clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Best and worst case scenarios for the 2019 Broncos draft class

New, comments

How will we remember this class a decade from now?

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NFL: Denver Broncos-OTA
What is the best case scenario for the 20th overall selection in the NFL draft?
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

This is my best attempt at relaying both realistic expectations as well as tempering some of the runaway hype that has already started to creep in for some of the 2019 class. One of the things that’s really easy to do this time of year is to drink the Kool-Aid on every one of the additions your favorite team has made. It’s fun and harmless, but can lead to a lot of disappointment without proper perspective. For the most part, I did not include injuries in these scenarios. One last thing: I found inspiration for this while digging into Alex Kozora’s version over at Steelers Depot, so if you’re interested in the Draft in general, I highly advise checking it out.

Let’s get started.

Round 1 - Noah Fant - TIGHT END

Best case scenario:

The “other” tight end at Iowa last year proves he’s every bit the athletic mismatch players like Eric Ebron and Evan Ingram have been at the NFL level. Early in training camp, it becomes clear that he has a preternatural chemistry with Joe Flacco that helps ease his adjustment to the more advanced route tree he’ll encounter in the pros and concerns over his ability to catch in traffic prove overblown. All the knocks on his blocking by the national media show how out of touch they are by following group think.

Evaluations: NFL Draft TE Rankings - Fantasy Columns

He’s a tall pogo-stick type athlete who looks like a thick dunking shooting guard on the field. All that makes sense, as Fant has a track and basketball background. John Wall entered the NBA as a 6’4/198 mega athlete. Fant has 50 pounds on him, and posted a vertical jump in Indy of 39.5 inches, a half-inch higher than Wall’s max. Other NBA stars who Fant out-leaped: James Harden, Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook. Oh, Fant also has 4.5 speed.

Even before the first preseason game, Fant emerges as TE1 on the depth chart and he sits when the rest of the first team does. Fans in Broncos Country are upset because they want to see what all the hype is about, but have to wait until week 1 when 87 punks the Raiders Johnathan Abram on Monday Night Football. It’s only the beginning of a monster season as he settles in as Flacco’s favorite target and red zone threat, demanding enough attention in the middle of the field that Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, and Emmanuel Sanders get more favorite looks on the perimeter than they dared dream for in 2018.

As the years go by, Fant becomes a huge fan favorite as one of the most versatile tight ends in the league. He can move into the slot, backfield, or play from the line, and he proves impossible to cover for safeties and linebackers alike.

Worst case scenario:

Fant’s lack of play strength is apparent in training camp as he struggles to separate against more physical coverage. He winds up playing behind Jeff Heuerman and is listed as TE2. The most optimistic in Broncos Country warn that it isn’t the end of the world, but the troubling signs continue into the preseason where Fant has a penchant for drops with bodies around him. Jeff Essary and I both do film dives to look into his issues and find his 9.3% drop rate staring back at us. We conclude that Fant had many of the same issues at Iowa last year, which is a big reason why Hawkeye QB Nate Stanley didn’t target him in the middle of the field.

The rookie tight end finishes his first season in the Broncos with less than 500 receiving yards and never really establishes himself as the kind of go-to red zone threat John Elway had envisioned when he passed up the chance on Devin Bush for him. Meanwhile, the Steelers linebacker looks like a superstar in replacing Ryan Shazier. 2019 concludes with Fant still clearly behind Jeff Heuerman on the depth chart.

In a move to save money, Elway cuts ties with the veteran tight end in the off-season with the belief that it will only take one off-season of work for Fant to emerge. Instead, he finds himself in a tight competition with Jake Butt, who’s fully recovered from yet another injury. The two split duties in camp and neither really emerges as more than a tertiary target.

Once his rookie contract expires, Fant is allowed to leave Denver. He signs on with the Oakland Raiders and turns into a superstar for Trevor Lawrence. Meanwhile, Devin Bush goes on to a Hall of Fame career.

Round 2A - Dalton Risner - GUARD

Best case scenario:

Risner proves worth the immediate starting job he’s stepped into in OTAs and adjusts to more advanced assignments like the seasoned blocker he is. He’s a fish to water in Rich Scangarello’s zone blocking scheme, and while he isn’t the quickest player, he’s mobile enough to pull when called upon and strikes fear into second level defenders with his tenacity. In addition to his work with the 1s, Risner also looks like a capable depth player at tackle and center, which helps to solidify the depth at both.

Mike Munchak molds Bolles and Risner into the most formidable left side of a line in football. Risner brings the kind of immediate pass protection prowess that places like PFF have been touting for months. With it, Bolles comes to trust his inside help more and looks like a worthwhile first round pick. The protection off the blind side is good enough that Flacco stays upright for an entire 16 game season and Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay and the Broncos’ running game is devastating.

Worst case scenario:

Turns out blocking Maurice Hurst, Jerry Tillery, Kenny Clark, and Akiem Hicks is a lot harder than Big 12 defensive linemen. While Risner’s positional flexibility is touted as a valuable asset, his stiffness makes him a weak fit in the Broncos scheme. He starts as a rookie because of the lack of competition on the 2019 Broncos, but is a weak link all season long.

Going into his second season, he shows a great deal of growth but can’t overcome his physical limitations to turn into an even average starter. Because of this, Bolles (on his fifth year option) has to cover for him and both players look weak for it. Drew Lock spends his first full season as a starter running for his life. By year 3, he’s starting only because Elway can’t find a better replacement and is considered a 6th linemen at best around the league.

Round 2B- Drew Lock - QUARTERBACK

Best case scenario:

Despite the media’s best attempts to stir up drama, the rookie, Joe Flacco, and the coaching staff navigate a minefield to keep the heat off Lock to perform. He has the benefit of learning the finer aspects of quarterback play from an offensive coordinator with little pressure to play him and is able to truly refine his footwork. Broncos Country continues to react as they do to backup quarterbacks based on “throw reports” by local media and there’s mild hysteria every time he throws an interception, but the reality is Lock is learning how to diagnose coverages and test his limits at the professional level.

Much like the Kansas City Chiefs did with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes, Lock sees his first real action against the Raiders in week 17 and shows promise. There’s flashes of the arm talent that Elway drooled over as well as much better decision-making than his critics feared when he came out of Missouri. The statline is modest, yet encouraging.

In year 2, Lock is given the reigns and Broncos Country loses their collective minds as he shows the kind of vertical throwing prowess that opens up the 9 route throws to Courtland Sutton and deep posts to Noah Fant. Film nerds like me love how quick he is to find his help against pressure, and DaeSean Hamilton feasts on intermediate routes all season.

By year 3, it’s clear 3 is the true heir to 7.

Worst case scenario:

Joe Flacco gets hurt three plays into training camp. He broke his left pinky toe and is out for the year. Drew Lock is thrown into the fire and looks how every realist knows he will in such a situation: promising throws mixed with baffling interceptions. Because he has to survive from week to week, it isn’t until late November that he has his first game where there isn’t a clear interceptable pass, and only because Lindsay and Freeman run wild over the Buffalo Bills.

Denver finishes the year with a top 3 pick in the NFL draft, but the win over Buffalo keeps them out of the Herbert derby. Defenders and Tigers fans preach patience in Lock’s second year, but throughout camp, backup Brett Rypien looks like the more polished passer. No matter, Lock has the arm talent and can make plays outside of structure. Rypien is traded for a late day 3 pick so as to avoid controversy and Lock goes on to lead another 10+ loss campaign.

2021 rolls around and once again the Broncos are bad enough to bring quarterbacks like Trevor Lawrence in for visits, but they ultimately won one game too many to have a chance to take a another swing at a real franchise quarterback.

Round 3 - Dre’Mont Jones - DEFENSIVE LINE

Best case scenario:

Early in camp, Jones flies under the radar outside of a blurb here and there by people like Andrew Mason. It’s a deep group and he’s a rookie making the jump. Come preseason, film nerds start to proclaim that he’s going to be really exciting to watch this year. Still, Broncos Country as a whole mostly sleeps on him because he isn’t playing much and doesn’t notch many wow plays.

During the 2020 off-season, I continue crying for people to start paying attention to him. I lay out that the second year tackle fits the Fangio’s nickel defense as well as Shelby Harris does (and he just had an All Pro season), and those two between Von Miller and Bradley Chubb should make Philip Rivers’ ancient body quake in fear. With a thinner group in front of him, Jones jumps off the gate out of camp and it’s clear he’s come to work and has learned a new repertoire of pass rush moves to make magic happen. Much like Shelby Harris in 2018, he doesn’t get a lot of praise early, as it’s far too easy to miss interior defensive linemen for casual fans, but the diehards see him.

Year 3 swings around and he’s starting to pick up a lot of the slack Von is leaving as he ages. The national media notices as he emerges as one of the better interior pass rushers in the league.

Worst case:

Lost in the shuffle in camp behind Derek Wolfe, Harris, and Adam Gotsis, Jones struggles to do much with the reps he has and doesn’t do enough to convince coaches he’s a good fit for the nickel defense. Even worse, all the problems he had at Ohio State with gap discipline continues to play him. Because he’s not an ideal fit for the 5 technique and is too light to play the nose, he’s a player without a home and some begin to wonder if he’s another DeMarcus Walker.

Going into his second year, he shows some improvement but fails to adequately replace the three veteran defensive lineman Elway let walk in the off-season. Journeyman and rookies pass him on the depth chart and he fails to make any sort of noticeable impact with his time on the field except for when he proves to be a complete liability against the run.

Round 5 - Justin Hollins - EDGE/LINEBACKER

Best case scenario:

I looked at Justin Hollins at length for GIF Horse last week, but long story short?

Julian Peterson.

Worst case scenario:

Even with all of the positive feedback from Fangio and other members of the Broncos coaching staff, Hollins is lost in the shuffle come training camp. He finds himself as a backup edge player behind Jeff Holland and behind second year inside guys like Keishawn Bierria. His rookie season is mostly spent as a special teams player with a couple of edge snaps mixed in.

In year 2, the coaching staff comes out and says that perhaps moving him back and forth between two positions put too much on his plate. Because of concerns over his weight and play strength, he is moved to off-ball backer full-time to take advantage of his ability to play in space. Unfortunately, he’s long and struggles at the point of attack here. He isn’t good enough at disengaging off blockers to shine at the professional level.

By the end of his rookie contract, Hollins is mostly known for his early hype and being a serviceable special teams player.

Round 6 - Juwann Winfree - WIDE RECEIVER

Best case scenario:

Winfree finds health luck and is able to stick to a promising but mostly unproven wide receiver corps as a rookie. He makes the most of his reps in camp, and while he plays sporadically, he carves out a niche on special teams. The coaches are excited by his growth as the year goes on.

In year 2, Elway thinks enough of the young talent that he doesn’t go out and throw major draft assets or cash at the position, instead choosing to give players like Hamilton and Winfree step up to replace the production lost by Emmanuel Sanders’ departure. Winfree rewards this decision.

Worst case scenario:

Winfree finds himself buried by the numbers game. He’s locked in a tight competition for attention behind names like Sutton, Hamilton, and Patrick and has the more experienced River Cracraft and UDFAs like Trinity Benson and Kelvin McKnight nipping at his heels. He fails to catch Scangarello’s eyes. The rookie receiver out of Colorado is a late cut in camp due to his draft status but never showed enough to impress other teams around the league and his NFL career ends before it ever even started.

Your Broncos links

Rookie expectations: Roles for Broncos’ first-time players | 9news.com

If all goes well he will get one start – the final game of the regular season after Joe Flacco has already led the Broncos to a playoff spot.

Denver Broncos: Chris Harris Jr. is the he fourth most valuable Bronco - Mile High Report

Chris Harris Jr. has been one of the most value Denver Broncos since he came into the league as an undrafted free agent.

Denver Broncos are focusing on short-term deal with Chris Harris Jr. - Mile High Report

According to the most recent reports, John Elway and the Denver Broncos are focused on a short-term deal to keep Chris Harris Jr. around.

Champ Bailey elected to the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame - Mile High Report

The Broncos’ legendary cornerback will enter both the Hall of Fame and the Ring of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Former CB Champ Bailey elected to Denver Broncos Ring of Fame

“To see the way Champ’s career has been appreciated over the last four months — first by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and now as our newest Ring of Famer — is very special for us. We congratulate Champ on this well-deserved honor and look forward to celebrating everything he’s meant to the Broncos in October.”

‘It’s going to be surreal’: Champ Bailey looks ahead to Ring of Fame induction ceremony

“It’s going to be a little surreal. I think the Hall of Fame [induction ceremony] will get me warmed up for it, but I believe being in front of those fans means more than anything.

Denver Broncos: Why Justin Hollins was my favorite Broncos draft pick - Mile High Report

He has a sky-high ceiling and found a perfect place to reach it.

The Denver Broncos most underrated offseason move - Mile High Report

There were not many under the radar moves the Denver Broncos made this offseason, but drafting Justin Hollins is probably a good one.

Vic Fangio’s system is now second nature for Bradley Chubb, Broncos - Mile High Report

Thinking about what that means for Chubb and the Broncos defense is incredibly exciting.

Broncos QB Drew Lock: If you want it, rookie... earn it. - Mile High Report

A promising young QB gets the fanbase excited, but no one gets to assume the future. Drew Lock’s success is all on his own shoulders.

Ranking the toughest jobs for new NFL coaches | SI.com

Vic Fangio, Broncos I think there’s always an element of pressure in working for John Elway, though this seems to be a better match than some of Elway’s previous hires. Fangio comes with an impressive résumé and inherent respect in the business. However, there’s still a question mark at quarterback and very high expectations on defense.

How the Colts are quietly winning the offseason, more MMQB | SI.com

Incredibly awesome thing the Broncos are doing: The STEM School, where one student died and eight others were wounded in a shooting, reached out to the team late last week about the possibility of hosting its graduations at UCHealth Training Center.

— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) May 16, 2019

The Denver Broncos, for hosting multiple graduation ceremonies for the STEM school at no charge last week. On May 7, two students opened fire at the school, killing one classmate and wounding eight others. It’s a small gesture, of course, considering the magnitude of the tragedy on that campus, but a strong one. Good job, Broncos. And while we’re on the subject, here’s a hero for you.

Just missed: NFL players outside the top 25 under 25 | NFL Analysis | Pro Football Focus

EDGE BRADLEY CHUBB, DENVER BRONCOS

Age at kickoff: 23 years, 2 months, 13 days

From a box score standpoint, Bradley Chubb couldn’t have done much more for the Broncos in his first year in the league. He racked up 13 sacks, eight hits and 37 quarterback hurries across his 456 pass-rushing snaps on the year, and his 58 total pressures not only ranked first among rookie edge defenders, but they were the 19th-most among all players at the position.

Who is the best cornerback in the NFL right now? - NFL Videos

The “Good Morning Football” crew discusses the best NFL corner backs in the league right now.

Denver Broncos: Undrafted rookie spotlight on LB Joe Dineen

Dineen is not a sideline-to-sideline player and would never profess to be. What he is is a hard-nosed, intelligent player who happens to be a tackling machine.

Denver Broncos 2019 Draft Mulligan | The Draft Network

Even franchise legends can’t live off their old legacy forever. Eventually there has to be some recent success for them to stick around.

NFL’s top 5 rookie-veteran passing duos; did Jets miscalculate? - NFL.com

Joe Flacco and Noah Fant, Denver Broncos: The Super Bowl XLVII MVP gets a chance to rebuild his career in Denver in an offense that closely resembles the Gary Kubiak scheme that helped him play at his best during the 2014 season. Flacco is a middle-of-the-field thrower who is at his best targeting tight ends between the hashes. Fant is a dynamic pass catcher with the speed and athleticism to overwhelm linebackers and defensive backs, particularly on vertical routes down the seam or on deep crossers running diagonally across the field. Should offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, formerly the 49ers’ QBs coach, successfully use some of the concepts that helped Pro Bowl TE George Kittle rise to prominence in San Francisco during his time there, the Broncos could see Fant emerge as a difference maker in Year 1.

Cam Newton, Bears among those in need of good luck in 2019 - NFL.com

Joe Flacco needs ... Drew Lock to have a quiet summer. Sure, there are millions of humans who deserve your sympathy ahead of multimillionaire Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco, but I imagine he’s pretty annoyed that the second half of his career is turning into a “Groundhog Day” sequel. Last year around this time, when he was quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens, Flacco had to answer a never-ending line of questions about a hotshot rookie who was expected to push him for his starting job. Different city, same s--- for Joe. Now, Flacco’s in Denver, and second-round pick Lock is in Lamar Jackson’s role from last season. If Lock earns raves in training camp and combines that with a strong preseason (he figures to get the majority of live-action reps), Flacco will be under immense pressure to get off to a hot start with the Broncos.

NFL Links

NFL Roundtable: What makes a quarterback a “franchise guy?” - Mile High Report

The Mile High Report staff discussed what actually makes a quarterback a franchise guy for an NFL team.

Studs & Duds - The 2019 NFL Offseason Edition | The Draft Network

STUDS - KANSAS CITY CHIEFS DEFENSE

To summarize, the Chiefs traded away Dee Ford for a 2020 2nd-round pick and simultaneously added Frank Clark. Upgrade. The Chiefs added S Tyrann Mathieu, S Juan Thornhill and defensive ends Alex Okafor and Emmanuel Ogbah to the mix. Oh, and they traded a 2020 6th-round pick for former 1st-round linebacker Darron Lee. Cornerback is still a problem in Kansas City. A big one. But with their upgrades, I think the Chiefs’ defense has a chance to be much more formidable than the one that surrendered 421 points (5th worst in franchise history) last year.

FMIA: Smart NFL People Share 25 Ways To Make Pro Football Better – ProFootballTalk

Twenty-five smart NFL people—from media to players to coaches and beyond—share their thoughts on how to improve professional football.

Proposed “tweak” of replay review for pass interference is more like an amputation – ProFootballTalk

The NFL went too far one way in March. It may now go too far the other way in May. Only two weeks after Competition Committee member Stephen Jones expressed during an appearance on #PFTPM a high degree of confidence that the new rule that makes offensive and defensive pass interference subject to...

Los Angeles Chargers, Rams head NFL’s most complete teams - NFL.com

I believe the Chargers are the most talented, balanced and complete team in the NFL.

NFL rumors: Adam Gase to pick Jets GM after Mike Maccagnan firing | SI.com

Gase was named New York’s interim general manager on Wednesday after the Jets fired Mike Maccagnan.

Jets GM job: Why minority candidates should say no to an interview | SI.com

If the Rooney Rule is to have teeth, minority candidates need to boycott the sham interview process.

Chris Ballard shrinking size of Colts draft board each year – ProFootballTalk

With six of the first 135 picks in this year’s draft, the Colts had more draft capital than many other teams. They didn’t have an enormous draft board to consult before using those picks, however.

PFF’s top 25 NFL players under 25 for 2019 | NFL Analysis | Pro Football Focus

The third annual PFF Under 25 team, which highlights the top NFL players who are set to be under 25 years of age by the start of the 2019 regular season.

High-school sprinter accepts Ted Ginn’s offer – ProFootballTalk

34-year-old Saints receiver Ted Ginn has expressed a willingness to wager $10,000 on himself in a race against anyone. Someone nearly half Ginn’s age has accepted. Matthew Boling, a high-school sprinter from Texas responded to the PFT tweet announcing Ginn’s offer with one word: “Bet.

Eagles: We were fortunate to have Chris Long – ProFootballTalk

Defensive end Chris Long announced his retirement from the NFL on Saturday night after spending the last 11 years playing for three teams in the NFL. The final two years of that career were spent with the Eagles and saw Long win both a Super Bowl and the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Chris Long’s decision to retire was “complicated” – ProFootballTalk

Chris Long retired Saturday night, signing off on a brilliant 11-year career (on and off the field) with a red cup and a sunset. But as you’d expect with a player so thoughtful, it was far from an easy decision.

Oakland Raiders 2019 Draft Mulligan | The Draft Network

I’m a Mike Mayock guy. I’ve always appreciated the insight Mayock gave into the draft world during his time at NFL Network.

Los Angeles Chargers 2019 Draft Mulligan | The Draft Network

Confession time -- when the idea of running a series on 2019 NFL Draft mulligans was born, it was the Los Angeles Chargers’ fault.

Surprise playoff contenders for the 2019 NFL season | NFL Analysis | Pro Football Focus

PFF is high on the Jets, Bengals and 49ers.

NFL offseason agendas - Barnwell’s to-do lists for all 16 NFC teams

The Cowboys have to splash the cash on two stars. The Giants need a quarterback succession plan. Here’s what’s on the docket for the NFC.

Ravens TE Hayden Hurst drops the ball, asks Twitter for help finding the one who got away - Baltimore Sun

Hayden Hurst needs Twitter’s help to find a woman who was on his plane into Baltimore and might be “the one that got away.”

Big Ben ‘sorry’ for critical comments on Antonio Brown - NFL.com

So sorry he went to the media to make the statement.