The NFL Draft is just two weeks away, and the Mock Draft world has gone crazy with each and every scenario.
How should it play out for the Denver Broncos, a team that’s only a few ‘right’ moves away from returning to status as a playoff contender?
The team has stacked the defense for yet another run with a top-five unit through free agency, and the offense hinges on the ability and development of Drew Lock and the weapons around him. Courtland Sutton has produced a pro-bowl caliber season and stood out as a feature wideout, but you would be hard-pressed to find another recognizable name in that receiver room.
The Broncos spent their first-round pick last season on tight end Noah Fant, who had some consistency and drop issues last year but was still a First-Team All-Rookie player. With tight end being one of the hardest transition positions in the NFL, expecting rookie hiccups and bloopers is necessary for confidence and improvement. With any luck, Noah Fant has all the attributes and physical tools to be a pro-bowl caliber tight end in the NFL.
That being said, the wide receiver position still stands pat as the weakest on the roster.
A big portion of the Broncos faithful will try to have you believe that this first-round draft strategy is “offensive tackle or bust” to replace Garrett Bolles. But the deeper into statistics, film, Pro Football Focus (PFF), and overall offensive line chemistry you look, Bolles actually was a top-five offensive tackle the last five games of the year with Drew Lock under center.
The Broncos have a team option on Garrett Bolles that they still haven’t picked up because they are waiting to see how the draft falls. If the three top wide receivers are off the board at pick 15, but one of the top five offensive tackles is available, they could draft Bolles’ replacement there.
The Broncos should draft a wide receiver in the first round, they should target Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs III, and they should do what it takes to secure one of these assets. This wide receiver group is insane, comparable to the 2014 draft where the Broncos waited and ended up with Cody Latimore in a draft that featured Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, Devante Adams, Allan Robinson, and Jarvis Landry.
Select a wide receiver for Drew Lock, give him another dependable weapon on the outside to compliment Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant, trust the internal development for the offensive line and build a core offense to support the second-year quarterback. The defense is in a position to make another run for the top defensive unit in football and just needs offensive support.
The first round is about finding a day one contributor and a long term impact player. With wide receiver as the weakest position group on the roster, a strong receiver draft, and a young quarterback who needs all the support he can get, that position is the first-round pick, a no-brainer.
The second round, the Broncos have had incredible luck the last two drafts snaring Drew Lock, Dalton Risner, Courtland Sutton who make up the core components of the offense now. The 2020 draft, if this team hopes to make the playoffs this coming season, needs to secure another impact player.
Personally, I would argue this pick needs to be either a cornerback, linebacker, or an interior offensive lineman. The Broncos lost Ronald Leary and picked up Graham Glasgow as his replacement. They also lost center Connor McGovern and haven’t replaced him yet. Lloyd Cushenberry, Tyler Biadasz, Ceaser Ruiz, or Shane Lemieux are the names to look for, I’m hopeful one of these guys ends up a Denver Bronco.
If an interior offensive lineman isn’t the second-round pick, I think that cornerback or interior linebacker should be it. The second round has a few players that seem to be there at pick 46 like Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison, Damon Arnette, and Trevon Diggs. These are players that are ranked higher than 46 and would be fallers due to either a run on quarterbacks, wide receivers, or offensive linemen in the first round. The opportunity to secure a first-round talent in the second is what has been so successful for Denver in the last two drafts.
Following the best player available strategy, accompanied by the fact that Todd Davis is on the last year of his contract, and the cornerback group is one of the bigger unknowns of the roster, the team could take a defensive back or middle linebacker.
Bryce Callahan didn’t play last season due to injury, De’Vante Bausby was placed on IR with a head and neck injury, and Issac Yaidom has lost the faith of the fans for poor play. AJ Bouye is the only reliable piece of the cornerback core using recent history as an indication. Bringing in cornerback depth with talent could prove to be the move that saves the season, or bringing in the eventual starting quarterback of the defense with a young talented MLB could anchor the defense for the next eight years could be the move of the future.
In the third round where the team has three selections, they should select three from this position pool, minus the player position selected in the second round. Cornerback, Interior offensive lineman, middle linebacker and the last position should be a project safety who can replace the loss of Will Parks behind Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson. Jeremy Chinn, who is Steve Atwater’s nephew, could be a late third-rounder who comes to Denver and makes an impact with a family name to uphold.
The fourth round and later is typically a crapshoot and projecting who the team selects here is nearly impossible, so I just hope they find some diamonds in the rough who impact special teams and depth players.