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2017 NFL Mock Draft: Broncos continue to add to their top ranked defense

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I have the Broncos adding an explosive and versatile chess piece to their inside linebacking position that lacked athleticism last season.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

I did a pre-Senior Bowl mock draft last week and had the Broncos adding some offensive weapons to help out the team's young quarterbacks, but this time I decided to change it up a bit. I have the Broncos addressing their defense which is something General Manager John Elway has done a lot in the past. All but one draft during his time as GM, he has taken a defensive player with their first round pick/first pick in the draft. That streak was broken last year when he traded up for quarterback Paxton Lynch, but I think there's a good shot of that streak beginning again in 2017.

Like in the last mock draft, I'm projecting the Broncos to add two starting offensive lineman(right tackle and a guard) and a starting nose tackle in free agency. So those projected additions will change the Broncos plans and thus my mock draft.

Note: I am including the projected compensatory picks from Over The Cap which has the Broncos receiving a maximum of 4 compensatory picks. Also, with the draft order, not official just yet, I am using drafttek.com's projected draft order in this mock draft.

Round Pick Team Player Position School Height Weight
1 20 Haason Reddick ILB Temple 6-2 237lbs

Thoughts:

I know this likely will not be the most popular pick, and many will say "it's too early", but I believe come late April many will view Reddick as the second best inside linebacker prospect in the draft and likely a top 20-25 pick.

Reddick was one of if not the biggest winner of last week's Senior Bowl and is now considered a first-round option in April's NFL Draft.

Reddick is making the transition from a hand in the dirt 4-3 defensive end to either outside linebacker or inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. I see him as an inside linebacker in the Broncos defense.

Here is what the NFL Network's Lance Zierlein had to say about Reddick.

"The Owls staff helped him unlock his explosive athletic traits on the field, which resulted in three forced fumbles, 9.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in 2016. Reddick's speed and athleticism might give him a greater shot at impacting the game as a 3-4 inside linebacker or a 4-3 WILL rather than trying to bulk up and play the edge. An ascending prospect with a high-end potential if he can continue to hone his craft.

Reddick is being compared to a pair of current Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers. Those two being Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier. Both were a little undersized, but very athletic linebacker prospects that have had pretty solid NFL careers thus far.

I see the Broncos pairing Reddick with starting inside linebacker Brandon Marshall. Last season they had Todd Davis who is probably best used as a two-down run stuffer, but Reddick would give the Broncos a more explosive option to pair with Marshall. He can also cover, play sideline to sideline, and blitz from the inside or from the outside. This type of versatility should excite the Broncos since they already have one of the better defenses in the entire league.

Round Pick Team Player Position School Height Weight
2 51 Evan Engram TE Ole Miss 6-3 236lbs

Thoughts:

I think the Broncos are are going to spend a high pick on a tight end this spring. I think they will target O.J. Howard or David Njoku in the first round, but if not, Ole Miss's Evan Engram could be a solid backup option for them if they miss out on the top two tight ends in the draft.

Despite O.J. Howard being the big name at the Senior Bowl, Engram came away with an impressive performance during the week and figures to be a top 50 or so pick in April's NFL Draft.

Engram is a strictly move tight end, but with the Broncos likely moving to more of a spread/shotgun offense he would fit in well into McCoy's offense. He is often compared to Redskin's tight end Jordan Reed and could be used rather similarly in the Broncos offense. Place him in the slot and he could be a soon to be Pro Bowler for the Broncos.

Round Pick Team Player Position School Height Weight
3 82 Taywan Taylor WR Western Kentucky 5-11 198lbs

Thoughts:

I believe we will see the Broncos go more towards a spread scheme in 2017 under Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy and that means the Broncos need to add a shifty and explosive slot receiver. Western Kentucky's Taywan Taylor is one of the better slot guys in this year's draft.

I already have the Broncos adding tight end Evan Engram, and Taylor will give whoever is quarterbacking the Broncos another weapon in the middle of the field.

He was very good in the screen game at college and was also used in jet sweep type plays as well. If Paxton Lynch is the starter, the Broncos could use the jet sweep with Taylor as well. We saw the Chiefs do that this season with Tyreek Hill so the Broncos could look to add that type of ability to their offense.

Round Pick Team Player Position School Height Weight
3 Comp Julie'n Davenport OT Bucknell 6-7 310lbs

Thoughts

The Broncos could lose all three of their offensive tackles from 2016 this season. Russell Okung has a pricey option, Donald Stephenson struggled and is a likely cap cut, and Ty Sambrailo is a poor fit in a power scheme and hasn't shown he can be an NFL player as of yet, so the Broncos need some offensive tackle depth.

So I believe the rather raw, but talent Davenport should be on the Broncos radar.

Davenport has the size and look of an NFL tackle but is a very raw prospect. As I said, he has the size 6-7, 310lbs, 36" arms, and 10.5-inch hands. He has the look you want from an NFL offensive tackle, but lacks the technique needed to be a capable starter in the league. This is what makes him a project for some offensive line coach.

I believe the Broncos will address the offensive tackle position in free agency but need a developmental guy behind the veterans for depth and to hopefully take over down the road.

Davenport could go a bit higher in the draft if some team falls in love with his physical tools but I think the late third round is a good spot for Davenport.

Round Pick Team Player Position School Height Weight
3 Comp Wayne Gallman RB Clemson 6-0 215lbs

Thoughts:

The Broncos depth at running back was tested last season and they also were ineffective for the most part as well, so I believe they will look to add another ball carrier in the draft.

Gallman is a tall runner with good burst and power to his game. He can do a little bit of everything and give the Broncos some more depth in their backfield.

Running back isn't really a big need for the Broncos but isn't really a strength either. C.J. Anderson is talented but highly inconsistent, and is getting paid like a top back but has yet to top 1,000 yards rushing in a season. Devontae Booker looked good as a change of pace back behind Anderson but really struggled in starting action after Anderson went on the season-ending IR. A move to a power scheme could help both, but I think another back should be added.

Round Pick Team Player Position School Height Weight
4 116 Nazir Jones DT/DE North Carolina 6-5 295lbs

Thoughts:

The Broncos defensive line really struggled last season and could face a major overhaul this offseason. I see the Broncos adding a nose tackle in free agency and cheaper veteran to compete at defensive end, but another body should be added. This is why I have the Broncos selecting Nazir Jones here.

An NFC area scout believes Jones could be a better player in the NFL than he was in college.

"He's a strong guy and I think he might become a better player in the pros than people might think. He's not going to make a bunch of plays but I like his physicality."

The Broncos are expecting 2016 second-round pick Adam Gotsis to step up his play in 2017, but another defensive lineman who can play the 5-technique in a 3-4 should be added.

As I said above, I believe we will see a veteran addition here, but another younger guy should be added. Veteran Derek Wolfe struggled with injuries this past season so depth needs to be added.

Round Pick Team Player Position School Height Weight
4 Comp Stevie Tu'ikolovatu NT USC 6-1 350lbs

Thoughts:

I'm continuing the defensive lineman theme here in the fourth round, I have the Broncos adding a massive nose tackle to plug in their middle of their defensive line.

Tu'ikolovatu is a massive man and a run stuffing/blocker eater who I think you can plug in the middle of your defensive line on day one.

He has a low center of gravity and a strong punch and can use his short area movement skills to wrap up ball carriers who try to run up the middle. Now Stevie doesn't really have any pass rushing skills, so he is likely a two-down player, but likely a damn good one.

I think he can be a starter in the NFL, but a solid rotational player for the Broncos early in his career.

Round Pick Team Player Position School Height Weight
6 177 Tashawn Bower Edge LSU 6-4 248lbs

Thoughts:

I have the Broncos adding some edge linebacker depth here late in the 2017 NFL Draft. They are not hurting here obviously, but with veteran DeMarcus Ware likely not being re-signed, I think some competition here would be nice.

Round Pick Team Player Position School Height Weight
7 177 Ben Braden OG Michigan 6-6 335lbs

Thoughts:

The Broncos are moving to a power scheme so they will be looking for some bigger and stronger guys to use along their offensive line. Braden is tough as nails and gritty but lacks athleticism and natural bend to handle more explosive/athletic lineman.

Round Pick Team Player Position School Height Weight
7 Comp Ben Boulware ILB Clemson 6-0 236lbs

Thoughts:

When you get this late in a mock you just really start throwing darts at a board blindfolded. So here I went with the Clemson defensive leader Ben Boulware.

He lacks size and the physical traits to likely succeed in the NFL, but his instincts are off the charts. He might go higher than this, but either way he's a late round get for someone. Reminds me of Scoobey Wright from last year's draft.