Broncos' Top 2021 NFL Draft Targets

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 28, 2021

Broncos' Top 2021 NFL Draft Targets

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    Justin Edmonds/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos are at a crossroads when it comes to the quarterback who was supposed to lead them back to the top of the AFC West.

    Drew Lock, the 2019 second-round pick, has not worked out the way Denver would have hoped, and the team is now in a position to select a new starting quarterback with the No. 9 pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

    Denver's draft strategy will be at the mercy of what happens with the first three picks, though. The San Francisco 49ers' decision at No. 3 could alter which direction the Broncos go.

    If the Broncos favor one of Mac Jones, Trey Lance or Justin Fields above the other two and they are chosen at No. 3, they could opt to add more protection or weapons around Lock, as they did in the 2020 draft.

    In that scenario, Denver could go after offensive line help or even look to defense to find a long-term successor to Von Miller.

Mac Jones, Trey Lance or Justin Fields

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    Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

    Jones, Fields and Lance are going to be grouped together in quarterback speculation up until Thursday. And the Broncos could be in the mix for one of the three at No. 9, or even higher if they make a trade.

    After the 49ers select at No. 3, the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions are unlikely to choose one of the remaining top quarterback prospects.

    The Carolina Panthers could throw a curveball at No. 8 if they don't want to commit to Sam Darnold on a long-term basis, and there is also the possibility of a team trading ahead of No. 9 to select whichever member of the trio is still on the board.

    Denver should be in the market for a signal-caller since Lock has underwhelmed over two seasons. He had 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions over 13 games in 2020 with a 75.4 quarterback rating.

    The 24-year-old has not progressed as much as Kyler Murray and Daniel Jones, the first two quarterbacks chosen in 2019, and the Broncos can't sit idle in a division where they have to compete with Patrick Mahomes for the next decade.

    Denver surrounded Lock with Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler with its first two picks in 2020 and landed Noah Fant with its first-round selection in 2019.

    The Broncos can't afford to waste the window with all that talent on rookie contracts, and Thursday could present their best opportunity to rectify the mistake of drafting Lock two years ago.

Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    If the Broncos still want to build around Lock, they should add more security to the offensive line.

    Barring a set of surprising picks, Oregon's Penei Sewell likely won't be on the board at No. 9, which leaves Rashawn Slater and Teven Jenkins as the best tackles available.

    Bleacher Report's NFL draft experts have Jenkins listed above Slater on their positional rankings, but there are plenty of others who differ from that opinion.'s Bucky Brooks has Slater going eighth overall in his latest mock draft, and NBC Sports' Peter King has the Northwestern product being taken at No. 13. Both mocks have Slater taken ahead of Jenkins.

    Lock was sacked 19 times and had a 57.3 completion percentage in 2020, both of which were downgrades from his rookie campaign.

    If the Broncos add Slater to a young offensive line that features Dalton Risner and Lloyd Cushenberry, they could have more protection for Lock to work with his abundance of weapons.

Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Von Miller is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2021 season, and the Broncos may not be willing to spend a ton of money on the 32-year-old with an injury history.

    Penn State's Micah Parsons is not listed as an edge-rusher, but he has plenty of pass-rushing qualities that could make him a solid long-term replacement for Miller.

    The 21-year-old came up with five sacks in 2019, a season in which he recorded 109 total tackles. He didn't play in the 2020 campaign, so he only has two seasons of college football under his belt. That could be beneficial for Denver since there isn't a ton of wear and tear on him.

    If the Broncos go away from an offensive addition, Parsons could be the perfect player to fill a spot that could open up in the coming seasons.


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    Statistics obtained from