Unlike last year, when everybody knew we were drafting wide receivers early, there are unlimited possibilities for the Broncos in this draft. So, I won’t be focusing on any particular position groups this year and will just offer up some comments about a lot of players I like and a few I hope we avoid. The plan is to cover offense today and defense tomorrow.
The continuous repositioning of Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones has been one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen in the run up to a draft. I’ll suffice to say, I would be happy with Fields with the ninth pick. I’m not calling for a trade up, but if they go that route, I will be alright with it, within reason.
I think Kyle Trask and Kellen Mond are both likely to be there @ 40 but gone by 71. If we draft either one, I’ll give the Broncos high praise for secrecy because I’ve heard nothing to make me think these guys are in play.
I hope we remain patient on the veteran quarterback front and sign someone after they’re cut. If we trade for somebody, I want it to be a fire sale. I think I might actually like Gardner Minshew the best. I would like him better without the cult following, though.
I would really like to see the Broncos draft a running back this week. I think there are two distinct tiers at the top of this draft class and there is a considerable drop off after tier two.
I have Javonte Williams as the top back in the class. He boasts the best combination of power/speed/hands. He’s also a very smart guy. Contact balance is elite. His broken tackle rate blows away anything I’ve seen before. Tape backs up the numbers as you routinely see tacklers falling off him.
I would also be fine with Najee Harris. He’s a complete back in almost all respects. He did get dragged down a lot @ Alabama, but he’s a guy who will keep your offense on schedule with hard nosed running and advanced receiving skills. Hard working leader by example.
Travis Etienne has been absurdly productive in his time @ Clemson. Like Williams and Harris, he has exhibited the qualities of a high character person during his time in college. The breakaway threat is an element our offense has lacked for a long time and Etienne is a big play machine.
While I believe the three backs in tier one are a cut above the backs in tier two, the best value might be found with one of these three runners.
Michael Carter may well have superior natural instincts as a running back to the top backs in the class and his contact balance is first rate. There really aren’t any significant weak spots to his game, but he is somewhat undersized and will likely be part of a two man rotation in the NFL.
Trey Sermon is a hard nosed runner with excellent contact balance. He also has a big catch radius and good hands. He was underused as a receiver, IMO. He has nifty feet and will fight for extra yards. He’s not the most explosive athlete and he has contended with a variety of minor injuries.
Kenneth Gainwell comps similarly to Michael Carter in many ways. Both a bit undersized, but also patient, slippery runners. Probably the best natural receiver of the top six backs, but also the least proven player, with just one big year on his resume.
There are a number of other backs in this class with interesting traits, but the overall theme is a lack of ballast. Tier three might be something like Chuba Hubbard, Jaret Patterson and Khalil Herbert. I notice more people are beginning to talk about Chris Evans. He was my low mileage secret for a while.
George Paton found the idea of a WR in round one risible and so do I, but it pays to keep an open mind. If something completely unexpected happened, like DeVonta Smith falling into the 20’s, I would hope the team would at least discuss the idea of moving up for him. Similarly, if Rashod Bateman is there @ 40, you don’t have to draft him, but you have to at least have the discussion.
I guess I’ve let out of the bag that I believe Smith will be a star in the NFL. His weight doesn’t bother me. It wasn’t a factor in college and he lined up as the X receiver routinely. He’s light but not weak and he competes his ass off. He’s not going to get any bigger. He’s already 22.5 and he spent four years in the most advanced program in college. What you see is what you get.
I like this WR class as much as last year’s although it probably isn’t as deep. I think I talked about 35 WR in last year’s preview. We’ll fall well short of that, but I will mention a couple lower round athletes who impress me.
Dazz Newsome was a four year starter for North Carolina. As such, you would expect a more disciplined athlete, but Newsome has some erratic tendencies on the field, which are almost all resulting from wavering levels of concentration. Drops are an issue and the main reason he may drop well down the board. On the positive side, he’s built very solid and he can be electric after the catch, combining good strength, speed and determination. The kind of YAC monster Shanahan is always looking to acquire. He’s also a good punt returner.
Here he goes with Imhir Smith-Marsette again. The good news is I’ll stop talking about him soon, except perhaps to whine a bit when we don’t take him. Maybe he is just a seventh rounder, as projected, but I see more in this athlete. ISM is a smooth player with deceptive acceleration. He can take the top off a defense and must be accounted for on every play. He also adds value as a return man. He is skinny and concentration drops are part of the Imhir Smith-Marsette Experience, but I love his explosiveness and his nose for the end zone.
Like everyone with eyes, I think Kyle Pitts is spectacular (and steady) and a future star. I know we’re suddenly well stocked at tight end, and it would be a luxury pick, but if Pitts fell to nine, I hope we have KJ Hamler run the card to the podium.
Pat Freiermuth is a strong two way tight end but the rest of the class is one dimensional or lacking in ability and will likely be overvalued due to the scarcity at the position this year.
I was tempted to fold this into one position group this year to deal with the large number of tackles who might be asked to kick inside in the NFL.
Penei Sewell is easily my OT1 and he has been since 2019. Huge and strong, though not as long as expected. Mobility is a huge plus. Much better in space than you’d expect from a man his size. Comes from a football family and will strive to get better. I get some of the hesitation with him. His pass blocking technique is unconventional, and most tackles would get killed trying to use it.
It probably seems like I’m not a Rashawn Slater fan, but I admire his game quite a bit. I do wish I saw more power from him, though. I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a finesse player, but in a class full of people movers, he’s more of a technician. A couple years ago, everybody was getting overly excited about Andre Dillard’s quick feet, but his lack of strength was a red flag for me. I think Slater is a much cleaner prospect, but I have some of the same reservations. He doesn’t always knock people out of the hole and bull rushers can walk him back. Slater would be a disappointing pick for me @ 9. I would be fine taking him 10-15 picks lower with another second rounder in our back pocket, though.
Christian Darrisaw has been one of my very favorite players in the draft from the beginning. Long, wide, experienced, and mean. I have seen some analysis critical of his consistency as a finisher, but when I watch his tape, I see a guy who is constantly looking for work and trying to impose his will. He will embarrass you if you’re not ready to match his intensity. Chazz Surratt got manhandled a few times by Darrisaw in their game.
Teven Jenkins is a tough kid, who takes immense pride in his physical style of play. Very experienced with starts both tackle and guard spots. Moves that 320 pounds extremely well and wants to locate and destroy on the second level. 23-year-old redshirt senior, so likely close to maxed out. Will not be as physically dominant against grown men.
I think every tackle prospect from this point has an obvious weakness or limitation that will hinder his chance of success in the NFL.
Some analysts are calling Alex Leatherwood a guard. I think he can survive and even thrive at right tackle. Strong, durable athlete who should be a 10-year starter in the NFL, though probably not going to be a fixture at the Pro Bowl. Tons of experience along the line and battle tested against the best pass rushers in the country. Sometimes appears mechanical in his movements, but if lack of fluidity moves him off tackle, he’ll make a very good guard
Sam Cosmi needs a better anchor, but he’s already gained 100 pounds since he’s been in the program so he may be maxed out physically. He’s not the smoothest looking athlete and he has the T-Rex arms that plague this class, but he might be smart and technically sound enough to survive at tackle.
Dillon Radunz needs work, but the raw materials are promising. He has decent length, quick feet and a lot of desire to improve. That said, he’s a somewhat scary proposition @ 40. He’s already 23 and the level of competition is a very valid question. He didn’t look out of place at the Senior Bowl practices, which was encouraging.
But Mule, you ask, where are the pure traits prospects? Okay, how about D’Ante Smith? 35 inch arms that look longer, nimble feet, and more agility than the typical offensive tackle. Smith was a four year starter who was well liked by the coaching staff. Unfortunately, he only weighed 305 at his pro day and he never played that heavy. Already almost 23, it will be an uphill struggle for him to gain and hold weight.
Okay, you say, how about someone even traitsier, so excited now you’re coining ungainly new words. Well, feast your eyes in Spencer Brown. Built like a tight end from the future, Brown spreads 311 pounds across a 6-8 frame. Somehow, this monster clocked a 6.96 3 cone that was either a straight up lie, a misprint, or something truly special. Ja’Marr Chase posted the same number. Brown stayed loyal to Northern Iowa when bigger schools finally noticed the former zero-star recruit. Enjoyed beating on lower level competition. I feel like his ceiling is high, but he will require patience and there is also elevated bust risk here.
Stone Forsythe will be overdrafted due to his physical attributes and pass blocking potential, which is unfortunate because he really shouldn’t play right away. He will be a liability as a run blocker in the NFL and it remains to be seen exactly how much he can improve in this regard. Tall and high cut, he is not a natural knee bender and he loses the leverage battle frequently. Boom or bust player, IMO.
Cole Van Lanen is my day three guy. He needs to clean up his pass sets, which may be too tall an order for him, but he is a real beast as a run blocker. He started knocking the crap out of guys as a redshirt sophomore and he hasn’t let up.
Walker Little is a riddle wrapped in an enigma. Actually, he’s just a super huge human being coming off two lost years. He was very highly regarded after his sophomore season and was considered a lock to go in round one. Comes from a football family, but hard to trust him on day two after all these injuries.
I’m lower on Liam Eichenberg than most. Short arms, limited athlete, seems like he’s a tackle or nothing in the NFL. Doubtful that guard is an option. He will be a lower level starter or swingman in the NFL, IMO.
I couldn’t understand why so much of Jalen Mayfield’s tape looked like a top 20 pick and on some of it he looked like a third rounder. The sub 33” arms do limit him @ right tackle, but if he’s a guard, then he’s the best guard in the draft. 6-5, 326 pound 21-year-olds who play with this much violence are rare commodities. I would be fine with Munchak pounding the table for him @ 40.
Alijah Vera-Tucker, I know there’s only a 50/50 chance you’re reading this, so it’s nothing personal. I have no idea how he’s being projected as a top 15 pick and I predict he’s going to slide. Barely 32” arms. Got completely destroyed when he played a future NFL first rounder in Kayvon Thibodeax. Only started 19 games in college. He does have extraordinary movement skills and he has the right makeup to succeed. I just don’t see him as a top 15-20 pick.
Landon Dickerson is a serious ass kicker with the kind of mentality you love in an offensive lineman. Appeared to be past his injury troubles when he tore his ACL again in the SEC Championship Game. If healthy, he’s a goddamn brute with All Pro potential, but the lower body injuries have got to be taking a toll.
Wyatt Davis looks like a guy who will have a long NFL career. Thick and aggressive. He gets into his man quickly and takes control. Big time NFL bloodlines.
Five star recruit Trey Smith looked like a future OT1 after his true freshman season. Unfortunately, a serious condition that caused blood clots in his lungs ended his sophomore season and threatened his career. He returned as a left guard and set about beating the crap out of people. Determined young man who battled through a lot of adversity. Very well respected in the program, even if he didn’t attain the lofty heights once expected. Needs to develop more consistency, but future seems bright.
I think Creed Humphrey has a future at center in the NFL, but he seems slightly overvalued to me. Bravvion Roy really gave him the business in the 2019 Big 12 Championship Game.
Quinn Meinerz made the most of his opportunity at the Senior Bowl, showing strength, quickness, and a high degree of competitiveness. As a Division III player he had to make a big impression and he succeeded.
Aaron Banks is huge and not a complete statue. I think he’ll go late day two, but he projects as an average starter at best, IMO. Already 24 with more bad weight than you really want to see.
Deonte Brown is going to struggle at the next level if he can’t get his weight under control. He has been up around 375 and typically plays in the 350 range. Carlos Basham made him look like his feet were nailed to the ground during Senior Bowl drills.
I felt really bad for Jackson Carman when he came up with 32.5” arms. He was really progressing nicely. He has never played guard and is coming off back surgery. He looked like a guy who might squeak into round two and now I think he could slide into day three.
James Hudson was a major project as a recent conversion from the defensive line. Plays with a defensive mentality. Played left tackle but sub 33” arms will probably force him inside. Attributes and demeanor are desirable, but there is a lot of work to do here.
I think that’s about all I’ve got for today. Tomorrow we’ll tackle the defense.