Who do the nation’s top draft experts expect the Denver Broncos to target in the first round?

Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) looks to pass in the first quarter of the ACC championship game at Bank of America Stadium.
Dec 4, 2021; Charlotte, NC, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) looks to pass in the first quarter of the ACC championship game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, it’s draft season in Broncos Country, as the team nears the offseason.

With such a high pick in the draft, the Broncos could either attempt to trade for one of the potentially available superstar quarterbacks this offseason, or they could look to add a high-impact player at a position of need instead

Which high-impact players could they target? Let’s take a look at what the experts are saying

Dane Brugler, The Athletic: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

With Josey Jewell, Alexander Johnson, Kenny Young and Jonas Griffith all set to enter some form of free agency this offseason, we could easily see the Broncos target the linebacker position with their first selection of the 2022 NFL Draft.

That’s the way The Athletic’s Dane Brugler sees it going. In his mock draft, the Broncos target the freakishly athletic linebacker out of Utah, who could be utilized as a defensive chess piece.

“Denver landed an impact defender with the ninth pick last year, and it could do that again with Lloyd. A former safety, he has outstanding eyes and explosion to drive downhill (22.0 tackles for loss in 2021) and the athleticism to make plays in coverage (four interceptions, two pick-sixes in 2021).”

It’s hard to be sold on the idea of taking a position as invaluable and replaceable as linebacker this high in the draft, as it’s so easy to find high-end talent there later — which the Broncos proved this year with Browning.

However, despite those value concerns, if the Broncos were to target a linebacker in the first round of this draft, one would hope it would be Lloyd who has the athleticism and versatility to provide more value to the defense than most linebackers.

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

The biggest need on the Denver Broncos is quarterback, and as a result, they could target a quarterback with the ninth overall pick in the draft. If they do so, Kenny Pickett is one of the quarterbacks most likely to be selected by the Broncos.

“I’m sure the Broncos will pursue a trade for a premier quarterback (Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson) this offseason, but if they are unable to land one, Pickett is the best option in this draft class,” Daniel Jeremiah said. “He is ready to play right away. The Pitt product doesn’t have a huge arm, but he can make all the throws and he’s proven he can create when the pocket breaks down.”

This quarterback class has nowhere near the juice that last year’s did, but Pickett is very intriguing. As Jeremiah alludes to, his athletic traits aren’t overly exciting, but his high-end processing leads one to believe that maybe he could reach the same highs Burrow did this season. However, athletically speaking, the ceiling looks very low.

Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

Once again, linebacker is a major need for the Broncos, and it makes sense to see the position linked to them in multiple mock drafts. This time, Kiper has the Broncos taking Nakobe Dean, the star linebacker for the National Champions.

“Denver could be a great spot for the draft’s best off-ball linebacker, Dean, who was the leader of the spectacular Georgia defense,” Kiper Jr. wrote. “He makes tackle after tackle and can run sideline to sideline to make plays, and he has three-down potential because of his ability to cover tight ends and running backs. He’ll also help as a blitzer — he had six sacks in 2021. The Broncos have the Rams’ second- and third-round picks from the Von Miller trade, so general manager George Paton has a real chance to get this team back to the playoffs if he can nail a few early selections, as he did with Pat Surtain II and Javonte Williams last year.”

It’s debatable — at best — that Dean is the draft’s best linebacker, and while he does have three-down potential, that potential is far lesser than that of Young.

Plus, it should also be noted that the Broncos are far more likely to fix their linebacker problem through signing an in-house veteran, rather than foolishly spending pricy draft capital.

Trevor Sikkema, PFF: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

Jeremiah isn’t alone in his belief that the Broncos could target the Panther quarterback in the draft, as Trevor Sikkema of Pro Football Focus also has the Broncos going that direction.

He first acknowledges that the Broncos could decide to go in a different direction if they land Rodgers or Wilson. However, he writes, Pickett is a very intriguing backup plan.

“If [they don’t land an established superstar quarterback], it feels as though the Broncos have to take a swing at a quarterback,” Sikkema wrote. “If they do so, my best bet would be Kenny Pickett, a Heisman Trophy finalist who finished the year as the second-highest-graded passer in the FBS.”

SHARE