Hello again, Broncos fans! There’s been a lot of discussion regarding draft prospects in the daily threads here at Thin Air, but I thought it would be useful to take a good look at several players who are likely on the Broncos’ radar in one easy-to-reference location. This post (and the comments below it) will serve as a convenient list of names to watch at the upcoming Underwear Olympics in Indianapolis. So let’s get to it.
Without delving too deeply into a draft needs analysis (which will be part of my annual Draft Preview posts in April), let’s just take a quick look at the list of current needs I’ve identified for the Broncos. As always, needs are divided into three categories: Primary; Upgrade; and Depth. (See definitions for each category of need in my 2016 Broncos’ offensive needs analysis, which can be found here.) Right now, I see Denver’s needs as follows (needs within each category are loosely ordered by priority.)
Primary: T, NT, Slot WR, KR/PR
Upgrade: TE, G, ILB, 3-4 DE
Depth: QB, RB, CB, Edge
None: C, S, K, P, LS
These needs are likely to be shuffled significantly during free agency, but leading up to the Scouting Combine this is where Denver stands.
Who’ll Be Gone?
First, let’s look at some guys who the Broncos could certainly use, but who will likely be off the board by the time Denver first steps to the podium (barring a trade up) at #20.
Primary Needs: Currently there are no T, NT, or Slot WRs certain to be gone by the 20th pick.
|Reuben Foster||ILB||6002||246||Alabama||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Jonathan Allen||3-4 DE||6025||295||Alabama||NFL.com Draft Profile|
Both Foster and Allen would represent HUGE upgrades for the Broncos, but they are just too good to slip that far.
Depth Needs: Teams generally do not have the luxury of selecting players to fill Depth Needs in the first round. There are exceptions to this rule (e.g. Shane Ray), but for the most part teams will target more urgent needs this early in the draft. Nevertheless, here are several potentially game-changing prospects who would fill Depth Needs for the Broncos, but will most likely be gone by the 20th pick.
|Leonard Fournette||RB||601||230||LSU||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Dalvin Cook||RB||511||206||Florida State||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Marshon Lattimore||CB||600||192||Ohio State||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Myles Garrett||Edge||6051||261||Texas A&M||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Solomon Thomas||Edge||603||273||Stanford||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Derek Barnett||Edge||603||265||Tennessee||NFL.com Draft Profile|
Now let’s take a look at some names I consider to be first round options for the Broncos:
|Ryan Ramczyk||T||606||314||Wisconsin||Not participating at the combine||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Cam Robinson||T/G||606||310||Alabama||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Garrett Bolles||T||605||300||Utah||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Caleb Brantley||NT/3-4 DE||6021||300||Florida||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|John Ross III||Slot WR/KR||511||190||Washington||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Christian McCaffrey||RB/Slot/KR/PR||600||202||Stanford||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|O.J. Howard||TE||606||251||Alabama||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Forrest Lamp||G/T||604||300||Western Kentucky||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Jabrill Peppers||S/ILB/KR/PR||601||205||Michigan||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Jarrad Davis||ILB||6013||236||Florida||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Haason Reddick||ILB||601||230||Temple||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Zach Cunningham||ILB||604||230||Vanderbilt||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Malik McDowell||3-4 DE||604||276||Michigan State||NFL.com Draft Profile|
We’re all at least somewhat aware of the first round options at T at this point, and it’s understandable why many Bronco fans aren’t excited about them. There are reasons for optimism, however. Ramczyk looks like the best of the bunch, and while we’d normally never expect the best T to be available at #20, Ramczyk has just enough flags (only one year in FBS; hip surgery; not working out at the combine) to potentially push him down to that spot. Robinson has issues with technique and will need to be coached up, but if we view him as a potential RT or G he looks a lot more promising than he does as a LT. Bolles is the somewhat the opposite of Robinson in that his technique is sound and he projects better on the left than on the right, but there are questions about his strength and his advanced age. Bottom line – Ramczyk looks good as a 20th pick; Robinson and Bolles represent trade down options. A great workout from either player could change how we view the position, though.
John Ross III and Christian McCaffrey are electric offensive play makers who would help jump start the Broncos offense. Ross would likely be used primarily in the slot; McCaffrey is more versatile, and would be used in the slot as well as the backfield. Both men are explosive in the return game.
One name that may appear out of place here is Jabrill Peppers. I believe the Broncos will be forced to take a hard look at Peppers, though, primarily because of his ability to play as a S/ILB hybrid who would be a big boost for the Broncos in nickel and dime packages. He can run, cover, and hit, and he would be effective in neutralizing opposing RBs and TEs in pass coverage while also providing strong run support. If that isn’t enough, Peppers could fill a big need as a return man as well. Lastly, looking one year to the future, the presence of both Will Parks and Jabrill Peppers on the roster would provide the Broncos with the flexibility to move on from T.J. Ward if his asking price gets too high.
While some of the Day 1 options listed above will surely slide into Day 2, let’s assume for the sake of this exercise they won’t. The following is a list of potential second and third rounders who might end up in orange and blue.
|Roderick Johnson||T||607||311||Florida State||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Taylor Moton||T/G||605||328||Western Michigan||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Antonio Garcia||T||606||302||Troy||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Elijah Qualls||NT||601||321||Washington||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Dalvin Tomlinson||NT||602||305||Alabama||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Curtis Samuel||Slot WR/KR||511||200||Ohio State||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Dede Westbrook||Slot WR||511||174||Oklahoma||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|David Njoku||TE||604||245||Miami||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Evan Engram||TE||603||227||Mississippi||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Bucky Hodges||TE||607||245||Virginia Tech||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Dan Feeney||G||604||305||Indiana||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Dion Dawkins||G/T||605||320||Temple||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Dorian Johnson||G||605||315||Pittsburgh||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Pat Elflein||G/C||603||300||Ohio State||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Ethan Pocic||G/C||607||302||LSU||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Raekwon McMillan||ILB||602||240||Ohio State||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Duke Riley||ILB||600||227||LSU||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Alex Anzalone||ILB||602||241||Florida||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|DeMarcus Walker||3-4 DE/Edge||603||273||Florida State||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Chris Wormley||3-4 DE||6034||296||Michigan||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Alvin Kamara||RB||510||215||Tennessee||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Joe Mixon||RB||601||226||Oklahoma||Not participating at combine||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|D’Onta Foreman||RB||601||249||Texas||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Quincy Wilson||CB||601||213||Florida||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Jourdan Lewis||CB||511||186||Michigan||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Tre’Davious White||CB||5112||195||LSU||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Carl Lawson||Edge||6022||258||Auburn||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|T.J. Watt||Edge||605||243||Wisconsin||NFL.com Draft Profile|
Mismatch-exploiting TEs, rangy ILBs and solid cover CBs highlight the Day 2 prospects. There are some T prospects, too, so let’s take a closer look. First, Roderick Johnson is a perfect-framed, 6’7″ 311 pound LT prospect with tremendous power. However, by all accounts his footwork and balance need a great deal of work. I’ve listed Moton with the Ts here, but if I’m being honest he probably projects better inside. With the dearth of pro-caliber Ts in this draft, though, a glass-half-full kind of guy might point to his potential at RT. Much like first round prospects Robinson and Bolles, Antonio Garcia is the yang to Roderick Johnson’s yin. Garcia has all the athleticism necessary, but lacks the power. Anyway you slice it, tackles taken on Day 2 of the draft will need some work. Then again, that’s almost always the case. There is potential here, and if the Broncos miss out on one of the top 3 Ts, they’ll almost certainly look to this second tier for a developmental prospect.
Day 2 also gives Denver a chance to fill several other needs, and with three picks (one second, two thirds) the Broncos have multiple chances to find contributors. NT is screaming for attention, and I think both Qualls and Tomlinson look like very nice additions. At Slot WR, Curtis Samuel and Dede Westbrook offer big potential.
None of us should be surprised to see one of these TEs come off the board with the Broncos’ second round pick. Engram has picked up any momentum lost by Njoku, and I’m higher on Bucky Hodges than most. He is a fast, athletic, 6’7″ matchup nightmare.
|Adam Bisnowaty||T||606||305||Pittsburgh||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Chad Wheeler||T||606||310||USC||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Carlos Watkins||NT||6035||313||Clemson||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Vincent Taylor||NT||602||310||Oklahoma State||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Jaleel Johnson||NT||6027||311||Iowa||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Larry Ogunjobi||NT/3-4 DE||603||304||Charlotte||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|ArDarius Stewart||Slot WR||601||204||Alabama||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Adam Shaheen||TE||605||277||Ashland||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Jake Butt||TE||606||250||Michigan||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Jordan Leggett||TE||605||260||Clemson||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Gerald Everett||TE||604||240||South Alabama||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Nico Siragusa||G||603||323||San Diego State||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Tyler Orlosky||G/C||604||298||West Virginia||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Isaac Asiata||G||603||323||Utah||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Anthony Walker, Jr.||ILB||601||235||Northwestern||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Elijah Lee||ILB||603||220||Kansas State||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Kendell Beckwith||ILB||6024||255||LSU||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Jalen Reeves-Maybin||ILB||6002||229||Tennessee||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Davon Godchaux||3-4 DE||604||293||LSU||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Nazair Jones||3-4 DE||605||295||North Carolina||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Tanoh Kpassagnon||3-4 DE/Edge||606||285||Villanova||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Samaje Perine||RB||510||234||Oklahoma||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Wayne Gallman||RB||601||215||Clemson||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Cordrea Tankersley||CB||600||200||Clemson||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Desmond King||CB||5101||201||Iowa||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Gareon Conley||CB||601||195||Ohio State||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Adoree’ Jackson||CB||511||185||USC||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Ryan Anderson||Edge||6024||258||Alabama||NFL.com Draft Profile|
|Tarell Basham||Edge||604||259||Ohio||NFL.com Draft Profile|
That’s it for now, Broncos fans. Hopefully these lists will prove helpful throughout the draft process. With the Combine and Pro Days still to come we can expect a lot of movement on the board; still, there’s a solid chance most of Denver’s first 4 picks are included in one of the tables shown above. For now I’ve ignored most of the deeper Day 3 prospects in the interest of simplicity.
So what did I miss? Who will you be watching this week in Indy?