The Denver Broncos went just 5-11 in 2020, but the front office has been busy this offseason trying to add new pieces to improve the roster. General manager George Paton has earned an A+ grade for what he has done in the secondary, as Denver re-upped with both safeties in Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons, and also added two legitimate starters at cornerback in Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller. The Broncos still have a couple of holes to fill if they want to be more competitive in the AFC West, and a great opportunity to acquire young, cheap talent is coming up in less than two weeks.
The NFL Draft is where true contenders are built, and the Broncos hold what could be a franchise-changing pick at No. 9 overall. Denver will of course look to find value in all seven rounds, but the quarterback issue is one that is on everyone's minds. Drew Lock is on the hot seat, and could find himself in a quarterback competition with a talented rookie come training camp. Should the Broncos be aggressive in trying to find a new quarterback, or should they be patient? Below, we will map out three objectives Denver must accomplish if the Broncos want to pull off the perfect 2021 NFL Draft.
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Don't trade up in the first round
According to Benjamin Allbright of KOA Colorado, the Broncos have not called the Atlanta Falcons about trading up to No. 4 overall so far. As Allbright notes, this does not mean that Denver is not looking at quarterbacks or don't have interest in moving up, but that's where we stand as of now. There are many different opinions about what the Broncos should do in the first round. They could trade up for a quarterback, hope one falls to them at No. 9 overall or maybe even trade down if they receive a good offer. If you ask me, I say Denver should stay put at No. 9 overall. Do not trade up.
If Trey Lance or Justin Fields fall to No. 9 overall, this is where things could get interesting for the Broncos. If the front office is set on taking a signal-caller, then go for it. If not, they should have a chance to select a first-day starter like linebacker Micah Parsons or offensive lineman Rashawn Slater -- who appears to be climbing draft boards. Maybe the Broncos even take a cornerback with that first pick. Either way, the Broncos would be wise to see how things play out on draft day instead of making a very aggressive move up the board.
Address offensive tackle
Ja'Wuan James is the Broncos' starting right tackle, but he has not been someone you can rely on. He played just three games before knee injuries took him out in his first season with Denver, and then he opted out last year. The Broncos also lost reserve Elijah Wilkinson, who opened up the season at right tackle last year. Denver could address this need by taking a player like the aforementioned Slater in the first round, or take someone like Teven Jenkins or Alijah-Vera Tucker if the Broncos end up trading down in the opening round. To that point, the Broncos don't have to use one of their first picks on this need. My colleague Chris Trapasso penned an article on five undervalued offensive linemen teams should target on Day Three, because there are some potential gems. Brenden Jaimes out of Nebraska is an experienced tackle who is a great pass-blocker, and former Stanford left tackle Walker Little is an interesting player who could slip down draft boards. The Broncos taking a tackle with starting potential would give them some depth on the outside, and also could possibly play immediately inside if Pat Shurmur wants.
Add to cornerback room
As we mentioned, the Broncos have done a solid job in the secondary by adding Fuller and Darby at cornerback and retaining both of their starting safeties. That said, cornerback depth is invaluable when you share a division with a couple of big-armed quarterbacks. Denver could take Patrick Surtain II or Caleb Farley in the first round, but waiting for a little later in the draft is appropriate as well. Trapasso ranks the incoming cornerbacks as the fourth-best position group in this class.
"Later on, there are long, athletic types who'll be available -- Minnesota's Benjamin St-Juste, Washington's Keith Taylor, UCF's Tay Gowan, and Stanford's Paulson Adebo -- along with feisty nickel types needed in every defense today -- Oklahoma's Tre Brown and Rodarius Williams, Georgia's DJ Daniel, App State's Shemar Jean-Charles, and Texas Tech's Zech McPhearson."
Fuller is on a one-year deal and then there's a potential out in Bryce Callahan's contract next offseason. Acquiring a young, athletic cornerback with potential who could provide depth would be ideal.
Here are the prospects CBS NFL Draft writer Josh Edwards has the Broncos taking in his most recent seven-round mock draft:
|Round (Overall pick)||Prospect||College|
1 (7) TRADE
QB Justin Fields
EDGE Joseph Ossai
DT Marlon Tuipulotu
OG Deonte Brown
OT Larry Borom
S Eric Burrell
CB Brandin Echols
CB Nate Hobbs
|7 (253)||C Jimmy Morrissey||Pittsburgh|