Post-free agency Denver Broncos 7-round mock draft

Virginia Cavaliers tight end Jelani Woods (0) runs the ball against the Louisville Cardinals during the second half at Cardinal Stadium. Virginia defeated Louisville 34-33.
Oct 9, 2021; Louisville, Kentucky, USA; Virginia Cavaliers tight end Jelani Woods (0) runs the ball against the Louisville Cardinals during the second half at Cardinal Stadium. Virginia defeated Louisville 34-33. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

We are nine days away from the start of the 2022 NFL Draft, making it the perfect time to drop our second-to-last Broncos mock draft of this year’s draft cycle.

Now, before we dive into the fun of imagining hypothetical Broncos rookies, let’s acknowledge that hoping for accurate seven-round predictions from a mock draft is a fool’s errand. While the goal is to create an accurate prediction and a draft scenario we could see the Broncos in, doing so is nearly impossible.

Instead, this is more a fun thought experiment, designed to give you insight and previews on nine different prospects, across a variety of rounds and positions, all of whom make sense to some degree for the Denver Broncos. It should also be noted that this mock was created using a mock draft simulator, so some of these players are likely to go considerably lower or higher than they’re projected to go here.

With all that preamble out of the way, let’s take a look at who some of this draft’s most intriguing prospects are for Broncos Country.

Round 2, Pick 64: Josh Paschal, EDGE, Kentucky

Mississippi State Bulldogs running back Jo'quavious Marks (7) runs the ball while defended by Kentucky Wildcats defensive end Josh Paschal (4) during the second quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field.
Oct 30, 2021; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs running back Jo’quavious Marks (7) runs the ball while defended by Kentucky Wildcats defensive end Josh Paschal (4) during the second quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory have both had stretches of high-end play, but inconsistency and lack of availability have defined both of their careers thus far. Plus, Chubb is set to be a free agent next offseason.

With that in mind, and the next men up being Malik Reed and Jonathon Cooper, the edge rusher position is one of the greatest areas of need for the Broncos as they enter the draft.

If Josh Paschal fell to pick No. 64, he’d be a very easy selection.

He’s a large, powerful, lengthy edge rusher with a surprising amount of explosiveness and bend for his build.

He fits what George Paton is likely to covet in an edge, as the defense transitions to having larger defensive ends on the edge.

On top of the physical gifts, Paschal has demonstrated intriguing positional versatility along the defensive line, which you can catch a glimpse of here as he works inside to embarrass LSU’s center.

He also has one of the more impressive motors in this draft, as his remarkable ferocity refuses to trail off as the individual play and the overall game carry on. Another note in his impressive character resume is that he’s beaten cancer, which at the very least makes him easier to root for.

He has a fairly underdeveloped array of pass-rushing moves, but he’s very effective with these moves despite his limited bag of tricks. He also struggles to defend the run at times due to his limited lateral range.

Paschal’s tools, tape and visably apparent intelligence suggest he can make a solid impact as a rotational player in year one before potentially developing into a long-term starter at the position. It’s not often you can find those talents at edge rusher at pick No. 64.

For a more in-depth look at Paschal, make sure to check out Joey Richards’ analysis.

Other players considered: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa St.; Trey McBride, TE, Colorado St.; Dylan Parham, C, Memphis; Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska; Kingsley Enagbare, EDGE, South Carolina; Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming; Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati; Troy Andersen, LB, Montana St.

One could make a compelling best-player-available argument for Breece Hall, Trey McBride, or Chad Muma, but this class is loaded with mid- and late-round linebackers, tight ends and running backs.

Meanwhile, it will be hard to find edge rushers that can make a Day 1 impact, and Kingsley Enagbare and Paschal are options the Broncos could look at around here. However, Paschal appears to be the better fit for Paton’s vision of a prototype for the position.

Some might be surprised to see Dylan Parham and Cam Jurgens here, but they shouldn’t be. Russell Wilson has never played behind a center as large as Graham Glasgow and Lloyd Cushenberry’s fit in Nathaniel Hackett’s offense is questionable. The new coaching staff might not see a starting center on the roster, and this draft has some intriguing prospects at the position.

Round 3, Pick 75: Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska

Nebraska offensive lineman Cam Jurgens (OL24) runs the 40-yard dash during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Mar 4, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Nebraska offensive lineman Cam Jurgens (OL24) runs the 40-yard dash during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of intriguing prospects at the center position, none might be more enticing to the Denver Broncos than the NFL Scouting Combine star — Jurgens.

Jurgens has been one of the pre-draft process’s biggest risers and it’s easy to see why when considering his athletic traits, which is usually what the pre-draft process highlights. However, Jurgens is more than just a workout warrior, which he showcased with a rock-solid performance at the Senior Bowl.

Jurgens’ outstanding movement skills that allow him to attack the defense’s second- and third-level with ease, under-the-radar power, and polished footwork make him an appealing solution to Denver’s woes at center.

His smaller frame and lack of refined hand usage are legitimate concerns, but Denver should be able to protect Jurgens with some of their bigger-bodied guards as he polishes up his strikes and tacks on weight.

Other players considered: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa St.; Cole Strange, C, Chattanooga; Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati; Troy Andersen, LB, Montana St.; Channing Tindall, LB, Georgia

It’s even more difficult to pass up Breece Hall here, but this running back class is deep and loaded, so it’s alright to let him walk. Linebacker is also an option again, but there are still so many talented players at that position left available that it makes sense to hold off and see if one falls to pick No. 96. Cole Strange is a really intriguing center, but would also be the tallest center Wilson has ever played with, so the team might opt for Jurgens instead.

Round 3, Pick 96: Troy Andersen, LB, Montana St.

National squad linebacker Troy Andersen of Montana State (45) talks with National squad linebacker Sterling Weatherford of Miami (OH) (12) during National team practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium.
Feb 2, 2022; Mobile, AL, USA; National squad linebacker Troy Andersen of Montana State (45) talks with National squad linebacker Sterling Weatherford of Miami (OH) (12) during National team practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Here, Paton and Co. are rewarded handsomely for deciding to hold off on linebacker with the 75th overall pick.

On a personal level, it’s hard to target Andersen over some of these talented offensive tackles and edge rushers that are likely to be off the board shortly, as Denver’s need at linebacker is greatly overstated inside Broncos Country.

However, Paton has demonstrated he doesn’t put too great an emphasis on positional value in the draft while prioritizing athletes and targetting the best player available. At this point in the draft, Andersen is probably the best player in the draft, and he scored a 10.0 Relative Athletic Score (RAS), meaning he’s the most athletic linebacker the combine has ever tested.

He also has the character traits that lead you to believe he can develop that athletic potential, despite him having a long way to go.

Andersen has been a little overrated as of late, thanks to his remarkable athleticism, but if the Broncos could manage to land him here instead of at pick No. 64 or No. 75, it’d be a slam dunk.

Other players considered: Abraham Lucas, OT, Washington St.; Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn. St.; Phidarian Mathis, IDL, Alabama; Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cincinnati; Deangelo Malone, EDGE, W. Kentucky; Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati; Channing Tindall, LB, Georgia; Jalyn Armour-Davis, CB, Alabama; Zyon McCollum, CB/S, Sam Houston St.

Abraham Lucas and Rasheed Walker were extremely tempting at this spot, but Andersen felt more like a Paton pick. The Broncos could definitely use some help on the defensive line, but it feels a little early for Phidarian Mathis, Myjai Sanders and Deangelo Malone. The Broncos could also stand to bolster their secondary, and Jalyn Armour-Davis and Zyon McCollum are two of the most intriguing mid-round options, but Andersen is likely the higher-graded player.

Round 4, Pick 115: Jelani Woods, TE, Virginia

Virginia Cavaliers tight end Jelani Woods (0) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the first quarter at Scott Stadium.
Nov 27, 2021; Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; Virginia Cavaliers tight end Jelani Woods (0) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the first quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As was the case with the Andersen pick, it’s quite hard to imagine this player falling to this pick, but it would be an awesome selection if the Broncos were to get this lucky.

Jelani Woods is a rare athlete at the tight end position, with a 6-foot-7, 253 pound frame and a 4.6 40-yard dash. There are very few human beings built like Woods, which he exemplified at this year’s scouting combine, as he had the greatest combine performance of any tight end since 1987.

Those testing numbers translate onto tape to. He has the movement skills and catch radius to be a terrifying, yet unrefined, pass-catcher, capable of stretching the seam and being a constant redzone mismatch. He also has the strength and power to impose his will on opposing defenders and open up holes in the ground game.

Virginia even had a package that used him as a right tackle.

He needs to polish his route-running, as he currently struggles to create separation through his breaks, and relies to frequently on his frame creating separation for him. He also needs to improve his hand usage at the point of attack when blocking. He also might not ever be an elite run-after-the-catch target, due to his lack of wiggle, but he still shows quite a bit of playmaking ability nonetheless.

Also, those gaps in his game are forgivable considering he’s relatively new to the position and he’s literally a once-every-35-years type of player. Paton should swing for the fences here.

Other players considered: Tyler Badie, RB, Missouri; Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise St.; Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn. St.; Cordell Volson, OT, North Dakota St.; Phidarian Mathis, IDL, Alabama; Matt Araiza, P, San Diego St.

Tyler Badie is a fun mid-round running back target that makes a ton of sense in Nathaniel Hackett’s zone-scheme-heavy offense, and as a compliment to Javonte Williams, but this class is loaded at running back, so we’re happy to wait. Khalil Shakir is a really intriguing pass-catching option at this point in the draft, but so is Woods, and Woods could potentially be the Broncos’ long-term No. 1 at the position. Rasheed Walker is a really intriguing mid round tackle option, but Woods feels more like Paton’s type. Matt Araiza watch starts here, but 200 words on punting technique is fun for neither the writer nor the reader.

Round 4, Pick 116: Phidarian Mathis, IDL, Alabama

Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) is tackled for a loss by Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis (48) during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Dec 4, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) is tackled for a loss by Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis (48)
during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Dre’Mont Jones and D.J. Jones give the Broncos two excellent interior defenders along the defensive line, but Denver must improve the depth behind them, as it’s a position group that will rotate players frequently, and everyone outside the Joneses has some serious lingering questions.

Through two seasons McTelvin Agim has been limited to a minor supporting role, that really only saw him on the field for obvious passing situations. His production was promising, but it’s also dubious to rely on him too much. Meanwhile, Mike Purcell is coming off his worst season for the Broncos. Lastly, DeShawn Williams has been solid, but is far from exemplarly.

Phidarian Mathis could be a major upgrade that will immediately help the team at a position of need.

He’ll enter the league as a high-end run-defender — something Denver could stand to add — thanks to his remarkable strength, surgical hand usage, football intelligence, and undying motor.

It’s not typical to see interior defenders like Mathis routinely chasing ball carriers down from the backside of the play.

His ability to anchor and maintain his gap is fantastic, but he’s also able to use his polished array of moves to create backfield penetration, blowing up a run before it has a chance to develop or pressuring the quarterback.

He also shows upside to develop into a solid interior pass rusher. His arsenal of pass-rushing moves is already pretty impressive, and his power allows him to create a pretty productive bull rush.

Mathis is an extremely appealing mid-round defensive line prospect for the Broncos that promises both year one impact and developmental upside.

Other players considered: Tyler Badie, RB, Missouri; Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise St.; Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn. St.; Cordell Volson, OT, North Dakota St.; Matt Araiza, P, San Diego St.

Passing on the tackles here is a decision the Broncos could be kicking themselves over for a long time in this hypothetical reality, but there are still some intriguing names at the tackle position, and Denver’s newly-opened championship window may motivate them to target players ready to contribute earlier on. With depth concerns along a defensive line that is going to rotate bodies, a win-now philosophy would likely prioritze someone who can instantly contribue there, as opposed to someone who might help out at right tackle sometime down the road.

As this article is already remarkably lengthy, the section going over the players we decided to pass on will arbitrarily end here.

Round 5, Pick 145: Max Mitchell, OT, Louisiana

American offensive lineman Max Mitchell of Louisiana (73) with American defensive lineman Amare Barno of Virginia Tech (38) during American practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium.
Feb 1, 2022; Mobile, AL, USA; American offensive lineman Max Mitchell of Louisiana (73) with American defensive lineman Amare Barno of Virginia Tech (38) during American practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos are lucky the depth of talent in this year’s tackle class allows them to draft Max Mitchell this late in the process.

Denver is probably set at tackle for 2022, with Garett Bolles, Calvin Anderson, Billy Turner and even Tom Compton. However, they could stand to add some developmental depth for the future, which remains murky at the position.

Enter Max Mitchell.

Mitchell is a project at tackle with the ability to one day grow into a starting role in Hackett’s offensive scheme. Mitchell has great movement skills that allow him to mirror opposing pass rushers relatively easily and he understands how to utilize his hands well. That said, he needs to add more power to his game and improve his ability to finish the rep.

There’s plenty of flaws to his game, but the positives outweigh the negatives. The fact Denver is able to add Mitchell here in this simulation highlights one of the draft’s strengths.

Joey Richards has already provided a closer, more nuanced look at Mitchell’s game, in case you are curious.

Round 6, Pick 206: Hassan Haskins, RB, Michigan

Michigan running back Hassan Haskins (25) runs against Georgia defensive back Lewis Cine (16) during the second half of the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021.
Michigan running back Hassan Haskins (25) runs against Georgia defensive back Lewis Cine (16) during the second half of the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021.

Wednesday afternoon we’ll be releasing a more in-depth look at Hassan Haskins and his fit with the Denver Broncos, so we’ll stay briefer here, but he could be an excellent running back target for Paton.

Haskins is a physical runner who could help the Broncos form a punishing identity with their backfield tandem. He also possesses the vision, patience and juice to help him thrive in Hackett’s offense.

That juice is often underrated in Haskins’ game, and he made a habit of showing off his athleticism on a series of hurdles against B1G competition.

He also should have an easier transition to the NFL than most running backs, as he thrives in pass protection, which is where so many rookies struggle. He clearly loves contact and takes pride in helping to protect the quarterback.

Haskins does play with poor pad level and lacks high-end burst or speed, but he’s still able to make plays at the second and third levels of the defense. He’d be a nice running back target for Denver later on.

Round 7, Pick 232: Damarion Williams, CB/S, Houston

Rice Owls fullback Brendan Suckley (85) runs the ball against Houston Cougars cornerback Damarion Williams (6) in the first half at Rice Stadium.
Sep 11, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Rice Owls fullback Brendan Suckley (85) runs the ball against Houston Cougars cornerback Damarion Williams (6) in the first half at Rice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

K’Waun Williams was an excellent addition for the Denver Broncos, but they still need to add more slot-corners to the roster.

Damarion Williams is a versatile, highly athletic option that could make a lot of sense for Denver, as a later option to add some depth to the position.

Williams’ excellent movement traits and coverage instincts make him a strong performer in both man and zone coverage. He also shows excellent aggression and ball skills when it comes to attacking the ball.

He’s more than just a coverage man though. Williams loves contact and never shys away from the opportunity to inflict a big hit on the opponent.

As an added bonus, he has experience playing safety.

That physicality and coverage versatility make him a very enticing late-round option for Denver.

Round 7, Pick 234: Stanley Berryhill III, Arizona

Arizona Wildcats wide receiver Stanley Berryhill III (right) catches a pass against Arizona State Sun Devils defensive back Jordan Clark during the Territorial Cup at Sun Devil Stadium.
Nov 27, 2021; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona Wildcats wide receiver Stanley Berryhill III (right) catches a pass against Arizona State Sun Devils defensive back Jordan Clark during the Territorial Cup at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos could use an insurance policy for K.J. Hamler and Jerry Jeudy on the roster and Stanley Berryhill III provides some of that insurance and only costs a seventh-round pick.

Berryhill is an effective slot receiver with intriguing long speed and short-area quickness. He has good body control and strong, reliable hands. He’s also dangerous after the catch, thanks to his elusivness larger frame.

From his first day at camp he would battle Kendall Hinton for the spot on the depth chart behind Hamler and Jeudy.

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