The NFL Draft is fast approaching, and the Denver Broncos anticipate taking a quarterback with the 12th overall pick. It’s also mock draft season, and ESPN’s Matt Miller has the Broncos trading up to take a quarterback in his latest seven-round mock draft.

Denver Broncos trade up with Arizona Cardinals

In Miller’s latest seven-round mock draft, the Broncos traded up with the Arizona Cardinals for the 4th overall pick. Denver gave up the 12th pick, a 2025 first-round pick, and a 2026 first-round pick, which is a hard sell for Broncos Country after the team’s lack of first-round picks the last few seasons.

This is a common point of contention from the fanbase, and rightfully so, but let me ask a question. If the Broncos end up snagging their franchise quarterback of the future, would it be worth offsetting that much premium capital?

Earlier in the week, Sean Payton said the idea of trading up is a realistic option for the Broncos, and he namedropped Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort.

“I think it’s realistic,” Payton hinted earlier this week about trading up. “I know your report suggested otherwise, but it’s realistic. What’s hard to predict, though, is what’s on the receiving end? I think it’s good to be [Cardinals General Manager] Monti [Ossenfort] today at Arizona. It’s hard to predict what the cost is and yet, I certainly wouldn’t say that it’s unrealistic. We will pay close attention to it.”

Ideally, if the quarterback selection works out, it’s easy to justify the move. However, considering Denver’s history as of late with the position and the lack of capital, this would be a risky move for them to make.

J.J. McCarthy becomes Sean Payton’s QB

With that said, in Miller’s mock draft, the Broncos select Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy.

“McCarthy is a tough, instinctive and accurate quarterback with plus-level mobility and great play from the pocket,” Miller notes in his mock draft. “I’m not saying he’s Drew Brees, but the style of play would fit very well with what Payton ran in New Orleans. McCarthy is relatively inexperienced with just 28 starts in college, but he left Michigan with a 27-1 record. He completed 72.1% of his passes and threw only four picks last season, and his third-down QBR of 86.7 was 11th-best in the nation. McCarthy would be a sure bet to beat out Jarrett Stidham and start Week 1 in Denver.”

Denver and Payton recently held a private workout with McCarthy following his pro day, which is worth monitoring. The overall consensus surrounding him seems split amongst the fanbase and various NFL Draft analysts, but the biggest question that needs to be asked is whether or not McCarthy can be the QB Payton can operate his offense with.

There is no crystal ball that gives anybody any insight into that, but McCarthy’s high-level processing and ability to hit the short to intermediate throws consistently are the foundational tools that Payton can help build his offense around.

Broncos snag a cornerback with third round pick

Denver’s next pick comes in the third round at 76th overall, where Miller as them taking Kentucky cornerback Andru Phillips.

Phillips is 5’11, 180lbs and projects to be more of a nickel corner than on the outside, but he could play on the outside if asked to.

“Phillips is often typecast as a nickel corner, but I think he has the length and speed to do just fine on the outside,” Miller says. “Playing opposite Pat Surtain II would help his transition.”

In his four seasons at Kentucky, he appeared in 29 games. He saw the most action in 2022 and 2023, where he accumulated 78 tackles and 10 passes defensed.

While the Broncos could use some help at cornerback from a depth standpoint, this pick isn’t one that makes sense for where Denver should go, especially after they took McCarthy in the first round. Loading up on offense and pairing him with playmakers should be the strategy.

On top of that, the Broncos firmly believe Ja’Quan McMillian will be their nickel cornerback for the foreseeable future, and Damarri Mathis and Riley Moss are likely set to compete for the job opposite of Surtain.

If anything, it’s more realistic for the Broncos to bring in a veteran cornerback for training camp to compete with those two players for the starting job.

Denver adds another McCaffrey to the mix

In Miller’s latest mock draft, the Broncos add Luke McCaffrey to their wide receiver room in the fourth round at 121st overall.

Denver’s held meetings with McCaffrey, and obviously, there’s the sentimental tie to his father’s history with the organization.

At Rice, McCaffrey made the switch from quarterback to receiver and helped provide them with a boost offensively. In 2022, he caught 58 passes for 723 yards and six touchdowns while also rushing 12 times for 148 yards and a touchdown.

McCaffrey followed that season up with a dominant 2023 campaign, catching 71 passes for 992 yards and 13 touchdowns and adding 15 carries for 117 yards this past season.

At 6’2, 200 lbs, he wouldn’t be the primary target for McCarthy but would have a chance to compete at training camp for a spot in the rotation if drafted.

Broncos final additions in Miller’s mock

The Broncos maintained their three picks in the fifth round and two picks in the sixth round and helped build on their depth with Miller’s remaining picks.

One of the key goals expressed by CEO Greg Penner, general manager George Paton, and Payton is to build the team through the draft by adding depth and developing players.

In Round 5, 136th overall, Miller had Denver taking Notre Dame linebacker Marist Liufau who had 44 tackles, three sacks, and six tackles for a loss behind the line of scrimmage this past season. He’d be joining Cody Barton, Justin Strnad, Jonas Griffith, and Drew Sanders in training camp.

With Denver’s 145th overall pick, Miller has the Broncos taking Georgia center Sedrick Van Pran. Van Pran appeared in 14 games for the Bulldogs in back-to-back seasons and gives Denver some size at the center position after Lloyd Cushenberry departed to the Tennessee Titans.

He’d likely compete with Alex Forsyth and Luke Wattenberg for the starting job, if he were actually drafted in this scenario.

To round out the remaining three picks in Miller’s seven-round mock draft, Denver added South Dakota State RB Isaiah Davis, Michigan guard Trente Jones, and Auburn defensive tackle Marcus Harris.

Davis would add depth to the running back room that currently features Javonte Williams, Jaleel McLaughlin, Samaje Perine, and Tyler Badie. Jones would reunite with McCarthy and add more size to Denver’s offensive line as a crucial depth and developmental option.

Harris would add depth to Denver’s defensive line under Jamar Cain, where he could play defensive tackle and defensive end if need be.

Overall, the Broncos get a QB in this mock draft and add some valuable depth options on the offensive line and potentially at wide receiver with McCaffrey, but it feels like they could have made various other moves that made more sense for them.

Taking a cornerback who is projected to play in the nickel in the third round is the one move that didn’t make much sense in this mock draft, but that would be my only realistic gripe.