Broncos trade with Patriots in Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest 2021 mock draft

Denver Broncos, 2021 NFL Draft, Trey Lance. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos, 2021 NFL Draft, Trey Lance. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

New Denver Broncos general manager George Paton talked at his introductory press conference about accumulating more “darts” to throw in the NFL Draft. The philosophy is pretty simple: If you have more darts, you’ve got more chances to hit a bullseye.

The Denver Broncos have not traded down a lot in the NFL Draft with John Elway as the general manager, but that could obviously change with Paton as GM.

In the 2021 NFL Draft, specifically, the Broncos could be motivated to move down if they do not like the quarterbacks in this year’s class compared to Drew Lock and the field of veterans available. This year’s class does not have a huge handful of bona fide star players at non-quarterback positions that would interest the Broncos, but there are likely some guys they would not pass on if they fell to the 9th overall pick.

With that being said, in Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock draft at ESPN, the Broncos do trade down.

For the first time in Kiper’s 38 years of covering the NFL Draft for ESPN, he put together a mock draft with trades. Those are, of course, not uncommon anymore, but for Kiper, it’s a first.

So, in the first-ever mock draft with trades put together by Mel Kiper Jr., the Denver Broncos trade down. Because Kiper’s mock draft content is behind the ESPN+ paywall, we will respect the contents within, but this information was released publicly by his colleague Field Yates.

So, in Kiper’s scenario, the Broncos trade down six spots with the New England Patriots, who own the 15th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, so the Patriots can take North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance.

Lance is one of the most fascinating and difficult evaluations in the NFL Draft in quite some time. A tremendous talent at North Dakota State, Lance accounted for 42 total touchdowns with zero interceptions in his first year as a full-time starter for the Bison in 2019.

Despite that insanely impressive level of production, there remain questions about Lance’s accuracy with the football. In six of his 17 college starts — none of which came against FBS competition — he had a completion percentage of 56.5 percent or worse.

The sample size on Lance combined with the clear accuracy issues make it tough, but his talent as a passer and runner is tremendous, and he’s also highly regarded for his work habits and as a teammate.

With the current setup of the Broncos’ roster, Lance may not be the best fit but that will be determined by GM George Paton and the coaching staff. This guy is one of the youngest prospects in the draft with some of the highest upside, but a ton of risk involved as well.

For that reason, the Broncos trading this selection to the Patriots or another QB-needy team could make sense. The Broncos might prefer to hedge their bets on Drew Lock and a more experienced veteran than go all-in on a risky prospect at the position at this point in time.

In Kiper’s scenario, they choose exactly that.