Broncos 7-Round Mock Draft | Version 7.0
The NFL Draft is finally here. With what is sure to be one of the most tuned-in drafts in the history of the league, given there is literally no other major sporting event going on the entire world, the event will take center stage over this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday as team decision-makers all navigate an unprecedented virtual process.
While this may be one of the clunkier draft productions given the circumstances, the NFL is providing a much-needed feeling of normalcy and distraction from current everyday life. I don’t think I have ever been more thankful for a non-sports sporting event in my entire life.
With the actual draft taking place comes the end of mock draft season. This will be met with cheers by some given the saturation of mock drafts in this time period, but the massive vacuum of what takes up our sports consumption after the draft comes and goes makes me want to appreciate every single mock as much as possible here in the now. What comes after the draft, and when… is anyone’s best guess.
To date, I have published one single official mock draft but felt the need to do one final mock before the Cincinnati Bengals are on the clock with the first overall pick Thursday night. Of course, as is the case with any mock, predicting whether a player will be available is like trying to predict where lightning will strike but given the thousands of mocks and big boards leading up to the draft, a somewhat accurate and optimistic mock draft will do.
Round 1, Pick 15: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
No surprise to anyone who has been following my work to date; John Elway and the Broncos select the most electrifying receiver in the class. Possessing excellent hands, incredible speed, underrated yards-after-catch ability, and the highest upside in the class, Ruggs is a picture-perfect complement to what the Broncos already have on their roster in Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant.
Ruggs would give Lock one of the best young trio of weapons in the entire NFL. Will Ruggs be there at 15? That is anyone’s guess.
Any of the ‘Big 3’ WRs could fall to 15, or they could all be gone. The Broncos may end up moving up for the WR of their choice but for my money, Ruggs offers the most for the entire offense and can help the Broncos’ offense do what they need to do the most — put up more points and create more explosive plays.
Ruggs can be productive without even having to be fed targets and can help open up the other pieces already on the Broncos’ roster. He isn’t your typical target-heavy WR, but his game might project as the best WR2 in the game and have an easy day-one impact given opposing defenses cannot ignore his speed and big-play ability. Sutton? Fant? Ruggs? Gordon/Lindsay? Pick your poison.
Round 2, Pick 46: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
If there is any position that can be argued is in worse shape than that of the Broncos’ WR corps entering the draft, it is the cornerback position. While Elway did go out and add A.J. Bouye via trade, along with re-signing De’Vante Bausby, the Broncos’ CB position is very much based on optimism at this point in time, especially considering the uncertainty of Bryce Callahan's future. That's not great for any team trying to dethrone Patrick Mahomes.
For some reason, the talking heads purport that the NFL is not in love with Gladney, who is coming off a meniscus injury and has some reported character concerns (although that could very easily be smoke). The latest rumor is Gladney will likely be drafted in the 45-55 range according to NFL insider Tony Pauline.
If Gladney does indeed slip, the Broncos should pounce on the scrappy, versatile CB. He has inside or outside coverage ability, off-coverage, zone, or man, Gladney is a great fit in the Vic Fangio defense and an ideal second-round selection for the Broncos.
Gladney will need to work on becoming less grabby at the NFL level, but his movement skills and ball production are formidable, registering an incredible 43 batted balls over his career. He also is someone who enjoys chirping at opponents, something I always enjoy from a CB prospect. Dog mentality.
Round 3, Pick 77: Matt Hennessy, IOL, Temple
Teams should never draft players to specifically fill their immediate needs because typically odds are the best players on the board will not match your team’s biggest needs when they are on the clock. However, this is a mock so darn it, the Broncos’ biggest holes include the center position entering the 2020 season and with Hennessy, they're all plugged with the first three picks.
A smooth mover who can climb to the second level and make solid reach blocks, a team leaders, and an underrated pass protector, Hennessy is one of the more underrated interior offensive line prospects in the 2020 class. He isn’t an exceptionally powerful blocker, but surrounded by Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow and under Mike Munchak's tutelage, Hennessy should make for a very safe and solid pick that should contribute immediately.
Round 3, Pick 83: Terrell Burgess, S/DB, Utah
Again, outside of the WR position, if there is any area on the Broncos’ roster that gives me pause for the immediate 2020 season, it is the secondary. The Broncos have arguably one of the best safety duos in the entire NFL with Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson, but defenses under Fangio have historically utilized a third safety quite often, even once using a first-round pick on Jimmie Ward when the coach was in San Francisco.
Enter Burgess, who plays like a carbon copy of Ward. Either playing two-high or coming down and playing slot corner, Burgess is one of the more versatile safety prospects in the draft and an incredible fit for hole, left by the recently departed Will Parks who was essentially the Broncos’ slot CB over the last half of the 2019 season.
Burgess is the only player to make an appearance on both my first and second mock draft and for good reason, he is my favorite fit for the Broncos in the entire draft class. Adding Burgess along with Gladney gives the Broncos a much-needed boost of youth, upside, and versatility for the Denver secondary.
Round 3, Pick 95: Lucas Niang, OT, TCU
Please forgive me, Broncos Country, for I have sinned. Waiting until the 95th overall pick to select an OT likely will have a very visceral reaction to many reading this mock. Yes, the Broncos’ OT position is of great concern given the up and down play of Garett Bolles and the injuries of Ja’Wuan James.
You know which other teams have concerns with their tackles? (points to almost the entirety of the entire league). However, what those other teams do not have is one Munchak.
If the Broncos have to go into 2020 with Bolles and James as their starting tackles, I promise you it won’t be the end of the world. The night-and-day difference of the Broncos’ offense and O-line going from the least-mobile quarterback in the NFL in Joe Flacco to the play-maker and solid athlete of Lock should make everyone feel a bit more calm about not addressing OT until this point.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that when healthy, Niang is really quite good. After playing through a hip injury that really impacted his play in 2019, there are some that believe Niang could slip to late Day 2 to early Day 3.
However, his tape in 2018 (watch TCU vs. OSU having both Nick Bosa and Chase Young!) when he was healthy was round-one-caliber. Niang is long and strong and nasty. He may need some time to develop and get 100% healthy, but is a perfect depth OT and projected starter in 2021. Meanwhile, he can work under Munchak over the upcoming season to hone his craft.
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Round 4, Pick 118: Davion Taylor, LB, Colorado
The Broncos keep it in-state here and select one of the rawer but more enticing defensive players in the 2020 draft. Taylor did not play much football in high school due to religious reasons, but played some community college level football and eventually walked on to Colorado improving each and every week.
Playing more of a slot safety/linebacker role, some may see Taylor as a bit of a tweener at the next level. However, he simply oozes athleticism and upside. Even if Taylor only becomes a rotational chess piece who can offer size and coverage ability in sub-packages, that offers value in today’s pass-happy NFL.
Taylor has tremendous tools and projects great to special teams year one. His instincts still have a ways to go, but the overall package of talent is more than worth an early Day 3 pick. Adding more athleticism, youth, and upside to the back seven is always a good idea.
Round 5, Pick 179: Isaiah Coulter, WR, Rhode Island
The Broncos land another WR, selecting one of my favorite sleepers in the entire draft in. Coulter was not on my radar until the NFL Combine when not only did he test quite well, but was one of the most impressive players in the drills running naturally, cutting sharply, and plucking the ball out of the air.
Coulter needs to add mass to his frame and work on his route running, but should be able to play some rotational snaps year one in a Darius Slayton role in the Pat Shurmur offense. Offering great speed after the catch or down the field, Coulter is a receiver that in most years might make it into the top 100, but this 2020 class is simply too deep and pushes him down.
Round 6, Pick 182: Derrek Tuszka, EDGE, North Dakota State
There are many cliches in football that are overstated but one that I refuse to let go is the adage 'you can never have enough pass rushers'. Yes, the Broncos have Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, but after them, it’s a lot of questionable talent rushing from the edge.
Jeremiah Attaochu flashed some but has been a mercenary across the league for a few seasons now. Malik Reed and Justin Hollins ‘flashed’ but neither really did enough in Chubb’s absence over the final three-quarters of the season in 2019.
A bit small and lacking strength, Tuszka is a jittery athlete with good burst off the line of scrimmage and solid flexibility. While he does not possess the power or length a team would want to play a majority of snaps, his upside as a sub-package pass rusher is obvious to see. Also, Tuszka has some upside as a coverage player as well, adding versatility to the Broncos’ front and something Fangio likes to have the option to do with his edge rushers.
Round 7, Pick 252: John Penisini, DL, Utah
The Broncos were rewarded with two seventh-round compensatory selections in the 2020 draft. While these picks are undoubtedly nice to have, the type of players the Broncos will be getting will essentially be priority undrafted free agent types.
One area Fangio has show to be able to find underappreciated talent is at nose tackle. Just last year, Mike Purcell joined the team and eventually won the nose tackle spot. The Broncos are set to start Purcell again in 2020 with no other true nose on the roster.
Penisini is a strong, stout nose tackle that plays with great strength and leverage. He will likely never be a great pass rusher, but he has a niche and wins in that area and that brings value to whichever defensive coordinator knows how to put him in a position to win.
Round 7, Pick 254: Steven Montez, QB, Colorado
Hello, lottery ticket. Probably earning some squirms to the Buffalo faithful reading this mock, the simple fact of the matter is Montez possesses a great frame, with a live arm, and solid athleticism. He struggles in many of the areas quarterbacks need to win in in regards to accuracy and processing, but he has baseline tools that if he can put it together, Montez could return some value in the NFL.
Would I bet on Montez developing into an NFL starting quarterback? No, I would not. But again this is a seventh-round compensatory pick. Swinging for the fences this late on a toolsy, athletic-upside pick at QB makes a lot of sense.
Providing competition to Jeff Driskel and Brett Rypein in camp and purchasing a low-cost, low-probability but big-upside type QB here is about as good of a choice as any at this point in the draft.