We are nearly halfway through the 2016 NFL regular season, and a handful of observations can be made in regard to the Denver Broncos future and potential needs at a handful of positions. Listed below is a comprehensive mock draft that includes all of the Broncos draft selections in the 2016 NFL Draft. Trades to move up or down will not be projected in this mock, however I will include OverTheCap's 2016 Compensatory Projections to add picks they believe the Broncos will receive due to losing several key free agents last offseason.
Selection Information: Expect the Broncos to have a plethora of picks at their disposal in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Broncos do not have their original fourth or fifth round selections in 2016. Their fourth round selection was traded to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for the Gino Gradkowski (who didn't make the team) and their 2016 fifth round selection. Their fifth round selection was traded to the Detroit Lions in the 2015 NFL Draft trade to move up to acquire DE/OLB Shane Ray.
However, the Broncos do have an extra pick in the seventh round from the Houston Texans who acquired OT Chris Clark prior to the start of the season. Additionally, OverTheCap's 2016 Compensatory Projections have Denver gaining a third round selection for the loss of Julius Thomas, a fourth for Orlando Franklin and a sixth round selection for Terrance Knighton. The combination of the aforementioned with their retained original selections brings them to 10 selections overall.
First Round: Germain Ifedi, OT - Texas A&M
There is absolutely no doubt that one of the most disappointing and concerning areas of the Broncos team performance to date has been the offensive line. The Broncos have great potential in 2015 draft selections Ty Sambrailo (best suited for right tackle) and Max Garcia who can play a variety of spots on the line. Second-year player Matthew Paradis has played the center position admirably and there is an outside shot Michael Schofield becomes a quality starter in the NFL.
Alas, who knows if the Broncos will bring back Ryan Clady in 2016. At a hefty price tag of ~ $10M, it is doubtful unless he restructures his contract. Evan Mathis likely departs after being a one-year rental and nothing about Tyler Polumbus, Shelley Smith or Ryan Harris scream long-term options for the squad. Given the above, the Broncos should definitely focus their efforts on securing a top-notch offensive lineman with their first selection.
Enter Germain Ifedi. An enormous prospect at 6'5, 325 pounds Ifedi has the prototypical size and athleticism to play tackle in the NFL. In fact, Ifedi started his career at right guard before serving as the Aggies right tackle for the past two seasons. He practiced at left tackle prior to this season, but has remained on the right side of the Aggies line due to his experience and prowess there. He is a gifted player who is sound in both run blocking and pass blocking, though has had some issues with holding calls and being too grabby when beaten off the edge.
At this spot, it is unlikely that the Broncos can nab a top flight left tackle prospect who has extensive experience there in college, but undoubtedly would be a better team by selecting Ifedi who has the ability to protect the quarterbacks blindside and play several positions on the offensive front.
Second Round: Jonathan Bullard, DL - Florida
The Broncos defense has been stellar in 2015, but a myriad of quality players at defensive end such as Malik Jackson, Antonio Smith and Derek Wolfe will be free agents at the end of the year. My gut tells me the Broncos come to terms with Jackson, but the team won't have the ability to sign all three of them. That is why I have them selecting Florida's Jonathan Bullard in the second round.
Bullard is a senior for the Gators and has the size, demeanor and schematic versatility teams in the NFL are looking for in defensive lineman. He has a great first step off the line and has the ability to get after the quarterback, but is also bullish against the run and both fierce and stout at the point of attack. While watching him this season, I have been absolutely blown away at the type of player he is and am excited about what he could become under the tutelage of Wade Phillips and Bill Kollar.
In seven games thus far, Bullard has been all over the field making plays. He has 34 tackles, 10 TFL's and 4.5 sacks and wreaked absolute havoc in games against Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee. If Bullard keeps up his high level of play, he will continue to rise up boards, but provides solid value in the second round at a position the Broncos will need another body at in 2016.
Third Round: Kenneth Dixon, RB - Louisiana Tech
C.J. Anderson has been unimpressive and Ronnie Hillman is a free agent at the end of the season. While it is a virtual certainty Denver will retain Anderson with a cheap tender offer, the Broncos may opt not to sign Hillman and allocate their cap towards players like Von Miller and Malik Jackson who are going to command top dollar in free agency.
The identity of the Broncos offense will change significantly when Peyton Manning is no longer leading the team to gridiron battle on Sunday's and the team would be wise to invest in a young back that can be a focal point of Head Coach Gary Kubiak's future offense.
That is where Kenneth Dixon comes in. The Bulldogs senior running back is one of the most productive in the nation. To date, Dixon has amassed over 4,000 yards on the ground, 62 rushing touchdowns and sports an impressive 5.7 YPC average through his collegiate career. He has also reeled in 72 catches for 708 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He is a dual threat player out of the backfield that would give the Broncos a youthful runner who can excel in both facets of the game. The key issues of concern regarding Dixon are the level of competition he has played against and ball protection, as he has fumbled 12 times and 9 of them have resulted in turnovers.
Third Round (Compensatory): Deon Bush, FS - Miami
One area of concern on the defense is the lack of safety depth. Darian Stewart has played very well this season and T.J. Ward has been a beast on several occasions. David Bruton, Jr. has also impressed, but is a free agent at the end of the year along with Omar Bolden. The Broncos should retain Bruton, who is a team captain and special teams ace, but could stand to add another safety to help out their unit.
Deon Bush, a senior safety who is a very gifted and athletic safety who has continued to improve over his time at Miami. He assumed a role as a full time starter last season and hasn't looked back. In his career with the Hurricanes, Bush has 138 tackles, 9 TFL, 5 sacks, 9 FF, 2 FR and 4 INT's. He is a dynamic playmaker who has been utilized in many different manners. He is an effective blitzer, sound in run support and solid in pass coverage. It is unlikely he will ever be an Ed Reed type ballhawk, but has all the traits and abilities to be a starter in the NFL.
Fourth Round (Compensatory): Reese Odhiambo - OL, Boise State
The Denver Broncos selected Matthew Paradis, an offensive line product from Boise State who had a wealth of experience in a zone blocking system and after patiently waiting for a year -- they have likely found their starting center for some time to come.
In order to continue to improve their efficacy on the offensive line, Denver should snag an interior lineman in this years draft as well. A sleeper pick in the fourth round for me is Boise State's Reese Odhiambo who has played left guard and left tackle for the Broncos. He broke his ankle late in the game against Wyoming several days ago which will definitely impact his draft stock, but has the talent to be a top three round player.
He is strong at the point of attack and incredibly agile and fluid. His pass protection skills are rather good, but needs to improve his technique and get better on not bending his waist too much. Odhiambo was playing left tackle for them this season, but likely would be a better fit inside at guard in the NFL. Either way, his selection provides the Broncos with more depth and versatility at multiple positions on the offensive line.
Fifth Round (via Baltimore): Mekale McKay, WR - Cincinnati
It never hurts to add more receiving weapons to the mix and the Broncos could use a little more size at wide receiver so I have them nabbing Mekale McKay out of Cincinnati in the fifth round.
At 6'4, 200 pounds -- McKay has immense size and the athletic ability to be a nightmare match up against defense backs and a great target in the red zone. He needs to develop as a route runner and be better in the run blocking department, but he offers enormous upside and is a vertical threat who is currently averaging 25 yards per play from scrimmage.
Sixth Round: Josh Forrest, ILB - Kentucky
Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan are scheduled to be free agents, but little doubt exists that the Broncos will retain Marshall with a RFA tender. The same goes for Todd Davis, who is an ERFA at the end of the year. Unless the Broncos find a way to re-sign Trevathan as well, the Broncos will need another inside linebacker for next season.
Josh Forrest out of Kentucky is an intriguing player who entered his collegiate career as a wide receiver and made the switch to defense. He has impeccable physical traits and can storm around to the ball, but is still mentally grasping the changes from offense to defense. Certainly rough around the edges, he has the potential to become a great linebacker with continued dilligence to the game. He has 64 tackles, 4 TFL, 3.5 sacks and an INT through seven games this season. A prospect to definitely keep your eye on.
Sixth Round (Compensatory): Dan Vitale, FB - Northwestern
Fullback has been an afterthought in Denver with Peyton Manning at the quarterback position, but when he is gone I can assure you Gary Kubiak will want a gritty player who can move the chains and help block in the run game.
Dan Vitale is a hybrid player who plays the "Superback" position at Northwestern is a prospect who can do it all. He will be limited by his athleticism, but every team in the NFL needs a prospect like Vitale who can be a safety valve out of the backfield and get key first downs and move the chains when it matters the most.
Seventh Round: Steven Scheu, TE - Vanderbilt
Tight end has been a position where the Broncos have failed to produce this year. Unfortunately, rookie Jeff Heuerman tore his ACL during training camp and we never got a chance to see what he could offer on the field this year. Owen Daniels has been relatively "meh" for the contract he was given and Virgil Green has not done much of anything in the receiving game.
Steven Scheu is an underrated pass catcher who has great size (6'4, 235) and has been a consistent producer for the Commodores. He isn't having as great of a year as he did as a junior where he nabbed 39 catches for 525 yards and four touchdowns, but would provide Denver with another red zone target and able bodied individual at the tight end position. This late in the draft, you can't ask for much more help than a guy like Scheu.
Seventh Round (via Houston): Will Monday, P - Duke
The Broncos could save some more coin by moving on from Britton Colquitt this off-season who hasn't played up to the contract he was given several years ago. Will Monday, a senior out of Duke is one of the best punters available in this years draft and is averaging near 46 yards per punt this season for their football team.
What do you think, Broncos Country? Like/hate any of these picks? Go ahead and grade my midseason mock and ask me any questions in the comments.