Denver’s bye week is in the rear view mirror, and the team sits at 5-5 with some critical AFC West matchups ahead of them. While general optimism remains minimal in Broncos Country, there’s a lot ahead of them for them to play for. However, I’m wanting to focus on their future. As I’m primarily draft-focused, I’m back with another mock draft. This time is a little different, as the Broncos now have a few additional picks to use, courtesy of the Von Miller trade.
As always, I find it important to track who I took in the last mock draft I posted. Not only does this reveal shifting needs (like wide receiver dropping in priority after the Sutton and Patrick extensions), but it allows me to keep up with fresher names and fast-rising prospects. In my last mock draft I wrote, using the simulator over at RiseNDraft.com, this was my draft haul:
Round 1, Pick 12: EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
Round 2, Pick 43: LB Christian Harris, Alabama
Round 3, Pick 80: WR Romeo Doubs, Nevada
Round 4, Pick 117: QB Kaleb Eleby, Western Michigan
Round 5, Pick 156: OT Max Mitchell, Louisiana
Round 6, Pick 192: RB Zonovan Knight, NC State
Round 7, Pick 232: CB Riley Moss, Iowa
For this one, there are a couple of things that I wanted to talk about to open up. First, it is entirely possible this mock draft becomes totally irrelevant with the quarterback situation. There is a possibility Denver makes a blockbuster move for a quarterback in the offseason through a trade. If that is the case, then great! Denver now has a quarterback (for better or worse with those rumored names). Now they just need a new staff to take advantage of that (not likely with those rumored names for that position). For all the...drama that has been made about Justin Fields, it’s pretty obvious that we’d all feel better about the future with a rookie signal-caller under center at this point.
Second, keep in mind that these needs will shift as Denver handles these in the offseason. This is just what I would do at this stage if I was Denver. These are also based on my perception of the team’s needs. Fair warning: I will probably have a higher priority on the offensive line than the front office will. Fortunately for Denver, the 2022 NFL Draft class is shaping up to be one that matches up with plenty of their needs (outside of quarterback).
For this one, I’ll be using the Mock Draft Simulator over at Pro Football Network (shoutout to them for keeping it regularly updated and having the picks correct). Denver picks 13th in this simulator. Here we go!
Note: It’s also important to keep in mind that where guys are picked here might not line up with how the NFL views them. I just picked guys off the board where the simulator has them.
Round 1, Pick 13: EDGE David Ojabo, Michigan
Jonathon Cooper has really started to flash and come into his own, but I still think the Broncos’ pass rush remains an area of concern. As talented as Bradley Chubb has shown he can be, he’s only played one full season in the NFL and he’s only got one more year left on his deal. If he gets hurt again, the Broncos’ pass rush once again becomes a liability.
Ojabo is an absolute freakazoid of a player. Guys with traits like his (10.93 100M and some absolutely rare movement skills for a guy with his frame) don’t last very long in the NFL Draft, and this might be higher than some other mocks have him for right now. He’s only been playing football since 2017 but he’s got some legit pass-rush moves and executes them better than some pros do. The only reason he ends up here is because there’s some other ridiculous freaks in this EDGE class as well. Ojabo also has shown plus ability as a run defender, something the Broncos are in desperate need of with their EDGE group.
Dwight Freeney would be proud of the chop-spin move execution by #Michigan EDGE David Ojabo.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) November 10, 2021
- Sell outside speed
- Chop inside hand
- Force OT pads to get vertical
- Stick the ice pick in the OT’s back
- Finish at the QB (strip sack)
Ojabo is a budding star. pic.twitter.com/amMsUHhWXt
Round 2, Pick 47: DL Logan Hall, Houston
Back-to-back front seven players might be controversial for Broncos Country, but after watching this group this year, can you blame me? I absolutely think Denver needs to get stronger and deeper in the trenches than they are right now. They have Shamar Stephen, another upcoming free agent, playing a lot more snaps than he probably should and so far, the Broncos have been outclassed by most of the offensive lines they’ve lined up against. It’s not far-fetched to imagine this team needs to improve up front.
Mike Purcell has been banged up some but I doubt they are looking to move on from his contract just yet, as he’s shown he is one of the better nose tackles in the NFL. I’d be looking for more pressures from the interior of the defensive line. Shelby Harris does his job as a base end for Fangio well. He takes on double teams and has been pretty solid in shedding and winning in the run game. He’s just not there as a pass-rusher, something that I think Denver needs. As much as I love Dre’Mont Jones, he can’t be the only guy on that interior.
As such, I went with Logan Hall here. Hall has some DT/DE hybrid versatility to his game, which helps since we don’t know what the defensive scheme will be next year. He’s a powerful rusher with some nice explosive ability to win reps quickly. He’s enjoying a breakout season with 9.5 TFL and 4.5 sacks and is currently a Senior Bowl invite (Paton picked 3 Senior Bowl players in his first draft, important to note).
Round 2, Pick 60: OT Abraham Lucas, Washington State
I’m sticking with the trench play here once again, but this time, I’m aiming to provide a potential long-term solution to the right tackle position for Denver-something that’s been a problem with them for several years now. It’s pretty evident that Bobby Massie isn’t the answer, and Cam Fleming definitely isn’t it either. Since the likelihood of landing a good-to-great right tackle in free agency is slim to none, it’d be wise to dip into a talented tackle class.
Lucas has been a four-year starter at right tackle for Washington State, playing in both Mike Leach’s Air Raid and Nick Rolovich’s Run & Shoot schemes. He’s a really smooth athlete who has been one of the most effective pass-blocking tackles in college football for the last couple of years. Reports have it that Lucas tested with a 4.3 shuttle time in high school and a 5.03 40 time. Unlike a former Washington State teammate, Lucas has some surprisingly powerful punches and can move guys in the run game. He’s probably going to need some technical refinement as he adjusts to some pretty different schemes in the NFL than what he ran at Wazzu, but the traits are worth it with him. Also, another Senior Bowl invite.
OT Abraham Lucas out of @WSUCougarFB is big body, strong, athletic tackle who has very good hand usage when engaging defenders— The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) November 23, 2021
Very excited to see what he does against the top edge talent at the @seniorbowl https://t.co/Ta5SdVbSk3 pic.twitter.com/EnQ7mggzG1
Round 3, Pick 78: QB Phil Jurkovec, Boston College
Finally, a quarterback! Like I said above, we don’t really know what to make of the quarterback situation moving forward in Denver. However, if Denver goes the route of keeping Teddy for another year and drafting a quarterback, Jurkovec would be on my (very) short list from this 2022 NFL Draft class.
Jurkovec has all the talent in the world to be drafted much higher than this. I know he had some high grades coming into the season but dropped off people’s radar after he went down with a hand injury early. However, Jurkovec has the prototypical size and frame that NFL teams will want at about 6’5 and 225 with a great arm and mobility. He’s a physical runner that’s tough to bring down when he breaks pocket. There are a few things he needs to work on but there’s a lot of intriguing traits there for a guy who doesn’t have a ton of experience.
Round 3, Pick 91: CB Garrett Williams, Syracuse
I held off on corner for a bit in this mock draft, but it absolutely remains an area of need for the Broncos moving forward. Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan are impending free agents, and Ronald Darby has played just one full season in the NFL. The Broncos have really only had one corner be a reliable coverage guy and that’s been Patrick Surtain II. This unit has played well below expectations on the season, and they need a clear overhaul.
What’s most appealing about Garrett Williams to me isn’t necessarily his athleticism, technique, or production-all of which are great. Rather, it’s his willingness to fly in and be active in the run game. If there’s been one critique of Patrick Surtain II I would have, it’d be his passive nature in run defense (which I’m perfectly fine with if he covers like an elite CB1). Williams is not afraid to get in the scrum and moves downhill like a rocket. He’s always competing at the catch point as well.
Round 4, Pick 115: RB James Cook, Georgia
I keep preaching about the Broncos need to grab another running back in the draft to play committee with Javonte Williams. While fantasy writers may hate the idea, it makes sense for the Broncos to do so, and George Paton’s Minnesota roots are evidence that he’s familiar with the idea. I’d like for them to grab a guy who can run zone a little better than Javonte Williams as well as be a threat out of the backfield, and James Cook fits that bill well.
A 4-year back (and another likely Senior Bowl invite) at UGA, Cook’s been buried behind some of their standout backs in recent years, but he’s enjoying a nice breakout year now that Todd Monken has figured out how to utilize his diverse skillset. He’s not quite the athlete or processor that his brother Dalvin is, but he’s got plenty of juice of his own. I think his style would mesh well with the crashing thunder playstyle of Javonte Williams, and he’d be another weapon that teams have to contend with on the Broncos’ offense.
UGA has a legit stable in their RB room. Arguably the most dangerous of them all is James Cook.— Damian Parson (@DP_NFL) August 8, 2021
What he offers in the passing game is unmatched. A true weapon out of the backfield that is still capable of gashing a defense on the ground.
A need more of James Cook! Feed him! pic.twitter.com/jmlfi7nn5r
Round 5, Pick 143: CB Josh DeBerry, Boston College
Another corner, I know! Feel free to poke at George Paton’s quote about franchise corners, but I seriously would expect them to double-dip at corner in the offseason. They need them in a big way.
I went with DeBerry because I’ve been so impressed with his physicality and the tenacity he plays with. The Broncos have emphasized versatility with their defensive backs and have been moving guys around, and DeBerry would fit in line with that as he’s taken reps in the nickel and outside. I’d like him to be the long-term nickel answer here for Denver. He’s got the fluidity to match up with shiftier slot receivers (His game vs TuTu Atwell last year was impressive). I also love how DeBerry just is not afraid of the offensive guys and just sticks his nose into the run game or be a willing blitzer. Call it a weariness from watching Denver not play with physicality, but they need some fire in that room and DeBerry has plenty of that.
Round 5, Pick 157: WR Calvin Austin III, Memphis
I know a wide receiver might be a bit of an odd selection here with Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick’s extensions plus Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, but I couldn’t ignore the value here. Plus, KJ Hamler’s injury gives me some concern, as he’s been oft-injured throughout his football career and ACL’s are tough to come back from with a smaller guy like him.
Calvin Austin is a national track star, and that shows on the field. He simply flies around, making play after play with his explosiveness and change of direction. In case you don’t watch a ton of Memphis football, he’s been one of the best playmakers in college football this season. The more threats that Denver has on offense, the better. Hamler’s absence has been noticeable, as the Broncos don’t really have that kind of speed elsewhere. Adding another world-class athlete who has been an outstanding punt returner can’t hurt.
Round 6, Pick 196: CB Marcus Jones, Houston
People are probably sick of corners now in this one, but it’s important to remember that the Broncos don’t just have Fuller and Callahan leaving. Mike Ford and Nate Hairston are also impending free agents. Both are primarily special teamers and, what a coincidence, so is Marcus Jones.
Jones is more than just a special-teamer though. Despite his small frame (5’8 175ish), his tape at corner is surprisingly physical and he can win at the catch point well. He’s played on offense, defense, and is an electric special-teams returner. Jones is one of five finalists for the Paul Hornung award, given to the most versatile player in college football, and he’s got a good shot to win it.
Best I can tell, Adoree Jackson (2016) and Houston's Marcus Jones (this season) are the only players in the last two decades to have 2+ KR TDs, 2+ PR TDs, score a TD on offense and pick off 4+ passes.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) November 20, 2021
Round 7, Pick 234: OL Luke Wattenberg, Washington
It wouldn’t be a me mock draft if I didn’t draft at least two offensive linemen, would it? The future of the interior offensive line is a little muddy in terms of the starters, but the Broncos would be wise to add more guys along the interior in terms of depth. Quinn Meinerz has been listed as the backup center pretty much all season, but now he’s the starting right guard. Given that I don’t think he’s going to come out of the starting lineup at all moving forward, a move is going to happen up front for the team. Given that the team has emphasized OL versatility under Mike Munchak, it makes sense to add a guy with guard and center experience with these shifting tides in mind.
Wattenberg is the very model of versatility on the offensive line. He’s started in 48 games with well over 3000 snaps at left tackle, left guard, and center. Wattenberg has some good quickness, and you can see his tackle background in the way he moves, as he’s pretty comfortable moving in space and his competitive toughness shines through with the way he plays for a pretty bad Washington team. That experience will only help him make an NFL squad.
Round 7, Pick 246: FB Jeremiah Hall, Oklahoma
A fullback in a mock draft is 100% a brand move for me, but it really does make sense for the Broncos. Andrew Beck is an impending free agent, and I don’t think he’s really the right dude to be the kind of fullback Denver should look for. It’s not difficult to imagine George Paton, whose Minnesota front office brought in CJ Ham, be intrigued by adding a dynamic kind of fullback. If he hires an offensive coach from the Shanahan tree like has been rumored, then this position becomes even more important-and intriguing.
Ask a ton of people who cover Oklahoma or the Big 12 and even Oklahoma coaches about the most underrated or underappreciated player on that roster has been, and the answer will probably be Jeremiah Hall. Lining up as the “H-back” for Lincoln Riley, Hall has been one of the most versatile offensive players in the country in terms of his usage. He’s a tough blocker who has been springing blocks for one of the best offenses in the country for years now. Hall has legit receiving chops as well, with 62 career catches so far for 10.8 yards a catch, and he has a knack for coming up big in some critical moments over the years. The move makes a ton of sense for a team looking to add another dynamic option on offense.