North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) passes against Clemson during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)
Denver Post Broncos writer Parker Gabriel posts his Broncos Mailbag weekly during the season and periodically during the offseason. Click here to submit a question.
Do you think we’ll try and move up to take Drake Maye like I’ve been seeing in some mock drafts?
— Phil T., Aurora
Alright, right to it, Phil. Is this the most likely move for the Broncos? Probably not. Is it in the realm of possibility? Sure. There’s no reason to rule out anything just yet as it pertains to the Broncos’ draft strategy in late April. As Denver head coach Sean Payton pointed out several times in pretty much the exact same terms last week, the Broncos just started their “front-board” draft meetings on Monday.
Perhaps we’ll learn more later this month at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, though it’s not like teams line up to tell the truth about their plans or their convictions on certain players.
The first domino to fall, of course, is Russell Wilson. Payton acknowledged during his Super Bowl week radio tour that he’s looking to fall in love with a quarterback, which could easily be interpreted to mean he didn’t love Wilson (as a player) in 2023.
Maybe that’s a rookie. Maybe that’s a free agent — Payton had an interesting comment about looking for Baker Mayfield while he was in Las Vegas — or a trade target. There are a ton of options, it’s just unclear how many truly good ones are on the board. That reality, too, is what’s driving conversation about a potential trade-up (well, that and it’s better for web traffic than mocking a cornerback to Denver).
How much would a trade up the board for Maye cost? If Washington loves him, it just might not be possible because the Commanders could take him at No. 2.
If Washington is willing to trade out of that spot, then there’s likely to be competition.
Let’s say Chicago takes USC’s Caleb Williams and the Commanders love LSU’s Jayden Daniels. And New England’s willing to move off No. 3. San Francisco made this exact move in 2021 to get from No. 12 to No. 3 and draft Trey Lance. To do so, they traded three first-rounders and a future third-rounder.
This year’s equivalent would be the Broncos sending the Patriots No. 12 plus their first-rounder and third-rounder in 2025 and first-rounder in 2026. That’s probably a starting point. That likely grows if you’re trying to get to No. 2 or if the competition really ramps up. Plus, all of this assumes that one of those teams in the top three will be willing to move.
Say we trade back just two spots, what other picks do you think the Broncos could get and who may be still on the board?
— James H., Colorado Springs
The other side of the coin. The Broncos could trade back and add more assets.
Here are a couple of valuations for your question, James, about moving back from No. 12 to No. 14.
Jimmy Johnson model: Difference is the value of the No. 100 pick.
Rich Hill model: Difference is the value of the No. 122 pick.
Fitzgerald/Spielberger model: Difference is negligible.
Of course, it’s all about demand. One interesting wrinkle in your hypothetical, though, James: The Broncos would be trading back behind Las Vegas, whom they jumped in the draft order by losing in Week 18. And the Raiders could also be quarterback hunting.
That said, an early quarterback run could push blue-chip talent down the board. If you can gain assets and take a really good player, that’s a good combo.
Hey Parker, thanks for the coverage. Sean Payton’s been adding a lot more of his former assistants to his Broncos coaching staff. Do you think a few of his former quarterbacks could be a good fit here next year, especially if we get rid of Russell Wilson and don’t go after a QB in the draft? Jameis Winston is a free agent. Taysom Hill could be available. Maybe Trevor Siemian or Teddy Bridgewater find their way back to Denver?
— Mark, Arvada
Hey Mark, definitely a possibility. Winston would make any list of potential free agent, bridge-type quarterbacks. Maybe Payton finds a role for Hill, but he’s thrown 30 passes the past two seasons. Siemian… not impossible but the market should provide better options even in the inexpensive category, right?
It won’t be Teddy, though. He retired and became the head coach at his alma mater, Miami Northwestern High. Really cool.
Parker, which of the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl stood out to you? Who do you think would fit best with the Broncos?
— Mike, Denver
Hey Mike, the short answer is none of them really did. That sounds harsher than I mean it to, because several of them did some good things.
If you want the positives, they are: Washington’s Michael Penix, Jr. looked like the most talented to me. Oregon’s Bo Nix is maybe the most across-the-board consistent. South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler has intriguing talent and Tulane’s Michael Pratt just kind of walks, talks and plays like a Sean Payton quarterback.
A big part of the equation is this: They’ve all played so much college football that a week at the Senior Bowl probably isn’t radically moving the needle for NFL teams. From my perspective as a reporter, it was great to see them live and get a chance to talk with them and get a feel for them, but it’s really just one tiny sliver of each guy’s resume and so it would be easy to conflate the importance of the week.
The impression I got and what I wrote coming out of that week is that it’s not clear any are really sure bets at No. 12. I went in wondering if any of them would put on a “wow” performance and came out with a better understanding of why a lot of folks in the league have 20-year-old Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy ahead of the experienced Senior Bowl group.
But the bottom line is quarterbacks go early and Payton has said he doesn’t care how others value a player if he and the Broncos are sold, so I wouldn’t take the Senior Bowl group off the table at all.
Hello Parker! I find the Jim Leonhard hiring an interesting one and possibly a very good one. But I can’t help but notice that this is a position typically for rising assistants or longtime position coaches, and here we have someone who was defensive coordinator for a major school, even touted to be their head coach, and was already considered by another NFL team for its defensive coordinator job. So it begs the question, is Sean Payton putting Vance Joseph on notice with this hire? Or is it just the marriage between a good coach and a good opportunity and nothing more?
— Yoann, Beine-Nauroy (France)
Yeah, Yoann, Leonhard is a super interesting add. In fact, I wondered a year ago if Payton would consider hiring him as Denver’s defensive coordinator. Instead, Leonhard took the year off from coaching and served as an analyst at Illinois.
He’s undoubtedly highly regarded in coaching circles. Leonard’s name came up in what felt like every major college DC search over the past two cycles, but Illinois coach Bret Bielema made it pretty clear recently that Leonhard was focused on NFL opportunities.
Good question about Joseph. You can look at it multiple ways. If the Broncos defense takes off in Year 2 under Vance, maybe he’s a head coaching candidate again and Leonard becomes the successor. Or if the group underwhelms, then Payton feels like he has a replacement ready (though you could have said the same thing about Christian Parker or long-time Payton confidant Joe Vitt). Coaching staffs are like rosters in a lot of ways. You ideally want diversity of opinion and experience and a blend of youth, upside, experience and wisdom. You definitely want to find room for as many good coaches as you can find.
Leonard’s that and maybe his addition is just that simple.
Randy Gradishar is finally, finally in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Now, who do you think will be the next Broncos player to be inducted? I say player because it seems like Mike Shanahan should get his due next. I have two names in mind. The first is Louis Wright — the man was an amazing cornerback and part of the NFL’s all-decade team for the ’70s. How are you considered one of the best of an era and not be recognized by the Hall? The other is Karl Mecklenburg. He was a multiple-time All-Pro and lined up at every front-seven position on those Broncos defenses.
— Marshall, Parker
Hey Marshall, thanks for writing in and the good question. Agreed on Shanahan. There’s no reason he shouldn’t get in at some point soon. Interestingly, the coach/contributor nominee selected over him for the 2024 class, Buddy Parker, did not actually get the votes needed for enshrinement.
As far as players, Mecklenburg has a case (he was most recently a semifinalist in 2019), as do fellow senior contributor category players like Wright and Tom Jackson. If the Hall of Fame keeps considering multiple candidates from the senior pool per year, that may well boost the odds for Mecklenburg (a four-time first-team All-Pro) and the other senior candidates.
In terms of modern-era candidates, there might be a wait upcoming. In fact, the next to get in could be Von Miller, who, of course, is still playing.
Parker, any news on potential new uniforms for the Broncos? I feel like we’re long overdue for a style change.
— Mike, Denver
Not yet, Mike. It’s a long process and it’s possible something gets done this offseason, but nothing official on that front.