Should the Denver Broncos trade up in the 2022 NFL Draft?

The NFL Draft is less than two weeks away, though Broncos Country may not feel the same excitement for the big event as previous years. The Denver Broncos currently lack a draft pick in the first 63 selections following the historic trade for Russell Wilson. With few pressing needs after George Paton signed eight players in free agency, would it be a wise strategy to trade up?

Last week’s Mock Draft Monday was a look at how chasing a running back early could impact the whole draft class. This time around I thought it time to take a look at what a “quality over quantity” class could look like, so in this scenario I tried to trade as high as possible to grab an impact player.

I went back and forth on how to proceed. In order to maintain some degree of realism, I decided to look into the Paton’s trades from 2021 to determine which trade value chart they followed. Ultimately, the numbers are so close you could make the case for the Rich Hill or Jimmy Johnson value charts, but I doubt Bill Belichick was lying when he said every team follows a similar chart: so I moved forward with the model developed by Rich Hill Trade of Pats’ Pulpit.

The value of the Broncos draft picks by the Rich Hill trade chart:

64: 80 points

75: 63 points

96: 39 points

115: 28 points

116: 28 points

145: 14 points

206: 4 points

232: 2 points

234: 2 points

The total value of the Broncos’ picks is 260 points on the Hill chart, which means theoretically, Paton could trade Denver’s entire draft for the Green Bay Packers’ selection at No. 22 as well as their three seventh round picks. For the sake of this mock draft scenario, that’s exactly what I did. Like last week, I cross checked Marcus Mosher’s consensus board for my first pick and I did not follow my four guiding principles to win the draft.

22. Trevor Penning – OT – Northern Iowa

the sales: Early competition for RT with the upside to become a Pro Bowler.

The rationale: The Broncos have not drafted a single offensive tackle since Garett Bolles in 2017, and he turns 30-years-old in May. All signs point to Calvin Anderson, Tom Compton, and Billy Turner competing for the starting right tackle job after Paton signed the trio to one year contracts in free agency. Penning would give the roster an extremely talented small school prospect who has the traits to grow into a starting caliber bookend on either side once he irons out his discipline, technical flaws, and pad level. He’s a 6’7”, 325 lb. mauler with the quick feet, play strength, and brawlers’ mentality to develop into one of the best tackles in the league.

228. Esezi Otomewo – DL – Minnesota

the sales: Early competitor for snaps in the DL rotation with upside.

The rationale: While DJ Jones was signed to a three year deal worth $30 million, his 32 1/2” arms and overall athleticism suggest he’s not a true replacement for the since-departed Shelby Harris. That means after Dre’Mont Jones the Broncos have a lot of questions about their five techniques if Ejiro Evero plans to use base 3-4 personnel or a 5-1 front. While it’s unlikely to find a starting caliber player this far down the board, it makes a ton of sense to add to the rotation. There’s a chance the 6’5” and 282 lbs. Otomewo doesn’t slide this far because he has intriguing athleticism, length, and play strength, but he’s a bit of a tweener who is light and long for an interior DL.

249. Zonovan Knight – RB – NC State

the sales: A kick returner who can also provide depth behind Pookie

The rationale: Javonte Williams was electric as a rookie, but his production fell off after a knee injury in December. Mike Boone was signed last year to upgrade special teams and the running back depth, but an early injury limited his impact. All told, the typical wear and tear back suffers over a 17+ game campaign means it’d makes sense to add talent to the stable. Knight offers the vision and acceleration to find success in Hackett’s zone/duo run game and the reliable hands to contribute as a dumpoff receiver. He’s also an electric kick returner, something Denver could surely make use of.

258. Ja’Quan McMillian – DB – East Carolina

the sales: Developmental slot/safety who can pitch in on special teams early.

The rationale: Every member of the Broncos’ cornerback room outside of K’Waun Williams spent time on Injured Reserve (IR) or the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list in 2021. Meanwhile, Kareem Jackson is fighting what may be his last battle with father time and the long-term plan at safety remains unclear. McMillan is undersized for a boundary corner at 5’9 183, but has the competitive toughness, mental processing, and ball skills to develop into a reliable slot or backup safety in the NFL. He plays bigger than his size against the run and shows a willingness to throw his body around. That physicality should help him compete for special teams snaps.

Final Thoughts

While a draft like the one above is splashy and Penning’s potential is exciting, I have to admit this is one of my least favorite mocks I’ve done to date. It puts so much stress on one prospect panning out that it becomes a high risk, high reward strategy. Should Penning suffer a career altering injury or simply fail to develop under new offensive line coach Butch Barry, the Broncos essentially punted on a draft for three seventh round picks.

One last thing. It is worth noting that if you go to The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine you can move considerably higher in the draft than I did by following a similar idea, but I do not believe it realistic. For the fun of it, I also decided to do the same exercise using their machine. I traded 64, 75, 96, 115, 116, and 232 to move all the way up to the New York Jets second first round pick at 10.

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