Will the Broncos use this pick (and more) to trade for Aaron Rodgers (or another quarterback)? Time will tell, but new Broncos coach (and ex-Packers offensive coordinator) Nathanial Hackett is reportedly "pushing hard to trade" for Rodgers. If the Broncos retain this pick (and don't draft a quarterback), Lloyd would give them a playmaker in the middle of the defense. Several of Denver's inside linebackers--Kenny Young, A.J. Johnson and Josey Jewell--are unrestricted free agents next month. The Pac-12's Defensive Player of the Year, the do-it-all former Ute ended 2021 with 110 tackles, 22 TFLs, eight sacks and four interceptions.
Why would the Broncos take Pickett if they passed on the likes of Justin Fields and Mac Jones a year ago? Well, the stakes and urgency have been raised, and Aaron Rodgers and other big-name veterans might not be available. Pickett would have a chance to start immediately and have success with Denver's allotment of pass-catching talent.
The Aaron Rodgers rumors will persist throughout the offseason, but until it actually happens, quarterback will remain Denver's biggest need. Pickett may lack the high-end upside of Willis, but he's more pro-ready right now, and a team like the Broncos could draw connections between him and Joe Burrow.
Will Denver end up with Aaron Rodgers? It's hard to project anything for the Broncos until they figure out the quarterback situation. They have had zero success drafting and developing QBs. Drew Lock deserves a shot to compete if they don't land a proven veteran, but no one is saying they're Super Bowl bound with the 2019 draft pick under center, especially in a division that features Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr.
The defense got strong returns from Pat Surtain II in his rookie year, but there are definitely some weak spots on that side of the ball. The Broncos were bottom six in both pass rush win rate (31.3%, 32nd) and run stop win rate (27.8%, 27th). And linebackers Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewell and Kenny Young are all primed for free agency. Lloyd plays fast, is rangy and has great recognition skills. I have Georgia's Nakobe Dean ranked higher, but I'm hearing some teams like Lloyd a bit more. He's a plug-and-play starter who can be Denver's leader on defense.
No one knows better than the Broncos that to contend in the arms race that is the AFC West, this club must get better play at quarterback. The draft class does not offer that kind of immediate impact, however, so expect Denver and new coach Nathaniel Hackett to try to acquire a veteran QB (Aaron Rodgers?). That would be better than gambling away a top-10 pick that could be used to restock a pass rush that is lacking due to the trade of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb's durability struggles.
Ojabo is raw but even more gifted athletically than his former teammate and the projected No. 1 overall pick, Hutchinson.
Quarterback is this team's obvious need, but let's assume -- for now -- that GM George Paton finds another avenue to address Denver's hole under center. Paton also needs to replace departed OLB Von Miller's production for a defense that finished with a middling 36 sacks. This isn't to suggest Karlaftis is a similar player to Miller -- who is? -- but in two full seasons (2019, 2021) for the Boilermakers, he compiled 13 sacks, 32 QB hits and 64 hurries.
The Broncos could go with a quarterback here, but after watching them pass on both Justin Fields and Mac Jones last year, I'm not convinced they'll like anyone in this year's class any better (and certainly not better than, say, Aaron Rodgers, who could be an offseason trade target). After building out their skill position corps over the past few years, Denver looks to beef up the offensive line with Cross, who fills a need at the right tackle spot. Both Bobby Massie and Cameron Fleming are slated for free agency.
The Broncos are more likely to solve their opening at quarterback through a trade or free agency; that opens the door for a rangy, athletic, attacking linebacker to fill a huge need on defense. Lloyd was a one-man wrecking crew for the Utes.