Things are happening! Day 2 is really when some of the rumors and reports begin to get juicy, because Day 1 provides for a lot of time for teams, media, agents, and players to meet. That means there’s a lot more to digest and dig into.
With NFL Scouting Combine officially kicking off today, here’s a complete breakdown of the schedule for the week: pic.twitter.com/6RGX6ot0Uj— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) February 24, 2020
1. The Broncos are meeting with receivers.
This isn’t newsworthy in and of itself because most have placed receiver as the Broncos’ biggest need this offseason. Elway dang near said as much in his season ending presser a few months ago.
What’s noteworthy are the receivers we know the Broncos have shown interest in:
- Tee Higgins - Trevor Lawrence’s X-receiver from last year.
- Justin Jefferson - Played all but 10 snaps as a slot receiver for the LSU Tigers.
- Denzel Mims - Baylor’s acrobatic catch artist who I have as WR4 on my board.
- Gabriel Davis - UCF size/speed project who could be available on Day 3.
- Laviska Shenault - High upside weapon who had an official meeting with the Broncos.
- Brandon Aiyuk - Speedy Sun Devil who blew up as a Senior.
- Henry Ruggs III - KOA’s Ben Allbright reported months ago that he won’t go past 15.
- CeeDee Lamb - He and Jerry Jeudy have been fighting to be my WR1 for two months.
This year is the first that every NFL team only gets 45 formal meetings with prospects instead of 60 like in previous years. It is also important to remember that informal interviews happen a ton, but with the Broncos sending less personnel to Indianapolis I do believe their interest is notable.
2. Leary is out.
If you’ve been keeping up with Mile High Report you already know that Elway has declined the option on Ron Leary while retaining Todd Davis and Brandon McManus. While it may appear the Broncos now have a sizable hole at right guard, Fangio expressed confidence in Elijah Wilkinson, Patrick Morris, and Austin Schlottmann.
Moving on from Leary frees up an about $8 million in additional cap space for the Broncos. If/when they cut Joe Flacco, they will have just shy of $80 million.
It's important to note that Fangio said they feel good about the guys who played late: Pat Morris and Austin Schlottmann specifically. https://t.co/g2kCkkrBd3— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) February 25, 2020
3. Todd Davis is retained, for now.
One of the things that caught my eye is when Fangio told 9News’ Troy Renck that “they will look to upgrade at ILB, but it was a nuanced answer.” This came shortly before we found out that Davis would be sticking around after Elway picked up his contract. Reading the tea leaves, it sounds like the Broncos don’t want to create a hole on the roster, but will kick the tires on potential upgrades over the 7-year veteran.
4. Elway confirms that cornerback is a need.
“I think we have to get better there. That’s one area we’re looking to get better. I think we got better as time went on. We had some young guys. We had some injuries there. [CB] Bryce [Callahan] didn’t play last year. We had relied on him. [CB] Chris [Harris Jr.] had to stay outside a lot more because [S] Kareem [Jackson] played safety. That’s an area that we’re looking to hopefully get better this offseason.”
There has been plenty of speculation that the Broncos plan to “buy a defense” in free agency, which could mean chasing a player like Byron Jones of the Cowboys. There have also been reports that Denver is among the leading contenders for the Lions’ Pro Bowl corner Darius Slay. If you missed it Jeffrey Essary and I dove into tape on both to debate who the Broncos should pursue.
5. Expect the Broncos to pursue defensive linemen.
With both Shelby Harris and Derek Wolfe inching closer to free agency, it’s been a foregone conclusion that Fangio may seek help on the first level of the defense. So it was encouraging to see that Elway recognized something that most in Broncos’ Country have noticed.
Elway: “When you look at the free-agent class without a doubt the deepest position is the defensive line." #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) February 25, 2020
6. The Broncos had an official visit with my OT1.
Tuesday afternoon KOA’s Mike Klis revealed that the Broncos had three official visits, two with the aforementioned receivers as well as Alabama’s Jedrick Wills. I wrote at length about him here, but there are two things that really stand out about this interest.
First and foremost is the fact that most, if not all expect Wills to go in the draft’s first 10 picks. If Elway is chasing him, they will almost surely have to move up. Perhaps there’s hope that the New York Giants will go a different way and he’ll slide out of the top five?
Second is how Wills impacts the Broncos’ current tackles Garett Bolles. The 2017 first round pick is the only member of the starting offensive line from last season to not get a name drop by Fangio in his conversation with DNVR’s Andrew Mason. Denver has not yet decided on whether to pick up his fifth year option for 2021, possible due to the state of flux the new CBA is in.
A new CBA might change the guarantee calculus.— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) February 25, 2020
The NFLPA's fact sheet said that "5th Year Options fully guaranteed for 4th and 5th years at the time the option is exercised". The question would be whether that would apply retroactively to Bolles's contract, though.
7. All of the top tier tackles measured well.
There’s been some rumblings that Tristan Wirfs and Andrew Thomas could be better suited to play inside leading up to this week. Typically one of the reasons for this are concerns about arm length and hands. Both Wirfs and Thomas alleviated any concern about their length yesterday. Wirfs came in with 34” arms that would place him above the 50th percentile for offensive tackles, while Thomas had ridiculous length with 36 1/8” vines.
8. Royce Freeman’s fits as well as he always has.
As I’ve said a few times with Mike Munchak being retained the run blocking scheme will look very similar in 2020 to what the Broncos used in 2019. There may be more outside zone if the tackles are better, but that would only help Freeman.
The Broncos ran a hybrid zone/gap scheme last year and will do the same this year.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) February 25, 2020
It's on the tape. https://t.co/750NUnFb90
9. 5 Quarterbacks may go in the top 14.
This is more speculation than anything concrete, but Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller reported that a director of player personnel mentioned an interest in Washington’s Jacob Eason within the top 15.
There is essentially one team that that makes sense for and it’s the Bruce Arians’ Buccaneers, and only if guys like Justin Herbert and Jordan Love are off the board. Assuming Tua Tagovailoa gets a healthy report from medicals, he and Joe Burrow are top 10 locks.
From what I’ve seen of Eason’s tape, I’d consider him a stretch in the top 32. He has a howitzer but struggles under pressure. That arm strength and size may fool an evaluator or two into reaching for him on upside, and that’d be fantastic for a team to take him and push more talent down the board to Denver.
One thing’s for sure it hasn’t been a boring week so far.