Hubert: Who Could Broncos Select at No. 15 Overall?

The 2020 NFL draft is still nearly four months away, the Super Bowl has not been played yet, and it’s currently Pro Bowl weekend. However, this week has also been the week of the Senior Bowl which gets folks excited and hopeful about the NFL draft. This article will explore which players will potentially be available at the 15th selection for the Denver Broncos and how each of them fits what the team is trying to do.

The Denver Broncos’ offseason strategy, as it pertained to the in-house free agents as well as other team’s big-name free agents, was addressed earlier this week here.

Assuming the Broncos bring back one or two of their defensive linemen, the team picks up Garrett Bolles’s fifth-year option, Justin Simmons is tagged or a long-term contract is agreed upon, and Chris Harris, Jr. and Ronald Leary are both on their way out of Denver, the draft becomes more about filling holes than upgrading at certain positions. With those assumptions, which players are likely to be still on the board when the clock ticks on the No. 15 pick?

In the previous exploration of the offseason moves, we identified the positions of need to be offensive lineman, speedy wide receiver, cornerback, inside linebacker, and defensive lineman. The Broncos have some question marks for 2020 because of the ambiguity surrounding the injuries to Bryce Callahan and Ja’Waun James. If both players return to form and play all 16 games next season, the O-line and cornerback positions more stable, but if they aren’t reliable and off and on the injury report again, those positions become incredibly important.

This draft is incredibly heavy with top talent at a couple of positions as there are a few franchise quarterbacks (likely three in the top 10), four franchise left tackles, a generational edge rusher, stud linebackers, defensive linemen, and defensive backs that will likely round out the first round. The position that seemingly has the most talent and depth in this draft is the wide receiver pool, which has five to seven first-rounders in the mix.

When the Broncos are on the clock, who will be available, who will be the best player available, who could fill top needs, and which players could be the best fit in Denver?

Let’s find out:

Henry Ruggs III – Alabama – Wide Receiver

If fans had their choice, Ruggs would be in Denver already. He’s incredible, owns a 4.2 40-yard dash time, has great hands, and is hard to tackle in the open field. This player would give the Broncos a deep threat and is an over-the-top game-changer that can take safety support off of Courtland Sutton and open up the passing game for Drew Lock and the Broncos. Ruggs will likely be available at pick No. 15.

Tristan Wirffs – Iowa – Offensive Tackle

Wirffs will most likely not be available at No. 15 as there are plenty of tackle hungry teams ahead of Denver in the draft order. In a perfect world, he falls and the Broncos have to pick between a franchise tackle and a franchise wide receiver, or they trade up to claim Wirffs to protect Drew Lock for the rest of their careers. Wirffs has played all along the offensive line (mainly right side) and is young, strong, and built to be a dominant pass and run blocker with strong hands, quick feet, long arms and great leverage.

A.J. Epenesa – Iowa – Edge Rusher

With the Broncos currently sitting with three impending free agent defensive ends and likely to bring only one back, the need for defensive linemen may be too high for Vic Fangio and John Elway when this stud is sitting there at No. 15. With double-digit sacks his last two seasons, collapsing the pocket from the interior of the defensive line will no doubt result in more sacks and turnovers for the Broncos’ defense. Epenesa is a strong bull-rusher with great edge-setting ability and has great hands for batting down balls and knocking the ball out of the quarterbacks’ hands.

Grant Delpit – Louisiana State University – Safety

With backup safety Will Parks likely leaving in free agency and Kareem Jackson being 33 years old, the Broncos may be able to get one of the most underrated players in this draft. Before the season started, Delpit was among the five best players in the NCAA, and all he did was win a National Championship, where he had five tackles and a sack while holding Clemson to 25 points. In 2019, Delpit had two sacks, a forced fumble, two interceptions, and seven passes defensed. He is a playmaker and a leader, and the Broncos would be silly to not consider Delpit at No. 15.

Laviska Shenault – University of Colorado – Wide Receiver

Shenault had a down year statistically mainly as a result of the team being bad and the fact that he missed some games because of injury, but coming into tthe 2019 season, he was regarded as one of the top wide receivers in the country. He also resides in Colorado where the Broncos had a chance to watch him closely. His stock should skyrocket after the combine and team workouts as he has all the tools to be a No. 1 receiver. Slotting him next to Courtland Sutton could open things up for this to be a Calvin Ridley-Julio Jones type combination. He has a big body, is a good route-runner, and has great hands that make it challenging for defenders to cover him.

Henry Ruggs III is the most likel\y selection at pick No. 15 because he aligns with the team’s strategy, he fills a need for a playmaker with elite speed, and he could be among the top talent available.

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