The four popular picks for the Broncos in the first-round of the 2017 NFL Draft have been running back/wide receiver Christian McCaffrey, and offensive tackles Garett Bolles, Cam Robinson, and Ryan Ramczyk. However, draft day never goes as planned and the Broncos may decide to go in another direction or they have been blowing a smoke the entire time.
So let's take a look at five prospects who may be a surprise first-round pick for the Denver Broncos in the 2017 NFL Draft.
1. Miami Tight End, David Njoku
This may not be a big under the radar pick, but it is someone who went from the popular pick in early January/February to now not even being mentioned as a potential pick for the Broncos. So I believe currently Njoku would be a surprise first-round pick.
Njoku would give the Broncos a big, athletic and explosive target who can be a difference-maker at the tight end position. Something the Broncos have lacked for quite awhile, outside of Julius Thomas during the Manning years. Also, having a big and athletic tight end option as a safety option is always good for a young quarterback, which the Broncos have two of.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah has Njoku ranked as his 12th best player in the draft.
Njoku has a long, muscular frame and outstanding athleticism for the position. He primarily lines up flexed in the slot or split out wide. He has outstanding speed to get down the seam and he does a lot of damage on quick-hit and tunnel screens. He's not a refined route runner, but instead gets by with pure agility and speed. He has strong hands to reach and pluck the ball away from his frame but he does allow some balls to get into his body and ricochet off him. After the catch, he has an explosive burst and he breaks a lot of tackles. In the run game, he's a work in progress. He gets in the way to shield and wall off, but he needs to get stronger and more physical at the point of attack. Overall, Njoku is very raw but he has an extremely high upside.
Njoku figures to go off the board around when the Broncos are on the clock, so if a few of their top targets are off the board and Njoku is near the top, they may decide to add the explosive tight end in the first round and find a tackle someplace else.
2. Western Michigan Wide Receiver, Corey Davis
Now, this would be a shocker.
Corey Davis has been considered one of the top receivers in this year's draft, but because of an injury has been unable to run for teams during the draft process. He figures to be a-okay for Training Camp, but unable to test for teams leading up to the draft.
Wide receiver is not a huge need for the Broncos, but if Emmanuel Sanders is willing to play more slot the Broncos could look to add another big outside target for whoever the quarterback is for the Broncos.
Davis was a touchdown machine in college and made multiple incredible one-handed catches. He has the ability to become an instant impact for the Broncos offense that really lacked some excitement last season. I believe he could be a big-time red zone playmaker his rookie season because of his attitude and ability.
The Broncos do have bigger needs, but Davis has the potential to be a good one, and if he is there at 20, he may be near the top of the Broncos board.
3. Michigan Safety/Returner Jabril Peppers
One of the tougher projections in this year's draft is former Michigan do-everything guy, Jabril Peppers. He played safety, he played cornerback, he played linebacker, he played running back, and oh yeah, he is also an explosive returner.
The big question for him is where do you put him in the NFL? I think he can be a very good SS/LB in the NFL as well as being an explosive return man.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah ranked Peppers as his 31st overall prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Peppers has played cornerback, safety, linebacker, running back and quarterback during his time in Ann Arbor, and is an incredibly tough evaluation. He has outstanding athleticism, but didn't look comfortable playing linebacker in 2016, lacking the size to hold up at that spot in the NFL. I think he's best suited to play strong safety. As a run defender, he relies on his quickness to burst through gaps and find the ball carrier. Once engaged by blockers, he really struggled. He needs to be clean to be effective. In pass coverage, he has plenty of speed and agility to mirror tight ends, and he is a dynamic blitzer. His instincts and ball production are both average. He is a very explosive punt returner, and is both elusive and instinctive as a runner on offense. Overall, Peppers is a better athlete than football player right now, but he has tremendous upside as a strong safety.
The pick makes some sense because current strong safety T.J. Ward is entering the final year of his contract. He has been a team leader for the Broncos defense so they could decide to keep him, but if not, a strong safety is needed. I do not think Will Parks can be that guy, I like him better in a reserve/special teams role going forward.
I'd let Peppers develop some his rookie year and contribute mostly on Special Teams as a coverage, gunner, and especially as a return man before taking over for Ward in 2018.
4. Florida Linebacker, Jarrad Davis
Reuben Foster and Haason Reddick get all the attention, but another inside linebacker who may go in the first round that is former Florida linebacker, Jarrad Davis.
Davis is a sideline to sideline thumper who could start right away for any defense. He would compete with Todd Davis for the second inside linebacker starting job, and would also push for sub-package snaps because of his athleticism.
Davis is ranked as Daniel Jeremiah's 24th overall prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Davis has ideal size, toughness and range. Against the run, he is very instinctive and he attacks lead blockers. He consistently thuds off blockers, separates and locates the ball. He has outstanding stopping power as a tackler. He has very good lateral range. He gets lost at times in pass coverage, and needs to become more aware as a zone-dropper. He does have the speed and agility to match up with backs and tight ends. Overall, Davis is already a dominant run defender and should improve in the passing game as he continues to develop.
The Broncos have shown some interest in the inside linebacker prospect in this year's draft so it would make some sense.
Love Jarrad Davis' ability to get downhill and close. Makes good contact with a blocker here and closes quickly to make the tackle. pic.twitter.com/YBSpzPqZw0— Ted Nguyen (@RaidersAnalysis) April 19, 2017
Davis's hype has picked up recently which likely means draftniks have caught wind that teams like Davis a little more than they expected. He has been rumored to be favorite of the Raiders in the first round, so he may be in play for the Broncos as well.
5. LSU Cornerback, Tre'Davious White
One position that Broncos General Manager John Elway values highly is the cornerback position, and this draft is loaded at that position, so would it be a shock if they went corner in the first round? If that happens, one player who I believe would be high on their draft board is former LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White.
The Broncos corners play a lot of man/press man coverage and that is exactly what White does well. He is a pure cover corner who does not add much in the way of run defense, but his coverage ability makes up for it.
I've heard Tre'Davious White's name linked with a number of teams in round one— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) April 20, 2017
Question, as always, is where he stacks vs other 5-6 targets
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah has White ranked as his 18th best prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft.
White started all four years at cornerback for the Tigers. He has average size and bulk for the position. In my opinion, he is one of the most improved players in this draft class. He made big strides from 2015 to 2016. He is very physical in press coverage and he's shown the ability to match up with tight ends when necessary. He is a fluid athlete, but there are some concerns with his deep speed. In zone coverage, he is outstanding. He has a quick pedal with outstanding route recognition and anticipation. He arrives in time to make plays on the ball or deliver big hits. I love his aggressiveness. He does have a bad habit of getting a little handsy when the ball is in the air; that can be fixed. He is very aggressive and reliable in run support. Overall, White is trending in the right direction and his best football is ahead of him.
The Broncos future at the cornerback position was in question but with Talib not receiving a suspension and Roby's fifth-year option being picked up, it's not a huge question anymore. However, Talib may be entering his final year with the Broncos, and Roby's play slipped some in 2016. They also lost cornerback Kayvon Webster to the Los Angeles Rams in Free Agency, so they still could look to add some depth to the position.
I think White would be a solid addition to the Broncos secondary. With that said, because of the insane depth at the cornerback position, you could likely put another 4 or 5 corners in place of White and make the same argument.