It’s never too early to start looking ahead, and so it was music to my ears when I found The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine up and running yesterday. When I wasn’t writing about the Broncos this past weekend, I had my eyes on college football, so this was a fun exercise.
Four big things before I get off and running:
- Yes, I know the 2019 season hasn’t even started.
- Denver’s needs are all projections, so if you want to argue X will be here or Y is going to breakout, I’m not going to argue.
- I’m going three rounds because of time constraints and the fact that we’re early enough that things are going to move so dang much between now and the Combine.
- The order is set by Las Vegas odds-makers, not me.
Let’s get this train rolling off the tracks!
1st Round, Pick 11 - Henry Ruggs III - Wide Receiver
There’s going to be a few people who see Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, and Tim Patrick and ask, “Why would the Broncos need another young receiver?”
I get that, truly I do, but I just keep coming back to how last year’s offense cratered when Emmanuel Sanders got hurt.
The short-term hope has to be Sanders is back and wrecking secondaries this fall. Long-term, it’s impossible to ignore that he’ll be 33-years-old at a position where every year hits like a semi. His contract also expires in the spring.
Ruggs III would come in and give the Broncos’ offense a true burner who could lift the coverage shells and give Sutton, Patrick, and Hamilton room to operate underneath. The Draft Network’s Trevor Sikkema wrote that Ruggs III is “One of the fastest players I’ve ever seen on a football field – and I don’t just mean for his age or in the college ranks.”
The player who gave me the most pause was safety Grant Delpit out of LSU. If you’ve been keeping up with me on Twitter, you probably know how much I like Delpit. I also tend to value game-breaking safety talent more than most, and I think Delpit has that kind of potential. He’s already gotten a lot of love as the best defensive player in the country.
If Elway were to go that route, it could potentially elevate the entire secondary after Harris departs (and I expect he will). Kareem Jackson could feasibly move back down and Delpit would run with whoever remains of the Will Parks / Justin Simmons duo.
"Grant Delpit" is a euphemism that quarterbacks use for "G-D Damnit!" when they have LSU on the schedule.— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) September 2, 2019
What a player. Might be the best player I've watched in months.
2nd round, Pick 43 - Alex Leatherwood Offensive Tackle
Jalen Reagor fell all the way to 42, which would have made this pick a prime trade down opportunity if I was actually on the clock.
This one’s as far from sexy as someone with a name like “Leatherwood” can be. In the end, I aimed to address the Broncos’ issue at left tackle. I’ve been a vocal critic of the Bolles selection since it was made back in 2017 and I spent two days littering Twitter with grandpa GIFs.
One of the biggest bummers of last year’s draft cycle was loving Andre Dillard and knowing Bolles would prevent Elway from considering him. Leatherwood could help ease that pain, at least a little.
ANDRE DILLARD, the LT here, is @PFF #2 highest graded OLine rookie. Looks like #Eagles have added to their already strong nest of OLinemen. I like Dillard’s run block here on the Inside Zone. Good footwork, hands and power. pic.twitter.com/b7jelZVRsq— Paul Alexander (@CoachPaulAlex) August 30, 2019
The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs cited his athleticism and natural power and strength. He consistently used momentum to win in zone blocking concepts and has the ability to move and mirror in space. All of that is music to my ears. So while it sounds like he’ll need some technical work to reach his ceiling in the NFL, he would have Mike Munchak to help him get there.
I had the opportunity to snag Brandon Jones out of Texas, but looking at the scouting report turned me off real quick. It’s early enough in the process that this is as much about learning the prospects as anything, but when Trevor Sikkema says, “ball skills are non-existent,” I look elsewhere.
The other player that really gave me pause is Purdue’s Markus Bailey. As I said a few weeks ago, there remains a decent chance that 2019 will be Todd Davis’ last in orange and blue. He enters week one having missed all of training camp, and the Broncos can save $5 million against the cap by letting him go next spring.
In the end, I passed on Bailey because I believed left tackle is a much larger long-term need and much more difficult to grab late on draft day. Maybe I luck out and Bailey’s still there in the 3rd. TDN had him with an 86 overall ranking, after all.
3rd round, Pick 75 - Cameron Dantzler - Cornerback
3rd round, Pick 86 - Ashtyn Davis - Safety
Since offense was the priority early, I thought it best to take advantage of the depth in the secondary a little later. As I mentioned earlier, Chris Harris is probably playing out his last season in orange and blue. Kareem Jackson will be 32 at the start of training camp next year.
Even with Isaac Yiadom, Da’Vante Bausby, and Bryce Callahan under contract, a little forward thinking would go a long way in the secondary. This is why Dantzler and Davis make sense.
Dantzler brings ball skills to the position, which is something that can’t be overlooked. He’s relatively new to the position, yet still brings a lot of tools. According to TDN’s Jordan Reid, Dantlzer “possesses a few unique traits that aren’t coachable and has a baseline understanding of the ones that he wasn’t rewarded with naturally.”
Davis is another DB with ball skills who also brings the hammer when it comes time to hit. He has range on the back end and the kind of versatility Fangio’s prioritized since coming to the Broncos.
@dantzlerIsland3 he like that ‼️ https://t.co/PiOz1uJeaw— Amani Gilmore (@iam_maniiii) September 1, 2019
Leki Fotu was an intriguing option I passed up. The former offensive tackle stands 6’5, 325 lbs, and brings a ton of core strength and raw power to the table. With Derek Wolfe, Shelby Harris, and Adam Gotsis all playing on expiring contracts, defensive tackle could become a pressing need. I passed because with the way Fangio runs sub-packages, I suspect interior rusher will be a problem sooner rather than later.
I’m also keeping an eye on Chicago’s cap situation. The recent extension of Cody Whitehair means there’s a halfway decent chance Akiem Hicks becomes available.
Akiem Hicks over the last THREE years— Fair Shake Football (@FairshakeFB) July 7, 2019
53 Hits on the quarterback
163 Tackles (Aaron Donald - 147)
At 340 lbs, he can play the 0-5 techniques. The dude is special and it’s not talked about enough
Name a more underrated defensive player than @The_Dream99 pic.twitter.com/JtIDupXYdk
I’m sure there will be some who take issue with the fact that I didn’t grab a linebacker in this draft. Honestly, I get it. However, I believe the Broncos’ issues with tight ends is overblown by conventional stats and Vic Fangio can make hay with lesser prospects at the position if need be. Even then, I did consider Clemson safety/linebacker hybrid Isaiah Simmons. He fell all the way to 38. Unfortunately, the Colts snagged him before I could. Maybe if I could trade, I would consider.
I’ll also admit I thought a lot about quarterbacks with Jacob Eason, K.J. Costello, and Jalen Hurts all staring me in the face in the late third. Both Eason and Costello fit the mold of Elway quarterbacks, but my exposure to Eason is so limited that he’s a huge gamble. I wonder about Costello’s long term upside, but did like his 2018 tape. Stanford asks him to make a lot of NFL reads and he throws with anticipation, which is something most rookie quarterbacks still have to learn. Hurts in particular was tempting, but I don’t think he’s an Elway or Scangarello type of quarterback.
Perhaps I’ll pull the trigger once there’s a few more games for me to look at all of them.
Grade the mock!
This poll is closed
A - would love this draft.
B - I would like this draft.
C - I feel empty inside.
D - You blew it.
F - Fire the GM!
Your Broncos News
Taking a very early stab at the #Broncos active roster for #MNF against the #Raiders. pic.twitter.com/1jv9Tup01X— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 1, 2019
Biggest surprises on Broncos’ roster - Mile High Report
Mile High Report staff members share their thoughts on the Broncos’ initial 53-man roster.
10+ things we learned about the 2019 Broncos 53-man roster - Mile High Report
Now that the roster is set, this is what we learned.
Just my opinion:— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 1, 2019
Josh Watson > Keishawn Bierria https://t.co/uGxlJzoMMd
Monday Roster Musings: The 2019 Denver Broncos - Mile High Report
With so much action over the last 72 hours there’s a lot to digest. These are the moves that caught attention.
Broncos announce they have signed seven players to their practice squad - Mile High Report
The Broncos added a total of seven players to their 10-man practice squad.
Denver Broncos claim quarterback Brandon Allen off waivers - Mile High Report
Broncos find their backup quarterback.
3 days until NFL season starts.— Sports Info Solutions (@SportsInfo_SIS) September 2, 2019
New DEN QB Joe Flacco was second in the NFL in both Independent Quarterback Rating and Points Earned Per Attempt against Cover 3 in 2018 (min. 50 att).
He trailed only Russell Wilson in the former and Marcus Mariota in the latter. #100NFLStats
Report: Broncos re-sign linebacker Corey Nelson - Mile High Report
Broncos bring back a familiar face to add depth at inside linebacker.
Broncos claim Andrew Beck and Corey Levin off waivers - Mile High Report
The Broncos get a new fullback/tight end as well as interior line depth.
Report: Broncos claim wide receiver Diontae Spencer off waivers - Mile High Report
Broncos found themselves a return man.
Broncos to sign defensive back Davontae Harris - Mile High Report
Broncos add to the New Fly Zone.
I like the 2-year aspect. Gives the #Broncos a chance to develop him this year and see it pay off in 2020. https://t.co/5TthpryocR— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 2, 2019
Report: Broncos will place rookie quarterback Drew Lock on the short-term injured reserve - Mile High Report
Tough break for the Broncos second-round pick.
How to get a good (or great) NFL offensive line - Mile High Report
Buy it, spend draft capital on it, or develop it. There are a myriad of ways to go about it.
A game of 20 questions about the Denver Broncos and the NFL - Mile High Report
Can the Broncos win 8 games and will Bolles make it through an entire season? We answer these questions and 18 more in the Broncos & Bratwurst Podcast.
if this is a Fine it’s gonna be a long year smh https://t.co/opG0tJwq1z— Chris Harris (@ChrisHarrisJr) September 1, 2019
Denver Broncos | SB Nation’s 2019 NFL Preview
9-7 The Heart | by Tim Lynch This team will only be as good as Joe Flacco is. However, their defense is going to be elite and should keep the Broncos in a lot of games. With the second-toughest strength of schedule in the NFL this year, it will be a long, hard road back to contention for Denver.
Expert prediction: TOO HIGH The Head | by Geoff Schwartz Especially in a strong division like the AFC West, this is about two wins too high. Joe Flacco has been a below-average quarterback for a few years now. The defense will be improved with Vic Fangio at the helm, but that won’t be enough. As it currently stands, the Broncos would only be favored in five games, mostly by less than a field goal.
Just reading up on SB Nations #Broncos Preview. If @TimLynch1978 is right on Denver this year, will @geoffschwartz have to rename his podcast? pic.twitter.com/KuLy30rBkC— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 2, 2019
Sikkema’s 2020 NFL Mock Draft 1.0 | The Draft Network
Kristian Fulton CB, LSU
The Broncos were smart to bring in Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan to help cope with their defensive back needs. Getting Chris Harris Jr. back, even if only for a season or two, was also important. But how long will that group last on their own? Even if the answer is as favorable as general manager John Elway and other Broncos fans hope it is, they could still use a shutdown stud corner on the outside. For them, I like the thought of plugging in the 6-foot-1, 195-pound man coverage master Kristian Fulton. If you ask some people -- I am one of those “some people” -- Fulton, a former 5-star, was the best cornerback on LSU last year, which included Greedy Williams. Fulton is a natural playing with his back to the ball, and that is not always the case, even with some good man coverage players.
PFF Rankings: All 32 NFL offensive line rankings after the 2019 NFL preseason | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics | PFF
12. DENVER BRONCOS A lot of the preseason hype around this line centered around the possibility of third-year tackle Garett Bolles making a leap in performance. So far that doesn’t look to be the case, as he earned a 61.3 pass-blocking grade and 54.7 run-blocking grade across three games.
PFF’s 2019 NFL All-Preseason Team | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics | PFF
DI MIKE PURCELL, DENVER BRONCOS Purcell recorded three hits and three hurries on 64 pass-rushing snaps this preseason, but it was as a run defender where he really stood out. His 92.2 PFF run-defense grade was tied for the best mark among players on the defensive interior, and all seven of his tackles resulted in a defensive stop.
A look around the rest of the AFC West
2019 Kansas City Chiefs full 53-man roster revealed - Arrowhead Pride
The Chiefs cut their team down to 53 players on Saturday afternoon.
Three key Chiefs roster notes following the Saturday deadline - Arrowhead Pride
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach shared notes on TE Deon Yelder, QB Chad Henne, OL Jeff Allen and DL Breeland Speaks.
Report: Chiefs signing running back LeSean McCoy - Arrowhead Pride
The 31-year-old is a two-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler.
Breaking down the Chargers initial 53-man roster - Bolts From The Blue
Training camp is over, the preseason has finally come to a merciful end, and 37 players have been informed they won’t be part of the 2019 Los Angeles Chargers.
RE: Chargers OL.— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 2, 2019
WITHOUT Okung’s issues becoming a factor, I had this as a bottom 10-12 unit. With that + Lamp not locking down a guard spot it’s even worse. Aside from Pouncey’s zone run-blocking there’s little to be excited about right now. https://t.co/KMbQGEx2he
REPORT: Chargers give Melvin Gordon permission to seek a trade - Bolts From The Blue
Who will trade for the Chargers RB?
Melvin Gordon is indeed now following the Eagles on Instagram. pic.twitter.com/LEba8hiae4— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 1, 2019
Raiders back down to three quarterbacks as Nathan Peterman goes on IR - Silver And Black Pride
Many Raider fans found it puzzling that the Raiders kept four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, but that’s no longer the case as Nathan Peterman has been placed on Injured Reserve.
Texans’ seismic trades, John Schneider on Clowney to Seattle | SI.com
A whirlwind of action on Saturday confirms just how much pressure Houston is facing—but will the moves prove to be shrewd or hasty? Let’s examine the moves from the perspective of all three involved teams. Also, a look back at last year’s league-shift move (Khalil Mack to the Bears), additional takeaways from roster cuts and waiver pickups, a coach who will likely be running a team sooner than later and much more. It’s Week 1, let‘s go!
FMIA: On Cuts and Trades and Why Super Bowl 54 Will Be Chiefs-Saints – ProFootballTalk
Peter King’s Football Morning in America Column begins with his pick for Super Bowl 54, plus playoff predictions, award winners and more.
Patriots now are re-signing WR Demaryius Thomas to a one-year deal, per source. Thomas was released with the idea of returning.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 2, 2019
Bill O’Brien on trade criticism: Can’t control what outside world thinks – ProFootballTalk
“We can’t control what the outside world thinks,” O’Brien said, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “It’s probably taken me a while to figure that out.”
⬆️ Green Bay got to 21 from 27 for two 4th rounders— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) August 31, 2019
⬆️ Philly got to 22 from 25 for a 4th and a 6th
The Texans just gave up two 1sts and a 2nd for the right to pay Laremy Tunsil a FA-type deal pic.twitter.com/GGUWMCYM9U
Jacoby Brissett basically gets the franchise tag early – ProFootballTalk
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Colts weren’t enamored with next year’s expected class of free-agent quarterbacks, so they opted to give Brissett the security that he didn’t have, along with dibs on earning another deal.
Man Who coined the sayin “a dogs mouth is cleaner than a humans”. How’d they come up with this information?— Jacoby Brissett (@JBrissett12) July 19, 2019
Ezekiel Elliott contract rumors, news: New Cowboys deal ‘not close’ | SI.com
Stay up to date on the latest on Elliott’s contract extension talks with the Cowboys.
Explaining Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott’s 2018 PFF Grade | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics | PFF
The Cowboys understood this last point to a degree, sending a first-round pick to Oakland to acquire Amari Cooper to help Prescott on the outside. He responded by generating almost as many WAR during his partial season than Zeke did for the entire campaign. How well he and Prescott can perform with new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore will go far further towards how competitive the Cowboys will be in the NFC East moving forward than how well Zeke does with the ball in his hands.
Dolphins trade Kiko Alonso to Saints for Vince Biegel | SI.com
Miami will receive linebacker Vince Biegel in return.
Steelers, Joe Haden beat the clock on an extension – ProFootballTalk
The Steelers don’t re-do contracts once the season starts. This means that the Steelers and cornerback Joe Haden were playing beat the clock to get a new deal in place before next Sunday’s opener against the Patriots. They pulled it off.
Former Broncos guard Sam Jones is heading to Arizona’s practice squad per source. Reunited with Oline coach Sean Kugler— and his college stomping grounds. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) September 2, 2019
NFL Draft Links
So one of my goals for #Broncos coverage this year is to try and stay ahead of the NFL draft.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 2, 2019
I could use your help to do so: if you have access to any All-22 I would be happy to trade or owe you some other favor.
DMs are wide open. pic.twitter.com/SS7yPasTmH
Quarterbacks in new places helped boost NFL draft stocks while others came up short
One game never determines any player’s draft stock in its entirety, but a few 2020 NFL draft prospects had more success than others in Week 1 of college football.
Studs & Duds: The 2020 QB Class Debuts | The Draft Network
DUD - OREGON QB JUSTIN HERBERT Don’t do it. Don’t make the mistake of throwing a bunch of cold water on Justin Herbert and lay the blame for this loss at his feet. Did Herbert have a career game? No. I wouldn’t even say he played particularly well. But it shouldn’t be overlooked that the Ducks were without numerous top receivers -- and that there was no one to separate down the field all game. The Ducks also turtled late in the game and generally took the ball out of Herbert’s hands down the stretch -- which was rewarded with an epic choke job vs. Auburn in primetime. Herbert still showed all the flashes of skills that can make him a potential top-talent, but yes. Seeing Oregon drop a game that they sprinted out to an early lead in was disappointing, particularly in the way they took Herbert out of the driver’s seat down the stretch.
Herbert’s god awful Hail Mary is a microcosm of his game. Mental awareness is all over the map— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) September 1, 2019
Evaluations: Thor’s Mega 2020 NFL Draft Offensive Preview - Fantasy Columns
Costello graded out higher in 2018 by PFF’s metrics than Herbert, Fromm, and the majority of guys you’ll read about below. If nothing else, the NFL is going to appreciate the heck of out of Costello merely for being a classic dropback passer in a pro-style offense, an increasing rarity for top prospects.
KJ Costello is a QB I’m really excited to watch develop this next year. Could be one of the top senior QBs next year. He has a Phillip Rivers feel to him. pic.twitter.com/YLkAgL0fao— Your Main Man Matt (@CaddytotheLama) January 22, 2019
Eight sophomores who could break out in the 2019 college football season | College Football and NFL Draft | PFF
While there are plenty of well-known sophomore stars, such as Trevor Lawrence, here are some lesser-known names that could make a splash.
It's college, but I mean that is one of the best stat lines a QB could ever have. https://t.co/UgkgxU1nSt— Scott Kacsmar (@ScottKacsmar) September 2, 2019