Mel Kiper’s first mock draft has Broncos going defense in Round 1

Jan 23, 2024, 12:56 PM | Updated: Feb 8, 2024, 11:57 am

Many people want the Denver Broncos to take a QB in Round 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft, but according to the first mock from a top expert in the field, that might not be the case.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. dropped his first stab at a mock draft on Tuesday, and he has the Broncos taking UCLA outside linebacker Laiatu Latu with the No. 12 overall pick.

Denver definitely needs help sacking the quarterback, as guys like Baron Browning, Nik Bonitto and Jonathon Cooper all look like fine players, but probably not future NFL stars.

In his last two seasons with the Bruins, Latu has combined for 23.5 sacks and came in first or second in all of colloege football in both total pressures and pressure rate. There’s no doubt Latu has a nose for getting after the quarterback.

Kiper, though, points out something very interesting and potentially concerning when it comes to his injury history.

“The questions with Latu will come at the NFL combine in a few weeks, as he medically retired from football because of a neck injury when he was at Washington in 2021,” Kiper wrote. “He was cleared to play for the Bruins, but what will his medical checkups show?”

The draft analyst also knows that edge-rusher will be a tempting position for head coach Sean Payton and general manager George Paton to potentially add.

“For Denver, adding Latu would be a boost to a pass rush that was just OK last season. The Broncos tied for 21st with 42 sacks, but overall they ranked 30th in yards per play allowed (5.8) and 32nd in yards per carry allowed (5.0). Latu has the potential to become a 10-sacks-per-season defender,” Kiper wrote.

Who are the Broncos taking at No. 12? Get all the latest mock drafts here!

There’s a reason for the Broncos to give Latu a long look. But if the selection isn’t quarterback, fans will wonder what the plan is at the most important position in sports.

Almost anyone can write a mock draft, but Kiper has the credentials and resume that his version shouldn’t be ignored. This is a curious pick for Denver, one Broncos Country might not exactly embrace.


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