As you all know, the Denver Broncos offensive effort in 2017 has been absolutely disastrous. Through nine games, they rank 24th overall in regard to points scored and 20th in total yards. It’s tough to watch them fail week in and week out, and If the offense continues to chalk up woeful performances throughout the rest of the year, they will certainly cement themselves as the worst offense the franchise has fielded in the past decade. Dare I even say it could be one of the worst offenses the team has fielded in history?
It’s no surprise that the predicament at the quarterback position is one of the primary culprits of disarray on that side of the ball. When you factor in Trevor Siemian’s poor play, the absence of Paxton Lynch and the mediocrity of Brock Osweiler — it’s easy to see why so many fans and draft analysts have the franchise selecting a signal caller from the collegiate ranks to be their hopeful quarterback of the future. I won’t question the desire or need for the team to find someone worthy of that title (which is why I had them selecting a quarterback with their first pick in my initial mock draft), but it’s dangerous to pencil in drafting one as the only legitimate option Denver would have in the first round.
There is a lot of talent at the top of this class, and the Broncos would be wise to consider all the options that will present themselves early on, especially if the continue to struggle and earn themselves a selection in the top ten of the draft. This installment of Future Broncos aims to discuss some of the other top prospects outside of quarterback that merit consideration in the Top 10 picks of this year’s draft class.
The Best Player in the 2018 NFL Draft — Saquon Barkley
In a little less than two months, we will know exactly where the Broncos are slated to pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Top 5 isn’t out of the question, but barring an absolute turnaround and a handful of wins, it’s likely that the Broncos will be picking inside the top ten. That will present a tremendous opportunity for them to snag a top-tier prospect and Penn State’s Saquon Barkley should be at or near the top of the list if they are looking to turn the offense around in 2018.
Saquon Barkley is breathtaking. pic.twitter.com/pqlScCEgdZ— Roar Lions Roar (@RLRblog) November 11, 2017
Back in September, I mentioned Barkley as the top running back in this class and arguably its top player. While teams like the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers would certainly give him a hard look, if they were to pass on him, he could slide a bit and make his way to where the Broncos are selecting. In my opinion, he is a generational talent who will take the NFL by storm, and quite honestly, I wouldn’t even mind the Broncos moving up to acquire his services. Some fans might scoff at this idea considering his struggles the past few weeks, but in my eyes he is still the top pro-ready prospect available in the draft and is ready to make a huge impact upon gracing the NFL gridiron for the first time and be an immediate starter in the backfield.
Two Potential Additions to the No Fly Zone
The Denver Broncos have a lot of talent in their defensive backfield, but you can never have too many quality defensive backs in the modern day pass happy NFL. Will the Broncos keep Aqib Talib through the length of his contract or will he be a potential cap casualty at the end of the year? The Broncos picked up Bradley Roby’s fifth-year option, but will John Elway open up the checkbook and sign the former Ohio State product to a long-term deal? These are just a few questions to think about moving forward in respect to the No Fly Zone.
If the Broncos are interested in keeping their secondary strong, versatile defensive backs Minkah Fitzpatrick out of Alabama and Derwin James of Florida State are worth considering. Capable of playing outside, inside or even on the back-end of any secondary unit — Fitzpatrick and James are Swiss Army Knife players who would be a tremendous addition to the franchise. The Broncos have had some trouble in the secondary this season, mainly with communication and allowing tight ends to shred them to pieces, so acquiring a player like Fitzpatrick or James would be a step forward to ensuring that doesn’t happen next season and give them a prospect who has star potential in the secondary.
Keeping and Edge in the Pass Rush Department
There’s no doubt that Von Miller is one of the greatest defenders in the entire NFL and that Shaquil Barrett deserves to start in front of Shane Ray, who has been a disappointment since returning from injury. Barrett is in line for a contract extension as early as this offseason, and if given a decent amount of money, I’d bet my bottom dollar that the Broncos would let Ray walk when his contract is up.
The team moved second round selection DeMarcus Walker to outside linebacker due to injuries during camp and preseason that held Barrett and Ray out of activity, but it’s quite clear he isn’t ideal as a rush backer and is better suited as a down lineman who can kick inside during passing situations and get after the quarterback. After all, it’s those two things that made him one of the best pass rushers in college football in his career.
Just like with defensive backs, you can never have enough pass rushers. Sadly, Broncos haven’t been as great getting after the quarterback this season as they were the past two years. With that in mind, utilizing a top ten selection on top-flight pass rushers such as Bradley Chubb of NC State, Arden Key of LSU or Harold Landry of Boston College wouldn’t be such a bad idea. These three prospects are considered the best of this class and should be immediate impact players on the edge upon entering the league.
Also, don’t sleep on Clemson redshirt sophomore Clelin Ferrell, who is also rising up draft boards and could be a top fifteen pick if he decides to declare. Be sure to keep an eye on Ogbonnia Okoronkwo of Oklahoma who probably isn’t a Top 10 worthy prospect, but certainly would deserve consideration if the Broncos were to move down and acquire more picks. He has really turned it on the past two years with the Sooners and has amassed 17 sacks, 28 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles in the past two seasons.
Other Top-Tier Prospects to Consider
- Nobody ever gets excited about taking a guard early on in the draft, but as I’ve written several times — Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson is an immediate starter and the best offensive lineman in this year’s draft. The Broncos have a much bigger hole at right tackle than they do at left guard, but the selection of Nelson would mean the end of the Max Garcia/Allen Barbre experiment and give them a prospect with All-Pro ability to help fortify their offensive line. I’d have zero issue with him being the team’s early first round selection next April.
- The situation the Broncos have at inside linebacker is very concerning. Brandon Marshall has had a bad year and Todd Davis, Corey Nelson and Zaire Anderson are all scheduled to be free agents in some capacity. A lot of fans across Broncos Country have been hoping John Elway would pull the trigger and pick an inside linebacker early the past few seasons, but that hasn’t come to fruition.
Given the aforementioned, I’m almost positive the Broncos will address their gaping hole at inside linebacker during this year’s NFL Draft that is loaded with quality prospects. Addressing the issue might not come in the first round, but if it does, Roquan Smith of Georgia, Malik Jefferson of Texas and and Tremaine Edmunds of Virginia Tech are all first-round caliber prospects who would be a welcomed addition to a linebacker corps in need of an upgrade.
As always, thank you for reading. Feel free to give your thoughts about prospects outside of quarterback position the Broncos should consider in the early first round in the comments section. It’s never too early to talk about the NFL Draft!