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Dueling Broncos Mocks: Franchise tackle or game-breaking linebacker?

For this week’s Mock Draft series, we let you decide.

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Chicago Bears v Denver Broncos
What would you do if you were John Elway?
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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

Nick’s Picks

1. Tristan Wirfs OT Iowa

2. Shaun Wade CB Ohio State

3A. Neville Gallimore DL Oklahoma

3B. Lloyd Cushenberry III iOL LSU

Joe’s Picks

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

  • 53%
    Nick Kendell’s is better!
    (130 votes)
  • 20%
    JoRo’s is better!
    (51 votes)
  • 25%
    Fire them both, I’ll do this myself. (Comment below)
    (62 votes)
243 votes total Vote Now

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