clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

What are the Broncos Biggest Needs?

New, comments

As we move towards the 2019 NFL Draft draft, what’s left to address on this Denver Broncos roster?

NFL: Combine
Until the Broncos find a franchise QB, every other need is secondary.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With the bulk of free agency in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to look at what Broncos brass should pay extra attention to this draft season. If you read my post last week, you already know I liked Elway’s moves in the veteran market. It set Denver up to chase the best player available at each selection, but of course some positions need a little more love than others.

Running Back

If you missed the last 12 months somehow, the Broncos are pretty set here. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman give Denver a nasty 1-2 punch at the position. If there’s any reason to throw a pick at the position it’s to push Devontae Booker. The 4-year pro out of Utah has been solid, but he’s entering a contract year. One player that really caught my eye is James Williams out of Washington State, as he’d step and give the offense as a receiving threat from the backfield on the first day of camp.

Offensive Tackle

Welcome to life with two entrenched starters. It’s been awhile, but barring injury the Broncos starting tackle tandem is set for the next two years (at the least.) The position only makes this list because depth is a big question mark. As of today Nico Falah and Andreas Knappe are slated as OT3 and 4 by Ourlads. Don’t be shocked if Elway grabs a prospect to groom into long term insurance or perhaps a swing lineman. One name that I plan to look into is Isaiah Prince from Ohio State. The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs called him a tackle with a “considerably high ceiling, considerably low floor,” but I’m feeling dangerous with Munchak on the coaching staff.

Edge Rusher

Von Miller and Bradley Chubb give Vic Fangio one of the more dangerous pass rush pairs in the league, but the depth behind them’s been gutted. Shaq Barrett has signed on with the Buccaneers in an attempt to start and make bank in 2020. Shane Ray has been rumored to the Colts.

What’s left is Jeffrey Holland, Aaron Wallace, and Deiontrez Mount, who have combined for a grand total of 24 tackles and 1 sack in their careers to date. Chances are good Denver will look to add talent to the mix. The Broncos showed interest in a multitude of edge players at the Combine. Justin Hollins and Shareef Miller are two prospects I’ve taken an interest in.

If Denver strikes out on prospects or find a a couple dollars hiding in a mattress, Aaron Lynch remains on the free agent market. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 5th round of the 2014 draft and followed Fangio to the Bears last year.

Cornerback / Safety

The additions of Kareem Jackson, Bryce Callahan leave Broncos Country playing with nicknames for the rebuilt secondary. There is little doubt that it’s now a position of strength, at least in 2019.

Things get murkier in 2020 and beyond. Jackson and Chris Harris will both be over 30 years old by season’s end, and both Will Parks and Justin Simmons’ contracts expire. Depending on the long term plan with the four, Elway could (and probably should) look to add another prospect or even two to the mix. There’s reason to believe the Broncos defense will use Nickel personnel more than 50% of the time, so you can never really have too many talented coverage players.

Wide Receiver

In all reality, the receiver position can truly be broken down into 3 positions. If you’re looking to read up on them more, check out this great piece over at Field Gulls.

Denver is set for the long term at the Z so long as Courtland Sutton continues to make strides. Tim Patrick profiles as a similar player and should make the roster as WR4 with some upside. For this reason it’s beyond doubtful a player like D.K. Metcalf will be a Bronco next year, even if he’s an exciting talent.

Where there’s a need to spend draft capital is the X or slot receiver, depending on how the new coaching staff views DaeSean Hamilton.Emmanuel Sanders has portrayed his love for Denver and desire to make the Ring of Fame, but he’s a 32-year old coming off a major injury with an expiring contract in 2020. He could certainly return, but it’d be wise to dip into a very deep receiver class in case he doesn’t.

Terry McLaurin and Auburn’s Darius Slayton are a couple names that have made my list of prospects to dig into.

Nose Tackle / Interior Defensive Line

With what looks like a very full defensive line group, nose probably isn’t as big a need as it appears, at least in 2019. A 2 man defensive line was the base personnel for Fangio’s Bears D and Denver already has a 4 man rotation with Zach Kerr, Shelby Harris, Derek Wolfe, and Adam Gotsis.

Still, there are downs where a big body will be called upon. Oakland threw a wrench into Fangio’s hopes when the Raiders resigned Johnathan Hankins prior to free agency opening. Since then the Broncos have resigned Kerr and there’s rumors that Domata Peko may return to Denver, but a younger big body would be ideal.

The line could be a huge question mark in 2020 if Elway doesn’t resign any of the expiring contracts. Wolfe, Gotsis, and Harris could all wear different jersey’s next year. For that reason alone it makes sense that Denver has scheduled a visit Dre’Mont Jones of Ohio State.

Interior Offensive Line

Ronald Leary hasn’t played in 16 games since 2014, and while both Elijah Wilkinson and Connor McGovern performed admirably last year, both were over-matched in the roles currently expected of them. One could hope Munchak works his magic on them both, but it’d be wise to grab a center or guard prospect if one’s there on Day 2 of the draft.

Denver could do a lot worse than Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy or Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom if they grab someone at the top of the second round.

Linebacker

It’d be fair to categorize linebacker as the first pressing need facing the 2019 Broncos. It would also be fair to accept Josey Jewell and Todd Davis as the 2019 starters. Neither is the ideal for a Fangio defense, but they’d be far from the weakest pair to play for him. I’ve seen quite a few fans show concern about Denver defending tight ends going forward, but scheme will help there.

That said? If Denver passes on a quarterback on Day 1 of the draft I’d expect both Devin White and Devin Bush to warrant consideration. As I mentioned for GIF Horse.

Long term the defense is going to prioritize linebackers that look a lot like White. They’re the key component of the Fangio system and elite athletes at the position make everything easier. He uses them as Swiss Army knives. Sometimes they’ll blitz, sometimes they’ll cover, but they need to be able to shred anything that makes it to them.

Another name that’s worth consideration is Minnesota’s Blake Cashman. He isn’t quite the athletic freak the Day 1 guys are, but he could wind up the best linebacker from this class.

Tight End

Gun to my head, I’d tell you this is the biggest hole on the current roster. Jeff Heuerman is serviceable, when healthy. Jake Butt has played in as many NFL games as he’s had ACL surgeries in his career. Troy Fumagalli was a 2018 fifth round pick who has yet to play a single professional snap. There is a dire need for a talent infusion here.

Fortunately, the 2019 draft has what looks like the richest tight end class in recent memory. Just last week I looked at what a Day 1 tight end selection could look like, but teams will probably find starters all the way down to Day 3. Denver will work out San Jose State’s Josh Oliver and have met with him at the Combine. Kahale Warring is another guy that really caught my eye.

Quarterback

If you believe John Elway at his word, he already employs a quarterback who’s just now entering his prime in Joe Flacco. I’m not sold, but there’s reason to believe Denver may wait until the loaded 2020 QB class to address the long term need at the position.

But let there be no doubt: until the Broncos have a real long term answer at the quarterback position they’re playing for second place in the AFC West.

Your Broncos Links

2019 NFL Draft Film Breakdown: Drew Lock, Franchise Quarterback? - Mile High Report

Does Lock hold the key to Elway’s post-Peyton legacy?

Emmanuel Sanders’ wild week with Denver and Pittsburgh regional radio - Mile High Report

Regional radio hosts are on his list.

Best coach for all 32 NFL teams in the Super Bowl era

Mike Shanahan erased the Super Bowl curse with two titles. He spent 14 years with the Broncos and had a winning percent better than .600.

2019 NFL Draft Scouting Report: LSU inside linebacker Devin White - Mile High Report

LSU inside linebacker Devin White is a prospect who could help transform the Denver Broncos’ defense.

2019 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson - Mile High Report

T.J. Hockenson would be a huge upgrade at tight end for the Denver Broncos.

2019 NFL Draft Profile: Scouting Stanford Linebacker Bobby Okereke - Mile High Report

How might the Denver Broncos address the holes on their roster if they drafted a quarterback in the first round? This might be one way.

2019 NFL Draft Profile: Washington Linebacker Benn Burr-Kirven - Mile High Report

Every year there are players that come along and kind of worm their way into your heart. They become “your guys” and despite the odds, fit, or any other question you have, you find yourself rooting for them to succeed.

Ben Burr-Kirven is one of those guys for me. He has the kind of film that will probably see him drafted on Day 3, but the things that flash are what “steals” are made of. He’s a hair’s-on-fire kind athlete that plays with so much heart you become a Husky fan when you’re watching his tape. If the Broncos take him, I think his floor is a special teams ace provided he can stay healthy. The upside is much higher if only because he looks so active and quick on tape.

I wonder how he’d fit in the Fangio scheme, but if he can reach his ceiling he’ll become one of those players an opposing offense actively needs to scheme around, even if he has a very clear weakness.

Broncos Mock NFL Draft: The opportunity cost of Ed Oliver at 10 - Mile High Report

What could things look like if John Elway grabs the best player available at 10 in the 2019 NFL Draft?

Futures: Ed Oliver | Football Outsiders

Ed Oliver is a paradox: he is everything he was proclaimed to be as a high school prospect, yet feels like a player whose potential went untapped in college.

2019 NFL Mock Draft: Matt Miller’s Latest 3-Round Picks with One Month to Go | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

The Pick: QB Drew Lock, Missouri The talk all offseason centered around the Denver Broncos making a play for quarterback Drew Lock, but then general manager John Elway acquired Joe Flacco in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. That left many wondering if the Broncos might go for broke this season with the veteran quarterback.

The most likely answer—after watching the Broncos pay for Ja’Wuan James at right tackle and add defenders Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan—is that Elway knows he has to win this season to keep the heat off his seat. Flacco and the veterans allow for the Broncos to improve enough to win, but they can also draft the quarterback of the future in Drew Lock. Call this Denver’s Alex Smith-to-Patrick Mahomes plan.

Lock is a strong-armed quarterback who can make every throw imaginable but did struggle at times with accuracy. If the Broncos want to sit him for a year to iron out his wrinkles before getting him onto the field in 2020, this is a sound pick.

Lance Zierlein 2019 NFL mock draft 2.0: Giants reload at WR, QB - NFL.com

10 T.J. Hockenson - TE School: Iowa | Year: Sophomore (RS) Previous: No. 27 to Raiders Denver did a nice job patching up (and, in some cases, repairing) holes in its roster through free agency, but Hockenson is too valuable to pass up as a safety valve for Joe Flacco. He’s an athletic combination tight end who is just as comfortable getting after it as a run blocker as he is getting open and making catches.

NFL Mock Draft: QBs fall, Patriots take a risk | SI.com

10. Denver: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri An offseason dip into free agency at the offensive tackle spot makes a luxury pick possible. Joe Flacco is basically on a series of rolling one-year deals from here on out, and can transition whenever the time is right. This is a chance for John Elway to fix his biggest issue in the long term, while maintaining some stability in the short term.

Sikkema’s 2019 NFL Mock Draft 7.0 | The Draft Network

Broncos Devin White LB, LSU I don’t have any of the teams in Top 10 going quarterback crazy in this mock draft -- because I’m not sure any of them should, really. If there is a quarterback frenzy at the top, which could very well be the case, look for Drew Lock as an option here. But if the Broncos don’t go quarterback, they’ll likely be selecting the best defensive player on the board. In this mock draft, that’s LSU’s Devin White. After moving on from Brandon Marshall, they need a middle man next to Todd Davis.

Seven-round NFL Mock Draft: Cowboys start with Round 2 defender, Patriots swipe Josh Rosen, Bears land corner help - CBSSports.com

Count CBS among those who fail to recognize that Greedy Williams is a poor scheme fit even if the Broncos didn’t just sign Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan.

Boom-or-Bust Predictions for the NFL’s Biggest Offseason Moves of 2019 | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

As Tom Brady and Drew Brees continue to rewrite records books into their early 40s, other teams can’t assume all established signal-callers will play well at an advanced age. Unfortunately, the Denver Broncos appear to be making this mistake. The organization traded a 2019 fourth-round pick for 34-year-old Joe Flacco.

”We looked at what we want to do offensively—try to get the ball downfield. And the availability of Joe and the success he’s had as a starter and in the playoffs, he won a Super Bowl” general manager John Elway said after Flacco’s acquisition, per Denver 9News’ Mike Klis. “... He’s only 34 years old, so we think he has a lot of football ahead of him. I thought he would be a perfect fit for us.” The veteran hasn’t finished among the top 20 in quarterback rating since the 2014 campaign. An expectation he’ll suddenly improve or enter his prime years flies in the face of recent history. System fit and familiarity with head coach Vic Fangio will ease the transition.

But Flacco is, at best, a mediocre quarterback without a strong supporting cast. The Broncos are suspect along the offensive line, lack weapons at tight end and will rely heavily on two second-year wide receivers in Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton. They may still want to consider selecting a quarterback with the 10th overall pick. Verdict: Bust

Your NFL LINKS

Gronk Was The Most Efficient Receiver We’ve Seen | FiveThirtyEight

It was the Instagram post that shook the NFL.

Rob Gronkowski retirement: 5 fast facts about the tight end’s stellar career | NFL | Sporting News

Since he entered the NFL in 2010, Gronkowski has registered seven games with multiple touchdowns and 100 or more receiving yards. Only four wideouts have recorded more: Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones

The greatness of Rob Gronkowski, and what’s next for the Patriots

The superstar tight end is retiring after a near-decade of dominance. Here’s why he was the ultimate mismatch, and what it means for New England.

How Eagles are using fake contract years to create cap space | NBC Sports Philadelphia

When the Eagles announced the Malik Jackson, Brandon Graham and DeSean Jackson contracts, they were referred to as three-year deals. When the Ronald Darby contract was announced, it was announced as a one-year deal. Take a look at any of them and they’re actually five-year contracts. Until they aren’t. Confused yet? We’re here to help!

How YouTube helps pass rusher Renell Wren, the NFL Draft’s hidden gem - SBNation.com

The big thing he has going in his favor is that he’s just a much better athlete than other players at his position. If he can find the right coach and team to harness his potential, Wren could turn out to be the steal of the 2019 NFL Draft.