What Could 2019 Tell Us About The Broncos’ 2018 NFL Draft?

It’s generally believed that the modus operandi of John Elway is to fill as many immediate needs as possible in free agency, thus freeing up the Broncos to take a best player available approach to the draft. I do feel that Elway has pretty much accomplished the first goal, and that he’ll more or less stick to the second goal. However, I think it would be worth looking at where the Broncos’ roster could stand come the 2019 offseason. Come then, I could foresee many positions that, while not a need now, have a chance to be at that time.

Unrestricted free agents…and also team options due

The Broncos are currently sitting with 12 for sure pending 2019 UFs. Among them there are four likely starters: Matt Paradis, Bradley Roby, Domata Peko and Jared Veldheer. Shaq Barrett and Tramaine Brock are also, at the very least, key reserves to watch out for.

However, there are potentially many other players that could join the slate of UFAs. This is because the Broncos have several contracts that contain team options that must be either exercised or declined. And I think it’s worth mentioning just how much flexibility these options give the Broncos, as most of the time I just talk about compensatory pick credit when it comes to them. The flexibility provided is that if a younger player on a cheaper contract is able to prove that they are better or more cost effective than the veteran, the team has a method to move on to the future. So when looking at potential positions that could be targeted in the upcoming draft, I’d keep an eye out on positions that have team options coming up?

Who are those players? The most well known is Shane Ray, as his fifth year option from being a 1st round pick is mandated in the CBA. But there are others that had options negotiated into their deals through the regular contract process. Those players are:

  • Emmanuel Sanders (who will be 32 in 2019)
  • Derek Wolfe (who has had a litany of injuries that have yet to fully impede him)
  • Chris Harris, Jr (who will be 30 in 2019)
  • Brandon Marshall (also 30 in 2019)
  • Menelik Watson (whose skill level is highly debated)

Where does that leave every position?

Knowing all the above, let’s take a look at each position to see where attention could be paid as far as rookie acquisition goes:

  • Quarterback: I’m not going to elaborate on this one much; we know Case Keenum is under contract for two season, but that it may not preclude the acquistion of a rookie quarterback as well.
  • Running back:¬†While he won’t be a UFA or have any option in play, the same contractual situation that CJ Anderson finds himself in now will apply in 2019: $4.5 million in non-guaranteed money with no dead money attached. With only two other running backs currently on the roster, I could see this position targeted even if Anderson stays on the Broncos in 2018.
  • Wide receiver: There’s been a lot of talk of the Broncos wanting another #3 option in case Carlos Henderson does not develop. But I think it’s entirely possible that the Broncos could target this position even higher in the draft with the intention of not just possibly covering Henderson, but also looking for a possible replacement for Sanders.
  • Tight end: There’s a lot of unproven but young talent here. That would more likely indicate a veteran addition if they’re going to make a move here, but it can’t be entirely ruled out.
  • Offensive tackle: It’s sufficient to say that right tackle is still a big uncertainty, especially with both Veldheer and Watson potentially not staying beyond 2018. That position should be under heavy consideration no matter what.
  • Interior OL: Ron Leary likely isn’t going anywhere soon. It seems more likely than not that Paradis will be extended. Right guard is a question mark, though. If Connor McGovern sufficiently grabs the position then they’re set, but if Watson takes it or they have no choice but to trot out Max Garcia again they could be looking to fill the position again soon.
  • Nose Tackle: Domata Peko will turn 35 during the 2019 NFL season–can he last that long even if Denver extends him? Is Kyle Peko good enough to be a starter there?
  • Defensive end: Between Wolfe’s team option and the legal situation of Adam Gotsis this could be a position that could get turned over dramatically. Shelby Harris was a nice street free agent find, but Zach Kerr is also a UFA in 2019, and Clinton McDonald will be 32 in 2019.
  • Edge rusher: Both Ray and Barrett could hypothetically be out the door after 2018, and that would leave a big hole on the opposite side of Von Miller.
  • Inside linebacker: Todd Davis was extended, but the contractual situation with Marshall as described above could give the Broncos leeway to attempt to improve this position. Depth is also a concern with Corey Nelson off to Philadelphia.
  • Safety: Between Justin Simmons, Su’a Cravens, Will Parks and Jamal Carter this position is very well stocked for the future even if they cut Darian Stewart in 2019. This is the one position I feel the most confident the Broncos won’t go after.
  • Cornerback: It feels like there’s a decent chance Roby will be extended but he also plays a high value position that might get more pay on the open market. With Brock also a UFA and the development of Brendan Langley going slowly this position can’t be ruled out either.

Tally it all up, and there are few positions that you could unequivocally count out as targets for the Broncos in the 2018 NFL Draft. At first glance that sounds like they may have more future needs than it seems, but I see it as a franchise that’s given themselves broad leeway to not have their hands tied each time when they’re on the clock, thereby giving them a better chance to consistently adhere to the best player available strategy.

  • The Color Orange

    Hmmm… Maybe we should trade down.

    • G Mik

      It certainly feels that way when looking at it through this lens. I would hate to go back beyond 9/10 though.

  • Tim

    Good rundown of the positions Nick. With next year’s draft class supposedly very good at WR and DL, I wouldn’t be too upset if they tried to really hit on those positions in next years draft

  • RSH

    This draft, I hope that the Broncos can come away with an interior offensive lineman, an offensive tackle, a running back, an inside linebacker, a defensive lineman, a cornerback, a wide receiver, and possibly, a tight end. I can also support drafting Josh Rosen.

    • Jeremy

      That is a long wish list (Nine positions) for a team who has historically hit on only a few draft picks per year, and who has only gotten production from 1-2 during their rookie season.

  • Laces Out

    Great content thank you very much for all the information

  • MattR

    Good stuff. But I am a little confused how team options give teams any more flexibility than a regular contract with non-guaranteed salaries (other than the comp pick aspect).

    Also, I don’t know how safe Davis is despite the extension. There is not a ton of dead money – and it could be split up to $1 million in each of 2019 and 2020 – so he could definitely be cut if they find someone better (and decide that Marshall is a better value despite the higher salaries). Paying $6 million for 1 year of Davis would be a bit tough to swallow, but is that any worse than drafting a QB at 5 and eating the $7 million Keenum has guaranteed next year.

  • BlackKnigh

    Thank you, Nick. Puts things in a different perspective. Comments have been around this – but this is a fairly thorough examination of the subject.
    I am still high on Denver taking Nelson at #5. That would help out one their most difficult issues as he can play anywhere – and at a high level.
    They do need another rusher. Now is the time to address that as well.

  • Jeremy

    With so few players wanting to sign contracts through 2020, the Broncos, (like most teams in the league) have only 7 established players signed past 2019, and pretty much all of them besides Von (and possibly Bolles) are easily cutable by that point, with little to no dead money due.

    There are only 7 NFL teams with more players signed through 2020 than the Broncos. If you did this kind of analysis for all 32 teams, I’m guessing for pretty much all of them you’d reach a similar conclusion, that there was only 1-2 position groups per team that there was little to no need at.

    I don’t think the Broncos are in anyway unique for having either a current or future need at nearly every position group.

    As I’ve argued before, I do think the Broncos have more present needs than they have typically had going into the draft.