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Speedy receiver or best defensive player in the 2020 draft?

For my first Mock Draft “Monday”, I have a conundrum right away: Henry Ruggs III or Grant Delpit?

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Ruggs III may just be the fastest 2020 NFL Draft prospect.
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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:

  1. Yes, I know the 2019 season hasn’t even started.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

It got ugly, fam.

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.”

He’s also a complete receiver.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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