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Broncos Mock Draft: How could Paton draft around a Hall of Fame QB?

Paton’s work doesn’t end if Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers land in Denver.

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Denver Broncos vs Los Angles Chargers.
Could the Broncos GM turn Denver into a Super Bowl contender in 2022?
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Unless you’re related to Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater, you’ve probably accepted the fact that neither looks like they’ll remain the Broncos’ starting quarterback after the 2021 season comes to a close. What no one knows is how George Paton will try to solve the unending QB conundrum. Denver’s first “aggressive, but not reckless” offseason ended with Bridgewater beating Lock out for a starting gig.

Will the second look better?

An underwhelming rookie class and barren veteran market inspires little confidence, so it’s tough to blame Broncos Country for pinning their hopes on an Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson trade. There remains a possibility the Green Bay Packers and/or Seattle Seahawks don’t even entertain trade offers, but Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger recently took a look the realistic trade values for both.

A trade for either almost certainly leads to an extension such as the one ESPN’s Bill Barnwell explored last week. Assuming Paton followed a similar blueprint, the Broncos would have roughly $30 million in cap space. That’s more than enough room to bring back any of the Broncos’ own impending free agents, such as Bryce Callahan, Bobby Massie, or one of the Alexander Johnson/Josey Jewell/Kenny Young trio. It’s enough to sign a day one free agent or two like the Chicago Bears’ Akiem Hicks or the Arizona Cardinals’ Chandler Jones. It’s also enough to sit out funny money season in order to fill out the depth chart with solid veterans such as former Viking Anthony Harris.

Paton wasn’t lying when he said “We have the resources to do whatever we want,” in November. On this side of the new year, they look like they’re a quality passer away from Super Bowl contention.

The Broncos have been looking for a franchise quarterback since Peyton Manning retired after Super Bowl 50. This scenario toys around with what could happen in the draft after they finally acquire him in exchange for their 2022 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and a 2023 1st. One unsung perk to the Von Miller trade is how the Broncos can afford to send out three top 100 picks for Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson and still have something akin to a “normal” draft.

T.56. OT, Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan

NFL history has shown that tackles typically take two to three years to really blossom, so passing on the ‘21 class puts the Broncos behind the eight ball on the right side. While Raimann’s going to draw some consternation from those who believe there’s a need to grab a player who can provide an immediate impact with this selection, I didn’t want to pass on the chance to grab a developmental tackle who still moves like the former tight end he is. Retaining Massie creates a situation where Munchak can work on ironing out Raimann’s hand technique as he gets stronger.

T.88. ED, Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame

This draft class looks extremely rich at edge talent, and it’d make sense to capitalize. Even if you assume both improve in 2022, Bradley Chubb is playing on a fifth year option and Malik Reed’s on an RFA tender. There’s a definite need to add to the edge rotation. Foskey is a toolsy 6’5”, 257 lb. hybrid who’s played all over the Irish defensive front before earning a starting job this year. That versatility could be an asset to NFL teams that want pass rushers who can line up off the ball, set the edge, and drop in space. Foskey’s also blocked two punts in his college career.

118. CB, Alontae Taylor, Tennessee

Michael Ojemudia hasn’t proven enough to count on and Ronald Darby’s contract becomes moveable after 2022. The vast majority of NFL teams play five defensive backs more than 60% of the time, so it pays to draft and develop corners before the need is glaring. A former wide receiver convert, Taylor has the length and athletic gifts to eventually blossom into an ideal running mate for Patrick Surtain II. He should also become a reliable special teams contributor early in his career.

T.143. CB, Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, TCU

In this scenario the Broncos re-signed Kyle Fuller or Bryce Callahan, but they’re both on the wrong side of 30. Callahan’s never made it through a full season healthy and Fuller’s shown obvious signs that he’s slowing down. The undersized nephew of LaDainian Tomlinson is an instinctive slot corner who doesn’t shirk his duties in run support. Fangio’s shown little hesitation playing smaller corners outside, so Hodges-Tomlinson’s past experience on the boundary could also work in his favor.

156. QB, Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky

Drew Lock is playing out the final year of his rookie contract while Brett Rypien’s a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers after the Broncos didn’t tender him, creating a need for a serviceable backup quarterback. Generously listed at 6’1 and 220 lbs., this Hilltopper’s physical limitations look like they’ll cap his ceiling in the NFL. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t be a good pro, as he displays the moxy, mobility, and ball placement to grow into a top tier number two.

T.240. LB, Owen Papoe, Auburn

From Paton’s hiring in 2007 until his departure for Denver in 2020, the Vikings spent 12 day three picks on off ball linebackers. Baron Browning looks like he’ll lock down one spot for years to come and in this scenario there’s a starter beside him, but the depth remains a question.

This far down the board it doesn’t necessarily hurt to take a swing on promise, and Pappoe could become a potential steal after a leg injury took a bite out of his senior season and sunk his draft stock. He’s a run and chase backer who’s at his best playing in space. The former five star recruit has the tools to become a special teams ace at the very least.