8 First-Round-Caliber Fallers Broncos Should Target With Pick 46 of Draft
The first round is in the books and the Denver Broncos walked away with perhaps the shiniest of toys for Drew Lock to play with next season in Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy. In a Day 1 of the Draft with very few movement in regards to trades, the Broncos stood pat at pick 15 and did not make a move back up in round one.
The Broncos may still move up into the top of round two, but for now, Denver holds the 46th overall pick in the second round. Where will Denver go with that selection and what would be the ideal player to nab given the number of holes the team still has?
Round two does not possess the prestige of round one, but make no mistake, there are still so many talented players left on the board for Denver to nab with their second selection. Here are eight prospects to circle.
Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Perhaps the most shocking player still on the board for myself, Fulton was arguably one of the best cornerbacks in the entire college football landscape entering this season. While he did not shine like freshman phenom Derrek Stingley, Jr. who played opposite Fulton last season, Fulton played extremely well (check out his game against Henry Ruggs and Alabama) and possesses numerous tools and traits that would make him and plug-and-play boundary corner in the Vic Fangio defense.
Fulton can be hit-or-miss with his technique and tackling, which is a concern in a Fangio defense, but his movement skills and high volume of good tape makes him seem safe corner for Denver. When it comes to cornerbacks, think of Shakira... watch those hips because they do not lie. Fulton is smooth and he has those needed hips and fluidity to stay in phase on the boundary on in the slot.
With a massive amount of concerns after A.J. Bouye on the cornerback depth chart, netting someone as safe and solid as Fulton at such a premium position would be a dream for Denver. If Fulton falls any further than 46, there might be something else such as a medical issue lingering behind the scenes.
Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
Outside of cornerback, the ‘other’ position of massive concern entering the 2020 season has to be that of tackle. The Broncos do have Garett Bolles and Ja’Wuan James, but the former has been erratic at best, the latter an injury question equivalent to that of Bryce Callahan at corner. The Broncos would be wise to invest in the OT position.
After putting on a show at the NFL Combine, it is a massive surprise that Cleveland is still on the board entering Day 2. While not possessing incredible length (33-inch arms is a red flag), Cleveland has a lot of really good tape and a supreme athlete. He really needs to add strength, though, as his punch lacks any real power.
Cleveland played through a foot injury last season that made his 2019 tape up and down, but he just is solid in every sense of the word and a great zone scheme fit. It would be a shock if he falls to 46 but if he does, Denver should pounce.
Xavier McKinney, DB, Alabama
Perhaps the best player left on my board, McKinney would be a great fit in the Fangio defense. Playing a hybrid defensive back role of nickel back and two-high safety, McKinney is versatile, instinctual, and solid.
He is not an incredible athlete on tape and didn’t prove otherwise running a poor 40 and pulling his hamstring in the process. This, along with much of the league not valuing safety highly, is likely the reason he has fallen out of round one. Watching him match up against WRs one-on-one in man coverage can be hit-or-miss.
However, in a defense such as Fangio’s, which loves versatility and intelligence from their safeties, McKinney is about as good of a fit as Denver could imagine. Also talk about destroying the narrative of 'Elway doesn’t draft players from Alabama'? Taking back-to-back Crimson Tiders with his first and second-round picks this year would upend that narrative.
Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
Again, the Broncos have a desperate need at corner. There are still veteran cornerbacks available in free agency such as Prince Amukamara, Eli Apple, and Darqueze Dennard, but as it stands, no one should feel comfortable about the talent Denver currently has at the corner position.
Going up against the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs might as well be themed 'living on a prayer'.
Another surprise faller like Fulton, Johnson was a player many pegged to go late round one this season. Johnson has flashes of extremely great tape and physicality but can be a bit inconsistent. He also does not possess the loosest of hips but there is a reason he has fallen to Day 2.
Johnson can be over-aggressive in his coverage down the field which could lead to some flags at the NFL level. However, he shows versatility, aggressiveness, and starting corner traits on tape.
He even sometimes looked ‘bored’ out there against some PAC-12 WRs which can be read both good and bad. A good fit for the Fangio defense, if Johnson is there, the Broncos found a solid corner option for 2020 and beyond.
Josh Jones, OT, Houston
Another shocking slipper out of the first round, many pegged Houston’s Josh Jones as the fifth-best OT in the 2020 draft. He played in a multitude of systems under a variety of different offensive line coaches during his team in college.
Jones has an extremely nimble base likely due to his basketball background and solid pass blocking ability and upside. He needs to add strength and will likely never be a dominating blocker at the point of attack in the run game, but it is a passing league.
A somewhat older prospect than some of the other OTs who did not test as well athletically at the Combine while possessing a somewhat narrow base, Jones may have some anchor issues at the next level. However, he is very likely a long-term starting OT in the NFL and that has tremendous value in round two for a tackle.
Jeremy Chinn, DB, Southern Illinois
How appropriate would it be for Denver to draft a massive versatile safety prospect related to the legendary Steve Atwater the year he is set to enter the Hall of Fame? If that doesn’t do it for you, now imagine that player is the nephew of Atwater. Enter Chinn.
An absolute athletic freak putting on a show at the NFL Combine, Chinn has played numerous positions for the Salukis defense including corner, safety, and linebacker. The ‘Diet’ Isaiah Simmons of this draft class, Chinn’s size and movement skills are a rare combination that should make any defensive coordinator’s creativity run wild.
Chinn has a large jump in competition to make it in the NFL and will need to develop better instincts, but he has the chance to develop into one of the best DBs in the NFL with his size and movement skills. If there is any team that could maximize his upside, it is probably Denver under the leadership of Fangio and DC Ed Donatell.
A.J. Epenesa, DL, Iowa
Once considered one of the best prospects in the entire draft, Epenesa has fallen out of the first round. Despite a plethora of good tape, Epenesa just isn’t what most teams are looking for at edge rusher.
He is long, strong, and runs a consistently hot motor but with limited burst and bend, how impactful can he be rushing from the edge constantly over a game? Just ask 19th overall pick Austin Jackson, whom Epenesa destroyed in their bowl game against each other.
Epenesa did not test well at the Combine and is a bit of a ‘tweener’ — not athletic enough to hang at the edge but not big enough to be a true interior player. However, given how multiple defensive fronts are in today’s NFL, a team that can’t find a role for Epenesa to play has the wrong people making important decisions.
Rushing the edge in strong packages versus moving inside to go up against a guard in pass-rush packages, Epenesa is long, strong, technical, and a super safe player. He isn’t truly a ‘need’ for the Broncos, but if he falls to 46, he may be too good to pass up.
Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
Another example of being perhaps too good to pass up, the Broncos should absolutely look at and consider Mims if he is still on the board at 46. Many will cry foul and scream about poor resource allocation on part of the Broncos if Elway goes WR back-to-back to open the draft, but in the end, it is about getting good players.
In 9 out of 10 other drafts, Mims isn’t even an option at 46 but in a 2020 class loaded with WR talent, he is pushed down. Despite having up-and-down play during his career at Baylor, Mims absolutely dominated the pre-draft circuit at the Senior Bowl and then at the NFL Combine.
Showing off route nuance and separation ability in Mobile never really shown at the simple offensive scheme Baylor ran and an enticing combination of height/weight/speed at Indianapolis, Mims is an ideal Z-receiver in a team that wants to push the ball vertically.
It perhaps is indeed overkill, but drafting Mims at 46 to play the Z-receiver in 11 personnel (OC Pat Shurmur’s offensive package of choice) to go with Sutton at X, Jeudy in the slot, with Fant at tight end, makes me happier than pondering any possibility should. If the board falls this way, the Broncos should in the least consider drafting Mims, turning a roster weakness into a roster-defining strength.
Elway can go a number of different directions in round two of the draft. Given the reports that the Broncos were aggressively trying to trade up, perhaps we see the Broncos make a splash and move into the first few picks of round two instead of standing pat at pick 46.
Who knows how Day 2 will play out? However it does, the Broncos will have a number of interesting options even if they follow their round-one game plan and let the board fall to them.