The NFL Draft is just around the corner but a flurry of uncertainty remains as it is unclear who will still be available when the Denver Broncos are on the clock.
Nevertheless, here is a stab at determining who the Broncos could pick when their name appears on the big screen at No. 15 overall.
Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy could fall to No. 15 strictly because the Raiders are in love with his teammate, Henry Ruggs III, while the 49ers need a Z-type receiver, which gives them CeeDee Lamb out of Oklahoma.
With Drew Lock solidifying himself as the Broncos’ starter after going 4-1 in the Broncos’ final five games, a quarterback at No. 15 isn’t going to be part of the equation. The Broncos still have a decision to make on Garett Bolles’s team option in order to determine if offensive tackle would be considered a position of need in this draft. All four top tackles could be gone by No. 15, so the Broncos will likely pass on a lineman and pick up Bolles’s option.
As for one of the Pro Bowl-caliber defensive players on the big board, the Broncos would benefit from Jeffrey Okudah, who will likely be a top-three player drafted. Okudah is projected to step into the NFL and immediately be a top player at cornerback. Okudah would make the transition away from Chris Harris, Jr. quite seamless, but the likelihood of the Broncos trading up to pick No. 3 for a star is very unlikely.
The Broncos would also love Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons, who is a linebacker/safety hybrid. Simmons would likely be the fastest linebacker in the NFL with his 4.39-second 40-yard dash, and he is a playmaker in the middle of the field with the intelligence and athletic ability to impact the run and pass game. The Broncos play in a division with tight ends Travis Kelce, Hunter Henry, and Darren Waller and the weakness of their defense for the last five years has been covering tight ends. Insert Isaiah Simmons and the Broncos could turn the tables on said matchup for the next 10 years.
With the addition of Jurrell Casey and the re-signing of Shelby Harris, the Broncos won’t trade into the top 10 to select defensive lineman Derrick Brown. Further, Chase Young is an elite edge-rusher and will be the second pick in the first round. The Broncos are set at edge-rusher and wouldn’t sacrifice the draft capital to even take a shot at Young, despite his talent being undeniable.
Some trade opportunities for the Broncos include trading up for No. 3 with the Detroit Lions, No. 7 with the Carolina Panthers, or No. 9 with the Jacksonville Jaguars. These are the teams that are in rebuild mode and could appreciate multiple draft picks to plug many holes rather than selecting one top-tier talent. The Broncos could possibly try to make a run for Isaiah Simmons at No. 7 if he is still available, or maybe jump in front of the other tackle- and receiver-needy teams at No. 9. The Broncos currently hold 10 draft picks with not nearly as many holes in the roster. They could look to couple some of their third-round picks and a second-rounder in the next draft to move up six places to secure the player they believe will elevate them to a playoff team.
Now, if the Broncos stand pat, they leave the fate of their draft selection in the hands of the 14 teams in front of them, meaning there is a very real possibility that none of the top players that the Broncos would target fall to them at No. 15. The draft selection that will have the most impact on the Broncos will be the Jets at No. 11, as they will also pursue an offensive lineman or wide receiver. Denver could also start the run on receivers, leaving the Buccaneers with the last tackle to protect Tom Brady.
A top candidate for the Jets is Tristan Wirfs, a career right tackle and guard for the Iowa Hawkeyes who dominated the combine and established his name as a worthy selection. The Jets could revamp their offensive line with Wirfs after they went through free agency by acquiring George Fant to play left tackle and Connor McGovern for center.
The Raiders and 49ers likely start the move on wide receivers with Ruggs and Lamb, respectively.
With the board falling this way, the Buccaneers are left in a strange position, because the best player available would be a defensive lineman or wide receiver with jerry Jeudy or Javon Kinlaw. Those aren’t positions of need for a team that just secured Tom Brady to make a championship run.
Instead, the Bucs could snag top safety prospect Xavier McKinney to shore up the back end of what was a bad pass defense in 2019.
This leaves the Broncos in a position to draft a route-running savant in receiver Jerry Jeudy. The Alabama product is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound burner who ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the combine, showcased his natural hands and crisp routes on game film, and is a perfect complement to Courtland Sutton.