Hello, Broncos fans! We’re just two days away from round one of the NFL Draft (my personal favorite day on the NFL calendar), and it’s time to talk about how the Broncos might plan to begin addressing their needs on Thursday night. So let’s get to it.
In Parts 1 and 2 of this preview, we identified the Broncos’ roster needs. I determined they are as follows:
Primary Needs: QB, Interior OL, FB
Depth Needs: S, RB, T, TE, DE
Upgrade Needs: ILB, P
No Needs: WR, NT, OLB, CB, K
This year I added a new twist to the Preview, asking the Thin Air community to weigh in on the Broncos’ needs as well. According to those of you who responded, the Broncos’ needs, arranged in order of votes received, are:
QB (13 votes); S (13); Interior OL (9); ILB (9); T (7); DE (7); RB (5); TE (5); P (4); FB (3); WR (1)
The Broncos have added RB Ronnie Hillman and TE Garrett Graham since I posted the most recent installment (Part 2) of this Preview, but I don’t believe that will have a huge impact on their approach to the draft. While it helps provide Denver with additional flexibility by reducing the need to draft players at RB and TE, I don’t think it takes either position out of play for this year’s draft.
So it appears the community and I are in agreement for the most part with QB, Interior OL, depth at S and an upgrade at ILB leading the way, followed by depth needs at T, DE, RB and TE. We could squabble over prioritization, but I think it looks like we have at least a relative consensus, and that most of us are eyeballing prospects at the same positions.
Now that we’ve taken a fairly thorough look at the Broncos’ needs, let’s see what players they may be targeting to strengthen the roster.
We’ll start with the first round of the draft, which will take place this Thursday night (April 28) at 6 p.m. MDT. The Broncos currently have the 31st pick on Thursday, and there’s been a lot of discussion as to how they’ll use it. The Broncos are again proud owners of 10 picks this year (Or is it 9, John?) thanks in part to shrewd planning and fiscal discipline resulting in compensatory picks. Here’s how the picks break down right now:
- Round 1, Pick 32 (31 overall)
- Round 2, Pick 32 (63 overall)
- Round 3, Pick 32 (94 overall)
- Round 3, Pick 36 (98 overall, compensatory pick)
- Round 4, Pick 38 (136 overall, compensatory pick)
- Round 5, Pick 5 (144 overall)
- Round 5, Pick 20 (157 overall)
- Round 6, Pick 44 (219 overall, compensatory pick)
- Round 7, Pick 7 (228 overall)
- Round 7, Pick 32 (253 overall)
Now let’s take a look at some possible targets for the Broncos at #31. After determining the team’s needs and taking a look at the top prospects from each position, as well as how they might fit in the Broncos’ schemes, we can narrow our list and stack our board.
* – indicates the player has met with the Broncos, or that the Broncos attended the player’s Pro Day workout
# – indicates a private workout or a visit to the Broncos’ team facility
These are impact players at positions of need that will likely be gone by the time Denver is on the clock. If they’re available, the Broncos would jump at the chance to pick them. Players are listed by position corresponding to need and are not ranked in this list.
|Carson Wentz||QB||6052||237||North Dakota State||Report|
|Darron Lee||ILB||6006||232||Ohio State||Report|
|Jalen Ramsey||S/CB||6012||209||Florida State||Report|
|Ezekiel Elliott||RB||5116||225||Ohio State||Report|
|Laremy Tunsil||T||6050||310||Ole Miss||Report|
|Ronnie Stanley||T||6056||312||Notre Dame||Report|
|Jack Conklin||T||6056||308||Michigan State||Report|
|DeForest Buckner||3-4 DE||6070||291||Oregon||Report|
|Sheldon Rankins||3-4 DE/NT||6011||299||Louisville||Report|
I’m not going to spend any time discussing these guys as they’ll almost certainly be gone by the time Denver picks on Thursday. It’s always possible the Broncos could trade up to get one of them, but it’s probably not likely. Thus, you won’t see any “No-Brainers” on the final Round 1 board.
Now that we’ve established the Broncos’ needs and identified players at those positions who probably won’t be available for them to select, let’s take a look at some prospects who would fill those needs and might still be available. Those will be our “Possible Targets.”
These are players at positions of need that are more likely to be available when the Broncos make their selection. Players are listed by position corresponding to need and are not ranked in this list.
|Paxton Lynch#||QB||6065||244||Memphis||Big and athletic; Can extend plays; Good fit for ZBS; Slow through progressions; Misses reads; Needs time to develop||Report|
|Ryan Kelly||C/G||6040||311||Alabama||Great leader; 3-year starter at Alabama; Can challenge for a starting position right away||Report|
|Karl Joseph#||S||5095||205||West Virginia||Impactful leader; Good cover skills; Tough enough to play in the box; Big hitter; Lacks ideal size; Coming off knee injury||Report|
|Taylor Decker||T||6070||310||Ohio State||Instant leader; strong and tough; gets to the second level; good punch; plays too high sometimes; Needs to work on feet and balance||Report|
|Germain Ifedi||T/G||6056||320||Texas A&M||T/G; Powerful; High ceiling; Lunges too much; Lacks patience and discipline in Pass Pro; Good foot quickness||Report|
|A’Shawn Robinson||3-4 DE/NT||6035||307||Alabama||Looks the part; very powerful; holds teammates accountable; plays too upright at times; straight line pass rusher||Report|
|Vernon Butler||3-4 DE/NT||6035||323||Louisiana Tech||Huge frame; Eats up double teams; excellent athleticism; great burst; could become dominant interior pass rusher||Report|
|Robert Nkemdiche#||3-4 DE||6034||294||Ole Miss||Character questions; powerful and exceptinoally athletic; production never matched skills||Report|
|Chris Jones||3-4 DE||6056||310||Mississippi State||Tremendous natural power; quick feet; runs out of gas; inconsistent pad level||Report|
Let’s take a little deeper look at Denver’s possible targets:
Paxton Lynch is a name that has been linked to the Broncos by multiple sources, and for good reason. He would fill a big need, and as I’ve stated before, he’s the last of the top tier (or the sole resident of the second tier) at the QB position in this year’s draft. Projections vary wildly as to where he’ll be selected, but if he lasts to #19, I’d start to consider moving up for him if I’m in the Broncos’ war room. If they choose to stay patient and see if he drops a little further, that would be fine as well. One way or another, he is in play for Denver.
Ryan Kelly hasn’t been projected to Denver very often, but boy would he be a nice fit. In my opinion, he would be the favorite to start at LG from his first day in camp (with Max Garcia at RG). He’s the most talented interior OL in the draft, and he is worthy of a first round selection. I’m familiar with the argument that the Zone Blocking Scheme (ZBS) doesn’t require top picks on the OL, but sometimes talent matches value and need, and Kelly is the perfect storm for this draft.
Karl Joseph has been gaining momentum of late, popping up in more and more mock drafts. He’s a hell of a player, and he fits a big need for Denver at S. He could serve as a rotational player in 2016 and end up in the starting lineup as early as 2017 if Darian Stewart leaves in free agency. The question regarding the safety position is whether Joseph is that much better than the rest of the class. If he isn’t, it makes sense to wait until Day 2 to address this need.
Taylor Decker looks like a top tier RT prospect and he presents an interesting option for the Broncos. Yes, they did add two free agent Ts this offseason, but they still need depth, and the uncertainty of Russell Okung’s deal means they could be in need of another starting T very soon. Decker would provide great depth in 2016 and could start at RT in 2017. Donald Stephenson has plenty of experience at LT, or could even move inside to make room for Decker. He’s a top 20 talent that the Broncos would be forced to consider if he slides down the board.
Germain Ifedi is an interesting option as well. Some see him as a T, others (like me) think he projects better inside at G. Either way, he represents a versatile option in a big, NFL-ready body with a high ceiling. However, I question him as a ZBS lineman. He’s not a bad athlete, but there seem to be better fits for Kubiak’s offense. I’m going to leave Ifedi off the final board here, but if Elway and Kubes think he’s a fit, I certainly won’t argue.
A’Shawn Robinson could pretty easily be gone by the time Denver is on the clock, but with the remarkable depth on the interior DL in this year’s draft he’s someone who might slide a little, allowing Denver to snatch him up. DE isn’t the need that it was before the Jared Crick signing, but the position is still in play. I think because of the tremendous depth in the draft, though, that it may be wise to wait until Day 2 or even Day 3 in order to get better value. Still, Robinson is probably too good to pass up. He’ll be on the board.
Vernon Butler is a beast of a man, and he’s versatile enough to play DE or NT in Wade Phillips’s defense. I like him a lot, but as with Robinson I wonder if taking a DL this early might be a missed opportunity in terms of value. I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed if Denver takes Butler, but I think they may go a different direction.
Robert Nkemdiche has also been frequently linked to Denver, and I get the connection. But his character issues coupled with a puzzling lack of production on the collegiate level worry me. The potential is there, but if I’m making the call I say “no,” at least in the first round.
Chris Jones is a good, not great, prospect that would fill a need for Denver, but I think this is just a bit too early for him. He’s a little bit of a project with an inconsistent motor, and with the depth on the DL in the draft the Broncos would be better served to wait.
STACKING THE BOARD:
Finally, we’ve arrived at our first round board. We’ve taken out positions that don’t make sense, eliminated prospects that are highly unlikely to be available, and ranked the remaining prospects as we think the Broncos might rank them. On Thursday, reference this list, and cross off the players as they are selected. With a little luck the highest-ranked player remaining should be the Broncos selection.
|1st Round Prioritization:|
|Assuming the “no-brainers” are off the board, these are the likeliest picks for the Broncos in round one:|
|1. Paxton Lynch #||QB||6065||244||Memphis||Big and athletic; Can extend plays; Good fit for ZBS; Slow through progressions; Misses reads; Needs time to develop||Report|
|2. Taylor Decker||T||6070||310||Ohio State||Instant leader; strong and tough; gets to the second level; good punch; plays too high sometimes; Needs to work on feet and balance||Report|
|3. Ryan Kelly||C/G||6040||311||Alabama||Great leader; 3-year starter at Alabama; Can challenge for a starting position right away||Report|
|4. A’Shawn Robinson||3-4 DE/NT||6035||307||Alabama||Looks the part; very powerful; holds teammates accountable; plays too upright at times; straight line pass rusher||Report|
|5. Karl Joseph #||S||5095||205||West Virginia||Impactful leader; Good cover skills; Tough enough to play in the box; Big hitter; Lacks ideal size; Coming off knee injury||Report|
I think if all the No-Brainers and these five players are gone, it makes sense to trade down. The Broncos could move back several spots and still have a shot at Ifedi, Butler, Nkemdiche, Jones or any of the names you’ll see on my Round 2 board on Friday.
In the next installment we’ll discuss Day 2 of the draft (Friday 4-29), which will consist of Rounds 2 and 3. If you had some targets in mind for Denver in Round 1 that didn’t show up on this list, it’s a good bet you’ll see them in Friday’s installment for Day 2. Until then, thanks again, and Go Broncos.