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Roundtable: What is the Broncos most pressing need?

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Outside of quarterback, what hole on the Denver Broncos roster has to be patched later this month during the 2019 NFL Draft?

NFL: Houston Texans at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

What is the Broncos biggest, most pressing need outside of franchise QB?

Laurie: Based on what we have on the team right now and what the schemes are likely going to call for, I say #1 is inside linebacker and #2 is tight end. Both are positions where the Broncos are weak and both will be important to the coordinators’ plans for this team.

The 2019 draft is deep at tight end.

Joe M: Interior offensive line - Leary is at the point of his career where his body is falling apart and McGovern was not very good in 2018 in his first year as a full-time starter. Additionally we lost a bunch of pieces on the OL when Paradis, Garcia and Turner all departed in free agency. That’s 1635 offensive snaps that are going to have to come from someone who didn’t take them for the Broncos in 2018 - essentially 1.5 starting spots on the OL.

Taylor: Aside from the need for a long term plan at QB: An upgrade at ILB or safety would be nice, but we have guys who can be serviceable there. To me, the bigger need is TE like the others have mentioned, or an interior lineman. The inside of the O-line was a big strength for Denver in 2018, and I think the degree of depletion there is underappreciated by many.

Kevin: Consistency. Even more important than any position at this point is for there to be a long-term solution with the coaching staff. No more of the new schemes each year. Bring in players that can grow with Fangio, Scangarello and company and who will want to stick around for a while due to the good and constant culture.

Ian H: Tight ends, it is nuts to me that personnel people in Denver keep blaming the ‘help’ they’ve been unable to supply to the Broncos quarterbacks and they have made NO move for a tight end in free agency nor the draft.

Jake Butt has been healthy enough to play in 3 of a possible 32 games since the Broncos drafted him in 2017. Jeff Heuerman has missed 11 games since he was drafted in 2016. What they both have in common is that they have never been to the playoffs on injured reserve or otherwise.

If Rich Scangarello does nothing else in his life, he should make a tight end famous this season in Denver. The Broncos have not had a pass-catching, quarterback assisting, linebacker killing tight end since Julius Thomas left via free agency in 2014.

Hart: I agree with Henson, I believe the team could use a difference maker at the tight end position. Flacco loves targeting tight ends and Denver’s current crop of talent are a handful of consistently injured players. Luckily for Denver, this draft is loaded at the position so it doesn’t have to be addressed in the first round. That being said, I wouldn’t mind at all if the franchise moved back in the first round and took a prospect like Noah Fant. I think he has a chance to be a perennial Pro-Bowl player and would give the Broncos a great receiving threat.

Jeff: I agree with Henson & Hart (sounds like a law firm or a home goods store!) A playmaker at tight end would make a huge difference for not only Joe Flacco, but also for Scangarello’s scheme to really hum.

I would also add that same sentiment on the other side of the ball. Denver needs a playmaker up the middle of the defense, whether that is a linebacker or safety (both would be awesome, but we for sure need one). Now, that guy may be already on the roster and Fangio will draw it out of him, but I would argue we still need to add talent there.

In Chicago and San Francisco, Fangio’s best defenses had playmakers both at the lineback and safety positions. Denver has to make finding a difference maker at that level of the defense a priority.

Scotty: An athletic linebacker is needed and will be acquired someway or somehow. it’s a key part to Fangio’s scheme.

Blake Cashman is one to watch for if the Broncos wait out the first round.

Ian St. Clair: I’m with the others who have said middle linebacker, tight end and interior offensive line, but I think interior defensive line is crucial; especially when you remember that Patrick Mahomes is in this division. The Broncos have the exterior pass rush but need a dominant interior guy to pair with Chubb and Von Miller that they haven’t had since Malik Jackson. You add that piece and it increases the likelihood you get sustained pressure on Mahomes but the rest of the quarterbacks in the NFL. When you have the ability to pressure the QB in multiple ways, it helps lessen the load on the secondary and linebackers in coverage. A dominant interior defensive lineman also aids in the rush defense. So while all of those pieces are needs, don’t overlook interior defensive line.

What would cause you to consider this draft an absolute failure?

Joe M: Trading up to take the wrong QB

Laurie: Missing in the first round and not ending up with a very good tight end or inside linebacker.

Ian H: I think that Denver has so many needs (obvious and hidden) heading into the draft that they have to hope for literal luck in handling them all. Trading back is always an option on paper, but Denver has not done it a lot and when they traded back instead of addressing a need it decided their January fate in April.

You’ve got a new class of coaches who do not seem to have a ton of input thus far and that is another definition of failure to me... If Elway spends his second and third rounds playing dodge ball with logic and need, then there is not much chance to fix much in the remaining four rounds.

They’re entering the draft needing starters still at cornerback (or strong safety), tight end, center (or right guard), but, I will put cornerback as the main place they must find a starter. I do not believe that Kareem Jackson was signed to play cornerback. Gary Kubiak drafted him as a cornerback, but Houston Texans’ head coach Bill O’Brien announced prior to the 2018 season that Jackson would play safety full-time.

::Narrator Voice:: “He did not.”

The last time Kubiak suggested a safety to Elway it was Darian Stewart and that worked out perfectly for everyone for a few years. Stewart won a Super Bowl as a member of the #NoFlyZone and received a few All Pro votes along the way.

If you are judging strictly off of his contract Jackson’s $11MM average annual value (AAV) compares to Earl Thomas ($13.75MM (AAV)), LaMarcus Joyner ($10.5MM (AAV)) and Adrian Amos ($9MM (AAV)).

For comparison to a cornerback, the highest AAV this offseason for cornerbacks was Bradley Roby’s ($10MM (AAV)) followed by Justin Coleman ($9MM (AAV)), while Denver’s other newest member of the #NoFlyZone Bryce Callahan was given $21MM for 3-years ($7MM AAV).

So, either Jackson was the highest paid cornerback this offseason or the fourth highest paid safety.

That makes drafting a cornerback early imperative in 2019 for Denver. Not drafting a starter at cornerback would be an absolute failure, they can’t repeat last season, they don’t even have Joe Woods to make a secondary out of street free agents and guys who should have retired five seasons ago.

Adam: Same as success. Hard to judge right away, but if Denver is reaching for players, that would be the biggest sign of failure.

Kevin: If they reach for a guy/guys who “fell” because other teams had some concerns about off-the-field problems or the like. It hasn’t worked in the past and Elway needs to stick to a bit of a safer approach.

Hart: A repeat of what the franchise embarked on with their 2017 NFL Draft endeavors. Historically, that’s one of the worst drafts you could imagine. As I said earlier, top picks need to play right away. I’d also be a bit miffed if the Broncos missed out on getting a tight end in what appears to be a potentially legendary class. It’s a strength for sure, and missing out on a prospect there wouldn’t be good. It’ll be a few years before we can actually judge the merits of this upcoming class adequately, I just hope that a handful of quality starters are found.

Ian St. Clair: As I said for success now on the reverse, and what Hart said, don’t do what they did in 2017.

Jeff: If the players don’t pan out in a few years. That’s really the only way to say if a draft is a failure or not. Some people may rail on a team for “reaching” or not filling a position they felt the team needed, but if you end up with a few starters out of the class in a few years, no one cares or remembers and the draft is successful.

Heck, I’d take just one guy that we keep to a second contract as a success since Denver hasn’t re-signed a draft pick since Derek Wolfe.

Drew Lock, Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Daniel Jones. Who you got?

Jeff: I’m partial to Kyler Murray and think he’ll be the best quarterback taken out of this class when we look back in a few years, but Elway apparently isn’t a fan of his size or all the time he spent in shotgun, so Lock is most likely the one for Denver.

Ian H: Kyler Murray is fun to watch and that is what it is really about, right?

I wouldn’t draft him though, he has too many options and if you do not want to spend the next five seasons making your team the most appealing team for Kyler Murray (in competition with Major League Baseball) than I cannot suggest him. I expect the Oakland Raiders and their need to sell seats in Las Vegas in 2020 as the prime landing spot for Murray.

I love the idea of Dwayne Haskins being available at #10, but unless someone overdrafts Drew Lock that is not happening. And Daniel Jones has more in common with Erik Ainge, Thaddeus Lewis, Sean Renfree, and Heath Shuler than he does with Peyton and Eli Manning.

Jones, Ainge, Lewis, Renfree, Shuler and the Mannings all were coached by current Duke University football head coach David Cutcliffe.

All that being said Tyree Jackson is my favorite quarterback prospect this season and I hope that the Broncos draft him in the third or fourth round.

Adam: Pass. Dwayne Haskins is the best QB in this draft in my opinion. Kyler Murray is the most dynamic. I don’t want either one. The Broncos need to see how things go with Flacco, without the rookie QB distraction. Add that in with the 2020 draft, or the 2021 draft. Stay with the board, go best player available, but skip the QB for a year.

2021 is only 2 short years away...

And yes, I know that is who everyone is looking to try and draft. I’d trade the whole stadium for him.

Hart: As far as scheme-fit goes, Drew Lock. With respect to my interest, I’d pass on a QB early in this draft and end up rolling the dice on someone later on with developmental traits. I think Brett Rypien out of Boise State is being underrated. He will likely never be the guy, but every team needs a quality backup option and he presents that. Another prospect whom I think would do well here is Ryan Finley. He may be a bit older than desired, but he is a smart quarterback who demonstrated a good command of NC State’s offense. If he were there on Day 3, I’d be elated if the Broncos took him to be a developmental prospect.

Kevin: Yikes, if anyone then I’d take Haskins and the Broncos might if he falls to ten but I think you roll with Flacco and see what happens in 2020 or 2021.

Scotty: Based off scheme fit and development, Lock.

Joe M: None of the above.

Ian St. Clair: I’m with Trevor Sikkema: Wait to get the quarterback. Denver is better served to go the best defensive player on the board; especially if that player is Oliver or White.

Taylor: Lock. If you’re going to go QB in a subpar class, go with the guy who fits the offense you want to run & who has both a lot of college experience & a consistent track record of growth & improvement at that level. Especially when you brought in a QB developer at OC and your current starter is an aging bridge QB whose ceiling is average and whose floor is terrible. For the love of all things football, don’t waste Scangarello’s time on a QB room consisting of Joe Flacco, Kevin Hogan, & Garrett Grayson. That’s a QB room with no long term plan. And to a large degree, the same goes for the franchise.

If you feel good about a different QB and a guy like White or Oliver is still on the board at 10, fine. But if the Broncos get into day 3 of the draft without a QB in their draft class, then I’ll have some big questions about what the team is doing.

Sell us your sleeper pick.

Joe M: Drue Tranquill - yes, I know I just said stay away from players with an injury history (Tranquil tore his left and his right ACL’s in different years in college), but this guy a LB who I think our coaches could develop into a dominant force at ILB for the Broncos. He has the coverage skills to stay with RBs and TEs as he used to play safety in college and he has the speed to run sideline to sideline. Yes, I’m a Domer so my homerism is showing, but Tranquil will be a starting ILB in the NFL with some team and I’d love that team to be the Broncos. He’s well worth a day three pick.

Scotty: I’m probably stealing Jeff’s, but Ed Oliver. He’s not often linked or talk about much with the Broncos(outside of us nerds) and could flourish under Kollar/Fangio. It would give the Broncos an immediate interior pass rusher to go with the edge pressure of Von and Chubb.

Jeff: Amani Hooker is a guy I really like, who would fit perfectly into Fangio’s scheme at strong safety. He doesn’t have quite as much versatility as Amos did in terms of switching into single high looks, but he can do everything else asked of him in the role exceptionally well, and is a willing tackler near the line of scrimmage.

The addition of Hooker would complete Denver’s secondary makeover this offseason and infuse it with another young talent for Fangio and Donatell to develop.

What do you think Broncos Country?