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My Pre-Combine Mock Offseason

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What I’d do with the Denver Broncos offseason, if given the opportunity.

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Mississippi State vs Iowa
It pays to be patient. Jeffery Simmons is an elite prospect, even if he can’t suit up in 2019.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

First a big disclaimer. I’m not making this to tel you what I think the Broncos will do in the upcoming draft. To be completely forthright, mock drafts before the combine are a bit of a tossup regardless as team’s boards will change based upon the testing and interviews that happen over the next couple of months. Instead, I thought what this mock could provide is my thoughts on what the Broncos could really use, based upon the tape study I’ve done thus far.

One of the things Elway did last year that I fully endorse is this idea that you try to create a feasible 2-deep prior to the draft. This way, there’s more freedom to chase the best player available come draft day without a glaring need demanding a reach. So with that in mind, this is a quick look at what I think the Broncos should do in free agency.

Sign Adrian Amos from the Chicago Bears

This is the one true splash signing I want for next year’s Broncos. Safety isn’t a glaring need at first glance. Justin Simmons and Will Parks both had their moments last year, and Fangio rarely utilizes 3 safeties in his nickel packages, but Amos is the kind of player that covers your sins.

He’s a strong deep defender and could instantly step in as the best Broncos coverage defender who isn’t named Chris Harris. Last year’s team was among the worst in the league on deep passes as well as throws to the middle of the field. Amos is a Fangio scheme fit that helps patch both holes.

Sign Aaron Lynch from the Chicago Bears

With Shaq Barrett and Shane Ray leaving the Broncos this spring, Jeff Holland steps in as the primary depth behind Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. I’m higher on Holland than just about anyone, but that’s irresponsible. Lynch was drafted to the 49ers back when Fangio was the DC there and followed him to Chicago. He’s the kind of guy that won’t set the world on fire, but fits the scheme and provides valuable snaps when the starters need air.

Resign Billy Turner

His versatility and price tag would be perfect for a Broncos line in flux as he could play right tackle or move inside. I wouldn’t be shocked if Mike Munchak molds Turner into an above average NFL starter at right tackle.

Sign Jesse James from the Pittsburgh Steelers

There’s no doubt that this upcoming free agent tight end class is underwhelming. Jared Cook is the headliner, but will be overpaid. James is probably two tiers below a player like Cook, but steps into the role that Jeff Heuerman was supposed to fill. He’s a solid outlet target and provides a short term answer at the position.

Sign Johnathan Hankins from the Oakland Raiders

Rumors surfaced last week about this one, and I’m all for it. Hankins is the kind of nose that perfectly fits into Fangio’s system as he has some ability to play on passing downs, yet still stout enough to man the pivot in the base 3-4.

Chase some corners

Recent history with the Bears and 49ers suggests he’ll groom his guys. In Chicago Fangio inherited Kyle Fuller who was drafted in the first round in 2014 and the team signed Prince Amukamara to a prove it deal back in 2017 that got him extended last year. With San Francisco Fangio had Carlos Rodgers and Tarell Brown.

What I have seen of last year’s Bears suggests the 2019 Broncos won’t be as dependent on man coverage as they were under Vance Joseph. Fangio utilized a lot of matchup zones and zone blitz’. I wouldn’t chase Bradley Roby as the market will push his price past the point where he’s worth retaining. A few guys that intrigue me are Morris Claiborne from the Jets, and Pierre Desir from the Colts. If Jimmy Smith of the Ravens becomes a cap casualty, he’d be worth a look. Wink Martindale runs one of the more complex defenses in the league and Smith comes with the ability to do it all.

Cost would obviously be a factor here, as the corner market looks like it’s headed towards funny money season, but when your two deep is Harris, Isaac Yiadom and... Brendan Langley? Some rocks need to be rolled over.

1st round (20th) - Byron Murphy - CB

I think if Lock goes before 10, the best possible move is to trade back (multiple times if possible) to load up on ammo for the 2020 QB class. In this scenario, Washington moves up to grab Kyler Murray, and Pittsburgh moves up to nab Greedy Williams, who slides. In moving down 10 spots the Broncos load up on Day 2 capital in 2020, which will probably be necessary to move if we’re grabbing a new franchise quarterback.

As for the pick, I think Murphy is a strong fit for Fangio’s system. Some have had him to Denver at 10, but I think concerns about his size and the fact that he isn’t the same kind of bump and run menace Greedy is will cause a few teams to cool on him.

Their mistake will be to our benefit. This is what The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs had to say about Murphy.

2019 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings | The Draft Network

PROSPECT COMPARISON - Kyle Fuller

Byron Murphy is an elite prospect who can plug into just about any system at play at a high level. Murphy has surreal mobility and polish for a younger prospect. His explosiveness, ball skills and route recognition skills make him a great fit to play in both shallow and short zones. Murphy would have little issue stepping up and filling on the boundary or contesting shallow throws in front of his face. Murphy has the upside to be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL by the end of year 3.

2nd round (41st) - Dalton Risner - OT/OG

Not a sexy pick, but Risner would give Munchak even more flexibility with the line and provides real insurance against yet another Ronald Leary injury. He’s a strong pass blocker and brings a mauler’s mentality to the running game. He does have some issues with footwork and a lack of length may mean he’s a guard, but I fully trust in Munchak to figure that out and make the best of him.

For Wiggins native Dalton Risner, being drafted by Broncos would be a “blessing”

MOBILE, Ala. – Kansas State right tackle Dalton Risner grew up in Wiggins, Colo., about 65 miles northwest of Broncos Stadium at Mile High. He grew up a Broncos fan. And one of his Senior Bowl Week highlights here has been meeting former Broncos safety Steve Atwater.

3rd round (71) Jeffery Simmons - DT

Prior to tearing his ACL earlier this month, Simmons was considered a first round prospect in this coming draft. This is a bit of a projection, as few know where he’ll slide after the injury. He won’t provide much if anything in 2019, but offers the kind of high upside that’s well worth an investment. If you read my piece on Shelby Harris last weekend, you’ll know I’m a full subscriber to Bill Parcells’ “planet theory” and Simmons has the athletic tools to give the Broncos a longterm answer up front in Fangio’s 2-4 nickel.

Simmons and Harris could become the best DL duo in the AFC West by 2020.

If he isn’t here, Jace Steinberger is the apple of my eye in this tight end class. He’s a bit of a developmental prospect, but offers the kind of athletic tools that you dream of. With James, Butt, and even Fumagali ahead of him, he’d have plenty of time to refine his route running and blocking technique.

4th round (125) - KeeSean Johnson - WR

A player that the Broncos have already shown interest in at the East-West Shrine game, Johnson could potentially provide the Broncos long term insurance against Emmanuel Sanders. He’s an explosive downfield threat and hauled in 275 receptions for 3,463 yards and 24 touchdowns during his collegiate career. He may need time to develop stepping to the league from Fresno State, but the value is there.

5th round (148) - Tyree Jackson - QB

Jackson’s a player I’ve gone back and forth on a bit. He’s a toolsy gamble but will need serious refinement to become anything more than an entertaining disaster at the professional level. I wouldn’t take him earlier than this, but on Day 3 in the draft it makes sense to see if Rich Scangarello and T.C. McCartney can polish the rocket armed project.

Can’t teach arm strength and Jackson has it in spades.

5th round (156) - Isaiah Johnson - CB

Johnson is a long term developmental guy that could eventually pair with Murphy as the “big” receiver corner. He started his collegiate career at receiver and needs work on things like his footwork, tackling and response to the ball in the air but has the kind of athletic talent that can’t be coached. Needs work, but could be a versatile weapon in both match zone and true man coverage. In the short term he’d step in as a special team contributor on punt and kickoff coverage.

6th round (182) Brett Rypien - QB

Normally, I hate taking late round quarterbacks, so two seems crazy. But the “quarterback tax” is a real thing, as anyone who shows a lick of potential tends to go the first two rounds of the draft. With that in mind, when I ran The Draft Network’s new Mock Machine, Rypien was available in the 6th. I wouldn’t pass on that. Don’t get me wrong, I doubt he’s the next Tom Brady, but considering that Joe Flacco is 34 and a year-to-year answer at best, with Kevin Hogan backing him up?

Let’s see if Scangarello can find a diamond in the rough.

7th round (237) - Shareef Miller

This is a dart throw on the kind of athletic talent that could eventually replace Lynch or Holland and give relief to Miller and Chubb.

One thing I know this endeavor misses on is adding an inside linebacker. Devin White is my #1 pick at the moment, but in this scenario the idea of adding ammo to grab a real franchise quarterback is just too tempting. Then later in the draft the value just wasn’t there. If this were to happen, Fangio would make hay with Todd Davis and Josey Jewell and it would become the number one (non QB) priority in 2020.

What do you think Broncos Country?

Your Broncos Links

Denver Broncos Mock Draft Database 2019: Pre-Combine Edition - Mile High Report

The final count here was six cornerbacks, four quarterbacks, two offensive tackles, a wide receiver and a defensive lineman.

Draft Class Heroes: NFL Combine Preview - The Draft Network

This week we change it up a bit, as I offer my Pre-Combine Superlatives at each position group, including who has the most prove and a sleeper to watch at each spot.

NFL Draft 2019: Ed Oliver can be a special pass rusher at next level - SBNation.com

Oliver played the hell out of a zero nose in college, but I don’t think anyone believes that’s where he’ll be playing as a professional. That isn’t to say that he didn’t do a good job there. Hell, he did a fantastic job most of the time. But at his size, and with his power, speed, and quickness, NFL teams are a lot more likely to have him lined up out in the B gap, or wider, instead.

Identifying Ceiling - Amani Oruwariye - The Draft Network

This isn’t to say that Oruwariye is guaranteed to find long-term success in the NFL, because there is no such thing as a perfect prospect. However, I’m comfortable saying that his ceiling is that of a premiere cornerback in the league.

The All-22: Why NFL pressure could be a problem for Dwayne Haskins | Touchdown Wire

Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins may be the best quarterback in the 2019 draft class. But there’s one thing he needs to work out.

Nate Geary’s Top Five QBs: #5 Tyree Jackson | Cover 1

If he has an opportunity to sit for a year or two and learn from a veteran – the Chargers strike me as a perfect situation – I think he’ll have a chance to reach, or at the very least come close to, the ceiling many people believe he possesses.

Searching For Linebacker Depth In 2019 NFL Draft - The Draft Network

So beyond the top three guys, here are a few names to keep an eye on in a position group that is lacking in depth, but could provide some early opportunity for guys who might not have gotten it otherwise if they were coming out in a different year.

LEDYARD’S 2019 NFL MOCK DRAFT 6.0 | The Draft Network

Broncos Quinnen Williams IDL, Alabama

What is this? Quinnen Williams at no. 10? Are you high? I am not, and Williams could go anywhere from 1-10 in my opinion, but it is hard to find logical landing spots for him from 2-8 if the Jets hold onto Leonard Williams and the Bucs hold onto McCoy. Denver needs difference makers on the offensive line and in the secondary, but a chance to add Williams to a group of Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and Derek Wolfe can’t and shouldn’t be passed up.

NFL Links

Kraft Visited Massage Parlor Morning Of AFC Title Game: Documents | Patch

Kraft Court Date Tenatively Set - Foxborough, MA - Court documents say Kraft was caught on camera receiving a sexual act from a woman and giving her a $100 bill and another unknown bill.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft officially charged with first degree solicitation of a prostitute

If convicted, Kraft could face one year in jail, a $5,000 fine, 100 hours of community service and attendance in a human trafficking dangers class.

SN exclusive: XFL confirms talks with Colin Kaepernick | NFL | Sporting News

An XFL spokesman confirmed to Sporting News on Monday that Kaepernick talked with executives about joining the league this past fall.

The All-Bad NFL Combine Team: 29 players who overcame bad pre-draft workouts - SBNation.com

You can make a career for yourself even if you don’t do anything impressive in Indianapolis.

Mike Shanahan: Kirk Cousins right QB for Vikings, but supporting cast has to improve – ProFootballTalk

“Both guys are very easy to work with, both are extremely bright, have great work ethics and I think both will work together perfectly,” Shanahan said, via Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “You have the right [quarterback] there. Not everybody can see that, but hopefully when they get him a supporting cast, people will see that.”

Spagnuolo’s comments may have been influenced by potential tag fight with Dee Ford – ProFootballTalk

If/when the Chiefs apply the franchise tag to Dee Ford, they’ll surely designate him as a linebacker, because he has played linebacker in the team’s 3-4 defense.

Don’t Bet on These NFL Teams to Repeat Their 2018 Success

So let’s look at four teams that fall heavily into this category and look at why they might be able to buck the circumstances -- and why they might also just fall directly into that trap.

Trent Taylor feeling back to normal after 2018 back surgery – ProFootballTalk

“I feel like my back is back to normal now,” Taylor said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “I just knew that I needed a little more time than I was able to get throughout the season.

Why Austin Davis will not be Russell Wilson’s backup qb as a coach - Field Gulls

Friday the Seattle Seahawks announced a small number of changes to the coaching staff for the 2019 season in advance of heading out for the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Dolphins’ ‘Yale guy’ Patrick Graham, who dreamed of CIA, seeks smart players - Miami Dolphins Blog- ESPN

Miami’s new coordinator, happy with his career path these days, plans to build a scheme-versatile defense that demands a lot of his players.

Hines Ward questions Ben Roethlisberger’s leadership methods | SI.com

Ward said Roethlisberger needs to stop calling out teammates in public.

10 AAF players who have already made a case for the NFL | NFL | Sporting News

The Alliance of American Football league is open about wanting to be a farm system of sorts for the NFL. The league has an “NFL out” written into its player contracts, allowing players in the league to sign with an NFL team if given the opportunity. Players can leave from the end of the AAF championship game to Dec. 1st of the same year.