Keep in mind that this draft did not take into consideration any possible free agents we could sign before the draft, and aimed to target positions where the Broncos could use immediate impact players. I know this is a lengthy read, but wanted to be as in-depth and thorough as possible.
I hope you enjoy this mock draft and as always, feel free to give your opinions an analysis in the comments section.
First Round - #20 - David Njoku, TE - Miami
The Denver Broncos' production at the tight end position in 2016 was absolutely dreadful. Some fans and analysts are willing to give the current stable of players at the position the benefit of the doubt, but I'm not one of those people. As it stands, the Broncos talent at tight end revolves around A.J. Derby, the oft-injured Jeff Heuerman and Virgil Green, who has been rumored to be on pace for a 'breakout year' for the past several seasons — a storyline that has never come to fruition.
I believe that one of the best things the Broncos could to do improve their offense next season is get a playmaker at the tight end position that can stretch the field vertically, as well as become a safety valve for young quarterbacks Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian. While Alabama's O.J. Howard would be my first choice at the position, I feel that he will be a Top 15 player (and not available for Denver) once the draft begins in late April.
That being said, Miami's David Njoku is no slouch and is worthy of first round consideration for the Broncos at the twentieth overall selection. He erupted this past season with the Hurricanes for 696 yards (a whopping 16.2 yard per catch average) and eight touchdowns. His speed and ability to stretch defenses are two of his greatest assets, which is something the Broncos could desperately use on offense.
Njoku isn't quite the sum of all his parts yet, but has the ability to be a perennial Pro-Bowl player at the position. Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy loves utilizing tight ends, and he did so tremendously with Hunter Henry of the Chargers last season. If the Broncos don't use an early round selection on a tight end, I'd be absolutely baffled.
Second Round - #51 - Taylor Moton, OL - Western Michigan
With one big need addressed, the Broncos use their second round selection to bolster their offensive line by selecting versatile Western Michigan product Taylor Moton.
At 6’5" and 328 pounds, Moton is the massive presence Denver needs in their offensive line, especially with the team moving towards a power blocking scheme. He is a terror of a blocker, using his long arms and big hands to latch on to defenders, and utilizes his strength and leverage to block effectively. Once he starts moving forward, there is nowhere to go but backwards for opposing defenders.
Moton was above-average in pass protection at right tackle at Western Michigan. He is a little slower-footed than he desired to play the position in the pros and most likely will begin his NFL career at right guard, where he played for the Broncos in 2015. He would be a solid and reliable contributor to Denver’s offensive line and projects as an immediate day one starter as a road grading right guard, with the possibility of becoming much more down the road.
Third Round - #82 - Jaleel Johnson, DL - Iowa
After addressing two areas of need, the Broncos continue that trend by fortfying their defensive line with the selection of Iowa defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson early in the third round.
Johnson started his career with the Hawkeyes as a reserve player for his first two seasons, but blossomed into one of their best defensive players as a junior and senior. In those seasons, Johnson had 101 tackles, 15 for loss and 11 sacks. Each year his production improved, with a monster senior season that was good enough to earn him All-Big Ten selection honors by coaches and media.
Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) January 26, 2017
Johnson's best fit would probably be as a three technique in a 4-3 front, but the combination of his size, ability to penetrate and above average run stuffing skills would make him a formidable player for the Broncos. He is a high-character player who doesn't give up on the field and would be a welcomed addition to their defense.
I project his skill set to allow him to be a 3-4 end on base downs, with the versatility to kick inside on passing downs to utilize his gap penetrating prowess.
Third Round - #97 - Zay Jones, WR - Eastern Carolina
The Broncos could use another threat at receiver alongside Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and in the third round I would like to see the Broncos get a versatile option who can play outside and in the slot, which is why I have the Broncos taking Isaiah 'Zay' Jones with their first compensatory selection in the third round.
Jones is the NCAA's leader in career receptions (399) and holds the single-season record with 158 catches as a senior. He ended his four-year career with the Pirates totaling 4,279 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns. It's hard to ignore that type of production, but it is important to note that Eastern Carolina's offense was filtered through him, and many of those catches were on short passes and wide receiver screens.
That being said, Jones has the ability to get open on short and intermediate routes despite defenses focusing on stopping him. That makes him a reliable safety net for anyone behind center. He has experience running a variety of routes -- route tree consists mainly of screens, reverses and slants, which will fit nicely with Denver. Additionally, he has superior running capability after a catch, especially on screens and short passes.
Zay Jones summed up in one play - ++catch radius with long arms, savvy route runner, ++hands pic.twitter.com/YCVqSZ8KiU— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) February 20, 2017
While he lacks the speed and size of a typical number 1 receiver, he won’t have to stay as number 2 for long. All he has to do is pull of a 4.40 40-yard dash at the combine, and that will help convince teams he has the skill set to be a number 1. In my opinion, Jones could be a fast riser through the draft process and could wind up being a late second round selection when it is all said and done.
Third Round - #102 - Chidobe Awuzie, DB - Colorado
Defensive back is probably the last position fans expect the Broncos to address early on in the draft, but I think there is a solid chance they do.
First and foremost, the Broncos will have to make a decision soon on whether or not to pick up Bradley Roby's fifth-year option. If they don't pick up his option, he will become a free agent at the end of next season. Second, I expect Denver to keep Aqib Talib on the roster for 2017, but his future beyond this season is questionable when you consider his high cap number. Third, Kayvon Webster is a free agent and it's uncertain whether or not the Tulane duo of Lorenzo Doss and Taurean Nixon are legitimate options or offer long-term potential with the team.
Like running back, the defensive backfield is an area stacked with talent in the draft. With their final compensatory selection, I have the Broncos taking local product Chidobe Awuzie out of the University of Colorado.
In his four years with the Buffs, Awuzie was one of the most productive defensive backs in college football. Over the course of his heralded career, he had three interceptions, 265 tackles (25 for loss), as well as 9 sacks. Additionally, he was credited with 25 defended passes, six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Awuzie is a playmaker and a prospect capable of playing on the boundary or inside in the slot. He has exceptional cover skills and good size (6'0, 205 pounds) and a high football IQ. One of his most underrated aspects is his blitzing ability, which is noted above with accruing nine sacks in his career. It's hard not to be impressed with a player of his caliber.
John Elway hasn't been shy about adding talent to areas on the team that are already strengths. He did this in the past with the Roby and Shane Ray selections, so don't be surprised if he takes advantage of a premier crop of defensive back talent and adds another member to Denver's No Fly Zone.
Fourth Round - #125 - Vincent Taylor, DL - Oklahoma State
After using a selection on Iowa's Jaleel Johnson earlier in the draft, but I'm all for double-dipping and getting another player to help bolster our defensive line. One of my favorite prospects in this years' draft is Oklahoma State nose tackle Vincent Taylor.
There are a handful of reasons I am high on Taylor. He fires out of his stance and is able to create push at point of attack and make plays on the other side of the line. His upper body strength and athleticism are a big plus, helping him toss blockers aside with ease and win the gap late in the rep. He has long arms and very active hands when pass rushing, and has a knack for making the big sack or play when needed the most.
Oklahoma's OL holding OSU NT Vincent Taylor for dear life pic.twitter.com/jjvzRwdhG8— J.C. Rivera (@Era_Jonn) December 27, 2016
He had consecutive seasons of solid sack production and graded out as one of the best run defending defensive tackles in his conference this past season. Taylor may not be a starter early on, but his ability to disrupt off the snap with quickness and strength will enable him to be a rotational tackle. He is also a special teams demon, blocking several kicks over the course of his career with the Pokes.
I believe he can definitely develop into a starter and could flourish in Denver's one-gap attack defense. With he and Johnson on board the the Broncos, their defensive line would be much better in 2017 and beyond.
Fourth Round #146 - Marlon Mack, RB - South Florida
As of now, C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker are the only backs in the Broncos stable — and that's concerning. I'm probably in the minority with this opinion, but I don't see any of them becoming top-flight players and feel the team desperately needs to add talent at the position.
The 2017 NFL Draft class is loaded with talent at the running back and could very well be the most talented group of players in recent memory. The Broncos need to take advantage of that fact, and in the fourth round of the draft, I am projecting the them to snag Marlon Mack out of the University of South Florida.
There are few records Mack didn't break in his three seasons at South Florida. Mack is the Bulls and AAC's all-time career rushing leader with 3,609 yards and the career all-purpose yardage leader with just 4,107 yards from scrimmage. Not only that, he has the most career touchdowns (33) and recorded twenty 100 yard rushing games in his stellar career. His three consecutive seasons with over 1,000 yards rushing was only the third time that has happened for any player at any school in the state of Florida.
New Highlight. Let Me Know What You Think !— Marlon Mack (@Marlon_Mack2) February 15, 2017
Quite simply, Mack is a game changer and has the skills to become a dynamic weapon in the pros. His speed and ability to break the long runs are what separates him from most players at his position. He is a home run hitter who is a threat to take it the distance every time he carries the ball.
I don't believe he is best suited to be an every down back in the NFL, but giving him 12-15 touches a game -- especially when defenses are worn down could help solves the Broncos' woes on offense.
Sixth Round- #203 - Marquel Lee, ILB - Wake Forest
Analysts have taken notice of Lee, with a strong belief he is capable of being an every-down linebacker. As a three-year starter for Wake Forest, Lee racked up 291 tackles, with 41 of them registering as tackles for loss. He is expected to be the first Wake Forest linebacker to be drafted since 2009 and was the heart and soul of the Demon Deacons defense the past several seasons.
Lee is rock-solid at 6’3", 240 lb, yet displays the athleticism necessary to succeed at the position. He is able to force the action up the field and make a lot of plays in space or pursuit, and has demonstrated a strong ability to develop into a three down defender. Moreover, he is an accomplished blitzer who accumulated 14.5 sacks in his final three years with the Demon Deacons.
While he may not make an immediate impact as a rookie, there is enough potential there to have Lee can develop into a valuable tool on Denver’s defense by his second season.
Sixth Round #204 - Victor Bolden, ATH - Oregon State
Speeds kills and the Broncos and many NFL teams were victims to Tyreek Hill's impressive rookie year. Denver could use a player like him on the roster, which is why I would be stoked if they added Victor Bolden out of Oregon State in the draft.
Whether they put him at receiver, returner or even at running back — Bolden can make an impact in the league. There aren't many people talking about him right now, but I expect with Hill's success last year, a team might draft him far higher than this. Watch the highlight reel above and come away impressed.
Seventh Round #254 - Fish Smithson, S - Kansas
When you get this late in the draft, you are looking for players with upside and the ability to play special teams. In most years, a prospect like Fish Smithson would probably go a lot higher, but there are a ton of good safeties in the draft and I think there is a good possibility he drops. In fact, he wasn't even invited to the NFL Combine.
Fish Smithson || "Steal of the Draft" || Official Kansas Highlights https://t.co/9qSg4nZCj2— thomas_cederblad (@buzzme263) February 10, 2017
Smithson was a starter the last two years for the Jayhawks and registered over 200 tackles and six interceptions. He has the ability to start in the NFL and would be a good developmental prospect to have behind Darian Stewart at free safety. The Broncos already have Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. as Jayhawk royalty on their squad, so what's wrong with adding a third?
Tell me what you think about my mock draft by discussing it in the comments section and feel free to share your Broncos mock draft as well!