It's early in mock draft season to be firing up the old fake trade machine, but a rumor about the Broncos getting involved with Kirk Cousins makes the idea of them trading down too enticing not to explore. Plus, the Broncos could whiff on Cousins and end up needing to stay where they are, so let's get this thing out of the way.
Basically the gist is this: Denver wants to sign Cousins and wants to give him a ton of money, but can't just do it out of pocket right now. They will need to make cuts, and there is a very good chance said cuts involve cornerback Aqib Talib (who is probably getting released anyway because of salary-cap reasons) and Derek Wolfe. The Broncos need to free up money but can't cut wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas because then no quarterback will want to come join them.
After making those moves, the Broncos can conceivably trade down from No. 5 and there is a very good trade partner in the Bills, who have a need at quarterback, would love to jump the Jets to grab one and have multiple first-round picks.
The old-school trade value of No. 5 is 1,700 points, while the Bills' two first-round picks (No. 21 and No. 22) are worth 1,580 points. To make up the difference in value, the Bills send No. 56 overall (350) to Denver in exchange for No. 71 overall (235), which basically gets the two parties to even.
The Bills get No. 5 overall and No. 71 overall.
The Broncos get No. 21 overall, No. 22 overall and No. 56 overall.
So in this scenario, the Bills are able to use their two first-round picks to fly up the board and snare a quarterback (details below). They will walk out of Round 1 with a franchise quarterback and they will still have a second-round pick because that No. 56 pick is what they got from the Rams for Sammy Watkins. So Buffalo will get a franchise quarterback, one second-round pick and two third-round picks. The Broncos will end up selecting four times between No. 21 and No. 56. That's how you reload a roster.
It's a deal that, frankly, makes sense for both sides should things unfold in this fashion.
1. Cleveland Browns
Sam Darnold, QB, USC: The highest ceiling and floor combination of all these quarterbacks, and Cleveland can even likely afford Darnold the opportunity to sit for a season and learn while someone like AJ McCarron plays in 2018.
2. New York Giants
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming: The best possible landing spot for a quarterback who HAS to sit at least a year, thanks to the presence of Eli Manning. Certainly not ruling them out for going after a defensive player or an offensive standout here either.
3. Indianapolis Colts
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State: The best non-quarterback in the draft, Chubb is a blue-collar worker who fits the mentality of Chris Ballard and Frank Reich and gives Indy a pass-rushing presence it has needed badly since Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney were in town together.
4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans)
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama: Again, this is such a great position for the Browns to be in, at least heading into the draft. They get their quarterback at the top, with no fear of being snaked, and then can take the best player available. In this case it's Fitzpatrick, who can play all over the place and gives the Browns much needed talent at defensive back. Fitzpatrick gave up a 10.1 passer rating on passes of 20 yards or more down the field last year, according to Pro Football Focus data.
5. Buffalo Bills (VIA MOCK TRADE with Broncos)
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: This is a case where the chips fall just right for the Bills. The picks in question (see: above) are close enough in value for the two teams to work out a deal and the inherent talent available makes sense too. The Broncos would prefer a top-tier player, obviously, but after making roster cuts they need more help across the board. The Bills desperately need a quarterback and Rosen dropping to five gives them a real option.
6. New York Jets
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: The temptation to go in a defensive direction here or to pluck an offensive lineman would be strong, but Barkley in the backfield with Jameis Winston plus Mike Evans and O.J. Howard as primary targets? Hard to see how this offense doesn't take off. (Of course we said that last year too.)
8. Chicago Bears
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama: GM Ryan Pace has been fairly hard to predict when it comes to the draft -- even his own coach didn't know he was interested in Mitchell Trubisky last year -- but you better believe the next three months will be heavily focused on getting weapons for his franchise quarterback.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame: What a dream situation for Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo. Nelson is athletic, but he's also a straight mauler. The 49ers need to find weapons and protection for Jimmy G and this qualifies nicely.
10. Oakland Raiders
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia: Also an ideal setup here, with the Raiders pairing a glaring need with the best player at his position. Smith is one of the four best players in the draft independent of position and he would be a massive upgrade for the Raiders at linebacker.
11. Miami Dolphins
Derwin James, DB, Florida State: There's a lot to sort out in the early going with this team as it relates to free agency (looking at you Jarvis Landry and Ndamukong Suh) but for now we'll give them the best player available, a versatile defensive weapon in James and a guy I don't actually expect to be at No. 11 come draft night. (But then again, if the quarterbacks all go early ...)
12. Cincinnati Bengals
Mike McGlinchey, OL, Notre Dame: The Bengals need to win now and also need to get better on the offensive line. McGlinchey should help them do that, although it's possible they see Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi as still the answer at tackle.
13. Washington Redskins
Da'Ron Payne, DL, Alabama: The Redskins already invested in the defensive line with Jonathan Allen last year, but no reason they can't get bigger up front. That's a plus against the offensive lines of the Eagles and Cowboys. And why not recreate a duo that managed to help propel the Crimson Tide to one or two victories over the years?
14. Green Bay Packers
15. Arizona Cardinals
Connor Williams, OL, Texas: The Cardinals in this scenario have already acquired their quarterback, presumably via free agency, and need to provide some protection up front for whoever that mystery quarterback is.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU: The Ravens are an interesting spot with Ozzie Newsome stepping down and Eric DeCosta taking over. It's hard to imagine them doing too much differently as a result, but it's not hard to imagine Newsome wanting to push for one last title run before he steps away. Adding a wideout would help in a big way.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
Isaiah Wynn, OL, Georgia: The Chargers made a habit of drafting high floor guys who could help out Philip Rivers immediately and Wynn would qualify as well. Getting Forrest Lamp back and adding Wynn would give a beleaguered line additional help.
18. Seattle Seahawks
Orlando Brown, OL, Oklahoma: John Schneider has admitted previously he sometimes has to draft for need, and if the Seahawks don't solve some of their offensive line problems in free agency, they may have to do just that when the draft rolls around.
19. Dallas Cowboys
Vita Vea, DL, Washington: If the Cowboys franchise tag Demarcus Lawrence and add a big body like Vea in the draft (this would be a great spot to land him), then they've got the pieces coming together for an interesting little defensive line next year.
20. Detroit Lions
Billy Price, OL, Ohio State: Center Travis Swanson is a free agent, and TBD on where the Lions end up there. If they have a hole at center they could plug in from the get go. Protecting Matthew Stafford is paramount, although it wouldn't be surprising if they went defense for Matt Patricia's first draft.
21. Denver Broncos (VIA MOCK TRADE with Bills)
Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa: Don't really see Jackson falling this far when the draft rolls around, but here we are! And boy did this work out for the Broncos, who can grab a cornerback to replace Aqib Talib. Trading down looks clever.
22. Denver Broncos (VIA MOCK TRADE from Bills via Chiefs)
Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan: And now Elway gets to find a replacement for Derek Wolfe, giving the Broncos a really nice haul from the first round of the draft considering they gave up a prime spot to land a quarterback.
23. Los Angeles Rams
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State: When you start to look at this draft and the needs for these teams, it becomes pretty clear there could be some serious talent falling because of quarterback and offensive line availability. The Rams add another defensive piece to an already stout unit.
24. Carolina Panthers
Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA: The Panthers probably need to get some wide receiver or offensive line talent, but they would also be well served to invest in pass rushers. Julius Peppers is leaning towards coming back next year but is probably one-and-done at this point.
25. Tennessee Titans
Arden Key, EDGE, LSU: Who knows where Key will end up going? He has top-five talent but definitely has some red flags when it comes to off-field issues pushing his stock down. The Titans could gamble here on a guy who can make an immediate impact as an edge rusher.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Taven Bryan, DT, Florida: The Falcons have done a really nice job drafting and developing defensive players so far under Dan Quinn, who can dip into his old Florida pipeline and secure some depth for a defensive line that could lose Dontari Poe.
27. New Orleans Saints
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: Here's the thing. The Saints are already good. And they know they have Drew Brees locked in for a few years, assuming they actually sign him in free agency. Let Jackson sit and learn Sean Payton's system, train under Brees and then unleash him.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama: The Steelers can snare a top-end talent out of a premium program while also trying to find some help to replace the irreplaceable Ryan Shazier. The defense took a huge step back when Shazier went down and the Steelers need to try and shore up the linebacker position.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State: Assuming the Jaguars tag Allen Robinson, they can probably avoid taking a wideout here. Offensive line could be a concern, but getting Blake Bortles a bail-out weapon would be a nice move as well and help the blocking situation.
30. Minnesota Vikings
31. New England Patriots
Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado: In lieu of having the Patriots trade out of the first round (which they'll probably do) and acquire more picks, we'll give them a cornerback because they, um, needed extra secondary help during Super Bowl LII.