A Needs Based (And Biomechanically Assisted) 2020 NFL Draft Battle Plan For The Broncos

MarsLineman has you set, in two parts, for some of the prospects the Broncos should pursue during the 2020 NFL Draft, based upon his novel biomechanics research. In Part 2, Mars also lays out one sample battle plan for the Broncos to take to have a successful draft.

In this piece, I’ll expand upon that battle plan, taking a look at the current needs of the Broncos, as well as other teams that may be relevant competitors for the talent that has been identified as high quality.

The Broncos’ current needs

Every team, as well as its fans and observers, always has fantasies of always pursuing the Best Available Player over allegedly reaching for a need. But in the end, the results, particularly early in the draft are a melding of the two–or, as reader Brent Zionic likes to playfully put it, selecting the Top Available Man [at a] Position Of Need.

The Broncos will be no different. Here’s how I would judge their current needs:

  • Wide receiver. Unfortunately, the Broncos were unable or unwilling to secure a veteran, as I had recommended, so the Broncos are putting a lot of risk into hoping that a rookie can impact immediately alongside Courtland Sutton.
  • Tackle. For 2020, the Broncos are somewhat locked into Garett Bolles and Ja’Wuan James–the former is on the last cheap year of his rookie contract, while the latter has a fully guaranteed 2020 base salary. But due to consistency issues with Bolles, and injury issues with James, the Broncos would be wise to draft a possible successor high in the draft if they can to give them flexibility to part way with one of Bolles or James if needed.
  • Cornerback. The Broncos swapped out Chris Harris, Jr. for A.J. Bouye, and got Bryce Callahan to agree to a pay cut. But beyond De’Vante Bausby coming back from a scary neck injury, the depth here is worrisome.

I also want to make one note on running back, since Mars identified some good talent at that position. I think would be a very poor usage of draft capital to take a running back in the first two days of the draft. The Broncos have paid a premium to Melvin Gordon for two committed seasons (a premium that Mars believes is worth it), and also have proven talent in Phillip Lindsay under cost control for two seasons as well. I would roll with Gordon and Lindsay for 2020 for sure, and not extensively consider their potential replacements until 2021, and hopefully 2022.

One more final brief note: due to the high number of draft picks and low number of roster spots, I think a trade up on the Broncos’ spot can be reasonable, though it should not be done just for that sake.

The needs of other teams ahead of the Broncos

We can’t know for sure what the precise plans of all 32 teams are. Since we don’t have a crystal ball, the best we can do is to take a practical look at what their current rosters are at, and try to draw reasonable guesses as to who they could be pursuing.

  • 1. Cincinnati and 2. Washington: To borrow a catchphrase from Seth Davis: Joe Burrow. Sharpie. Chase Young. Sharpie. I have yet to accept any rumors that either team will deviate from these selections–even if I think, as I’ve said on the record, that the latter should seriously consider Tua Tagovailoa (assuming the former drafts Burrow as planned)
  • 3. Detroit: The first wild card, but ultimately I think if they interfere with the Broncos’ needs, it’ll only be at cornerback, a position regarded as not as deep as receiver and tackle.
  • 4. NY Giants: I too think they should seriously consider Tagovailoa, but practically I know that’s not going to happen. This is where a run on tackles could start.
  • 5. Miami: Despite all the smoke screening and galaxy braining, I have a hard time fathoming that they would actually pass on Tagovailoa here. But if they did go way off script, unfortunately a tackle strikes me as their next biggest need by far.
  • 6. San Angeles: Pretty much a carbon copy of the Dolphins, although in their case if Tagovailoa is unavailable as I expect, it’s far more credible to me that the Chargers could take a tackle here and wait on a quarterback in the 2nd round.
  • 7. Carolina: They signed Robby Anderson and traded for Russell Okung, so that reduces overlapping with the Broncos’ needs. Cornerback could be a concern here with James Bradberry departing to the Giants. This is the highest I could fathom a Broncos tradeup.
  • 8. Arizona: Again, a carbon copy of the Panthers after re-signing both their tackles and trading for DeAndre Hopkins, and they could look for an eventual Patrick Peterson successor. Also a possible trade partner for the Broncos.
  • 9. Jacksonville: If things get weird with the quarterbacks I think they should be serious contenders for one, but if not, yet again they are a prime candidate for a tackle, with Cam Robinson entering the final year of his rookie contract. Cornerback is also a concern in their search for Jalen Ramsey’s replacement. This is the earliest I could fathom a receiver going albeit a tradeup due to their recent cutting of Marqise Lee, but they do have DJ Chark and Dede Westbrook waiting in the wings.
  • 10. Cleveland: Their tackle situation is a disaster, they are definitely a major impediment to the Broncos landing one.
  • 11. NY Jets: This is my guess for where the first receiver will go off the board, although I could see them taking a tackle as well despite their expenditures on George Fant and Greg Van Roten.
  • 12. Las Vegas: Definitely a threat to take a receiver, and possibly a cornerback, as well.
  • 13. San Francisco (from Indianapolis): I can understand the rumblings of them looking for an Emmanuel Sanders replacement, or a Joe Staley successor. But I’m also intrigued by the idea of them directly replacing DeForest Buckner with the pick they got for trading him on someone like Javon Kinlaw.
  • 14. Tampa Bay: Not a direct threat to the Broncos’ needs, but perhaps an indirect threat to another team that may want to leapfrog right in front of them by trading with the Bucs.

The needs of notable teams behind the Broncos

  • 17. Dallas: I could see them moving up a few spots to try to snag a receiver away from the Broncos to complement Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.
  • 18 and 26. Miami (from Pittsburgh and Houston): If they take Tagovailoa and there’s still a high quality tackle available ahead of the Broncos, they have more than enough ammo necessary to move up.
  • 20. Jacksonville (from Los Angeles): The same applies to them if they don’t take a tackle at #9.
  • 22 and 25. Minnesota (#22 from Buffalo): Similar to the Dolphins and Jaguars, but more for a receiver after trading away Stefon Diggs.

Simulating a range of scenarios for the Broncos

For this part of the exercise, I will use Robby Esch’s value board to assist me. This board strives to project where players will go, not necessarily where they should. For brevity, I will leave out the first two picks, assuming that they are Burrow and Young.

Best case scenario

  • 3. Lions: Derrick Brown
  • 4. Giants: Isaiah Simmons
  • 5. Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa
  • 6. Chargers: Justin Herbert
  • 7. Panthers: Jeff Okudah
  • 8. Cardinals: CJ Henderson
  • 9. Jaguars: Tristan Wirfs
  • 10. Browns: Andrew Thomas
  • 11. Jets: Jerry Jeudy
  • 12. Raiders: CeeDee Lamb
  • 13. 49ers (from Colts): Javon Kinlaw
  • 14. Bucs: K’Lavon Chaisson

This is the latest I could reasonably project the run on tackles and receivers to start. And even here, I have the Broncos shit out of luck on the top two cornerbacks. However, in this scenario, the Broncos will have Mars’s two favorite tackles in Mekhi Becton and Jedrick Wills available, as well as receivers like Justin Jefferson, Henry Ruggs, ranked as #17 and #18 on Esch’s board.

In short, if the top eight picks can be free of tackles and receivers, that should be a good indication that the Broncos need not trade up. Even a very mild trade down could still yield them a top tackle or receiver, although I would not gamble it. Given that the depth appears to be greater at receiver, I would stay put at #15 and take Becton, then aggressively pursue a receiver in the late first or early second round, especially if Jefferson falls down the board.

Worst case scenario

  • 3. Lions: Jeff Okudah
  • 4. Giants: Tristan Wirfs
  • 5. Dolphins: Andrew Thomas
  • 6. Chargers: Mekhi Becton
  • 7. Panthers: Isaiah Simmons
  • 8. Cardinals: CJ Henderson
  • 9. Jaguars: Tua Tagovailoa
  • 10. Browns: Jedrick Wills
  • 11. Jets: Jerry Jeudy
  • 12. Raiders: CeeDee Lamb
  • 13. 49ers (from Colts): Henry Ruggs
  • 14. Cowboys (from Bucs): Justin Jefferson

The top four tackles are gone, the top four receivers are gone. If tackles were to go 4-5-6, I’d want the Broncos to call the Cardinals and see if their asking price would be reasonable, as I’d assume the last tackle won’t make it past Cleveland. If the Jets and Raiders go back to back with receivers, I’d call old friend John Lynch and hope that he doesn’t want one as well (although in this worst case, he does).

It’s not hopeless for the Broncos if this happens: Mars has also identified players like Tee Higgins and Michael Pittman, Jr. to target. But on Esch’s board, they could be had in the 2nd round. There’s also a smattering of possible 1st round tackles like Isaiah Wilson, Ezra Cleveland, and Austin Jackson to consider.

But if the Broncos can’t get ahead of the run on tackles and receivers, I would try to trade down, preferably with a team desperate for Herbert or Jordan Love that might pay a premium for a quarterback. If successful, then I would not rule out a subsequent trade up that secures the Broncos at least two picks in the 20-39 range. If unsuccessful, then the Broncos may have no choice but to take someone like Higgins at #15, even if those players could be had much later.