The heavy lifting for the NFL Draft is over. The first two days of the best (and only) current spectacle in American sports have come and gone along with the anticipation of what John Elway and the Denver Broncos will do with their plethora of selections.
The question of 'What will the Broncos do with all their picks in the draft?' has been replaced by 'How will all these puzzle pieces fit together?'
Until training camp and preseason (whatever that looks like this yer) is underway, no one will know for sure what the Bronco’s plans are for their newly-acquired players but that is too long to wait. Instead, let us speculate as to how the five prospects Denver selected in the top-100 will fit into the current Broncos’ depth chart.
Who said guessing season was over with the draft and all the mocks surrounding it finally going away?
Round 1, Pick 15: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
With their first pick in the draft the Broncos selected their first player from the University of Alabama all-time under Elway. Jeudy does not possess the blazing speed of Henry Ruggs, nor the physicality and above-the-rim ability of CeeDee Lamb.
However, Jeudy might be the singular best fit of any receiver in the 2020 class in new OC Pat Shurmur’s scheme. Jeudy is coming out of Tuscaloosa with a PhD in route running as one of the better technicians to come out of the college ranks in many years.
Jeudy isn’t just savvy in how he runs his routes and creates separation, but he also possesses underrated speed, running a 4.45-second 40 at the NFL Combine on top of excellent yards-after-catch ability. His start-and-stop in his routes and after the ball is in his hands can only be described as ‘special’.
While Jeudy is an excellent prospect, he isn’t ‘perfect’. He is rather skinny which could lead to some issues against physicality at the next level both at the line of scrimmage and at the catch point. He does not possess the best hands, indicated by his 8.3% drop rate, and he rarely faced press coverage in college playing a majority of his reps from the slot.
Jeudy will likely play multiple WR positions out of the gate from the slot and the ‘Z’ alignment. His best work in college was from the slot which seems like the easiest transition for him at the NFL level as slot receivers can be ‘hidden’ from press-coverage.
However, in order to really validate his selection, Jeudy will need to play Z as well as boundary receivers to elicit more value. With how technical he can be in his routes there is no reason he shouldn’t be able to transition more to a Z role, but getting off press-coverage on the boundary will be more difficult given how little press he saw in college on top of his slight frame.
Either way, Jeudy will have plenty of reps in the Shurmur offense opposite Courtland Sutton. Whether that be as the Z or the slot will depend on the play-call and personnel, but Jeudy is super safe and an instant impact contributor to the offense.
2020 Role: WR2 (or 1b). Lining up at Z and Slot.
Ceiling: Starting Z receiver with slot versatility and one of the best volume receivers in the NFL
Round 2, Pick 46: KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State
I did not see this one coming. After going WR in the first round, I was satisfied with the Broncos holding fast and not selecting another until later on. However, given the lack of talent at WR entering the draft, it seems the Broncos were not going to let a fantastic draft class slip by them without taking advantage of it.
Some folks were a tad disappointed that the Broncos did not land Ruggs in the first round. While Jeudy accumulated much of the stats at Alabama, Ruggs’ speed, big-play ability, and boundary role made him extremely intriguing.
Perhaps that is why he ended up being the first WR off the board. Jeudy was no consolation prize, but the game-breaking speed many had hoped for would have to come from elsewhere.
After going with the relatively safe pick of Jeudy in round one (depending on the long-term health of his knee), Elway and the Broncos went for one of the most boom-or-bust players in the entire draft.
Hamler is perhaps the only player in the draft that could challenge Ruggs as the most explosive play-maker in this class. Reportedly having run a sub-4.3s 40 while prepping for the NFL Combine, Hamler isn’t just fast. He is fast-fast.
Hamler was mostly utilized as a slot for the Nittany Lions’ offense. Being used in a variety of gadget plays, his speed on top of his ability to control his speed, start and stop, and the like made it rather obvious what Penn State’s game-plan was most weeks: 'Get the ball to #1.'
Hamler is a play-maker, but there is a reason such an explosive prospect falls to round two. Hamler is tiny. Listed at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, Hamler is going to have some issues with physicality at the next level.
That size makes him a very hard projection against press coverage on the boundary at the next level. Also likely linked to his diminutive size, Hamler has had a massive issue with drops, letting 16 of 114 catchable balls fall to the turf his last two seasons.
However, Hamler does exactly what the Broncos need for their WRs: he separates and he creates explosive plays. According to Pro Football Focus, on targets 10-plus yards downfield, Hamler had a step or more of separation on 64% of his targets (the fourth-highest rate in college football). Hamler also created the fourth-most explosive plays of 15-plus yards from the slot at 41 in 2018.
Overall, Hamler may need to be utilized more in a 'gadgety' role to start the 2020 season, as well as providing a shot-in-the arm as a returner for special teams. There has never been a better time to be small and extremely fast and explosive than in today’s NFL, and Hamler is exactly that.
Is he a receiver, is he a weapon? Either way, he is ‘instant offense’.
Hamler likely spells doom for Diontae Spencer on the Broncos’ roster, but also could indicate the end for DaeSean Hamilton, who did his best work from the slot.
2020 Role: Returner, gadget weapon, and slot receiver in 11 personnel
Upside: Tyler Lockett-like explosive deep threat that can also be used in quick pass game
Round 3, Pick 77: Michael Ojemudia, CB, Iowa
Elway went back to the Big Ten well in round three in selecting Iowa’s boundary CB. After running a 4.45s 40 at the NFL Combine with size and length, Ojemudia secured himself a top-100 position in the draft.
Given this was a draft class full of cornerbacks that either didn’t run well or possessed t-rex like arms, Ojemudia was one of the few that had the upside to stick as a boundary corner at the NFL level.
At Iowa, Ojemudia played a rather simple scheme that didn’t do much to confuse opponents but rather relied on everyone performing their job consistently and keeping the offense in front of them. A classic bend-don’t-break zone heavy offense.
Given the simplistic role utilized at Iowa, there were many questions surrounding Ojemudia and his role at the NFL. Can he play press man, how sticky is he in man coverage, how is his intelligence?
Some of these questions were answered down at the Senior Bowl where Ojemudia was one of the few standouts at the CB position. However, on tape, his ability to click-and-close downhill and ability to stick with WRs in man coverage is not present on tape.
After a great Senior Bowl and Combine, though, there was no doubt Ojemudia was going to go early with starting upside. Ojemudia is a great fit in the Fangio defense.
A strong tackler who has a great feel for zone coverage, Ojemudia also does a great job of not giving up the big play. In 2019, Ojemudia allowed 8-of-33 targets 10-plus yards down the field and forced 10 incompletions according to PFF.
Some will say Ojedmuida was a reach, but his work ethic, character (a red-shirt senior and a member of the Iowa leadership council), and intelligence should make him a very safe player for the Broncos. Watch Ojemudia versus USC in this past year’s Holiday Bowl up against future NFL stud receivers in Michael Pittman Jr. and Amon Ra St. Brown to really get an idea of his tools and upside.
Ojemudia is an articulate person and understands the game quite well. He will be competing with the likes of De'Vante Bausby, Isaac Yiadom, and Davontae Harris for boundary snaps, and perhaps may even push Bryce Callahan as the CB2 as well.
2020 Role: Competing for boundary CB in sub-packages
Upside: Starting boundary CB2
Round 3, Pick 83: Lloyd Cushenberry III, IOL, LSU
Perhaps the pick that made many folks the most excited Day 2 of the draft for the Broncos was that of Cushenberry. After receiving a large portion of hype after winning the National Championship at LSU this past season, Cushenberry went on to Mobile riding the hype wave and received a lot of attention.
The leader of the LSU O-line, the 2019 winners of the Joe Moore Award for the best O-line in College Football, Cushenberry became LSU’s first-ever O-lineman to be awarded the No. 18 jersey (which he only could practice in) for his leadership, character, and work ethic.
Cushenberry possesses extremely long arms for a center at 34-½ inches and a good frame at 6-foot-3, 315 pounds. While not an incredible mover in space, Cushenberry is adequate in his ability to mirror and climb as needed.
He also is one of the few centers that can likely handle one-on-one duty vs. a nose tackle as he has a great anchor for a center and is hard to get driven back.
Cushenberry isn’t a special mover nor is he a hulking presence at center, but he is solid across the board with an extremely high floor. Given how important intelligence and leadership is for the center position, as well as having an offensive lineman to be taught under Mike Munchak, he is one of the safest picks the Broncos have made.
Worst case, Cushenberry is a rotational lineman capable of playing all three interior spots, but odds are he will be a plug-and-play center and hopefully in Denver for years to come. Cushenberry vs. Patrick Morris will be one of the more interesting camp battles this upcoming training camp.
2020 Role: Starting center with the versatility to move to either guard spot
Upside: Decade-long starting center
Round 3, Pick 95: McTelvin Agim, DL, Arkansas
One of the more underrated defensive players in the draft, Agim was consistently disruptive for the Arkansas’ defensive front. Standing at 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, he rotated across the D-line and won from a multitude of techniques and fronts.
Despite changing his body type while at Arkansas and cultivating mass, Agim was able to retain his flexibility and explosiveness as a strong gap shooter and interior pass rusher.
Agim was a leader on defense and possesses solid length with 33-½-inch arm length. He brings a surprising arsenal of pass rush moves to the table that can help him win his one-on-one matchups and get after the passer.
While Agim does a good job using his hands on an initial move, he needs to learn how to string together multiple moves as if he doesn’t win off the snap he can tend to be stood up and play into a stalemate with an offensive lineman.
Agim was thoroughly dominant at the East-West Shrine Game this past season as a DT in the practices, showing he can consistently win with solid get-off and disrupt. Perhaps surrounded by better talent and not at such a massive talent mismatch as was the case often for Arkansas versus SEC competition, he can be a gem for the Broncos.
It remains to be seen exactly where he will be utilized on Sundays given his versatility but how he profiles should make anyone think the DeMarcus Walker era for Denver just may be coming to a close.
2020 Role: Rotational interior rusher
Upside: Heavy usage interior pass rusher that thrives in the A or B gap in sub-packages