top 10 there’s close to no chance Dave Gettleman returns as general manager. Let’s assume for this exercise that he does, somehow. Taking a center at the top of the draft is exactly the kind of move he’d do to show all the nerds who the smartest man in the room is.
Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum blocks to the echo of the whistle. pic.twitter.com/BAVQVONmub— Brent Sobleski (@brentsobleski) October 9, 2021
T9. New York Giants (from CHI) - ED, Travon Walker, Georgia
For an encore, Gettleman elects to address the Giants desperate need for pass rushers. Travon Walker gives him a freakish blend of length, strength, and dynamic athleticism to line up outside of Leonard Williams.
One game into Travon Walker and I have seen him on the edge, at 3T, 1T... then this. pic.twitter.com/MYdDIKhKMB— Cory (@realcorykinnan) November 12, 2021
T10. Miami Dolphins (from SF) - ED, George Karlaftis, Purdue
There’s a decent chance Nick Caserio and the Houston Texans are making this selection if the Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross checks off on a Deshaun Watson trade after the Super Bowl. Barring that, Miami’s in an ideal spot to address any one of their many needs. Always desperate to make a splash, they grab the Hawkeye’s star edge rusher George Karlaftis in hopes that he can pair with Jaelen Phillips as a dominant duo for the next decade.
I would like to share a lovely video of Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis absolutely destroying this tight end.— Nick Price (@PriceCheck3) September 8, 2021
You're welcome. pic.twitter.com/3NJg9ZZga2
T11. New York Jets (from SEA) - WR, Treylon Burks, Arkansas
Jamison Crowder’s a free agent after the season and Denzel Mims has failed to deliver on the promise that made him a second round pick. To continue adding to the offensive supporting cast in hopes that it provides a boost to Zach Wilson in year two, Joe Douglas grabs the toolsy pass catcher out of Fayetteville. Burks has the kind of prototypical size you look for in an X-receiver and combines it with very good acceleration, perfect for shot plays deep downfield as well as making shaky passes look good.
Treylon Burks: 152.1 passer rating when targeted since 2020— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 27, 2021
Highest in College Football pic.twitter.com/OvUBwyMUrO
12. Minnesota Vikings - CB, Roger McCreary, Auburn
The Vikings currently look like the floor for Walker, as they badly need some edge help and Mike Zimmer has a clear preference for defensive ends who have some size. With him off the board, they turn their attention to another pressing issue on the defense by taking McCreary. The Tiger’s ability to match and mirror will make him a cost-controlled replacement for Patrick Peterson.
13. Carolina Panthers - OG, Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
Another team kicking themselves over the sorry state of the ‘22 QB crop, Matt Rhule’s Panthers loom as another team that could hand their first round pick to Houston if Deshaun Watson waives his no-trade clause for a move to Charlotte. Failing that, they could badly use an infusion of talent into their offensive line. A Green pick will lead to some skepticism from the analytics community because the numbers do not support taking a guard in the early first, but let’s be real: Rhule didn’t get here by listening to nerds.
LG Kenyon Green - stay at LG!!— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) November 4, 2021
He has starts at LT, LG, RG, RT this year… What are we doin’ here?! pic.twitter.com/SgQqpE7xKw
14. Philadelphia Eagles (from IND) - QB, Malik Willis, Liberty
With their final first round pick, the Eagles take a swing on the most athletic quarterback prospect in the class. Nick Sirianni’s already got a year drawing up plays for Jalen Hurts, so the thinking goes he can find a way to lean into Willis’ strengths while he figures out the nuances of the position.
Malik Willis just went over 500 career throws in Liberty’s loss to Ole Miss (3 picks) . Will Rogers (Miss State) has 483 pass attempts this year.— Maliik (@NFLMaliik) November 7, 2021
Very talented QB but needs time just like nearly every other QB in the class pic.twitter.com/pbn5PlvfjD
15. Vote! Who you would draft Broncos Country?
Who would you take at this pick?
This poll is closed
OT - Charles Cross - Mississippi State
OT - Trevor Penning - Northern Iowa
OT - Nicholas Petit-Frere - Ohio State
DL - Jordan Davis - Georgia
DL - DeMarvin Leal - Texas A&M
LB - Nakobe Dean - Georgia
WR - Jameson Williams - Alabama
WR - Garrett Wilson - Ohio State
WR - Chris Olave - Ohio State
CB - Kaiir Elam - Florida
CB - Ahmad Gardner - Cincinnati
QB - Desmond Ridder - Cincinnati
QB - Sam Howell - North Carolina
QB - Kenny Pickett - Pittsburgh
QB - Carson Strong - Nevada
ED - David Ojabo - Michigan
ED - Drake Jackson - USC
Other (Please Comment)
Your Broncos’ News
Denver Broncos’ offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has tested positive for COVID-19 and has entered the COVID protocol. He will likely miss the game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Shula has served as offensive coordinator for three teams over 11 seasons. He held the title with the Bucs from 1996-99, with the Panthers from 2013-17 and with the Giants from 2018-19. Shula was Alabama’s head coach from 2003-06. Shurmur is vaccinated and can return after two negative tests at least 24 hours apart.
After the big win against the now 6-2 Cowboys, taking on the 3-6 Eagles seems an easier game. But it likely won’t be.
Jonathon Gannon’s defense has allowed 6 QBs to complete 80% of their passes in 2021. Will Teddy Bridgewater be the 7th?
What’s next after the breakout performance in Dallas?
The offense took a fresh step forward with Jerry Jeudy back in the lineup this week
PAYWALL: “This is a copycat league,” McCarthy said on Monday in response to Fangio’s comment. “I just told the team this, so get ready. I hope they do, too. Vic played us very aggressive. That’s good to hear him beating his own drum. Their linebacker depth, their linebackers are three yards (away), the safeties were up, in that case you make their corners tackle. They played us aggressively. They went for it. I think you want that from the other team, so I agree with Dak.”
Ranking top NFL quarterbacks under age 25: How Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray and other young QBs stack up | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics | PFF
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Sean Payton suggests he can’t explain leaving competition committee without getting fined - ProFootballTalk
“I’ll leave it at that so I don’t get fined,” Payton said, via Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football. Payton left the committee along with Packers president Mark Murphy and Broncos president of football operations John Elway.
Kayvon Thibodeaux leads 2022 NFL Draft Top 50 rankings with offensive tackles and pass rushers well represented – The Athletic
PAYWALL: Now with a half-season worth of game film, it is time to update the NFL Draft board of the top 50 prospects.
NFL Draft Community Mailbag: Can Any Prospect Unseat Kayvon Thibodeaux as No. 1? | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights
As the NFL enters the midpoint of its first 17-game regular season, a better understanding of where each franchise sits in the league’s hierarchy and its approach to the rest of the campaign, as well as the offseason, becomes clearer by the day...
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