Realistic Top-15 Mock Draft has Broncos Missing on Top WRs
There's still a long road left to hoe before the NFL Draft arrives but there are so many rumors and leaks going around, it's hard to know what to believe.
However, we are going to take a stab at predicting what might happen in the first 14 picks in the draft, followed by what we see as the best pick at No. 15 overall for the Denver Broncos.
The first 14 picks have been made based on all the buzz, comments and conversations I've had with people coming out of the NFL Scouting Combine. There is a lot going around that is connecting certain teams with certain prospects.
Once we get through the first 14 picks, Nick Kendell will jump in to reveal the Broncos' pick at 15 overall with analysis.
There are no trades in this top-15 mock, as trades make it a little more difficult to forecast. However, there are multiple teams picking after Denver that we've heard could be trying hard to leap-frog the Broncos. Of course, a lot of that will depend on how the board falls.
So, based on the latest I've heard, here is a stab at the first 14 picks before Nick makes the Broncos' pick.
Pick 1: Cincinnati Bengals | Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
This is one pick that is just common sense. The Bengals are moving on from Andy Dalton, they sit with the first overall pick, and the best quarterback prospect in the class is staring them right in the face.
Pick 2: Washington Redskins | Chase Young, Edge, Ohio State
There is a lot of conversation about Washington possibly taking a QB. Washington might be open to the idea, which would be a similar situation to what Arizona did last year by taking Kyler Murray No. 1 overall after drafting Josh Rosen in the first round the year prior. Things like that can happen when there's a change to the coaching staff. However, I've heard that while the interest is there, Young seems to be the Redskins' guy at the second overall pick.
Pick 3: Detroit Lions | Jeffery Okudah, CB, Ohio State
This is where the draft really begins, and it seems increasingly likely that Detroit won’t be picking here. However, we aren’t doing trades for this, which leaves the Lions staying put. There are a lot of rumors of Darius Slay being on the trade market, which, if they move him, makes cornerback an even bigger need. Even if Detroit doesn't trade Slay, it still needs to get a capable CB2 opposite of him because that was a big area of weakness last season.
Pick 4: New York Giants | Isaiah Simmons, LB/DB, Clemson
There was a report going around that GM David Gettleman was in on Derrick Brown or Simmons as they try to build their defense. Another report had the Giants linked to an Iowa offensive tackle. After Simmons ran the 40, the word going around was new head coach Joe Judge and Gettleman both want him.
Pick 5: Miami Dolphins | Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
The talk for almost a year is how much the Dolphins covet Tua and his medicals at the Combine came back positive, making them a match. Of course, the Dolphins may have to get to No. 3 overall to guarantee Tua, but again, no trades in this exercise. Not much to say other than Tua is a good prospect that can make plays, but Miami will need to add a lot of talent around him.
Pick 6: Los Angeles Chargers | Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Everyone likes to peg a QB here, but there is a lot of chatter about the Chargers going a veteran QB route via free agency and work on building their offensive line through the draft. The Chargers would re-examine their QB position next year in such a scenario. Tom Brady, Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, and Cam Newton (prior to word coming out that Carolina will keep him) have been linked to the Chargers.
Pick 7: Carolina Panthers | Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
This spot in the draft could be quite interesting and might be another pick where the team is locking to move down. If the Panthers stay put, adding another big guy in the middle to put next to Kawann Short and Brian Burns would be smart. With Matt Rhule, though, a receiver can’t be ruled out nor can a QB. The latest buzz links Carolina to Brown the most.
Pick 8: Arizona Cardinals | CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
The Cardinals have been working hard to get weapons for Murray after drafting three receivers in 2019. Lamb is familiar with Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury, which makes a lot of sense. The scheme would also easily fit in Lamb with his familiarity.
Pick 9: Jacksonville Jaguars | Jedrick Wills, Jr., OT, Alabama
When it comes to the Jaguars, there are a few players being linked to them. However, all but Wills are already off the board by pick nine. This is another team that is rumored to be making calls about moving down in the draft. There are a lot of ways Jacksonville can go, and this is one team that even using every piece of info I can get, it's still hard to pinpoint where they will go.
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Pick 10: Cleveland Browns | Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Every conversation I have had about the Browns is pointing them to taking an offensive tackle. Becton doesn’t seem to be their number one option, but he is the best player at the position of need left on the board. The Browns invested in Baker Mayfield two years ago, and Becton is a big boy that can step in at left tackle to help keep the QB clean.
Pick 11: New York Jets | Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
Robby Anderson is set to be a free agent, and he may make more than what the Jets want to pay, giving them a need for a deep threat to pair with Sam Darnold’s arm. Offensive tackle is also a need, but the chatter is the Jets will go get Jack Conklin with a big deal and they have Chuma Edoga that they believe is ready to start. That would give them their tackles and put them in position to take Ruggs.
Pick 12: Oakland Raiders | Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Over the past month, there have been a lot of comments thrown my way that if Jeudy is there for the Raiders, he won’t get past them. There seems to be a lot of love for Jeudy as the Raiders try and find more weapons on offense to pair with Darren Waller and Josh Jacobs. What makes this hard is the fact that the Raiders, under Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden, have already made a few surprises with how they draft after their selection’s in 2019.
Pick 13: Indianapolis Colts | Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The Colts are a team held back by their QB position. The Colts do have other concerns with their roster on both sides of the ball, but if they had consistent and competent QB play last year, they are one of the better teams in the AFC. Herbert ends up being the pick, but Jordan Love is an option as well. Many expect both of them to go in the top-13 picks, but conversations I have had were skeptical about it with them saying that talk is similar to Drew Lock is a for sure top-20 pick last year.
Pick 14: Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Tampa Bay is a prime target to move down. Word is there is love for Javon Kinlaw, Andrew Thomas, and Jacob Eason and moving down, adding picks, while letting the board clear up a little could be the way to go. All three players were here for them, but Thomas ends up being the pick.
That wraps it up for me (Erick). Let’s see where Nick is going with the Broncos if the board were to fall this way.
Pick 15: Denver Broncos | Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
Unfortunately for those in Dove Valley, the board did not fall as many had hoped. As the Combine rumors swirl, the word coming out of Indianapolis for the Broncos is that John Elway will look to acquire defense in free agency, where there is going to be a good crop of interior defensive linemen and cornerbacks set to hit the market and use a rare offensive talent draft class to cash in come April.
There are four tackles and three wide receivers who would have been easy picks for the Broncos if that ‘plan’ were set in motion in Wirfs, Wills, Becton, Thomas at tackle and Jeudy, Lamb, and Ruggs III at wide receiver. All are gone so Denver gets none of them here.
There are other tackles worth mentioning in Austin Jackson, Ezra Cleveland, Lucas Niang, and Josh Jones as well as wide receivers in Denzel Mims, Justin Jefferson, and Jalen Reagor but all feel overwhelmingly like reaches at the 15th overall pick. A selection at the interior offensive line, running back, or tight end would be extremely fool-hearted at this point as well.
So that leaves Denver and Vic Fangio scouring the board for defensive talent. While some will call for a linebacker, data suggests there is practically no difference in return on investment drafting linebackers round one vs. round two or three. Day two is a great idea for linebacker, but round one should be avoided.
Pass on Kenneth Murray and Patrick Queen. Denver could consider an edge such as K’Lavon Chaisson or edge/interior pass rusher A.J. Epenesa (who struggled in metrics at Combine and will likely slide to end of round one to early round two), but both don’t seem like the best picks.
At this point in time, the areas to attack would be the interior defensive line or the defensive backfield. The Broncos have been heavily linked to both in free agency, but round one should be about nabbing a player who has a chance to be a decade long building block player, so the pick needs to be viewed through a long-term scope.
On the board, and with value remaining, are one interior defensive lineman in Javon Kinlaw, one safety/nickelback in Xavier McKinney, and two cornerbacks that fit the system in Kristian Fulton and Jeff Gladney. Fulton is long, a quick-burst athlete, and played last season through a shoulder injury that hampered his ability to tackle and play with some physicality. The shoulder is a concern but if it comes back clean should point towards Fulton having a bounce-back campaign.
Gladney is thicker, longer, and tested better than Fulton. While also possessing an injury concern playing through a torn meniscus that he will have surgery on following the Combine, his instincts, aggression, and click-and-close all make sense for Denver. The injury is somewhat a concern, but is said to be a “simple fix” and he should be ready for minicamps in the summer.
Denver does not ‘need’ a safety. However, given Fangio’s comments in regards to defensive personnel, McKinney is far more than just a ‘safety’. Showing versatility to play multiple spots on the defense, he could come in as a starter in five defensive back sets (a majority of snaps played with at least five DBs in today’s NFL) and the understudy to take over for Kareem Jackson as soon as 2021.
However, in the end, the winner is Kinlaw. While defensive backs and ‘cover guys’ are pushing the perceived notion that teams ‘win in the trenches’ more than ever before, Kinlaw simply has far too great of a skill set to pass on at pick 15. Measuring in at 6-foot-5, 324 pounds, with just under 35-inch arms, Kinlaw is a freak in terms of his size.
Earning a total of 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in his 37 career games, Kinlaw was battling through doubles and triple teams for the Gamecocks as the team’s primary game-wrecker on the defensive front. Kinlaw did not participate in any of the field drills at the Combine with a spout of knee tendonitis which is indeed worth monitoring and a concern. It is also likely the only reason he falls to 15 in this draft scenario.
Without having the medical prognosis in regards to Kinlaw’s knee, he is the pick here. With amazing tools, upside as a pass rusher, and versatility to play 5 technique in base defense down to some snaps at 0 or 1 technique in subpackage, his upside for Denver as an interior pass rusher is just too high to pass.
If the knee checks out, and in this scenario, we will assume it has, then Denver should select Javon Kinlaw. He has the traits to be one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL and is still scratching the surface of his overall athletic tool chest.
This pick doesn’t help Drew Lock like an offensive tackle or wide receiver would, but it would give Denver the chance for another building block player on the defense and can help players like Von Miller and Bradley Chubb look that much better and increase the entire pass-rushing unit’s effectiveness going forward