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Should the Broncos go “Best Player Available?”

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A very early look at how to maximize the Denver Broncos first round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos
Locking in on one position is how Elway wound up with two of his biggest busts.
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

For some in Broncos Country, the 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Chargers this past Sunday was bittersweet. By climbing to four wins on the year, Denver has seen its chances at a top five pick shrink quite a bit.

As I mentioned last week, Denver had reached a bit of a glass ceiling when they fell to fifth in the draft order. The Bengals, Giants, Dolphins, and Washington were going to need to win two games while the Broncos lost out in order for them to climb. The Cardinals, Falcons, and Lions now join in that scenario as teams who will need to win a couple times for Denver to fall up.

All this to say that I wouldn’t bet on the Broncos selecting higher than seventh in the draft at this point. Even with Houston and Kansas City on the remaining schedule, there looms a distinct possibility they could fall even further because Detroit is busy cratering while Oakland has slipped in recent weeks.

What this means is that both of the top tier left tackle prospects look like long shots right now. That could change of course, as draft stock is extremely fluid. Still, it may be a good time for the armchair GM’s to start to familiarize themselves with some of the other prospects that could be available when Denver’s on the clock.

So for this week’s Mock Draft, I wanted to try something different. Using The Draft Network’s Mock Machine, I ran through the current draft order with picks I could feasibly see every team selecting to give you, dear reader, an idea of who could be available. I then wanted to share a few of my own thoughts on each prospect and how they could be a way for John Elway to take the best player available.

Let’s get started.

1. Cincinnati Bengals- QB, Joe Burrow, LSU

2. New York Giants - ED, Chase Young, OSU

These two top picks currently look pretty stable regardless of who winds up at number two. The wildcard scenario is a team at two has Joe Burrow on the board. I currently believe if that’s the case, it would lead to a trade up.

For that reason, I’m not giving the “Chase Young to Denver” dreams too much thought at the moment. Yes, it’s less likely than Bradley Chubb’s slide in 2018. It would be monumental barring some sort of huge character concern cropping up.

3. Washington - WR, Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

Snyder is a bit of a wildcard if he can’t grab Young. For now, I believe he’d take a receiver here because of the jersey sale fan excitement factor.

4. Miami Dolphins - QB, Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

This looks crazy right now because of the Tagovailoa injury, but if he receives a clean bill of health, the Southpaw remains one of the more tantalizing prospects. Durability makes this a more shaky guess, but for this scenario, let’s slot him here.

5. Atlanta Falcons - CB, Jeffrey Okudah, OSU

The dirty birds could go in a number of directions if they pick at five. The only real prospects I’d take off the board for them are the receivers and tackles because they’re pretty stocked at both positions through solid play or recent investments. If the new coaching staff is high on Isaiah Oliver, the 2018 second round pick could mean they don’t go after the Buckeye here. An edge rusher or Isaiah Simmons could make sense to fortify their defensive front.

At least right now they look like realistic trading partner if someone is trying to move up.

6. Detroit Lions - CB, A.J. Epenesa, Iowa

I’ve got a few friends who follow the Lions like I do the Broncos, and all of them have balked at the idea of Isaiah Simmons. Not because of anything he lacks so much as his size and how he doesn’t seem to fit the profile of a Bob Quinn/Matt Patricia linebacker.

Obviously that could all change if the Fords clean house, but for now I went with another selection that makes some sense for them. I thought about Tristan Wirfs, as Ricky Wagner could be gone next year, but they could badly use more edge help and Epenesa has the kind of size the current coaching staff seems to prefer up front.

7. Arizona Cardinals - OT, Tristan Wirfs, Iowa

Now that Steve Keims finally seems happy with his head coach and quarterback play, it’s time to give them a real chance at success. They have a million defensive needs as well, but you can’t pass on a bookend tackle here with D.J. Humphries and Justin Murray starting games for you.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars - X, Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

One of the unsung factors in Jacksonville’s decline is how poorly Myles Jack has played this year after signing his $57 million extension. The retired Telvin Smith was recently arrested in his home and is no sure bet to return in 2020. Even if he does, Simmons could be a big boost for the Jaguars’ defense as a third backer/safety hybrid who can also carry slot duties.

9. New York Jets - LT, Andrew Thomas, Georgia

The Jets could go a couple of directions here that’d make a lot of sense for them. With Demaryius Thomas a starting boundary receiver and Robby Anderson a looming free agent, receiver is a pressing need. Someone like CeeDee Lamb would look good as a younger D.T. in the Gase offense.

That said, I’d think they roll with a blindside protector for Darnold if top tier one is available at their selection.

10. Los Angeles Chargers - QB, Justin Herbert, Oregon

This is probably the floor for Tua Tagovailoa if he’s medically cleared. Philip Rivers is a pending free agent and there were reports the coaching staff would bench him leading up to the game on Sunday. Got to think they’re looking to move on.

If for some reason they don’t, any and all offensive line help is 1B as their need. It’s the biggest thing holding this roster back beyond injuries and Chargers $#!+.

11. ?

This of course brings us to the Broncos selection at 11. In this scenario there are a number of prospects on the board that make a great deal of sense.

WR - CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs III, Tee Higgins

I’ve seen some in Broncos Country stump for a receiver after Drew Lock was not sacked once in the win over LA, so it’s a good time to look at who appears to be the best available.

Lamb plays for Oklahoma and has averaged over 20 yards a catch for the Lincoln Riley offense. That’s an eye-popping number, even as you consider the fact that he plays Big 12 defenses. He appears to have very good ball skills and underrated athleticism which really shines after the catch. He may not run the fastest 40 or stand the talent, but he may just be the best overall receiver in this generational class.

Ruggs is the speed merchant who looks like he’ll threaten the 40 time record at the combine. He’s no one-trick pony either, and through most of the season, Tagovailoa had a perfect passer rating when he was the target. His athleticism and inside/out versatility could create a number of mismatches at the next level, as coordinators will have to account for him on every play. The vertical threat he creates will probably complicate coverage assignments.

Higgins fits in as a better version of Tim Patrick. He’s 6’4” and combines a large catch radius with a willingness to make grabs in the face of imminent contact. He’s fast enough and skilled enough to be a true threat on Go routes, as well as a dangerous red zone target while also projecting as a quality yards-after-catch playmaker.

DL - Derrick Brown, Javon Kinlaw

Brown is currently earning a lot of praise in the draft community for what he did to the Crimson Tide last weekend. He’s the kind of war daddy that could eventually become Fangio’s next Akiem Hicks with rare athleticism for a 320 lb man.

Kinlaw gets overlooked because he plays for South Carolina, but he played a key role in the Gamecock’s upset over the Georgia Bulldogs. He was a menace on the interior and caused Jake Fromm a number of issues.

CB - Trevon Diggs, Kristian Fulton

There are a number of cornerbacks that could make sense for the Fangio defense. Right now it looks like these two are the best available by most analysts.

Diggs plays for Alabama and Nick Saban’s coverages are such that a transition to the Broncos’ secondary wouldn’t be a huge ask of him. He’s also a long, experienced corner who could step in as a day one starter and has a lot of upside. Lastly, he’s a reliable tackler who has played both inside and outside in the SEC.

Fulton plays for LSU and has the kind of athleticism you chase after in Madden. He’s smaller than Diggs, but looks faster. He does get a bit handsy in coverage and will need to improve his technique at the NFL level to be reliable.

OT - Alex Leatherwood, Jedrick Willis

In recent weeks, Leatherwood has been a popular selection in the MHR’s Vote mocks because he’s a left tackle and Garett Bolles remains a bottom three bookend in NFL. I still need to go back and study his game, but a couple of factors that help him in my mind are his athleticism and the fact that he has played both right guard and left tackle for Nick Saban.

The things that put the biggest damper on him for me are his games against LSU and Auburn. He struggled against K’LaVon Chaisson and had an untimely penalty last Saturday. He’s also currently considered the third (or lower) tackle by most analysts. Picking him would seemingly imply BPA is not truly at play, because the Broncos would be moving to patch a big hole with potentially better prospects available.

His teammate and Tide right tackle is only here because of some speculation that Ja’Wuan James may eventually take over the left tackle spot over these last four games. I don’t consider him a realistic prospect at this point because James’ best spot in the NFL has been on the right side.

Your Broncos Links

Denver Broncos 9 winners, 3 losers in last-second win over LA Chargers - Mile High Report

Drew Lock-to-Courtland Sutton: That’s something Broncos Country could get used to hearing in the years to come.

7 things we learned from Broncos 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Chargers - Mile High Report

Drew Lock passes his first test.

Broncos win over Chargers punctuated with passion - Mile High Report

What happens when players and coaches desperately want to win in spite of each other?

The Big Takeaway: Broncos Drew Lock is ready for the NFL - Mile High Report

Drew Lock showed he belonged in the NFL with a solid performance for the Denver Broncos against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Gutsy calls, heroic play seal Denver’s fourth win - Mile High Report

And what a win it was.

Is Drew Lock the Broncos QB of the Future? | The Draft Network

It will take more than looking competent. He cannot be the reason Denver loses games down the backstretch. After all, it is the common denominator the Broncos will want to consider before heading into the offseason with another franchise-altering decision on their hands.

Broncos Draft Links

A Way-Too-Early Denver Broncos 2020 NFL Draft Board - Mile High Report

Because it’s never too early to over-analyze prospects, here is my 2020 NFL draft board for the Denver Broncos.

NFL Links

AFC playoff picture: Meet the new boss – ProFootballTalk

Mike Tomlin’s coach of the year case looks pretty good right now.

How much player gambling is happening? – ProFootballTalk

“Not that this is the tip of the iceberg or anything, but I do think there’s more gambling going on than anyone thinks,” a veteran front-office executive told Peter King of NBC’s Football Morning in America. “I believe fantasy football is a gateway drug; how many players play fantasy football, and for how much money in their leagues? Maybe not much, but the temptation has to be there to use inside info about your own team to use in a league. Players play cards and dominoes in the locker room. I just think it’s too easy for players to think they can get an edge because they’re sure they know more than the average bettor.”

Roundup: Cardinals waiving CB Tramaine Brock - NFL.com

Brock was Arizona’s best cover corner in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus, but that didn’t help much against the Rams. Jared Goff completed 32 of 43 passes for 424 yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinals, who allowed an average separation of four yards per target, the second-highest mark in the NFL in Week 13, per Next Gen Stats.

Pederson: ‘It’s a long shot’ Eagles make playoffs - NFL.com

”I mean, that’s the thing, as crazy as this is, I would say it’s a long shot, but we’re not out of it,” he said. “We do have four of our division opponents coming up. The guys gotta understand that, and it’s my job to make sure they do understand that -- that we’re still fighting and coming to work this week and ready to go and try to figure this thing out. But I’ve gotta show them exactly where we are and what we need to do with these next four games.”

The Patriots Just Laid Their December Egg. What Does That Teach Us? - The Ringer

New England is still a force to be reckoned with in the AFC race, but Sunday’s loss to the Texans showed that the team faces some issues that it hasn’t in recent years

Tom Brady is showing signs of a decline. Is it real or another mirage?

I’m more concerned about the offense as a whole than I am about Brady individually. This time, though, it’s easier to see a less impressive Brady on tape. There are reasons to be worried about both Brady and the players around him, and there aren’t the sorts of obvious paths to improvement there were with Gronkowski still on the team. I’ll spoil the conclusion for you now: It’s absolutely too early to say that Brady is finished and that he won’t hit his prior level of play, but there are more reasons to be concerned about this Pats offense than there have been at any point in recent memory.

Exit Interview: Detroit Lions - The Ringer

Matthew Stafford looked as good as ever this year, but that doesn’t matter much when playing with a defense like this