There’s still a long way to go before the first name is called in the 2019 NFL Draft, including the Combine and school Pro Days across the country. The Denver Broncos hold the 10th pick in the Draft currently, but if GM John Elway wants to maneuver into position to guarantee one of the top quarterbacks of the class — like Drew Lock or Dwayne Haskins — it appears he’s going to have to trade up.
Elway has orchestrated trade-ups in the first round of the Draft before. He did so in order draft Paxton Lynch in 2016, though it was from literally the last pick in round one up to No. 26.
When NFL teams make Draft Day trades, front offices follow a value chart. For example, the 10th pick in the Draft is worth 1300 points. The first pick is worth 3000.
So, for example, if the Broncos wanted to trade up to No. 1, they’d have to bundle together enough picks to equal the 1700-point gap — at a bare minimum. Some NFL GMs are opportunistic, and will exploit the desperation of other teams looking to move up to get their guy, and ask for even more.
However, if the Broncos indeed look to move up in the first round, they appear to have a prime trading partner — the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners currently hold the No. 2 overall pick (worth 2600 points), and Kyle Shanahan already has his QB of the future in Jimmy Garoppolo. The team just needs to get him healthy.
Plus, the Niners only have five picks in the 2019 Draft, which means they could use a trade to stockpile selections. They’re two years into a rebuild and need as many picks as they can get now that the Niners have a franchise QB in tow.
The Broncos and Niners have forged a working relationship over the last few years. Two years ago, Elway allowed his director of college scouting, Adam Peters, to leave for a promotion in the front office of the newly-hired John Lynch in San Fran. Elway didn’t have to do that, though it was likely done more to benefit Peters’ career than Lynch’s Niners.
Since then, the two teams have collaborated on several transactions and hires. Denver dealt running back Kapri Bibbs and a fifth-round pick to San Fran in exchange for a fourth-rounder in April of 2017.
When Elway began exploring trade partners for Aqib Talib a year ago, he had a deal in place with Lynch to send the Pro Bowl cornerback to San Fran, but Talib vetoed it, instead choosing to reconnect with Wade Phillips in L.A. Just this year, the Broncos eyed Rich Scangarello to serve as offensive coordinator under Vic Fangio, but not wanting to lose one of his trusted lieutenants, Shanahan initially blocked Denver’s interview request.
After Elway worked the back channels with Lynch and Shanahan, the interview was granted and Scangarello was soon hired as OC — a massive promotion from his previous station as Niners’ QBs Coach. Just this past week, the Niners allowed T.C. McCartney to interview for Denver’s QBs Coach vacancy, which culminated in another hire.
You see the pattern.
The Niners are perfectly poised to make a Draft Day trade with the Broncos. Denver would have to send this year’s No. 10 pick, along with probably two second-rounders and a third in order to equal the 1300-point value deficit on the trading chart. But securing their bona-fide franchise QB of the future would be priceless for Denver.
The value was different because the trades took place later in the first round, but look also at the trades Kansas City made to get Patrick Mahomes and Houston to get DeShaun Watson. Nobody is criticizing those front offices for ‘mortgaging the future’ because each of the four franchises I’ve mentioned were in the playoffs this year, with two of them in the Conference Championship Games, one of whom will square off against Tom Brady in Super Bowl LIII.
Von Miller is great. Bradley Chubb is great. Neither are as valuable as a true franchise quarterback, which the last three years of missing the playoffs have proven. Without that most crucial roster piece, a team like the Broncos will be perpetually stuck in neutral, notwithstanding the impressive coaching hires made in January.
The Broncos possibly orchestrating a trade with the Niners at the top of round one is a topic worthy of a deep-dive, and for those pining for additional insight on the issue would do well to listen to the latest episode of the Huddle Up Podcast, where Zack Kelberman and I dissect the issue and reveal what information we’ve picked up on the matter.