The Denver Broncos are 3-5 and on their BYE week. Since there isn’t a football game for them today, I thought it would be fun to do a midseason mock draft for the franchise before they start the second half of their season.
According to Tankathon, the Broncos are currently picking ninth in the first-round. Additionally, they have a third-round pick, a fourth-round pick, two fifth-round picks, and a sixth-round pick. Truth be told, six picks aren’t enough ammo to reload the roster for the long haul. That means trading back in this mock draft as a must for me.
Most Broncos fans would be stoked to land a quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft, but Drake Maye and Caleb Williams will be long gone before the ninth selection. In fact, I think if Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy declares he will probably end up going in the Top 10 as well.
If a scenario presented itself and he was on the board, I would advocate for Denver to take him. But in my run on PFN’s Mock Draft Simulator he was off the board and the other blue-chip prospects were gone too. Which is why I opted to trade down.
The Broncos are out a second-round pick due to the Sean Payton trade, but the Bengals came calling and offered their second and fourth-round picks to move up and select Florida State EDGE Jared Verse. Some might feel that is too light of compensation, but with Denver’s obvious lack of draft selections, I wasn’t going to turn down a Top 50 and Top 125 selection to move down nine spots.
Day One: Trading Back for A Defensive Lineman
#18 Overall (via Bengals): Jer’Zhan Newton, DT — Illinois
The Broncos brought in Zach Allen to fortify their defensive trenches this past offseason but have some question marks at other positions. Veteran nose tackle D.J. Jones carries a hefty salary next year and could very well be a player who is moved so the Broncos can gain cap space. They are currently over the cap by several million dollars for next season.
While the Broncos defense has been better in past weeks, they need to do a much better job at getting after the quarterback and stopping the run consistently. That’s where Illinois standout Jer’Zhan Newton comes into play. At 6’2 and 295 pounds, Newton is a bit on the lighter side, but makes up for a lack in size with his tenacious hand usage and get off at the line of scrimmage.
He has been one of the best defensive linemen in all of college football this season. To date, he has 173 tackles, 24.5 for loss and 15 sacks for his collegiate career. I wouldn’t be surprised if he winds up being a Top 15 pick when April rolls around, but in this scenario—he was by far one of the best players available and would be a welcomed addition to Denver’s defensive front with a chance to blossom into one of the league’s best interior defenders.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT— BIG Banter (@BIGBanterSports) July 17, 2023
Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton is an absolute menace on Illinois’ D-Line. He had 5.5 sacks last season and was constantly in opposing backfields. Newton is projected as a 2024 first round pick. Sky is the limit this season
Video via @Johnny5Newton pic.twitter.com/Jl3DRmvZ9S
Day Two: Finding Sean Payton’s QB
#49 Overall (via Bengals): Jayden Daniels, QB — LSU
History suggests that taking a quarterback in the second-round rarely works out. But the Broncos are facing a dilemma with Russell Wilson’s contract situation at year’s end and the team could hypothetically move on from him. Additionally, there are no developmental prospects in the fold—so drafting someone who has starting upside seems like a no-brainer.
What do they have to lose by taking a shot on a highly talented prospect? Absolutely nothing. Especially when the pick they are using was acquired in the trade down mentioned above. The Broncos would be playing with house money. That’s why I took Jayden Daniels out of Louisiana State to learn under Sean Payton. After all his time down in the Bayou, I’m sure Payton will have a handful of connections to help vet the talented signal caller in the months leading up to April’s draft festivities.
After spending three years at Arizona State, Daniels transferred to LSU in 2022 and had this best season of his college career. So far in 2023, he has surpassed all expectations and already has 27 touchdowns and nearly 2,800 yards passing in just 9 games. He has been deadly accurate completing 72-percent of his passes and has racked 684 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Daniels’ can beat you with both his arm and legs. He is also one of the best deep ball passers in this year’s draft.
He is a true dual threat option whose game translates to the National Football League. I feel lucky that he was still on the board in my simulation. In fact, I think there is a really good chance he goes higher than this in April, but for the sake of this mock draft—I was glad to get him here. That being said, I certainly wouldn’t have minded doing a small trade up to land him either.
Alabama's win over LSU on Saturday was the first FBS game in the last 25 years with opposing QBs each reaching 200 Pass yds & 150 Rush yds.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 5, 2023
Jalen Milroe: 219 Pass yds, 155 Rush yds & 4 Rush TD
Jayden Daniels: 219 Pass yds, 2 Pass TD, 163 Rush yds & Rush TD pic.twitter.com/9qqkgQg7qf
#80 Overall (via Sants): Xavier Legette, WR — South Carolina
Some prospects come out of nowhere and play themselves into early round consideration every year in the NFL Draft. After his first four years with the Gamecocks, Legette didn’t even have 500 total yards receiving. Preliminary draft analysis had him as a late Day 3 selection or UDFA at best entering the season.
This season? Well, he has certainly made a name for himself and is catapulting up draft boards. He already has 50 catches for 973 yards and 5 touchdowns and has become Spencer Rattler’s go-to guy in their offense. Standing at 6’3 and 227 pounds, Legette has dominant size for the NFL and has reportedly clocked in around 4.3 in the 40-yard dash. That’s an insane size-to-speed ratio and reminds me a little bit of Demaryius Thomas when he was coming out of Georgia Tech all those years ago.
Legette’s a classic one-year wonder, but I think given what we have seen to date—it’s safe to say his best football is ahead of him. He would be a great selection for the Broncos who have some ambiguity in their receiving corps for the 2024 season and fits the mold of an ‘X’ receiver in Sean Payton’s offense. Why not add another explosive playmaker on offense? Seems like a smart move, especially since I had them taking Daniels with the prior selection. That’s how you set up a quarterback for success.
Xavier Legette’s straight-line speed is jaw-dropping for his size. Give him a runway and he’s ready for takeoff.— Ian Cummings (@IC_Draft) November 4, 2023
Day Three: Rounding Out the Roster
#113 Overall (via Bengals): Javon Foster, OT — Missouri
The Broncos haven’t selected an offensive tackle in the draft since Garett Bolles in 2017. Foster has been playing at an extremely high level for the Tigers this year and boasts three years of quality starting experience. He would give Denver a developmental offensive tackle with starting potential down the road.
#125 Overall (via Dolphins): Cedric Gray, LB — North Carolina
Gray has been a standout starter for several seasons for the Tar Heels and might just be one of the best linebackers in the ACC. Josey Jewell and Justin Strnad are in the final years of their contracts, so the Broncos would be smart to grab another linebacker to compete alongside Alex Singleton and Drew Sanders.
#139 Overall: Jasheen Davis, EDGE — Wake Forest
Denver has a lot of youth at the edge position, but I’m always about adding players who can get after the quarterback. I was surprised to see Wake Forest EDGE Jasheen Davis was on the board in the early fifth-round. He has been balling out for the Demon Deacons this season. Through nine games he has racked up 6.5 sacks and been stout setting the edge as well. Baron Browning and Jonathon Cooper will both be in the final year of their rookie contracts in 2024, so getting Davis here seems like a smart move when thinking about the future.
#145 Overall (via Jets): Brevyn Spann-Ford, TE — Minnesota
The Broncos could use some more help in their tight end room. As high as I’ve been on Greg Dulcich his constant hamstring injuries are concerning. Minnesota prospect Spann-Ford is 6’7 and nearly 265 pounds and one of the best run blockers in college football, but his size and frame make him a great safety valve and red zone target.
Melton’s brother Bo is already in the National Football League and come April, Max will hear his name called. He is a solid defensive back prospect with a lot of experience for the Scarlet Knights who would add quality depth to Denver’s secondary.