The Denver Broncos are good enough to compete for a playoff spot -- even in the brutal AFC West. What is holding them back is a franchise quarterback who can lead a talented offense to the postseason.
This isn't a knock against Drew Lock, who we really don't know yet is or isn't capable of being a starting quarterback. But how much longer can the Broncos wait around for Lock to develop when this team is more than capable of reaching the playoffs in 2021 with a better signal-caller?
Denver's first-round pick should focus on a quarterback, but will the Broncos have one fall to them at No. 9? Do they trade up and find a way to snag Trey Lance or Justin Fields? This is a precarious spot for Denver, which could just stay at No. 9 and draft an impact player at another position as well.
In what will be a crucial draft for the Broncos, here's a seven-round mock draft of all nine selections. We're not doing any trades, so all nine picks will be used.
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Let's see if Denver can get its quarterback.
Round (Overall Pick)
Micah Parsons (LB)
Travis Etienne (RB)
Shaun Wade (CB)
Robert Hainsey (OT)
Chauncey Golston (EDGE)
Drake Jackson (IOL)
Cornell Powell (WR)
Christian Uphoff (S)
Zac Thomas (QB)
Here's a breakdown of each of the selections:
Micah Parsons (No. 9)
The top five quarterbacks are off the board, so Denver fills an immediate need in selecting Parsons here. Parsons starts at one of the linebacker positions in Week 1 (strongest position is WILL) as his athletic frame presents a nightmare for teams looking to run off Denver's defense.
Parsons' ability of ball recognition makes the Broncos defense tough in a 17-game schedule, as head coach Vic Fangio uses him as an extra attacker on the blitz. No quarterback in Round 1, no problem for Denver. The Broncos will be happy with this pick for years.
Travis Etienne (No. 40)
Somehow Etienne fell to Denver in this mock draft, and the Broncos run to the podium to take him. The Broncos have Melvin Gordon as the starter, but he's in the final year of his contract. They'll pair Etienne with Gordon, giving the ball to the back with the hot hand and adding another weapon to an already talented offense. Etienne eventually becomes the No. 1 back in Denver, as he is one of the true three-down backs in his draft.
Shaun Wade (No. 71)
This could be a reach for Denver here, but Fangio uses multiple defensive schemes to cover Wade's struggles in man coverage. Wade is a solid No. 3 to Kyle Fuller and Duke Dawson in Year One, but will earn an opportunity to contribute right way. Depth at cornerback is vital for the Broncos and Wade helps fill that gap.
Robert Hainsey (No. 114)
Hainsey played right tackle in college and was good technique. Denver needs someone to play right tackle in 2021, but Hainsey may not be ready to face edge rushers in Week 1 as he needs to work on his quickness. The Broncos could always plug him at guard.
Chauncey Golston (No. 152)
Golston has a long wingspan and is a strong rusher on the inside. Thanks to Fangio using multiple fronts, he serves a purpose when the Broncos head coach rushes four up front. He can slip into the interior gaps and help out the pass rush as a backup in Year One.
Drake Jackson (No. 191)
Jackson is undersized, but has some pop at center. Denver needs a contingency plan in case Lloyd Cushenberry were to go down, which is where Jackson states his case for a roster spot.
Cornell Powell (No. 237)
Hard to envision Powell falling this low in a mock draft simulator, but here we are. Denver adds more depth to an already crowded receiver room, as he can find ways to catch the football. Powell's talent outweighs his production in college and he's worth taking a flyer on.
Christian Uphoff (No. 239)
A versatile safety who can cover tight ends and play multiple roles in the secondary, Uphoff also provides value on special teams and has returned kicks and punts.
Zac Thomas (No. 253)
The Broncos finally draft a quarterback. Thomas is a developmental prospect who can compete for the No. 2 job down the line. Arm strength is the biggest limit in Thomas' game, who needs reps in the preseason in order for Denver to find out what he has to offer.