Since their Super Bowl 50 victory against the Carolina Panthers, the Denver Broncos still are feeling that Rocky Mountain High. Four games into the 2016 NFL regular season, the Broncos are still the class of the league and are miraculously undefeated to start the year.
With their gauntlet schedule to begin this years' campaign, I don't think many people believed they would be where they are standing today. Denver never suffered a Super Bowl hangover, and week in and week out, have continued to show the rest of the league that they are still the cream of the crop and the team to beat off the totem pole if you want a shot at snatching a Lombardi Trophy.
The Denver Broncos are good. There is no doubt about that, but they certainly are in a position to better themselves tremendously with an arsenal of eleven selections in the 2017 NFL Draft. Denver has all of their original selections, outside of their sixth-rounder which was a part of the trade that landed Vernon Davis in the Mile High city last year. However, they did receive a sixth-rounder back from a 2016 draft day trade with the Tennessee Titans to make up for that.
But it gets even better. The Broncos are projected to receive third-round compensatory selections for Brock Osweiler and Malik Jackson's departures in free agency, as well as a fifth-round selection for Danny Trevathan and a seventh-round selection for Ryan Harris.
Eleven picks, folks. How amazing is that? Kudos to General Manager John Elway for acquiring so many selections in order to keep the Broncos formidable not just in the present, but in the future as well.
When glancing at the roster, there aren't too many holes that need to be filled, but certain positions such as the offensive and defensive lines, as well as tight end could use bolstering. I'm not so sure Denver will end up using all eleven selections, as it is unlikely that so many rookies will make next years' final 53 man roster.
In the 2017 NFL Draft, compensatory selections will be allowed to be traded. That gives the Broncos an immense opportunity to move up in the draft if need be in order to select the highest rated players on their board. Furthermore, it gives them the ability to trade those selections for future picks, granted they find a trading partner.
For the sake of being realistic, I won't project the Broncos trading any picks away for future picks, but will have a scenario in my initial 2017 mock draft that has them moving up in order to secure top-tier talent at positions of need. Without further adieu, here is my "Mock-tober" draft. I hope you enjoy.
First Round Selection: Roderick Johnson, OT - Florida State
There is no question Russell Okung has been stellar for the Broncos to date, but it remains to be seen if the Broncos will end up exercising their team-option to pick up the rest of the years on the deal he signed with the team in free agency. The Broncos have a lot of cap flexibility due to quarterbacks Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch being on affordable rookie contract, so Okung's financial raise in 2017 and beyond shouldn't be an issue for Denver's salary cap.
However, the Broncos may opt to find their left tackle of the future in this years' draft if Okung isn't retained. Roderick Johnson of Florida State is a raw player, but flashes incredible ability and has elite upside. He has the size, talent and athleticism to become a top tier NFL tackle, but has issues with consistency, especially in regard to pass protection.
Johnson has had some shaky performances (especially against Ole Miss) for the Seminoles this season, but has been an absolute monster in the run game. Overall, Johnson is a finesse player who needs development with his technique and needs to improve his strength, but if he is there at the bottom of round one, the Broncos would be wise to invest their first pick in his services.
Second Round Selection: Bucky Hodges, TE - Virginia Tech
In order to select Bucky Hodges out of Virginia Tech, I have the Broncos moving all the way from the bottom to the top second round with a compensatory selection's from Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan and Ryan Harris. That's a lot of ammunition, but I believe the player they would select here is very well worth it.
The Broncos' depth at tight end is worrisome. John Philips has seen a lot of action with Virgil Green being sidelined due to injury, and Jeff Heuerman has finally made a few plays over the last two weeks after missing his entire first season due to injury. Denver needs a dynamic threat at the tight end position to take their offense to the next level and I strongly believe they will use an early selection on a top-tier college tight end in the 2017 NFL Draft.
O.J. Howard is widely regarded as the top tight end in this years' draft class, but I happen to like the upside and receiving ability of Virginia Tech's Bucky Hodges a bit more than some. Hodges had stellar freshman and sophomore campaigns for the Hokies, and has 12 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns so far in his junior season.
Hodges is not the focal point of Virginia Tech's offense, but he is often split out wide as opposed to being a traditional in-line tight end. Doing this helps create mismatches due to his incredible combination of size, speed and athleticism. Hodges has a lot of work to do in regard to run blocking, but keep in mind that he was a former quarterback in high school and has only been playing tight end for just over two years.
When you consider that, you begin to understand why scouts from all NFL teams are flocking to Blacksburg to see him play. He may not yet be the sum of all his parts, but get him in the right scenario and he could turn into one of the league's most dynamic receiving threats down the road.
Third Round Selection: Montravius Adams, DT - Auburn
The Broncos didn't exercise their fifth-year option on defensive tackle Sylvester Williams and if they don't opt to bring him back in free agency, the team will be very thin at nose tackle. Adams has great physical abilities and a solid skill set, but his motor occasionally runs colder than it should.
Adams has improved his consistency as a senior and already has 15 tackles, 4 for loss and 2.5 sacks. If he continues to play at a very high level, he could end up being a Top 50 selection. There are several other top prospects at the position who will likely go ahead of him, which is why I have Adams firmly in the third round for now. He would be a good complimentary player to Darius Kilgo at nose tackle, and has a high ceiling and can develop into a quality NFL starter.
Third Round Compensatory Selection: Chris Wormley, DL - Michigan
I first gave Michigan defensive lineman Chris Wormley praise in an article a few weeks ago, and the more I think about it, the more I love the idea of him joining the Broncos.
The versatile defender would be a tremendous fit in Denver's 3-4 defense and also would be an immediate contributor on special teams. Denver could use more help at the defensive end position, and Wormley fits the mold as a prototypical 5-technique player.
Fourth Round Selection: Keith Kelsey, ILB - Louisville
Denver has some talented players at inside linebacker, but Keith Kelsey's value in the fourth round is too good to pass up. He earned All-ACC honors as a junior for the Cardinals registering 107 sackles, 12 for loss and 3.5 sacks. He also broke up 3 passes, notched 7 quarterback hurries and forced a fumble.
The defensive captain has had a good start to his senior season and had two solid performances against Syracuse and Florida State. Inside linebackers tend to drop a bit on draft day and though Kelsey certainly has Day 2 talent, he should be available somewhere on the third day to select. It's an insurance pick for the Broncos who could use a long-term option next to Brandon Marshall.
Fifth Round Selection: Ahmad Thomas, FS - Oklahoma
The Broncos used selections on Justin Simmons and Will Parks in last years' NFL Draft to fortify their safety position, but safety Darian Stewart is a free agent at the end of the season, and his high level of play might earn him a big-time contract in free agency. If he were to head for greener pastures, the Broncos would need another safety to come in and compete for a roster spot.
Ahmad Thomas out of Oklahoma is a solid prospect who earned first-team Big 12 honors for the Sooners last season after registering 75 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 3 interceptions. He is a versatile player who has starts at both safety positions. This year is his fourth year with Oklahoma and his third as a starter. His on the field tenacity and leadership skills would be a fantastic addition to the Broncos defensive secondary.
Sixth Round Selection (via Tennessee): Caleb Peterson, OG - North Carolina
Caleb Peterson has been a stalwart for the Tar Heels' offensive line ever since he became a full-time starter as a redshirt freshman in 2013. He has manned down the left guard position ever since and has been one of the ACC's most consistent offensive lineman during that time.
He is an above-average pass protector, but shows immense tenacity and grit in the run game and was one of the reason's why Elijah Hood had a phenomenal 2015 campaign at running back for North Carolina. Adding Peterson gives the Broncos more options in the trenches and a prospect who definitely has the ability to become a starting left guard in the NFL.
Seventh Round Selection: Jahad Thomas, RB - Temple
C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker are the top two backs on the Broncos' roster, but Kapri Bibbs isn't a sure bet to stay the teams' third back in 2017. Jahad Thomas had a breakout season as a junior for Temple and rushed for 1,262 yards and 17 touchdowns. Thomas also flashes skills as a receive rand has caught 45 balls for 677 yards and two scores to date for the Owls.
With 2017 NFL Draft being a tremendous year for running backs, a prospect like Thomas could very well slip through the cracks and be available late on Day 3. If he is, the Broncos should take a hard look out of the versatile, undersized senior running back who has great speed and agility.
Have a mock draft of your own? Share your mock and give your comments in this mock draft in the comments section. It may only be October, but we know many of you love the NFL Draft and enjoy analyzing collegiate prospects as well.