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Stop mocking me! Latest ESPN draft calls for Broncos to take corner

Surtain II instead of Fields or Sewell? Hard to reconcile
Combine Invites Football
Posted at 8:48 AM, Apr 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-01 12:46:08-04

DENVER — A scene unfolds in "Family Guy" where Stewie Griffin stares at his weather machine — a child's toy with sophomoric labels of farm animals — and believes in his forecast. Then in a fit, he turns to a piece of broccoli and roars in rage, "Stop mocking me!"

This is how I imagine the draft staring back at all of us over the next month. The days are dwindling before the annual selection process, focusing more attention on selection predictions. On Thursday, ESPN's Todd McShay released his latest mock and it stirred Broncos fans.

Working on his latest information — yes, it's subject to change — McShay rebuffs history, not seeing quarterbacks going in the first four picks for the first time ever. He has Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars), Zach Wilson (Jets), Mac Jones (49ers) going 1-2-3, then things get weird. Tight end Kyle Pitts goes fourth to Falcons, followed by receiver Ja'Marr Chase (Bengals), receiver Devonta Smith (Dolphins), quarterback Trey Lance via trade (Panthers), receiver Jaylen Waddle via trade (Lions), and the Broncos take ... cornerback back Patrick Surtain II.

Wait. What?

First, let's remember that McShay remains plugged in and is predicting the draft based on what he's hearing, not on what he would do. And the idea of the Broncos taking a cornerback is not completely misguided. Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan have one year remaining on their contracts. Both could be gone after this season, particularly if coach Vic Fangio does not return for a fourth season. Surtain is not scheme dependent, leaving him a solid pick regardless of who is in charge.

The issue with the selection is not Surtain, though I am not sure the Broncos prefer him over South Carolina's Jaycee Horn.

Stop mocking me! Latest ESPN draft calls for Broncos to take corner

It's who the Broncos would ignore in this spot. In McShay's mock, quarterback Justin Fields and offensive tackle Penei Sewell fall out of the top 10, making the selection of a corner perplexing, if not infuriating for Broncos Country.

I will go on record saying the Broncos will not pass on either player if they are on the board at No. 9. No foolin', even on April 1.

The Broncos own four straight losing seasons for the first time since 1963-72. They have missed the playoffs five straight years, matching the league's third-longest active postseason drought.

There are plenty of reasons why, but paramount among them is lacking quarterback play. The Broncos have featured 10 starters since Peyton Manning retired. Only Trevor Siemian (13-11) and Brett Rypien (1-0) have posted a winning record.

Fields' drop in the draft is hard to reconcile. While the criticism centers on his reliance on first reads in the passing game — a point FS1 analyst Joel Klatt refutes — Fields boasts a remarkable resume. He went 20-2 as a starter for Ohio State, clocked a 4.43 40 at his Pro Day and represents a passing quarterback who can run, someone who can threaten the defense on multiple levels.

In his mock, McShay projects the Patriots to trade up and take Fields at No. 11. That would sting for Broncos fans, no matter what you think about Drew Lock.

I reserve judgment on how General Manager George Paton addresses the quarterback position until after the draft. There will be trades as teams land young quarterbacks, making the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, Gardner Minshew and Nick Foles available. And there's always Alex Smith as a free agent.

I would take Fields if he's on the board. The ceiling is too high to pass up. I don't think he will be available. In fact, if the Broncos fall in love with a quarterback, they will likely have to move to four to guarantee they get their player.

The idea of Sewell dropping out of the top 10 is easier to understand. If the Bengals decide getting quarterback Joe Burrow more weapons is more important than protecting him — not a choice I would make — then Sewell could fall into the Broncos' lap.

Some talent evaluators I have talked with insist that Rashawn Slater could go before Sewell, who opted out last season. If Sewell is on the board when the Broncos are on the clock, it would make a lot of sense to take him. Denver, after painful growing pains, found their cornerstone left tackle in All-Pro Garett Bolles last season. Adding a young bookend to pair with strong guard Dalton Risner, veteran Graham Glasgow and improving center Lloyd Cushenberry represents a promising mix.

Why not take Sewell? Two reasons: The Broncos signed Ja'Wuan James to a four-year, $51 million deal that has three seasons remaining. Can he stay healthy after logging 63 snaps in 2019 and opting out a year ago? When James was not injured, he was good. He barely played and got cross ways with Fangio over his return from a knee issue. Risner told Denver7 the plan is for James to work out with a group of linemen soon, meshing him back into the group. The Broncos also have intriguing backup Calvin Anderson. So would Sewell be needed instead of, say, linebacker Micah Parsons? Only the Broncos know that.

Getting the top tackle in the draft would be hard to resist. And it would be impossible, in my opinion, to pass up Fields if he is an option with the ninth pick.