AFC West

Denver Broncos Draft Needs – Ryer Gardenswartz

The Broncos went through the free agency period with an unorthodox method. Instead of signing free agents to big contracts, they decided to fill some glaring roster holes through trades. While they did make some splashes – most notably Graham Glasgow and Melvin Gordon – they were very active on the trading block.

They did a nice job of bolstering the defensive line, secondary, and offensive line, they will now be turning their attention towards the draft to fill in the cracks. With the 15th overall pick, and 10 total draft picks, they’ll have chance to continue adding much needed support. Here are the biggest needs for the Broncos entering the draft.

WIDE RECEIVER:
The one position that hasn’t been addressed yet this offseason is wide receiver. Courtland Sutton is no longer a secret weapon in the NFL. He really began to blossom last year and made one jaw-dropping catch after another. He is on the fringe of becoming a star receiver and will be covered like one next season. There is a big drop-off from Sutton to any other receiver on the roster right now. DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick figure to be fighting for WR2 right now, but neither are likely to be a fit for that big of a role.

Bronco fans far and wide are hoping that one of the top three WRs – Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, or Henry Ruggs III – fall into their lap at 15. In my opinion Henry Ruggs III is the best fit among those three for the Broncos. The Alabama alum has game changing speed that can take the top off of defenses. Safeties will need to respect his speed and that should open up the field for other playmakers.

While Ruggs III is my top choice and would be a great compliment to Sutton, they can’t go wrong with any of the three. It’s likely they won’t be done drafting receivers after the first day too. They need depth at the position and this WR class figures to be one of the best in recent memory. Could they use two of their five top-100 picks on one position? Wouldn’t surprise me.
The ultimate goal for the Broncos is to continue building a strong supportive cast for quarterback Drew Lock. With a strong backfield of Phillip Lindsay and Gordon, Sutton and a young speedster on the outside, and a young Noah Fant, the pieces are there for Lock to make that big jump in his sophomore season.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE:
I think it’s safe to say that the Garett Bolles experiment didn’t go as planned for the Broncos. While he has been a durable figure on the left side, he hasn’t improved as much over time as people thought he would. “Holding number 72 on the offense” became an all too familiar sound at Mile High last season. The Broncos don’t seem to be in any rush to make a decision regarding his fifth year option and the end could be in sight for Bolles tenure as a Denver Bronco.

Like wide receiver, there are three standout tackles in my opinion in this year’s draft – Andrew Thomas, Tristan Wirfs, and Jedrick Wills Jr – all look like instant starters. Mekhi Becton has also been a popular mock draft pick, but I don’t think his athletic ability and size will be able to hold up against elite pass rushers, which the AFC West has plenty of.

If the wide receiver trio is already off the board at 15, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Broncos continue to bolster their offensive line. Remember the goal is to help Lock as much as possible. They added Ju’wan James last offseason, but he didn’t live up to his price tag and had a yearlong battle with the injury bug. This year, they signed Glasgow who figures to slot into right guard but can also slide to center if needed (more on that later). Dalton Risner was a homerun pick in last year’s draft and figures to be a cornerstone on the line for a long time. They’re still a few players away from a complete line, but the pieces are there.

INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE:
This piggy-backs on the need for an offensive tackle. If they do decide that Bolles is in their long-term plans, then they still have a glaring hole at the center position. As of today, Patrick Morris seems to be the incumbent starter. While Morris and offensive line coach Mike Munchak have a lot of history together, he isn’t the answer.

Because new addition Glasgow can play either guard or center at a high level, the Broncos do have options here. If Glasgow slides to center, then Elijah Wilkinson will likely fill in at right guard. Passable, but not great. However, I would prefer this option over Morris at center if no moves are made.

The Broncos will need to look at adding to the interior line of Risner and Glasgow one way or another. That addition will likely come on day two or three of draft day. The Broncos will look for Munchak to work his Hall of Fame magic. He is highly regarded as one of the top offensive line coaches and has had a lot of success molding late draft picks into consistent starters.

CORNERBACK:
The Broncos have already started chipping away at improving this position with the trade for A.J. Bouye and retaining De’Vante Bausby. While Bouye figures to slot as the CB1, there are a lot of question marks beyond that.

It starts with the availability of Bryce Callahan. The former Chicago Bear followed Vic Fangio last offseason, but a lingering foot injury prevented him from seeing the field. It’s fair to worry if that same injury will impact him in 2020. If he is available for the season, he is most effective when in the slot. That’s where he shined in 2018 with Chicago and should assume the same role with the Broncos.

Regardless, the Broncos need to add depth at this position. They will likely look to add depth through a couple of different avenues. They should elect to spend a mid-round draft pick on a young corner that fits well into Fangio’s defense and have the defensive mastermind mold him into a starting corner over time. They should also look into the remaining free agents. There are still some serviceable corners on the market, and some are already familiar with Fangio’s scheme, most notably Prince Amukamara. As the Broncos saw last season, you can always use more bodies at the cornerback position.

GENERAL DEPTH:
This is something that all teams will look to do in the draft. Unfortunately, injuries are a major part of football and no team can go unscathed for a full season. The Broncos dealt with their fair share last season. I wouldn’t be surprised if they look to add more depth at linebacker and the defensive line as well. They’ll be looking for value at these positions in the draft.

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