To make this mock draft, I had some knowledgeable people I know to pick for the other 31 teams. I was picking for the Denver Broncos, using my own personal board. With other people picking for the other teams, it allowed for a more natural and realistic draft. I couldn't just draft whatever player I wanted. We allowed trades, and I pulled a few of them, though not necessarily all the ones I tried.
I kept in mind what I view as the Broncos needs with the picks I made. So, with all that said, time to jump into the mock.
In this mock, Paxton Lynch fell out of the top 15. After trying to trade up to #16 and #17, which I failed, Lynch ended up going at #18, to the New York Jets who traded with the Indianapolis Colts for him. So I sat and waited until 31, to see how the board fell. Once there, I had 10 players all ranked with late round-one grades available, and all of them filled a need for the Broncos. This caused me to trade down, fortunately another team wanted to trade up. They offered me their second round, fourth round, fifth round and a sixth round pick for 31 of the first round. I took over #9 in the second round, which is where I made the first pick for the Denver Broncos.
One thing that goes unmentioned when looking for Broncos defensive linemen is versatility. So, with the first pick I had, I took who is probably the most versatile defensive linemen in the draft. Butler weighs in right around 320 pounds, but he moves like he is 270 pounds.
He exudes athleticism, especially for his size. The way that Butler brings versatility is that he isn’t limited by scheme or role. He transcends that and can play almost anywhere and do whatever. Of course, there may be certain schemes/roles he does better at, but being able to play anywhere is outstanding versatility. The only thing he can’t play is a traditional 4-3 9-tech defensive end.
In Denver’s 3-4 one-gap attack system, Butler is more than capable playing the 5-tech in base formation, and move into a 3-tech in their sub packages on obvious passing downs. In obvious run downs, he can end play the 0 or 1-tech nose tackle and one or two-gap, he has the size and strength to do it.
His athleticism, movement and surprising quickness makes him more than capable at the 5-tech. He can seal the edge against the run, get his own pressure on the quarterback, or even eat up a lot of space to free up whoever else comes off that edge. Then with the one-gap aspect of the scheme, his burst off the snap is really good and he can shoot the gap immediately and catch offensive linemen off guard.
Butler reminds me very much of Muhammad Wilkerson, who has quietly had an outstanding career with the New York Jets. New York has used Wilkerson in a variety of ways in their 3-4 fronts over the years. Not deeming Butler a success, but him working will Bill Kollar, who helped create J.J. Watt, helped get Derek Wolfe to really break out and Malik Jackson a big contract, it is hard to see Butler not becoming an All-Pro in the NFL — were he to be draft by Denver.
My No. 3 guard in the draft carrying a mid second round grade, Westerman is the poster boy for a zone scheme guard. Denver went out and brought in a couple of offensive linemen in free agency, but one has never played a full season (Russell Okung) and the other has never been able to remain as a starter (Donald Stephenson).
Those two make up your two tackles, and Denver is moving 2015 second round pick Ty Sambrailo to guard, which is where Westerman comes in. If Okung or Stephenson get hurt, or don’t pan out, the best option is moving Sambrailo back to tackle, before putting Michael Schofield back on the field.
Moving Sambrailo leaves a big gap at guard. Right now, Denver's depth at guard are a group of unknown project offensive linemen, that may need more time before being ready. Westerman, while he has his flaws and room to improve, can be a day one starter at guard in a zone scheme. This gives Denver options with their offensive line, and at the very least, drastically improves their depth all over for just in case emergency situations.
When making the Westerman pick, there were two other players who I really like and both fill a need for the Broncos. So to start the fourth round one of the two was taken while the other started to fall. It finally got to the point where I started trying to trade up, and saw success on my second try. I ended up sending pick #11 in the 4th round, pick #5 in the 5th round and a future 3rd round pick to get pick #9 in the third round.
Going back to Louisiana Tech with this pick. The running back can do a lot of things on offense, and can help as a returner too. He lacks a top gear, but has really good burst to break off big gains. Adding him as a compliment to C.J. Anderson makes a dynamic duo, where both can make people miss and pick up extra yards.
Now, I know what you’re gonna say, what about Ronnie Hillman and/or Juwan Thompson and/or Kapri Bibbs? Well, Hillman has never lived up to the third round pick used on him, signed a team friendly “prove it to stay” kind of deal, Thompson has been unable to crack the offense despite some chances, and Bibbs still has a lot to work on and show he can do more than just one thing.
Dixon increases the competition at running back, and makes everyone besides Anderson prove it to the coaching staff and front office that they deserve to stay on the roster.
Yes, I made this pick even after the Broncos signed Garrett Graham. Graham is going to be 30 years old by the season start. Graham has solid hands, which weren’t seen last year and is a solid blocker. However, he is still just depth.
Virgil Green has been limited to a blocking role and Jeff Heuerman is coming off a serious injury. The Broncos are looking for another tight end, and Graham was brought in to give Denver a solid three-man rotation if they can’t pick up another one in the draft.
Vannett is the most well-rounded tight end in the draft. Denver saw plenty of him when scouting Heuerman last year. The two former teammates have plenty of chemistry already, which should help Vannett adapt to life in the NFL.
It also gives Denver a serious receiving option to help out Heuerman. I know many fans are hoping Green breaks out, but there has to be a point we have to accept he just may be the player we have seen and limited to blocking for a reason besides not getting chances as a receiver.
As one scout said to me, “The Tim Tebow comparisons for Prescott are lazy, and wrong. It fails to acknowledge that Prescott is a much better passer than Tebow ever was, with a better arm, fundamentals and quarterback mentality. Tebow was a runner acting like a quarterback on the field, and never would look to throw before running. That is not an issue with Prescott.”
Having watched a lot of Prescott, I can’t help but agree. Now, Prescott has plenty of flaws and some really bad Tebow-like throws, but they are not anywhere near as often as the Tebow comparisons may make you think.
It is common knowledge that the Broncos are very high on Dak Prescott, and probably round-two high on him. However, I was sticking with my board for this mock draft. Prescott is my No. 4 quarterback and was the best player on my board left.
After missing out on Colin Kaepernick and others, Denver moves on. If they end up drafting a quarterback, I think they revisit signing Brian Hoyer. So, how I end up seeing it (with them drafting Prescott) come training camp is Mark Sanchez and Brian Hoyer competing for the starting job, with Siemian and Prescott working on their development.
Now once again, there was a player on the board I just love for the Denver Broncos. So to start the I started trying to trade up. Ended up being successful to land the #12 pick in the 4th round after sending the #10 pick in the 5th round and a future 4th round pick.
With the 12th pick of the fourth round the Denver Broncos select: Miles Killebrew, Safety, Southern Utah
The small-school safety has the potential to play either safety spot. I love his fit with the Broncos as he can step in and help as the No. 3 safety and special teams his rookie year while they work to develop him to be a future starter. Darian Stewart is in his final year, and T.J. Ward has two years left on his deal. Killebrew has answered questions about his speed, so he could look to replace Stewart next year, or can stay as the No. 3 safety and replace Ward in two years. Versatility is there.
The linebacker is a clone of Brandon Marshall when he was coming out of Nevada. My notes on Marshall are nearly identical to Alexander's. That doesn’t mean he will follow the career of Marshall, but is shows his issues can be coached up and fixed. Adding Alexander to the group of players that will be used to replace Danny Trevathan bolsters their depth and gives them more options.
Another small-school safety with excellent upside. Denver needs to improve their depth at safety because guys like Shiloh Keo and Brandian Ross just are not the best players, nor ones you want stepping in when there is an emergency. Byard, like Killebrew, has potential to play either safety spot. He also could rotate with Killebrew as the No. 3 safety, and give Denver two young safeties that can grow together and get chemistry before they both take over the starting spots within two years.
Sitting at the 9th pick in the sixth round, I really wanted to move down. Plenty of players I saw falling and wanted to see the board clear up a bit. So I traded the pick #9 in the sixth round for pick #28 in the 6th and 7th round.
Mike Thomas is flying far under the radar. He is an outstanding talent who is unequaled in his effort and motor. He plays bigger than he is and can line up in multiple spots on offense and see success. Even though Denver has a lot of talent/depth at receiver, in about a year the talent/depth is as risk of disappearing.
Jordan Taylor and Bennie Fowler both are exclusive rights free agents, so no risk of them leaving if Denver wants them back, but Jordan Norwood and Emmanuel Sanders are both set to hit the free agent market and Cody Latimer may be in a make-or-break year. Adding Thomas adds more depth and competition this year, while keeping the talent and depth at receiver for future years.
To put it simply, Britton Colquitt would have been gone in training camp if not for accepting a pay-cut. His performance did little to cement him a spot on the roster. Colquitt is overpaid and in need of being replaced. Hackett is the best punter available in the draft and should not only compete with Colquitt, but push Colquitt off the roster, which frees up money for the Broncos.
Denver needs a fullback for the scheme head coach Gary Kubiak runs. Dan Vitale is the best one in the draft and brings even more versatility to the Broncos offense. He is a jack-of-all-trades type of player, but there isn’t anything he is really a master in. Just a great all-around fullback.
With the 28th pick of the seventh round the Denver Broncos select: Moritz Boehringer, Wide Receiver, Germany
This is a pick that may never pan out, but there is so much upside with the German receiver that as a seventh round pick, it is well worth the risk. He would sit on the practice squad for a while to get coached up. Low risk-high reward type of selection.
There is tremendous upside with Johnson that is worth taking a risk on. Like the German receiver, Johnson probably sits on the practice squad for a few years while he gets coached up. Another low-risk high reward selection. I had multiple scouts tell me that of all these seventh round/undrafted rookies, Matt Johnson is one of two who have the potential to follow a Tony Romo like route to the NFL.
Special note: 10 of the players selected have a 4th round grade from me or higher (Yes, that includes the punter). The final two picks have sixth round grades from me.
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