Five Darkhorse Prospects Few are Talking About for Broncos at Pick 15 Revealed
The Denver Broncos are grinding out the home stretch leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft amid a league-wide lockdown. Fortunately, GM John Elway is confident that the majority of the pre-draft evaluation process is done.
All the Broncos' scouts have turned in their prospect reports, grades, and recommendations, and are now focused on the 2021 class. It remains to be seen exactly how Elway and company will weather draft day but it'll be largely contingent on what the league front office allows. For now, the NFL has barred any executives or team employees from being at official facilities until April 8.
Meanwhile, the Broncos' IT department has set up a mobile scouting nook for both Elway and head coach Vic Fangio at their respective homes. The two shot-callers can continue their study of the 2020 draft class and break down whatever NFL film they want.
By this point, most fans are familiar with the names of the prospects viewed externally as the most likely to be drafted by the Broncos at pick 15. The daily presence of mock drafts the league over has done a good job of educating fans on the likely suspects at pick 15.
But if the draft is anything, it's unpredictable. Just look at how the last two draft hauls unfolded for Denver. No one in Dove Valley saw Bradley Chubb falling to pick No. 5 in 2018 while the first two rounds of the 2019 draft saw Denver execute both a trade-back and a trade-up to net the foundational trio of TE Noah Fant, OL Dalton Risner, and QB Drew Lock.
Considering the anarchy draft day is sure to spring on the Broncos, who are the darkhorse candidates to hear their name called at pick 15? Assuming Elway doesn't trade up or back.
I checked with our Nick Kendell, one of Mile High Huddle's top draft analysts, to find out who the five darkhorse candidates at 15 might be. Suffice to say, you might be surprised.
1. Kristian Fulton, CB | LSU
One of the common refrains fans and readers of MHH and its podcasts have heard from me since the first two waves of free agency ended is that the Broncos need to make at least one more cornerback addition, whether that be via the free-agent market or the draft.
Fulton would make a lot of sense for the Broncos, simply because he's viewed as one of the top-3 cornerbacks in the class. Here's what our Senior Draft Analyst Erick Trickel said in his Finding Broncos scouting report on Fulton:
Fulton's play in coverage is very enticing to multiple teams because he does offer up some versatility in coverage schemes. He can be very physical through routes and at the catch point, which teams will love.
Tackling is 'non-negotiable' for Coach Fangio's defensive backs, so that would have to be a focus for improvement if Fulton were the Broncos' pick at 15. Otherwise, he's a tremendously talented and physical young corner.
2. Xavier McKinney, S | Alabama
Most fans shudder at the notion of the Broncos taking a safety in the first round, but there is a basis for why McKinney would make sense. Firstly, he's widely viewed as the top safety in the class, with LSU's Grant Delpit the opposing contender.
Secondly, although the Broncos are poised to sign the currently franchise-tagged Justin Simmons to a long-term contract, his safety partner — Kareem Jackson — is entering his age-32 season. Jackson has two years left on his deal, counting 2020, but after this coming season, if he shows a decline in play or struggles to stay healthy, the Broncos can move on relatively pain-free.
Thirdly, Will Parks' departure to Philadelphia means the Broncos have a real need for that No. 3 safety — a defensive back who is as comfortable in umbrella coverage as he is in the box or in one-on-one assignments. McKinney checks all three of those boxes. Here's what Kendell had to say about it:
The Broncos used Will Parks the last five games of the season as their primary slot player. McKinney did that and more for Alabama last year. He’s a smart player with a very high floor and can offer leadership, instincts, and versatility to Denver’s defensive backfield.
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3. Derrick Brown, DT | Auburn
The Broncos said goodbye to two familiar D-line faces last month. Derek Wolfe took his talents to Baltimore, while Adam Gotsis languishes on the market as he recovers from a late-season knee surgery.
The Broncos made a couple of moves to bolster the unit; namely, acquiring Jurrell Casey via trade and re-signing Shelby Harris to a one-year deal. But work still needs to be done to fully hedge against the future. Here's what Kendell said.
Once considered a lock for the top-10, Brown has been slipping down board since the Combine. While not a perfect fit for every scheme, this power player can win in ways that Fangio would find useful and give Denver another potential blue-chip player along its defensive front.
4. Jeff Gladney, CB | TCU
Again, the Broncos need reinforcements at cornerback after saying goodbye to Chris Harris, Jr. A.J. Bouye helps mitigate the sting of Harris' loss, but beyond him, the Broncos are relying on two corners coming off serious injuries to serve as the No. 2 and 3.
Enter Gladney as a real option for this team at pick 15. Trickel has gone on record in saying that Gladney is an ideal fit for Fangio's scheme. That's a crucial necessity. Here's what Kendell said about Gladney:
The Broncos have concerns at corner. While the likes of Bouye, Bryce Callahan, and De'Vante Bausby offer upside, there is no such thing as too many good cover players. Gladney is a dog, has inside-outside versatility, and could easily end up one of the best players in this class.
5. Denzel Mims, WR | Baylor
If the Broncos are unable to land one of the 'Blue-Chip 3' wideouts in this class, the team could look to the Baylor product as a legit consolation prize. Mims brings 4.38 speed to the table and at 6-foot-3, his size-speed combo could be just what the Broncos' offense needs to complement Courtland Sutton and give Drew Lock another dangerous weapon to throw to outside the numbers.
Here's what Trickel said in his Finding Broncos scouting report on Mims:
Mims' ability to attack every level of the field would bring a lot of versatility to a Broncos offense that is lacking that versatility (mainly in the receiving corps). He has good speed to challenge deep, which is something the Broncos are in desperate need of.
It will be interesting to see how the first round unfolds on April 23. It wouldn't surprise anyone to see Elway maneuver in round one, whether that be to trade up or back.
If the Broncos came away with any one of these five darkhorse prospects, it would present a serious upgrade to the roster. Only time will tell how it all shakes out.
As always, we want to hear your thoughts on the issue. Sound off in the comment section below with what your preferred first-round haul looks like for the Broncos.