ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In his most recent mock draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. projected a big move for the Broncos in the first round.
With four of his top five quarterbacks gone after the first eight picks, Kiper had the last remaining one — Trey Lance of North Dakota State — drafted at No. 9, but not to Denver. Instead, he wrote that the Broncos would trade down to No. 15 with the Patriots.
In a conference call with media on Monday, he explained further why he doesn't expect Denver to take a quarterback in the first round, even if there's one of that top group still available.
"I think the moving down was because a rookie quarterback, to me, wouldn't make sense when you already have Drew Lock," Kiper said. "I think if you want to go out and get [Matthew] Stafford, that would have been a move to make. If you want to go out and get Deshaun Watson, that would be a move to make. Getting a proven entity, a proven quarterback, a star quarterback in Watson would be somebody you would want to go try to get."
Instead, Kiper maintained that the Broncos' focus would remain on some top defensive talent that, as the run on quarterbacks pushed great prospects further down the board, would still be up for grabs.
"I don't think a rookie quarterback is the way to go, so that's why I thought move off of nine," Kiper said, "and then you would be able to get either a linebacker — possibly, at 15, like Micah Parsons from Penn State or Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah from Notre Dame — or get the corner Caleb Farley, or get a cornerback like Jaycee Horn from South Carolina, and the other corner, certainly, Patrick Surtain II.
"Two of those three corners will probably still be there. One of those two linebackers will probably still be there at 15."
In his mock draft, Surtain and Parsons were taken at Nos. 10 and 12, respectively. That left Denver with Farley, the former Virginia Tech cornerback who opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Should that happen, it would hardly be seen as a bad consolation prize. Farley and Surtain are seen as the top two players at the position, and in Kiper's most recent big board prospect ranking, he has Farley as the top cornerback, though he has some concerns about Farley as a tackler.
"Farley, a former wide receiver, had a really good year at corner in 2019," Kiper said. "Tackling was an issue, though, and that's where I would have liked to have seen him play this year and improve on that. He didn't play; he opted out. So he's one of those opt-outs that's going to be very difficult to try to figure how they'll go."
Whether Farley can become a better tackler is an important factor, and that might be especially true for Head Coach Vic Fangio in his defense. In Week 16, Fangio benched cornerback De'Vante Bausby twice after he found Bausby's tackling to be unacceptable.
Still, Farley's talent may be too much for a team to pass up — especially a team like the Broncos, who recently released veteran cornerback A.J. Bouye and who have several players recovering from season-ending injuries.
"Had he played this year, I think this year he would have been a guaranteed top-10 pick," Kiper said. "The fact that he didn't, and like I say, that he's not a guy that's going to be one of the better tackling corners — Patrick Surtain is a really good tackling corner coming out of Alabama. That's the one area he needs to work on. I think he could go in that 10 to 16 area, for Farley, as opposed to the top 10."
If Farley is able makes progress in that area, the Broncos could be in position to get top-10 talent midway through the first round.