One of the persistent complaints that’s thrown at anything ruminating on the NFL Draft at this time of year is how it’s “too early.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. If a team isn’t already planning for the 2020 offseason, it’s woefully behind and fans thinking out how that process can go does absolutetly no harm to anyone. Some even enjoy it.
The other harsh reality the criticism misses is how for many NFL teams, the 2019 playoff chase is effectively over. Look no further than the Denver Broncos. While radio pundits and some in the local media will continue to sell the pie in the sky, the 1992 San Diego Chargers are the only team in modern NFL history to start 0-4 and make the postseason.
I don’t say this to be a downer. After all, according to Football Outsiders’ Playoff Odds report that simulates the regular season 30,000 times Denver made the dance in 6.5% of the scenarios. Optimists will follow that up with the Dumb and Dumber memes, but it’s important to remember that even after beating the L.A. Chargers, Denver still has a 30% chance at a top five selection next year.
All this to say, it’s never too early to look at the Draft. It’s a fun hypothetical and a good way to start getting familiar with different players. To change things up for this week’s Mock Draft I thought it’d be interesting to have a dueling mock with another passionate arm chair GM, so I asked Mile High Huddle’s Nick Kendell to join me. In order to control for different picks around the Broncos, we both made picks in rounds one through three off of a single run through The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine.
Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity
1. Tristan Wirfs OT Iowa
2. Shaun Wade CB Ohio State
3A. Neville Gallimore DL Oklahoma
3B. Lloyd Cushenberry III iOL LSU
1. Isaiah Simmons LB Clemson
2. Prince Tega Wanogho OT Auburn
3A. Neville Gallimore DL Oklahoma
3B. DaVonta Smith WR Alabama
1st and 10
Why did you go with your first round pick?
Nick Kendell: I went with Iowa’s offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs because it’s time to fully invest in the offensive line. While Garett Bolles has been playing better as of late, his past inconsistencies coupled with questions regarding his work ethic and ability to take to coaching are enough to not warrant picking up the fifth-year option.
On top of that, Ja’Wuan James’ injury history has already reared its ugly head. Both tackles could hit free agency come 2021. Wirfs provides a starter at LT or RT in case of injury to either, but also could play guard year one if need be to get the ‘best five’ out there.
Wirfs is only 20 years old and an athletic freak. His consistency in his run blocking and aggression in pass sets can be dialed back, but the sky is the limit for this young buck. Receiving comparisons to the likes of Trent Williams, Wirfs would give Denver another building block on the offensive line to pair with Dalton Risner for hopefully the next decade. Solidifying the offensive line gives whoever the quarterback of the future is the best chance to be “the guy.”
I considered Simmons and Delpit, but personally I am still committed to the young offensive renaissance. Spend on fits and immediate guys on defense, but keep building that young offensive core.
I do like a # of WRs in this class... really need to see how the OL plays out the rest of the way, how the board falls, what Munch thinks, etc— Nick Kendell (@NickKendellMHH) October 9, 2019
But man it does feeeeeellll like nabbing one of Thomas or Wirfs would be hard to pass up for the #Broncos at this point. https://t.co/iMrwLn5XQY
JoRo: True neutralizers in the middle of the field are quietly becoming one of the biggest weapons defenses have against modern NFL offenses. Simmons has been a hybrid player for Clemson who can rush the passer, roam sideline to sideline and play all sorts of different coverages. He’d give Fangio a chess piece to move around to defend matchups against the Chiefs and a potential answer for Travis Kelce.
I thought long and hard about Wirfs because tackle is a big concern, and Delpit because I love the idea of a young dynamic duo on the back-end. My biggest issue with Wirfs is the limited amount of time he’s been on the left side creates a pretty big projection I’m not comfortable making just yet. On Delpit it comes down to fit. Kareem Jackson is going to be here in 2020 and offers far more as a safety than at corner.
Joe Flacco was able to pull off a win for the Broncos despite being pressured on 14 of 23 dropbacks.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 6, 2019
Flacco faced the highest pressure rate (60.9%) in a game by a winning QB since Andrew Luck was pressured on 61.0% of dropbacks in Week 7, 2016.#DENvsLAC | #BroncosCountry pic.twitter.com/VhAUnbInEi
2nd and 8
Sell me on your Day 2 plan.
Nick Kendell: Really Denver is not a good team, they need difference makers and scheme fits. The defensive backfield needs a shot in the arm in the worst way considering CHJ is likely on his way out the door and Callahan has not shown yet.
Given Denver’s interest in Minkah when available, getting a player that mirrors his skill set in Shawn Wade felt like a no brainer. The young redshirt sophomore, if he did declare, is arguably one of the highest upside corners in the college game. With length, ball skills, flexibility, and physicality Wade can man the boundary in Denver while also offering some versatility. If Wade returns, he looks like he could be a top 10 pick in 2021 and cornerback 1 in the Draft.
Man I love this one.@dpbrugler just compared Ohio State RSSO DB Shawn Wade to Minkah Fitzpatrick. From his size, tenacity, and versatility across the backfield, that’s one heck of a comparison. pic.twitter.com/Gis6iWlHym— Nick Kendell (@NickKendellMHH) October 2, 2019
Denver also needs some help on the defensive line. With all three of Shelby Harris, Adam Gotsis, and Derek Wolfe set to hit free agency. Gallimore is a freak athlete with crazy burst for a nose tackle. Given his pass rushing upside, he could stay on the field at 0/1 techinque in both base and sub package.
Purcell may have filled in well this past week, but Denver does not have a long-term option at nose. Getting someone with Gallimore’s pass rush upside from the interior is a key cog in reshaping the defense in Fangio’s eye.
Finally I would continue the offensive line rebuild nabbing Cushenberry. Athletically gifted and physical as heck, Cushenberry is a great fit to fill in for Leary as the Broncos transition to a run scheme featuring more zone looks. He is inconsistent and overeager at times, but under Munchak and adding Cushenberry to Wirfs and Risner (along with potentially McGovern and James) gives Denver their highest upside offensive line in eons and ensures Denver is a team that can dictate up front and control the pace of the game.
Given how the Colts just took it to the Chiefs this weekend in Arrowhead, replicating that dynamic offensive line formula and establishing a nasty offensive line is paramount in building a team that can stay pace with Kansas City in the AFC West.
Watching OU beat up UCLA and these eyes are always on the trenches...— Nick Kendell (@NickKendellMHH) September 12, 2018
RS JR Neville Gallimore had himself a game. The Canadian is listed as 6’3” 325lbs and the starting nose for the Sooners. Eating doubles and a nasty push pull to disengage. pic.twitter.com/uJvbFQpsxP
JoRo: In the second round I went with Prince Tega Wanogho because I can’t in good faith tell you Garett Bolles is a former first rounder worth the fifth year option. He’s improved the last few weeks, yes, but Rich Scangarello and the offense are also scheming around him. This idea that he’s suddenly a top five tackle is ridiculous.
The 6-foot-7, 304-pound tackle has both the length and athleticism to grow into an upper echelon bookend under Munchak, and with Bolles still under contract in 2020, he doesn’t have to be rushed into action until he’s ready.
Unfortunately, going Simmons/Prince in the first two rounds left me with a conundrum in the third. I went will BPA and grabbed Smith and Gallimore because Gallimore’s upside is enormous. He’s the kind of athletic big body that would thrive in Fangio’s scheme. As Nick said, even with Purcell showing out there is a real need along the defensive line.
Smith is an underrated receiver because he’s surrounded by so much talent around him that it’s overshadowing him. He’s a strong route runner and excellent hand catcher. While he may not wind up as the best athlete in this loaded class, at the end of the day those two skills are the most important ones for receivers and I like what I’ve seen there.
DeVonta Smith holds the #Alabama record for most receiving yards in a game with 274. pic.twitter.com/XKtFkW3yjs— BamaOnLine (@BamaOnLine247) October 4, 2019
3rd and 3
What’s your plan on Day 3?
Nick Kendell: Honestly day 3 just comes down to so many factors. Given that these picks are lottery tickets. High upside picks, guys with low upside but good special teamers or character guys, and lesser value positions litter this round. All applicable depending on how the board falls and current needs.
Expecting any of these players to be day 1 contributors outside of special teams is faulty in logic and expectation. I would be looking to add speed to the offense though and three players I would have my eyes on are Miami’s Jeff Thomas, Texas’ Devin Duvernay, Texas A&Ms Quartney Davis, and Penn State’s KJ Hamler. All maybe somewhat ‘niche’ but would provide a speed element to the Broncos passing offense.
After that it’s depth, depth, depth. At this point the position shouldn’t as much as the specific player and fit, given this player is likely to receive a development year their rookie season anyways (see Juwann Winfree and Justin Hollins pre-injury). Developmental QB, backup RB, a Y TE, DL, LB and DB all on the table, but for immediate impact I would be looking for athletes with high character and a NEED to contribute on special teams.
Timely Jeff Thomas post given I was talking about him this morning.— Nick Kendell (@NickKendellMHH) August 8, 2019
Looking for dynamic speed and down field ability with some jet sweep gadget upside? Thomas is a dude... https://t.co/mnA6NiCC1I
JoRo: Cornerback is my most pressing need by far. Duke Dawson has been a bit of a revelation two weeks in and I’m optimistic about his future, while Davontae Harris looked better than I dared hope last week.
If I’m allowed to, I’d argue since I’m GM resigning Chris Harris Jr. would be a priority this coming offseason regardless, but even still I’m concerned there. I’d definitely consider Cameron Dantzler in the fourth if he’s there.
After that I’d start chasing scheme fits as much as possible. Offensive line and safety depth are needs for me. Jake Hanson from Oregon is a guy I’d look at. Adding him as a potential may mean moving McGovern back to guard down the road though.
Double dipping on defensive line makes a lot of sense considering that Shelby Harris, Derek Wolfe, and the now benched Adam Gotsis are all due to depart. Even with as good as Purcell, DeMarcus Walker, and Dre’Mont Jones look, there’s a big need there.
Lastly, I wouldn’t rule out fresh blood at RB3 or another developmental QB. This looks like a loaded class at both positions which could push sleepers way down the board.
Beautiful Back Shoulder Fade Coverage from Mississippi State CB Cameron Dantzler!— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) September 26, 2019
➡️ Hop-Step Retreat to Catch Technique
Chest to Chest + Mirror Hand pic.twitter.com/4XmO3XGRKE
4th and inches
The Draft Network’s Mock Machine continually pushes Jordan Love down the board. In this mock he fell to the third round. Did you consider him? Why/Why not?
Nick Kendell: Absolutely him and Eason both. The Broncos MAY have their quarterback of the future in Lock but he’s also a lottery ticket at this point. Both Eason and Love have very high ceilings and the more irons in the fire the better chance for hitting on that quarterback. Just like Wilson hitting as a third rounder, Kyle Allen showing out as a UDFA, or Gardner Minshew, the odds of hitting QB do depend on when you take them, but continuing to search and taking multiple shots until one lands is crucial.
pick one— Derrik Klassen (@QBKlass) October 8, 2019
JoRo: Quarterback with Denver is a tricky situation. I believe if the team is bad enough to have a real chance at a true day one starter and potential franchise guy in the first round it’s worth considering.
Later on, it becomes a bit more complicated. They’re quite different players, but the Broncos already have a developmental type of quarterback in Drew Lock. With the way practice reps go, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to grab Love unless Elway and the coaching staff have given up on Lock. Since I haven’t seen him in regular season action yet, I’m not making that pick.
Which Mock Draft do you prefer?
This poll is closed
Nick Kendell’s is better!
JoRo’s is better!
Fire them both, I’ll do this myself. (Comment below)
Your Broncos Links
Is Alexander Johnson the Denver Broncos solution at linebacker? - Mile High Report
First signs are very promising.
Titans on deck as Phillip Lindsay and the offense look to run through another stout defense - Mile High Report
With the returned presence of Andy Janovich, and an ever-improving offensive line, the second-year back is having no trouble finding the creases he needs to create a hole.
Denver Broncos vs Tennessee Titans: Denver looks for a winning streak - Mile High Report
The Broncos got that winning feeling for the first time this season. On the day Champ Bailey is inducted in the Ring of Fame, make it all the more special with another win.
Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos betting odds: Week 6 - Mile High Report
The Denver Broncos have opened 2.5-point favorites at home over the Tennessee Titans in Week 6. Does that line favor the road team a bit too much?
Denver Broncos snap review from game 5 - Mile High Report
How some playing time changes had a huge impact on the outcome of the game for the Denver Broncos in Week 5.
Broncos One Step Closer To Unlocking Key To Contending In AFC West Again
The Broncos have taken some steps to contend in the division again but more investment upfront is needed.
Ranking All 32 NFL Kicking Situations, From Most Stable to Least - The Ringer
20. Brandon McManus, Denver Broncos
NFL Draft Links
6-Pack Thursday: 2020 Draft Prospects Whose Narratives Are Shifting | The Draft Network
Just like development in the NFL isn’t always linear, the same applies to the college game.
Pick Your Flavor: Comparing the 2020 RB Class to Ice Cream Flavors | The Draft Network
This year’s RB class is as diverse - and as good - as any in recent memory.
A look ahead to the Titans
The Rookie Scouting Portfolio (RSP)Mark Schofield’s RSP NFL Lens: Carson Wentz and Marcus Mariota–Showcases of Anticipation
Marcus Mariota has endured an up-and-down start to his career and enters the final year of his rookie contract with some uncertainty about his future with the Tennessee Titans. Every once in a while he puts together a performance that has people believing in him again, such as a game last year against the Dallas Cowboys that forced me to write about the potential breakthrough on these very pages.
The Titans quarterback had another such game last week against the Atlanta Falcons, completing 18 of 27 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns. One of those touchdowns was the best example of an anticipation throw I have seen in a long time.
Five best, worst NFL offensive lines: Cowboys shine, Jets a mess - NFL.com
Throughout his career, Marcus Mariota has turned pressure into sacks at a higher rate than any other quarterback. It’s hard to blame the quarterback, however, for the plague of third-down sacks that has sabotaged Mariota’s attack this year. Perhaps the best player on Tennessee’s offense, left tackle Taylor Lewan, experienced one of the worst afternoons of his career last week, coming off of a four-game suspension. Lewan was expected to be a salve for the team’s blocking pains, but the interior keeps getting exposed every week, with free-agent acquisition Rodger Saffold struggling and the right-guard tandem of rookie Nate Davis and career backup Jamil Douglas an unmitigated nightmare.
PFF Rankings: Top-25 Cornerbacks through Week 5 | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics | PFF
17. ADOREE’ JACKSON, TENNESSEE TITANS Over his first two seasons, Jackson had been one of the more heavily targeted cornerbacks in the NFL. His 214 targets across the 2017 and 2018 regular seasons ranked second in the league behind only Kyle Fuller. This year he has seen just 16 targets and allowed 11 receptions across five games, largely making the opposing receiver a non-factor. Jackson hasn’t allowed over 30 yards receiving in a game since Week 1 when he allowed 45 yards on four catches.
NFL contenders gone wrong - Barnwell ranks the six top playoff fallers
The AFC is a bit of a mess. The Chiefs lost to the Colts, which keeps the Chargers within two games in the AFC West. The Chargers beat Indy, which would come in handy if the two end up in a wild-card tiebreaker. After the 5-0 Patriots, the 4-1 Chiefs, and the 4-1 Bills, there are eight teams that are either 3-2 or 2-3 competing for three playoff spots. The Chargers don’t look like the team from 2018, but if they can stick around .500 and possibly get guys like James and Henry back on the field, they should be able to compete for a playoff spot in December.
What we learned from Patriots’ win over Giants - NFL.com
There was no 18-1 miracle to be had on Thursday night. The Patriots (6-0) forced four turnovers and scored twice off defense and special teams in a 35-14 mid-week win over the Giants (2-4) to stay undefeated.
What Deshaun Watson Did Was Awesome & I Wish It Happened More | The Draft Network
It’s been the unspoken -- actually, very outspoken -- war that’s been waging for as long as sports have existed. Media members versus the players.
What the Hell Is Wrong With the Browns Offense? - The Ringer
The only teams that have been worse than Cleveland on offense either (a) fired their coach at 5 a.m. on Monday, (b) employ a starting quarterback who has mono, or (c) are actively trying to lose as many games as possible. It doesn’t get much bleaker than that.
Film Room: Baker Mayfield | Football Outsiders
Mayfield is not a well-versed quick-game passer on non-RPO or play-action passes. On traditional dropback concepts that require sharp timing and careful ball placement, Mayfield consistently struggles to get the job done. Rarely does Mayfield hit the top of his dropback, identify the correct target in time, and make an accurate throw. He regularly plays gun-shy or unaware of where to go with the ball.
Cincinnati Bengals’ A.J. Green ready for anything at deadline
Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green says he’s ready for anything as the trade deadline approaches.
Jaguars owner thinks Jalen Ramsey will play Sunday - NFL.com
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan anticipates cornerback Jalen Ramsey playing Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Ramsey missed the last two games due to a back injury.
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ QB Job Is Now Gardner Minshew II’s to Lose - The Ringer
Spoiler alert: it has been for a long while now.