Broncos Draft Preview 2017, Part 3: The 1st Round

Hello, Broncos fans! Today’s the big day. Well, the first of three big days, really, and frankly this year I’m looking forward to Day 2 more than Day 1. The discussion regarding who they’ll select tonight has been going on for months now, and “at the end of the day” (that’s me doing my best Mayock) none of us know much about how they’re going to use it. Like most teams the Broncos head into tonight with a single pick, and the pressure is on to make it count. In reality, though, the draft is so much more than just the first round. Nevertheless, tonight’s decision is an important one, so if you haven’t reached complete speculation saturation allow me to walk you through what Elway and company might be thinking.

In Parts 1 and 2 of this preview, we identified the Broncos’ roster needs. I determined they are as follows:

Primary Needs: OT, Slot WR, KR/PR

Upgrade Needs: TE, LB, DL

Depth Needs: CB, RB, Edge

No (Draft) Needs: QB, G/C, S, K, P, LS

This year I again asked the Thin Air community to weigh in on the Broncos’ needs, and you didn’t disappoint. According to those of you who responded, the Broncos’ needs, arranged in order of votes received, are:

OT (23 votes); TE (17); WR (14); LB (14), DL (13); RB (13); CB (5); Edge (4); G/C (2); S (1); FB (1);

Unlike previous years in which the Broncos made an effort to fill, at least to some degree, all of their needs during free agency (FA), this year they’ve left a fairly obvious hole at LT. This has many (most?) people thinking it’s a foregone conclusion that they’ll take a T with their first round pick. While that may be true, I think making that decision before knowing exactly who’ll be available at #20 would be a big mistake.

Unsurprisingly, the Thin Air crowd more or less agrees with the previously identified needs. So with at least a relative consensus we can eliminate several positions from the board to narrow our focus and bite this off in more manageable chunks.

We’ll start with the first round of the draft, which will take place this Thursday night (April 27) at 6 p.m. MDT. As you are well aware, the Broncos currently have the 20th pick, and there’s been no shortage of suggestions from fans and the media as to how they should use it. The Broncos have 10 picks this year, including 4 compensatory picks awarded by the league as consolation for departed free agents. Here’s how the picks break down right now:

  1. Round 1, Pick 20 (20 overall)
  2. Round 2, Pick 19 (51 overall)
  3. Round 3, Pick 18 (82 overall)
  4. Round 3, Pick 37 (101 overall, compensatory pick)
  5. Round 4, Pick 20 (127 overall)
  6. Round 5, Pick 34 (177 overall, compensatory pick)
  7. Round 6, Pick 19 (203 overall, from Titans)
  8. Round 7, Pick 20 (238 overall)
  9. Round 7, Pick 34 (252 overall, compensatory pick)
  10. Round 7, Pick 35 (253 overall, compensatory pick)

Now let’s take a look at some possible targets for the Broncos at #20. 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
# – indicates 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.

Upgrade Needs:
Name Position Height Weight School Draft Profile
O.J. Howard TE 6056 251 Alabama Scouting Report
Jonathan Allen DL 6025 286 Alabama Scouting Report
Depth Needs:
Name Position Height Weight School Draft Profile
Marshon Lattimore CB 6000 193 Ohio State Scouting Report
Leonard Fournette RB 6004 240 LSU Scouting Report
Myles Garrett Edge 6044 272 Texas A&M Scouting Report
Solomon Thomas Edge 6025 273 Stanford Scouting Report
Derek Barnett Edge 6030 259 Tennessee Scouting Report

This list is usually longer due to the Broncos picking late in round 1 and the certainty that so many perceived “sure things” will be off the board. This year is very unpredictable, though, for a couple of reasons. First, there are several top prospects who have scandaled themselves right off the list due to character questions, criminal allegations and general douchebaggery. Names like Dalvin Cook and Reuben Foster would definitely be on this list if not for justifiable uncertainty regarding their draft positions.


These are players at positions of need that are more likely to be available when the Broncos make their selection.

Primary Needs:
Name Position Height Weight School Draft Profile
Forrest Lamp* G/T 6035 309 Western Kentucky Scouting Report
Ryan Ramczyk* T 6055 310 Wisconsin Scouting Report
Cam Robinson# T/G 6062 322 Alabama Scouting Report
Garrett Bolles*# T 6050 297 Utah Scouting Report
John Ross III* Slot WR/KR 5106 188 Washington Scouting Report
Christian McCaffrey*# RB/Slot/KR/PR 5112 202 Stanford Scouting Report
Upgrade Needs:
Name Position Height Weight School Draft Profile
David Njoku* TE 6040 246 Miami Scouting Report
Reuben Foster ILB 6000 229 Alabama Scouting Report
Haason Reddick ILB 6014 237 Temple Scouting Report

Let’s talk about the targets:

Forrest Lamp is the forgotten offensive lineman when it comes to Bronco draft talk. His 31″ arms make him a candidate to move inside to guard in the NFL, and that makes sense. Similarly built lineman, like Dallas’ Zack Martin, have gone from great college tackle to great NFL guard in the past. The thought is short arms are a severe disadvantage when working against lengthy defenders in the pros, and it’s a real concern. However, Denver’s desperation to find a LT may persuade them to give Lamp a shot there, keeping in mind the option to move him inside if he can’t hack it at tackle. I tend to agree with the thought that he would thrive more inside at the next level, but I would be very curious to see the Broncos give him a go out on the edge.

Ryan Ramczyk, in my opinion, remains the best offensive tackle prospect on the board. His offseason hip surgery has denied him the opportunity to boost his stock during draft season, and as a result he has fallen out of favor with some in the draft community and the local media. His hips are a red flag, as is his minimal experience (he only started for one season at the D1 level). What shouldn’t be overlooked is that he has the best film among the three prospects widely considered to be the best tackles available, and film don’t lie.

Cam Robinson started four years for Alabama, so if you’re looking for high level experience, he’s got it in spades. He’s a big, strong man, but his technique is lacking. Someone with his size and athleticism should have been more dominant at the college level, and this brings into question his effort and coachability. He’s got the body and the potential to be a LT in the NFL, but if he continues to rely on brute strength and doesn’t greatly improve his pass blocking, he’ll be better-suited at RT or G in the pros. Due to the weakness of the tackle class overall, though, he could end up being the first T off the board.

Garrett Bolles has been by far the most draft-mocked (mock drafted?) player for Denver, at least until very recently. He has good tape, and if you focus only on the positives you might just convince yourself he’s the guy for the Broncos. However, he’s loaded with red flags, including his age (25 when next season kicks off), limited experience, lack of power and a frighteningly low Wonderlic score. None of those things individually should eliminate him from contention for the 20th pick, but the cumulative sum might, and probably (hopefully?) will.

John Ross III would check two BIG boxes for Denver as a slot WR and a return man. He would add the much-coveted playmaking dynamic the Broncos surely desire. However, he’s not without his own questions, primarily his health. He’s had an ACL reconstruction on one knee, a meniscus procedure on the other, and he’s coming off of shoulder surgery following the combine. Still, his 4.22 second 40-yard dash is eye-popping, and should he be available at 20 I don’t think the Broncos can afford to pass, unless their medical staff absolutely won’t sign off on it.

Which brings us to the one, the only, Christian McCaffrey. While I still feel RB is not a big enough need to take one in the first round, it’s McCaffrey’s many other talents that have convinced me he’d be well worth the pick. He is a dynamic receiver and return man, and he can line up in the slot as well as the backfield. While I don’t think he’s a full time answer at slot WR, he can certainly play the role at time. The fact that he’d likely be the best RB on the team immediately is almost gravy. The problem with McCaffrey, and really it’s his only problem, is that he’s so good the Broncos would almost certainly have to move up to get him, and I’m not sure that’s wise considering the number of needs they need to address and the incredible talent that will be available on Day 2.

David Njoku is a very talented young, move TE (“F”). He has the physical package to make a big impact as a receiver, but he’s not a good blocker and he may never be. TE is definitely a need for Denver, and while Njoku is a highly-ranked prospect, taking him at 20 doesn’t seem likely. It’s not out of the question, though, as his talent is arguably commensurate with the pick.

Reuben Foster is a name that by all means should be on the “no-brainer” list, but as previously mentioned, he’s had a few incidents that bring into question whether he’s worth an early first round pick. He’s got a bit of a shoulder issue, he was dishonorably discharged from the combine for an altercation with a hospital employee in Indy, and he failed his urine test due to a dilute sample. His tape is absolutely stellar, though, so I still find it unlikely he’ll be around for Denver to pick. He’d be a great fit, representing an immediate upgrade over Todd Davis inside for the Broncos.

Haason Reddick is the next best LB after Foster, but he may end up getting picked earlier. He was an edge rusher at Temple, but he doesn’t have the size for it in the NFL, so he’s a bit of a projection because he’ll be switching positions wherever he ends up. As he demonstrated at the Senior Bowl, however, he absolutely has the ability to play traditional LB in the pros. He becomes an interesting chess piece because he can stop the run, he can cover and he can rush the passer.


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. Tonight 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:
Name Position Height Weight School Draft Profile
1. Reuben Foster ILB 6000 229 Alabama Scouting Report
2. Christian McCaffrey*# RB/Slot/KR/PR 5112 202 Stanford Scouting Report
3. Haason Reddick ILB 6014 237 Temple Scouting Report
4. John Ross III* Slot WR/KR 5106 188 Washington Scouting Report
5. Ryan Ramczyk*# T 6055 310 Wisconsin Scouting Report
6. Trade Down

I believe trading down is a very real possibility this year, especially if each of these five players is off the board. If Denver is willing to move back as many as 5-7 spots, they will likely land an additional 3rd round pick. That would give Denver 4 picks on Day 2, which is more than enough ammunition to move up in the 2nd or 3rd round to grab an impact player. In many ways that’s my preferred scenario, as picking something like 27 and 40 is much more appealing than picking 20 and 51. That would allow the Broncos to maximize value in round 1 AND likely get another immediate starter in the 2nd.

In case of a move back here’s some names to consider, the first four having already been discussed:

Forrest Lamp* G/T 6035 309 Western Kentucky Scouting Report
Cam Robinson# T/G 6062 322 Alabama Scouting Report
Garrett Bolles*# T 6050 297 Utah Scouting Report
David Njoku* TE 6040 246 Miami Scouting Report

And depending on just how far back they move, and of course who drops unexpectedly, several of these names would be in play following a trade as well:

Charles Harris Edge 6026 253 Missouri Scouting Report
Takkarist Mckinley Edge 6020 250 UCLA Scouting Report
Tre’Davious White CB 5112 192 LSU Scouting Report
Adoree’ Jackson CB/KR/PR 5100 186 USC Scouting Report
Jarrad Davis ILB 6013 238 Florida Scouting Report
Evan Engram* TE 6033 234 Mississippi Scouting Report
Kevin King CB 6030 200 Washington Scouting Report
Marlon Humphrey CB 6002 197 Alabama Scouting Report
T.J. Watt Edge 6044 252 Wisconsin Scouting Report
Jabrill Peppers ILB/S/KR/PR 5107 213 Michigan Scouting Report

Jarrad Davis is my personal favorite on this list, but they really almost can’t go wrong with any of them.

Friday we’ll discuss Day 2 of the draft, which will consist of rounds 2 and 3. Thanks again, and Go Broncos.