DENVER -- Other than Carl Sagan, no one is more associated with mocks than Mel Kiper Jr.
He owns a three-decade run as ESPN's lead draft analyst. Thursday, he presented a first-ever wrinkle in his latest mock — trades. It created an interesting scenario for Broncos fans to snack on.
First, a reminder. After finishing 5-11 last season, the Broncos own the ninth overall pick. This marks the third time in four years the Broncos own a top-10 selection. The last time offers a glimpse into Kiper's scenario, and cannot be dismissed out of hand given new GM George Paton's draft and development model.
Kiper predicts the Broncos will trade back from ninth overall to 15th as the New England Patriots swing a deal for North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. The template for the deal? In 2019, The Broncos swapped their 10th overall pick for Pittsburgh's 20th, and received a second-round pick in 2019 and a 2020 third-round pick to slide back 10 spots. Denver selected Noah Fant in the first round and Drew Lock in the second with the Steelers' picks.
So, the framework for a deal with the Patriots would involve Denver receiving the 15th selection, a second-rounder and a third-rounder. Or perhaps, they would receive the 15th overall pick, a 2021 second-rounder and a 2022 first-rounder because the Patriots are moving for a quarterback. The Patriots don't currently have a third-round pick, but remain in line to receive compensatory selections.
What makes this move interesting for the Broncos is that they would still land coveted Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley in Kiper's mock. Many current mocks have the Broncos taking him at ninth overall if they stay put.
Why would Farley fall? Well, there are so many quarterback-needy teams -- and depending on what happens with unhappy Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson -- there is not enough supply. Kiper sees Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars, first), Zach Wilson (Jets, second), Justin Fields (49ers, seventh), Mac Jones (Panthers, eighth), and Lance (Patriots, ninth) all coming off the board quickly. This QB frenzy shoves top players out of the top 10.
In this hypothetical, cornerback Patrick Surtain goes to the Cowboys at 10, and Farley lands with the Broncos at 15. This leaves the Broncos ripe for criticism if they run it back with Lock, and he struggles, loses his job to a veteran like Andy Dalton or Mitchell Trubisky and Lance blossoms. However, it makes sense from a practical standpoint if the Broncos don't like Lance or any quarterback at No. 9. If you watched the Broncos closely last season, you realize they need playmakers, especially on defense.
They require two corners this offseason, if not three. Bryce Callahan is their top returner. He performed at a high level a year ago, but has never played 16 games in a season and was limited to 10 a year ago because of ankle and foot injuries. Michael Ojemudia showed promise as a rookie, but was benched for tackling issues. The Broncos require upgrades in the secondary. If they could land Farley -- a converted receiver with elite athleticism, who needs some refining at the position -- and sign a free agent like Mike Hilton, that would go a long way in providing a bump.