In my latest mock draft I again used a simulator for the other 31 teams, while I picked for the Denver Broncos. I went by my big board, while trying to fill areas that seem to be needs for the Broncos. However, I went with the best player available, regardless of position, first and foremost, which is reflected in multiple picks made.
With that said, it is time to dive into the mock draft.
Round 1, Pick 28: Preston Smith
6-foot-5, 271 pounds. Defensive linemen/Linebacker, Mississippi State.
Preston Smith is one of the top players on my board. His versatility and the strengths in his game make him such an enticing prospect. He can do anything that is asked of him, though some things he should not be asked to do full time.
He also can play anywhere in the front seven, especially in a 3-4 front. Working with the Broncos coaching staff, Smith would become a bigtime player, if not a star, in the NFL.
When I was looking at the available players before making this pick, there were some I thought about. Then I saw that Preston Smith was still available, I made the pick instantly. He is such a fit for the defense and can be used in so many different ways.
Not only was he the best player on my board, he also represented the best value of all the players I considered.
Round 2, Pick 27: Ali Marpet
6-foot-4, 307 pounds. Offensive guard/Center, Hobart & William Smith.
For this pick, I was hoping that at least one of those players I was considering at 28 would fall, but none of them did. So, I went over my board while looking at available picks. Once again, I went with a player who represented my best player available and the best value. He also happened to fill a need that the Broncos have.
Ali Marpet is a versatile offensive linemen. He played left tackle while in college, but he projects better as an interior offensive linemen in the NFL. In my opinion, he is best suited at center. Marpet can potentially be a day one starter at center, but it all depends on how fast he can pick up the playbook.
Marpet has a really high football IQ, which should help him grow and learn in the NFL. Under Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison, I would expect Marpet to grow into a perennial Pro Bowler, either at center or guard.
Round 3, Pick 28: Lorenzo Mauldin
6-foot-4, 259 pounds. Linebacker, Louisville.
Lorenzo Mauldin was yet another pick that represented great value on my board, though he was not the best player available. I went away from the best player, due to having multiple options for the position closely graded, so I went with the position that has a big difference between the top player and next at the position.
Mauldin isn’t as versatile as Preston Smith, as he can’t play with his hand in the dirt in a 3-4, like Smith. However, Mauldin is capable in playing any linebacker position needed in a 3-4 front.
Mauldin would bring some versatility to the Broncos linebacker corps. He could sub in at inside linebacker and do whatever is asked of him, even cover, or he can sub in at outside linebacker and be let loose to go after the quarterback or defend the run.
While he isn’t the best player in technique, he has a solid base. What really stands out with Mauldin is his competitiveness and drive to be the best. Having him work under DeMarcus Ware could reap substantial rewards for the Broncos in the not-so-distant future.
Round 4, Pick 34 (COMP): Mitch Morse
6-foot-5, 305 pounds. Offensive Guard/Offensive Tackle, Missouri.
Mitch Morse is a versatile offensive linemen capable of playing anywhere on the offensive line. In the NFL, he is best suited as a guard, but can be a solid tackle in a zone blocking scheme. He is such a great fit for the Broncos and what they are doing as they move forward.
They can plug him in at left guard or even right tackle, or they can coach him up and have him compete at center, as well as guard and tackle.
I was considering Morse in the third round where I took Mauldin. Offensive line was the position I had a couple closely graded players and Morse was one of them. When he was available here, the pick was made instantly. The value and versatility he would bring was just impossible to pass up.
Round 5, Pick 7: Rakeem Nunez-Roches
6-foot-2, 307 pounds. Defensive Tackle, Southern Mississippi.
The Broncos depth at nose tackle is questionable, as there is Sylvester Williams and Marvin Austin only. Rakeem Nunez-Roches looks the part of a nose tackle in a one-gap penetrating defense, which is exactly what Wade Phillips runs. He would take some time to grow, but can see snaps as a backup player.
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He has a non-stop motor and a knack for bursting through the gap off the snap. Early, he shouldn’t see snaps on obvious run downs, but in passing situations he can sub in at nose, or even as one of the ends.
At this point in the draft the player grades start to look very similar, so need becomes a bigger tool in making selections. Rakeem was not the top graded player on my board, but he represented the best value per my board.
With a mid-fifth round grade, Rakeem was the sixth player on my board, but those ahead of them were all defensive ends, linebackers or offensive linemen, which all have been addressed. So going a little lower on my board to fill a need was the best option available. If trades were part of this mock, I would have traded down.
Round 5, Pick 28: Charles Gaines
5-foot-10, 180 pounds. Cornerback, Louisville.
Charles Gaines is a tall and long corner who does really well when playing off-coverage, as long as he keeps the play in front of him. When I was watching him on film, I kept seeing 2014 Aqib Talib. Both players have a similar build, which looks to be a press-man build, but they played a lot of off-coverage.
Gaines is capable of more than just off-coverage, but will take a little bit of time to get coached up. He could step in right away as a fifth corner on the depth chart and a special teams player, while he gets coached up.
Selecting Charles Gaines was easy. It was a position of need, in a range I felt it was worth filling that need and he was the best player on the board. Gaines has a high ceiling, but won’t make a big impact right away.
He will need coaching and mentoring to get close to that ceiling and Denver is the place to get it. He could do all that while still contributing to a special teams unit that needs help.
Round 6, Pick 27: Kyle Emanuel
6-foot-3, 255 pounds. Outside Linebacker, North Dakota State.
Kyle Emanuel is a player I really like. I don’t see him as an edge player in the NFL, but as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 front. His skill-set is best suited there and he can do whatever is needed—blitz, cover, and stop the run.
He has good size, but how he carries it and moves with it is excellent. The best thing with Emanuel is that he will do whatever is needed. He loves to play and puts the work in to be the best he can be.
During the Combine, Emanuel was practicing all the drills, instead of watching everyone else run them. He wanted to do the best he could, and he would ask one of the coaches how he could improve. A player like that in the late rounds is great, but with his ceiling as a player, it makes the selection an excellent one. He is a competitor who will never be satisfied with being good enough. He will always want to be better.
Round 7, Pick 33 (COMP): Gerald Christian
6-foot-3, 244 pounds. Tight End, Louisville.
Yes, I selected a tight end for the Bronocs. Under Kubiak’s offense, tight ends are vital. Gerald Christian isn’t a prototypical Kubiak tight end. He is a "move" tight end who is a good receiving option, particularly out of the slot.
As a "move" tight end, Christian would create mismatches wherever he can lineup, and he can line up anywhere, as long as you don’t ask him to block. He is big, quick and fluid. The Broncos have a good group of tight ends on-roster already, but Christian can be stashed on the practice squad for a few years while he grows.
This late in the draft, you are looking for good value players, and they often come as draft-and-stash players, who can potentially have a big impact in a few seasons.
Round 7, Pick 34 (COMP): Jeff Luc
6-foot-1, 256 pounds. Inside Linebacker, Cincinnati.
Jeff Luc is another one of those players who should be drafted and stashed on the practice squad for a few years. Luc is still raw in most aspects of his game. Well, all aspects of his game, except defending the run.
He is a bog-bodied linebacker who does a great job against the run, but that is all he brings to the table right away. Drafting him and stashing him would be great for the Broncos, as they can work with him and grow him for a few years. Then they can let him seriously compete for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Round 7, Pick 35 (COMP): Kyle Christy
6-foot-2, 202 pounds. Punter, Florida.
The Broncos carried four specialists late last season, and they have to cut one out. Kyle Christy is a good college punter and can replace Britton Colquitt, but the value comes from being able to also handle kickoff duties, which would replace what Brandon McManus does for the team.
That would give the Broncos their three specialists for next season. Christy is my top punter and No. 2 specialist in the draft and getting him with the Broncos last pick, with the potential to replace two specialists already on-roster, just made the pick too valuable to pass up.
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