As the NFL Draft kicked off on Thursday, GM John Elway and the Denver Broncos stood firm with the 15th overall pick and let the board fall to them. Entering round one, the Broncos had numerous directions they could go with their selection.
Many in Broncos Country were clamoring for one of the ‘Big Three’ wide receivers in CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs III, or Jerry Jeudy and believed that if one fell to 15, Elway would have no choice but to take that receiver.
Surprisingly, the only of the trio selected by the time the Broncos' pick rolled around was speedster Ruggs, who had been the most connected to Denver during the pre-draft cycle. Meanwhile, faced with either Lamb or Jeudy, Elway chose Jeudy at 15.
Hopefully, Ruggs isn’t the next Tyreek Hill, because it was the Las Vegas Raiders who ended up picking the fastest player in the draft for their passing offense. While Ruggs may be the fastest receiver in the 2020 draft class, Jeudy might be the most dynamic, complete, and nuanced.
Pairing Jeudy’s route-running, yards after catch ability and underrated speed with the power forward-esque Courtland Sutton and the extremely dynamic Noah Fant gives Denver one of the best one-two-three punches in the NFL. The Broncos ‘won’ on Thursday night by landing Jeudy at 15, but no one should be happier than second-year quarterback Drew Lock.
Every year, round-one receives the most pomp and circumstance because, of course, it is full of the best players (unless you are the Raiders who always seemingly reach on someone such as the surprise pick of CB Damon Arnette at 19 this year).
Yes, the first round is glamorous, but it is Day 2 that really separates the good teams from the bad. Rounding out the top-100 picks will be the determining factor for the Broncos and with one second-round pick and three third-rounders, Elway has a chance to walk away with some real talent.
Which direction will the Broncos go with picks 46, 77, 83, and 95? If he doesn’t trade up, and down, and around, Elway and the team will have many directions to go. To project what might happen, let's tally the remaining roster needs post-round one.
Offensive line truthers, this is where you are allowed to roll your eyes and be annoyed. Yes, the Broncos have needs along the offensive trenches but for my money, the team’s single biggest need left to fill this offseason is in the secondary. If you just can’t bring yourself to consider anything but offensive line, skip ahead.
Yes, the Broncos landed A.J. Bouye in a trade this offseason and Bryce Callahan should be back (although there are rumblings that foot is still not right... so how can you count on him?). And yes, De’Vante Bausby flashed in a very limited number of snaps last year.
However, if that is the Broncos’ starting trio entering 2020, I worry greatly for the Broncos’ defense. The Broncos have a strong defense overall, but the cornerbacks on paper right now appear to be such a weakness they could easily sink what otherwise could be a top-five defense.
Luckily for Denver, there are a number of good corners still on the board. It was unfortunate to see Noah Igbinonehe and Jeff Gladney go off the board in two of the last three picks, but there are still corners that fit and make some sense for Denver.
LSU’s Kristian Fulton, Utah’s Jaylon Johnson, and Alabama’s Trevon Diggs all would be welcome additions to the cornerback room. Don’t sleep on the likes of Louisiana Tech’s Amik Robertson, Virginia’s Bryce Hall, Mississippi State’s Cameron Dantzler round three either.
There is a reason I listed the need as ‘defensive back’ instead of ‘cornerback’. Under Vic Fangio, that fifth defensive back on the field could just as easily be a third safety as it could be a third corner. Just look at Will Parks last year essentially becoming the slot corner over the last half of the season.
There are still many great safeties left with versatility the Broncos could nab on Day 2 and not a single safety was selected in the first round. Alabama’s Xavier McKinney is one that fits for the Fangio defense but the small-school safeties like Southern Illinois’ Jeremy Chinn or Lenoir-Rhyne’s Kyle Dugger also make sense.
Perhaps not the best scheme fit but possessing incredible upside, LSU’s Grant Delpit is still on the board as well. Cal's Ashtyn Davis presents injury concerns with high upside while Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield, Jr. also makes sense. There is also one of my favorites prospects in the entire class in Utah’s safety/nickel Terrell Burgess.
The Broncos adding Jeudy to the offense will no doubt be an instant shot in the arm to what was a rather milquetoast receiving group for Denver (outside of Sutton). That said Elway can’t be done on offense.
Despite the improvements along the offensive front last season under the direction of Mike Munchak, the Broncos need to walk out of Day 2 with some new blood along the O-line.
Six tackles went off the board in round one, leaving the Broncos' options on Day 2 a bit picked over. This, however, is not off-brand toilet paper left on the shelves by the panicky preppers, but all of the Charmin is out of stock by this point in the draft.
Still on the board, perhaps most surprisingly, is Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland. It would not be a shock if he came off the board in the first five picks of round two. Along with Cleveland, another tackle many believed to be day one worthy was Houston’s Josh Jones. Both tackles perhaps need a year of growth before starting in the NFL, but both do indeed have high floors and should be solid starting tackles in the NFL which brings tremendous value.
After those two, there are a number of more developmental OT prospects the Broncos could land. Connecticut’s Matt Peart is long with solid movement skills. TCU’s Lucas Niang had round one-caliber tape before playing through injury this past season. Auburn’s duo of Prince Tega Wanogho and Jack Driscoll each have upside as pass blockers.
St. John's Ben Bartch perhaps is a guard at the NFL level, but the small-school product should be drafted at some point on Day 2 after his strong Senior Bowl performance. A player that has had some suspensions reportedly due to marijuana is LSU’s Saahdiq Charles, who is also an interesting player. Both are smaller than your ‘typical’ OT and may be kicked inside.
OT is the money position, but Denver’s projected starter at center currently is a complete unknown in Patrick Morris. Center is very much a position Denver could look at Day 2.
Outside of Cesar Ruiz who was taken by the New Orleans’ Saints in round one, there are still a number of good centers on the board for Denver. Simply put, center is a position that isn’t as prioritized by the league so good ones can be found year-after-year.
LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry III is still available and had a great week down in Mobile. Temple’s Matt Hennessy is a solid mover and pass protector renowned for his work and intelligence.
After that, there still are a number of solid center options in Washington’s Nick Harris, Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz (who is expected to go Day 3 after poor medicals), and San Diego State’s Keith Ismael.
There are also some guard-to-center prospects in this class that would make some sense for Denver on Day 2 in Oregon’s Shane Lemieux and Ohio State’s Jonah Jackson. Both would be good gets for Denver to offer depth and competition to the interior of the line.
The Broncos have a number of directions they could go on Day 2. Another wide receiver could be on the menu, as well as talent for the front seven at linebacker, edge rusher, or the interior defensive line. Good teams let the board fall to them and then let their grades determine their selections.
However, as the board is currently laid out and the state of the current roster, if Elway can address the O-line and the defensive backfield the Broncos should be that much better entering the 2020 season.
Here’s to Day 2 of Draftsmas!