If you’ve been keeping up with my 2020 posts, this will feel a lot like an update rather than a revolutionary thought. In fact, if it feels like I’ve been writing about the 2020 off-season since training camp, it’s because I have. I’ve talked about positional value and draft needs with Mile High Huddle’s Nick Kendell to understand how he sees things, and I’ve talked about the Broncos’ needs after week five.
So how would I rank the needs in the post-Joe Flacco era with the Broncos sitting at 4-6?
Until Drew Lock, Brandon Allen, or _________ comes in and proves they’re the worthy heir to Peyton Manning, this remains the biggest need on the roster. With Patrick Mahomes in the AFC West, the reality is, Denver needs something resembling average play at worst to have a legitimate chance at contending beyond fluke years.
There’s definitely an argument to be made that a game manager type with enough help around him can take a Vic Fangio led defense into the playoffs. After all, the Bears went 12-4 last year with Mitch Trubisky, Jimmy Garropolo’s hardly the straw that stirs the drink in San Francisco, and the Minnesota Vikings are elevating Kirk Cousins’ play far more than he’s pushing their offense to another level. Heck, before Mahomes, the Chiefs were playoff contenders with Alex Smith from 2013 to 2017.
But I digress. My point is that the Broncos and John Elway need to keep an open mind at the position unless Drew Lock blows their socks off over the final months of 2019.
1B. Left Tackle
It’s a weekly segment in the local media for a radio host to go on a long rant about, “why is Garett Bolles still starting, rawr!” I’ve said multiple times that it’s due to the lack of alternatives, but the point remains: Elway’s 2017 first round pick is a bust. It wouldn’t surprise me if he washes out of the league after he’s done in Denver.
You could make the argument that right tackle remains a big need because Ja’Wuan James’ injury leaves both book ends in a lurch, but I remain optimistic he’ll find his way back to health and provide average to solid play.
2. Wide Receiver
Until John Elway errs and lets Chris Harris Jr. walk in 2020, or Davontae Harris is badly exposed, I’d argue this is actually a bigger need than cornerback. Especially if Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton don’t come on with the switch at quarterback.
I’m optimistic one of the two will do so and will happily adjust these rankings if that happens, but Diontae Spencer played 50% of the Broncos’ offensive snaps against the Cleveland Browns. Rich Scangarello used him on motion and vertical routes to create space for Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant to operate. I’m not sure either Hamilton or Patrick can do that, and in an ideal world, Spencer fits on the roster as a returner and reserve pass catcher.
This line of thinking is a big reason why I drafted Henry Ruggs III in my most recent mock draft.
This becomes a much larger need if Strap leaves in the off-season. If that happens, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Elway looks to the veteran market with so many young corners behind him on the depth chart. Davontae Harris, De’Vante Bausby, Isaac Yiadom, Duke Dawson, and Bryce Callahan all look like locks to compete next preseason.
Even if Harris returns, he’ll be 31 before training camp opens in 2020. I’ve already talked about why I’m not 100% sold on D.Harris just yet, and Bausby’s health situation creates some doubt about his return. Fangio and Ed Donatell have been making music at this position, but with two elite passing attacks and the Los Angeles Chargers in the division until they move to London, you can never have too many talented coverage players.
This, per Over the Cap’s Nick Korte:
By March 10, the Broncos must make a decision on the team option on Ron Leary’s 2020 contract year. If they exercise it, $1.5 million of his base salary will become fully guaranteed, and will be a strong indication that Leary will remain a Bronco in 2020. If they decline it, they would no longer be liable for a total of $8.5 million in cash yet to be paid, and Leary would become an Unrestricted Free Agent at the start of the 2020 league year. In addition, Leary will be eligible to become a Compensatory Free Agent that could reward the Broncos with a compensatory draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Add that to the fact that Connor McGovern is an unrestricted free agent and you’re looking at what could become a really big need.
5. Defensive Line
There is a similar contract situation coming to the interior defensive line. Derrick Wolfe has been playing out of his mind lately and Shelby Harris has been a pass tipping machine. Both are playing out the last months of their current contracts. Behind them is Dre’Mont Jones and DeMarcus Walker. While Broncos Country loves Mike Purcell, it’s probably unrealistic to expect more than his current role.
With the way Alexander Johnson is playing, this isn’t anywhere near the need it was two months ago. Todd Davis is a quality second banana. Justin Hollins was getting reps here and along the Edge before Bradley Chubb got hurt, so that may resume next year. It wouldn’t hurt to grab a three down type of prospect here in next year’s draft, though. Strong coverage from the stack backers and slot corner really shores up one of weaknesses Fangio’s defensive system has by design: crossers and slants in the middle of the field.
This moves up into the top three if Justin Simmons leaves. One of the things that gets lost among those arguing positional value is how different schemes impact it. In the Fangio defense, safety’s are every bit as important as strong corner play. Maybe even more so. Look no further than what Kareem Jackson did to help transform the defense.
Which is one big reason I wouldn’t hate the addition of a Day Two talent at the position. Jackson is going to be 32 by the time the draft rolls around. While I love Will Parks, he’s an unrestricted free agent and looked like he may fit the defense better as a slot corner than true safety.
Scouting this position is tricky because so much of what the Godfather asks for is competency at the mental aspects of the game. I’ll have a better grasp of the prospects if I can get my hands on some All-22. But keep that in mind when you see Grant Delpit or ____ mocked to the Broncos.
Your Broncos Links
Denver Broncos at Minnesota Vikings odds: Denver 10.5-point underdogs - Mile High Report
The Denver Broncos are huge road underdogs to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11. The latest shows a 10.5 point spread on this game.
Denver Broncos at Minnesota Vikings: Denver faces tough odds - Mile High Report
For the Broncos to come away with the upset on Sunday, they need to control the clock and pray to a higher power.
Rick Spielman and John Elway have walked a similar path as executives - Mile High Report
Rick Spielman and John Elway’s careers thus far share a lot of similarities, from the QB search, to coaching search, to offensive philosophy.
Denver Broncos news: What all reports of Drew Lock practicing mean - Mile High Report
Drew Lock finally back on the practice field. Get ready, Broncos Country...
Denver Broncos: What to expect from Brandon Allen vs. Minnesota Vikings - Mile High Report
Many starting quarterbacks play well in their first start, but few continue to play at that same level for long.
NFL Draft Links
I have long said that no one remembers or cares what you gave up to get your franchise QB if you hit and land them.— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) November 12, 2019
The issue becomes, what happens when you think you have the guy, then 4 years in you're not quite sure anymore? https://t.co/xgSHk8rGGg
2020 NFL Mock Draft: A Dueling Banjos’ First Round Mock - Mile High Report
9. Denver Broncos - WR - Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
Rich Scangarello has a need, a need for speed. Some will hate this pick because it isn’t a tackle. They’ll point to Alex Leatherwood or Austin Jackson. I see it, but after Saturday’s LSU-Alabama game, I need to take a closer look at Leatherwood’s season and I don’t have Jackson in this tier of prospects right now. I also see an offense that just played Diontae Spencer on 50% of its offensive snaps and could use a legitimate burner on motion and deep routes to open up room for the rushing attack, Noah Fant and Courtland Sutton. Phillip Lindsay won’t complain if Ruggs demands so much attention he and Royce Freeman can operate against lighter boxes, so I won’t either.
Give me Jeudy.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) November 13, 2019
What say you #Broncos Country? https://t.co/97rya7nrkB
Draft Hunt: South Carolina DT/DE Javon Kinlaw - Silver And Black Pride
As a 6-foot-6, 310 pound defensive tackle for the University of South Carolina, Javon Kinlaw lines up all over the Gamecocks’ defensive front and can capably play at the 1-, 3-, and 5-technique spots.
I started scouting in 2003. This upcoming WR class is the best I've ever seen.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) November 13, 2019
Lessons from every Super Bowl contender’s 2019 disaster game
The Chiefs’ defense was carved up Sunday in Tennessee. The Saints flopped at home against the Falcons. Every good team has a bad day.
Dak Prescott headed to tag after no progress on new deal - NFL.com
If the Cowboys gave Prescott the exclusive franchise tag, it would cost them more than $33 million. If he’s tagged again in 2021, it would eclipse $40 million, and he could become a free agent in 2022 if they haven’t struck a pact.
Panthers’ Cam Newton (foot) now considering surgery - NFL.com
Allen, who surprisingly emerged as the starter, also has a fascinating contract situation. In his second year, Allen just has one accrued season because he spent most of last season on the practice squad. That means he was cut off his rookie contract. Because of that, he’s a rare starting QB who can be extended at any point. In fact, if Carolina wanted, it could extend Allen this offseason -- a year earlier than all other players who came out in 2018. If he’s not extended, he’s an incredible bargain for the Panthers. Making $495,000 this year, he’s going to be an exclusive rights free agent in 2020 and 2021, then restricted in 2022. Only then would he be free. The Panthers can change that by locking him up before then. Either way, plenty of decisions await Carolina this offseason.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos interested in owning NFL team, has strong support among current owners - CBSSports.com
The owner of Amazon and the Washington Post could be the next person to join the NFL’s ownership ranks.
The Starting 11: The AFC’s Middle Class Is More Confusing Than Ever - The Ringer
With the Patrick Mahomes—led Chiefs falling to the Titans this week, and the Raiders, Steelers, and Ravens securing big wins, there’s almost nothing certain about the AFC playoff race right now. Plus: Lamar Jackson’s MVP candidacy is gaining steam.
Brian Flores: Dolphins will have someone at Colin Kaepernick workout – ProFootballTalk
The NFL has arranged for Colin Kaepernick to work out and sit down for an interview in Atlanta on Saturday with video of both sessions made available to NFL teams.
Is Colin Kaepernick’s Private NFL Workout a Legit Shot? - The Ringer
Out of nowhere, the ousted quarterback finally has been granted an opening to potentially get back to the NFL. The circumstances around Saturday’s scheduled workout, however, suggest that the odds will not be in his favor.
So Colin Kaepernick's workout is closed off to the media, and we don't know who will be in attendance? So the only reviews of it will come from anonymous employees of a league that blackballed him? Lol ok. pic.twitter.com/trdDpkSBIc— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) November 13, 2019
Frank Reich: We believe Adam Vinatieri is the answer – ProFootballTalk
The Colts brought in four kickers for workouts on Tuesday, but seeing other kickers in action did nothing to dissuade them from their opinion that Adam Vinatieri is the right man for the job.
Jacoby Brissett will start Sunday barring a setback – ProFootballTalk
Jacoby Brissett will have a full practice Wednesday, Colts coach Frank Reich told reporters. That means, barring a setback, Brissett will start Sunday. Brissett played only 15 plays in the Week Nine game against the Steelers before injuring his knee.
Ranking Nick Bosa, Kyler Murray, and the Rookie of the Year Contenders - The Ringer
There’s a clear-cut favorite on defense, but we’ve got a three-man race on offense
‘Slow News Day’: We Were Wrong About Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders - The Ringer
Gruden and Co. are in position to make the playoffs, so Kevin explains how the coach was right the whole time.