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Be the GM: Broncos 2022 Vote Mock 2.0

Who should the Denver Broncos draft in 2022?

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Denver Broncos vs Los Angles Chargers. Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

With the college football bowl games kicking off in earnest today, it’s a good time to take another look at what lies before George Paton and the Broncos once their 2021 comes to a close.

It’s worth a reminder that there could be an unprecedented level of chaos around the franchise, as it currently looks like the Bowlen’s will sell the franchise while Vic Fangio and the coaching staff face the prospect of losing their jobs. Beyond that uncertainty, it’s tough to pinpoint what the Broncos’ biggest long-term needs are outside of quarterback. Roughly a third of this year’s roster has contracts set to expire when the final bell rings on this campaign, including core contributors:

  • RB Melvin Gordon
  • RT Bobby Massie
  • ED Malik Reed
  • S Kareem Jackson
  • CB Kyle Fuller
  • CB Bryce Callahan
  • LB Alexander Johnson
  • LB Josey Jewell
  • LB Kenny Young
  • QB Teddy Bridgewater

All of the looming questions make Denver a tough cookie to crack this far out. It’s totally reasonable if you look at all that and come to the conclusion that since the Broncos are 7-6 and still in the midst of the playoff chase, it’s better to wait until the offseason to start sweating the draft. For everyone else, this exercise is an excuse for me to continue learning about the prospects while ideally providing you a fun scenario to mull over.

What follows is a mock draft scenario with the draft order set as if the season ended today. I made the picks for the teams leading up to the Broncos’ selection, setting the table for you to vote on what Paton should do. Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett became a Bronco in the last scenario. This time around he’s long gone, which leaves me eager to see what you decide on.

1. Detroit Lions - ED, Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

Beyond the whole “Michigan man heads to Detroit to save the Lions” narrative, this sort of homecoming makes sense when you consider that since Dan Cambell’s first press conference, he’s been all about changing the culture in Motown. Hutchinson elected to stay in school for his last season, in no small part to beat the Ohio State Buckeyes, and made himself into a top tier edge prospect along his way towards doing so.

At this time I don’t foresee a quarterback emerging as a contender for the top spot, and the Lions look pretty set at tackle. Last vote mock I went with Kayvon Thibodeaux here and he could still work himself into consideration.

2. Houston Texans - ED, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

Nick Caserio spent the better part of his first year alienating a large swath of the Texans’ fanbase as he worked to tear down the roster he inherited from Bill O’Brien. He’ll have about $40 million in cap space to try to steer the club out of the smoldering wreckage next offseason with just 29 players under contract. About as close to a blank slate as there is in the NFL. This doesn’t account for any potential resolution to the Deshaun Watson situation, though it’s worth remembering that the Miami Dolphins looked pretty close to sending multiple first round picks to Houston before the NFL trade deadline.

The Duck represents a “best player available” approach and gives Houston a speed rusher to build a four-man pass rush around, but there’s also an argument to be made that the Texans should do all they can to trade down from this spot to collect extra ammo should this situation occur.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - OT, Evan Neal, Alabama

After the Urban Meyer debacle, the pressure’s on Jacksonville to help Trevor Lawrence to a better second season than his first in the NFL. They’ll hire an offensive head coach with real play calling chops and invest heavily in the offensive supporting cast to give him as much help as possible. That will continue in April when they grab Evan Neal to develop into Lawrence’s longtime bookend. He’s also the kind of bully that’ll help clear the way for both James Robinson and Travis Etienne in the run game.

4. New York Jets - ED, George Karlaftis, Purdue

Much like the Texans, the Jets have so many needs that they could go in many different directions with this pick. Unlike Houston, it looks like the seats occupied by Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh are heating up in New York. Zach Wilson was outplayed by Mike White and Joe Flacco during his rookie season and looks like the shakiest of the 2021 QB class. They also have one of the worst defenses in the league. Karlaftis gives them an edge rusher to potentially pair with a heathy Carl Lawson and can also serve as insurance against yet another injury for the former Bengal.

T5. New York Giants (from CHI) - QB, Matt Corral, Ole Miss

The Giants are showing their appreciation to fans by providing those who attend this weekend’s game a free medium soda, so who knows if the reports are true and the Rooney’s mercifully end the Dave Gettleman error this offseason. If we assume they are, the Giants become wildly unpredictable this far out. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the Rooney’s elect to promote Kevin Abrams to general manager, as the current vice president of football operations has worked for the franchise for almost 30 years. In this scenario, that’s how I imagine things playing out.

After deciding what to do with Joe Judge, Abrams will quickly have to formulate a plan for quarterback. Daniel Jones is a wildly disappointing former sixth overall pick and his rookie contract expires at the end of 2022. I suspect he won’t have his fifth year option picked up, and with the Giants in prime position to grab the first QB in the ‘22 draft, he could become a bridge to the future.

6. New York Giants - OT, Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State

Grabbing Corral with the first pick sets the Giants on a new course towards what they hope is a better future. Work remains, however, especially along both sides of the line of scrimmage. With Nate Solder and Matt Peart disappointing at right tackle, Abrams elects to grab a bulldozer to clear the way for Saquon Barkley.

T7. New York Jets (from SEA) - S, Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

This scenario will create a big dilemma for Joe Douglas. Wilson desperately needs help up front and out wide if he’s going to make it as an NFL passer, but the best players left on the board play defense. No one offers a defensible trade package to move up, so the third year GM grabs a rookie safety to replace the long-departed Jamal Adams.

8. Carolina Panthers - QB, Kenny Pickett, Pitt

The Matt Rhule Panthers’ journey at QB is pretty hard to believe. Shortly after Rhule left Baylor for a seven-year, $60 million contract with the Panthers, they cut Cam Newton to sign Teddy Bridgewater to a $63 million contract. After one year, they bailed on Bridgewater and agreed to eat $17 million in dead money to give him to the Denver Broncos for a sixth round pick. This cleared the way for the recently acquired Sam Darnold, who they traded three draft picks for. During the 2021 season they benched Darnold twice before he landed on Injured Reserve, and they wound up signing Cam Newton to replace him.

In recent weeks it increasingly looks like Rhule is on the hot seat. The decision to fire Joe Brady as the Panthers continue to play yo-yo with Newton and backup P.J. Walker reeks of chasing a scapegoat. Rhule’s job security may depend on Dave Tepper’s willingness to pay two coaching staffs. In this scenario he survived the axe, which leaves the Panthers desperate for any semblance of hope at quarterback.

9. Atlanta Falcons - CB, Derek Stingley, LSU

After choosing Kyle Pitts over Justin Fields and Mac Jones last April, the Falcons doubled down on their commitment to Matt Ryan by restructuring the 36-year-old’s contract to create cap space. The decision to do so ensures he’ll be around for 2022 and possibly longer despite obvious signs of decline and a cap hit nearing $50 million.

Stingley’s draft stock could be pretty fluid this offseason. He looked like a future Hall of Famer as a freshman, the best corner on an SEC team that went undefeated. Last year he didn’t secure a single pick and missed three games because of illness and injury. He played in three games in 2021 before a foot injury ended his season.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (from MIA) - iOL, Tyler Lindbaum, Iowa

11. Philadelphia Eagles - ED, David Ojabo, Michigan

“Jalen Hurts or Gardner Minshew?” season has settled over Philly, which hints at the unenviable spot they find themselves in at quarterback. This isn’t going to be an easy offseason to find a solution, and rather than reach into a weak class, Howie Roseman grabs foundational pieces to patch up his line.

Tyler Lindbaum has been compared to Jason Kelce throughout the early draft process, so there’s little doubt he could fit what the Eagles want to do up front. Drafting him a year early means the rookie has a runway to replacing Kelce who is still playing at a high level at 35, but who has a contract set to void in 2023. It could cause consternation among the fanbase if they can’t overlook Roseman drafting a center in the top 10.

David Ojabo is the kind of toolsy pass rusher that will woo evaluators who have their eyes on his ceiling. He’s a very athletic lump of clay after starting for one season in Ann Arbor following a late start to the sport. While he’ll need to add to his pass rush repertoire and improve his pad level, the foundational tools are there to become an elite edge rusher. From day one, he’ll bring a hot motor, quick hands, and a good rip move.

12. Minnesota Vikings - ED, Traven Walker, Georgia

A true wildcard because any combination of Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer, and/or Kirk Cousins could be gone. Or they could all stick around. At the same time, this roster is capped out and the depth chart on defense is wanting. Realistically the Vikings could probably go in any number of directions because they’re on the precipice of blowing everything up, even if they don’t do it in 2022.

If it’s mostly status quo in the Twin Cities, they’ll invest picks into the defense. The pass rush is in need of a boost and it most likely gets worse before it gets better: Danielle Hunter’s probably gone before the fifth day of the new league year because keeping him would cost the Vikings $20 million. Travon Walker gives them a freaky 6’5”, 275 lb. former five star recruit who can move like an off ball linebacker.

13. New Orleans Saints - WR, Treylon Burks, Arkansas

The Saints are currently staring down the barrel at yet another horrendous cap situation in 2022. According to Over the Cap’s calculations, they’ll hit the offseason $61.2 million in the hole. Cap magician Khai Harley’s going to have his work cut out for him, and it probably opens up various holes in the depth chart. They’re also a team Russell Wilson’s reportedly interested in playing for. There’s no way that happens, right?

In this scenario Sean Payton gives Taysom Hill a 6’3”, 232 lb. receiver with the catch radius to collect Hill’s passes as well as the play strength and athleticism to step into a Michael Thomas role if he becomes trade bait.

14. Las Vegas Raiders - QB, Sam Howell, North Carolina

Mike Mayock is probably out after serving as the general manager under Jon Gruden since 2019, and a new front office will hire a new coach. Derek Carr enters the final year of his contract and it’d cost Vegas nothing to move him. There’s a distinct possibility the Raiders turn the page and begin a rebuilding effort.

T15. Green Bay Packers (from PIT) - WR, Jameson Williams, Alabama

When Ben Roethsliberger retires, it likely spells the end for general manager Kevin Colbert, and a new general manager could bring an aggressive approach to fixing the quarterback spot. Pittsburgh has $43.7 million in cap space next offseason to accommodate a potential Aaron Rodgers trade. They could also elect to upgrade the supporting cast and draft a new franchise passer.

Post-Rodgers and Adams, Brian Gutekunst kickstarts the Jordan Love era with a sinewy 6’2” speedster who blazed through the SEC this year. Williams spent years after Ohio State and transferred to the Crimson Tide, so the world awaits his thoughts on C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young in 2023.

16. Who should George Paton draft, Broncos Country?

Poll

Who should the Broncos draft?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    OT - Charles Cross - Mississippi State
    (126 votes)
  • 1%
    OT - Bernhard Raimann - Central Michigan
    (13 votes)
  • 3%
    OT - Trevor Penning - Northern Iowa
    (41 votes)
  • 9%
    QB - Desmond Ridder - Cincinnati
    (115 votes)
  • 16%
    QB - Carson Strong - Nevada
    (187 votes)
  • 14%
    QB - Malik Willis - Liberty
    (172 votes)
  • 1%
    CB - Sauce Gardner - Cincinnati
    (15 votes)
  • 0%
    CB - Trent McDuffie - Washington
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    CB - Kaiir Elam - Florida
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    CB - Roger McCreary - Auburn
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    CB - Andrew Booth Jr. - Clemson
    (4 votes)
  • 11%
    LB - Nakobe Dean - Georgia
    (133 votes)
  • 9%
    LB - Devin Lloyd - Utah
    (112 votes)
  • 5%
    ED/DL - DeMarvin Leal - Texas A&M
    (59 votes)
  • 0%
    ED - Drake Jackson - USC
    (11 votes)
  • 0%
    ED - Kingsley Enagbare - South Carolina
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    ED - Jermaine Johnson - Florida State
    (14 votes)
  • 0%
    DL/ED - Logan Hall - Houston
    (3 votes)
  • 9%
    DL - Jordan Davis - Georgia
    (109 votes)
  • 0%
    OG - Kenyon Green - Texas A&M
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    OG - Zion Johnson - Boston College
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    S - Jaquan Brisker - Penn State
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    S - Jordan Battle - Alabama
    (9 votes)
  • 1%
    Other ( Please Comment)
    (20 votes)
1165 votes total Vote Now

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Roger Goodell says Omicron variant prompts ‘flexible response’ in memo to NFL teams

“From the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, our focus has been to play our games in a safe and responsible way, consistent with the best available medical and public health advice, based on protocols jointly developed and implemented with the NFL Players Association,” Goodell wrote in a memo obtained by NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

“A key element of our success to date has been our commitment to working with our union and our respective medical experts to make needed adjustments in response to changing conditions.

“The emergence of the Omicron variant is precisely the kind of change that warrants a flexible response. Based on medical advice, we have instituted additional protocols as well as revised testing protocols for reinstating players and staff who have tested positive. We have also considered whether certain games should be rescheduled in light of current conditions.”

Decisions to reschedule or cancel games remaining on the schedule will be made “in accordance with the principles” outlined by Goodell in a memo sent in July.

Goodell pledged the league “will make every effort, consistent with underlying health and safety principles, to play or full schedule within the current 18 weeks” while emphasizing the responsibility falls on each franchise to “have its team ready to play at the scheduled time and place.” Clubs will not have a “right to postpone a game, and games will not be postponed or rescheduled because of roster issues affecting a particular position group or particular number of players.”

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