It seems as though every year I start doing mock drafts earlier and earlier. That was until I got this job. Now it’s a tradition for me to be the one to write the “Way Too Early” mock draft the day after the previous NFL draft ends—I guess draft season can’t get any longer when that’s the case, huh?
Writing so many mocks, there can be a tendency to hit cruise control for some teams. Especially if it’s near the end of the season, you have a pretty good idea of where they are going to end up, you know their biggest needs, and you probably have your favorite target for them. So over the next few months, that’s just about the only player you see next to that team's name in mock drafts.
That was the case with the Denver Broncos and Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley.
For the Broncos, they desperately needed cornerback help. In 2020, they brought in A.J. Bouye to play opposite Bryce Callahan. Callahan was good, but once again only played in 10 games in 2020, just like 2019. As for Bouye, well, he isn’t the same cover corner he was earlier in his career. Rookie Michael Ojemudia played well in his first season, but the need for a potential CB1 this team could truly rely on looked like a top priority.
For Farley, this was the perfect fit. As a player with both length and speed, and whose best work, at least for now, comes as a Cover 3 corner, he was perfect for head coach Vic Fangio’s style of defense. Farley brought the style to play right away and the talent and ceiling to invest in to one day become their top shutdown corner.
But in the last week, things have really changed on that front.
In free agency, the Broncos signed cornerback Ronald Darby to play in the slot and picked up a former Fangio disciple in Kyle Fuller when he was released in Chicago. Fuller will likely play on the outside opposite Callahan. And as for Farley, it was reported that he will undergo another procedure on his back. The procedure is a microdiscectomy, which is a minimally invasive surgery that doesn’t carry a long recovery time. But, this is the second back procedure Farley has had since 2019. Throw on that he’s already torn his ACL as well back in 2017 and the injury history for him is not encouraging. That could cause him to slide down draft boards a bit.
Events on both sides of the spectrum lend themselves to Farley no longer being the favorite for pick No. 9. So who is the new projected leader in the clubhouse for the Broncos to pick? Here are a couple options
Trade Up For A QB
Along with signing two starting cornerbacks, the Broncos announced they would also be bringing back their long-time franchise pass rusher Von Miller. With All-Pro safety Justin Simmons also back after signing his long-term deal, the holes on the defense are small. They could stand to upgrade at linebacker, but they certainly don’t need to at No. 9.
On offense, they have young pieces along the offensive line with every starting spot spoken for as long as Ja’Wuan James comes back healthy from his opt-out season. As for receivers, they have a full, young room of players to lean on like Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, and for tight ends, they have two good ones in Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam. Though they lost Phillip Lindsay to free agency (their choice), they still have Melvin Gordon and Royce Freeman in the backfield, as well as free-agent signee Mike Boone.
The biggest unknown on the Broncos' roster is at quarterback, and the moves they made in free agency now give them the freedom to attempt to upgrade that spot, if they wish.
There are some who still believe in Drew Lock; perhaps a few of those are the decision-makers for the Broncos. But there are also those who don’t, and with the Broncos selecting so high with their original spot, they are in range for a trade-up. They likely can’t sit back at No. 9 and expect one of the top quarterbacks to fall to them. But if they wanted to, they could give the Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins, or Cincinnati Bengals a call to see what it would take to move up for Trey Lance or Justin Fields. I think those conversations are already happening.
Draft A Stud Offensive Tackle
As previously stated, right tackle could potentially be one of the biggest needs on the roster now for the Broncos. They signed Garett Bolles to a big contract for him to continue playing as their left tackle, have good young guards in Dalton Risner and Netane Muti (along with Graham Glasgow), and will hopefully see a bounce-back year from Lloyd Cushenberry at center.
Demar Dotson played there last year, but he’s 35 years old and is a free agent they have yet to extend. The reason for that is because the Broncos signed James to play right tackle for them in the 2019 offseason, but he only played in three games that year due to a knee injury and opted out of the 2020 season. Ideally, they get James back as the player they hoped they were signing two years ago. But if a guy like Rashawn Slater is there for you, do you pull the trigger? They could also look to trade down and target someone like Teven Jenkins to step in right away as a right tackle, though he probably doesn’t have as much interior flexibility as a guy like Slater.
All of the above could be options for them depending on how they see their situation with James.