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10 things I think I think about Day 5 at the Combine

It’s a good year to need offensive linemen.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 27 Holiday Bowl - USC v Iowa
Look up “freak” in the dictionary and there’ll be a picture of Tristan Wirfs.
Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Yesterday was all about the wide receivers. Now Day 2 of the underwear Olympics featured the Offensive Linemen and ball carriers. Since “Buy a defense, build an offense” has been the rumored plan for John Elway and the Broncos this offseason, there’s a lot to digest.

1. The Broncos are clearly looking to draft a back.

Thanks to reports by 9News’ Mike Klis, we know that Denver has had formal meetings with four different backs in Indianapolis. J.K. Dobbins is the big name, but it’s a good time to familiarize yourself with A.J. Dillons, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, and Cam Akers as well. There are a lot of differences between them, but none weighed in under 210 lbs.

Right before the backs ran the 40-yard dash, Broncos’ Insider Benjamin Allbright shared that fans ought to keep an eye on the Boston College product. He’s having himself one heck of a week with explosive jumps and blazing runs at a hefty 247 lbs.

J.K. Dobbins brings good contact balance, strong pass blocking, and vision to the table.

2. The Freakshow from Iowa

If you’ve been keeping up with my draft content so far this year, you’ll already know I had Tristan Wirfs as my OT2 coming into this week. He remains there because Jedrick Wills tape is silly, but holy cow did Wirfs put on a show in the dome.

3. Word is Ezra Cleveland could climb into the first day.

The Broncos showed interest in Cleveland this week, which got me jazzed because he’s a Boise State Bronco with some real tools and strong pass sets. Turns out there’s real concern in Cleveland that he won’t be there at their second pick.

2020 NFL Scouting Combine: Latest news & rumors around the NFL | PFN

Boise State tackle Ezra Cleveland continues to move up draft boards, as I expected he would. He completed 30 reps on the bench press yesterday and just missed finishing rep number 31. Expect fast times from Cleveland today, as he could potentially get under 4.9 seconds. Speaking with several people, it seems the Cleveland Browns like Cleveland (no pun intended) a lot. I could see the Browns trading a few slots down in round one if one of their higher-rated tackles is not available when they are on the clock to then select the Boise State junior. Cleveland won’t be available to the Browns in the second round.

4. Jedrick Wills at guard?

If you read that Pro Football Network report you’ll see how there may be some concerns about Wills playing at tackle in the NFL? I don’t get it.

Presently, Andrew Thomas and Tristan Wirfs are drawing high praise from several teams who have them one-two on their tackle board. Moving in the other direction is Jedrick Wills, as teams are concerned about his ability to mentally process a complex blocking scheme. Some teams now project Wills to guard.

Wills served as a stalwart blindside protector for the left-handed Tua Tagovailoa and was a dominant run blocker in the SEC. He’s also an elite athlete for a tackle, so it’s wild that Tony Pauline reported that some teams have taken him off their tackle board. When Pauline spoke with Edwards and Allbright on Broncos’ Country Tonight he said:

After quarterback your tackle’s got to be on it, and if your tackle can’t handle it they’ll be pushed inside.

It’s worth noting that Pauline later shared that he believes Wills is the most overrated prospect in this class and that he won’t be able to move from the right side.

5. Andrew Thomas had a really solid Combine.

There’s been a lot of talk since the season wound down that Thomas had fallen behind Wirfs and Wills in the tackle hierarchy. Then evaluators got their eyes on Mekhi Becton and fell for his monstrous combination of size and athleticism, which pushed Thomas down to OT4 for many.

The Georgia Bulldog doesn’t look like he’s done anything to change their minds in Indianapolis. It isn’t that he had a bad week by any means, but he had good workouts after measuring in with wickedly long vines while Wills and Wirfs had freaky workouts and Becton ran a really good 40-yard dash.

It’s worth remembering that Thomas would be an OT1 in most drafts after starting for three years in the SEC. While he may not wind up getting the buzz others do, he’s hardly a bad pick if the Broncos go that way in the draft.

6. The Wolverine showed up.

If you’ve been reading up all week you know the Broncos met with Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz. He had a pretty darn good day in gym shorts and looked fluid in the line drills. He’s a versatile 20-year old interior offensive line prospect who brings exciting potential.

7. Wolfe is meeting with other teams

Outside of the work on the field, there was some news about relating to the Broncos. Allbright reported that Derek Wolfe has met with the Arizona Cardinals, Cincininati Bengals, New England Patriots, and Baltimore Ravens.

The Bengals would represent a bit of a homecoming for the former Bearcat, but they’re also in need of defensive line help (they have looked into Shelby Harris as well). Arizona has Vance Joseph as their defensive coordinator and need help on all their levels of their defense. Both the Ravens and Pats are looking for talent up front.

Most likely it is about creating some negotiating leverage with the Broncos, but the 30-year old’s return is not set in stone.

8. Mike Mayock gave a couple hints on primetime.

One of the beautiful parts to the fact that Jon Gruden hired his General Manager out of the NFL Network is that Rich Eisen peppered the Raider’s GM with a few questions. Most of it was deflected (Mayock did not confirm that Las Vegas has spoken with Tom Brady) but there was a couple things late that struck me as noteworthy.

When asked about how he viewed the defensive class, Mayock said the following:

  • While this defensive line class has two guys at the top, there are three or four he likes right beneath that.
  • I think there’s more linebackers than a lot of people do.
  • “Every position gets evaluated every year, and if we can upgrade it, we will.”

He also talked about Maxx Crosby being a bit of a freak athlete by gaining weight over his rookie season, which is neither here nor there but only reminds me how much I hated that pick last year.

As far as the defensive line, I’d guess he’s talking about Ross Blacklock, Neville Gallimore, and Marlon Davidson. That fourth player may be Raekwon Davis, A.J. Epenesa, or someone else entirely. None of them are really surprising as most people have that group together, but it’s interesting that he revealed as much.

The linebacker part struck me as noteworthy because some people have pegged the Raiders for Kenneth Murray and Patrick Queen with their second first rounder, but if Mayock feels comfortable with some of the depth in this class that seems unlikely.

Gallimore between Hurst and Crosby would be a nightmare.

9. Byron Jones is hitting free agency.

This got lost in the workouts, but reports out of the Combine confirmed it. The Dallas Cowboys are going to let their star defensive back test the market. If you’ve kept up with Jeff Essary and my podcast Cover2Broncos, you’ll know we think the world of him. Let’s hope Elway agrees.

10. No, the Broncos should not trade up in the first round.

If you’ve paid close enough attention to the Combine so far, you know that the following players are all locks for the top 14:

  • Joe Burrow
  • Chase Young
  • Jeffrey Okudah
  • Tristan Wirfs
  • Jedrick Wills
  • Derrick Brown
  • Javon Kinlaw
  • Justin Herbert
  • Tua Tagovailoa
  • Meckhi Becton
  • Isaiah Simmons
  • Henry Ruggs
  • Jerry Jeudy
  • CeeDee Lamb
  • Jordan Love

You’ll probably notice that that’s 15 players, and that’s before you add in guys like K’Lavon Chaisson, Andrew Thomas, or Jacob Eason, all prospects who have had their names floated as in this same tier. Which brings me to my point: the Broncos have enough needs at enough positions that the smartest thing they could do is sit pretty and wait to see who is available when they’re on the board.

Worst case scenario, they trade down or take a guy like Thomas to eventually supplant Garett Bolles or CeeDee Lamb to become Courtland Sutton’s running mate. I for one wouldn’t complain.

Still Grazin? Denver had formal meetings with:

  • WR Laviska Shenault
  • WR Jerry Jeudy
  • WR Brandon Aiyuk
  • WR Henry Ruggs III
  • WR CeeDee Lamb
  • WR Jalen Reagor
  • WR Gabriel Davis
  • OT Jedrick Wills
  • OT Tristan Wirfs
  • OT Ezra Cleveland
  • OT Austin Jackson
  • OL Robert Hunt
  • OL Cesar Ruiz
  • OL Shane Lemieux
  • RB J.K. Dobbins
  • RB Cam Akers
  • RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn
  • RB A.J. Dillon
  • DL Ross Blacklock
  • DL Josiah Coatney
  • ED Derreck Tuszka

If you go back and count the names above, you’ll notice that 9 names are still missing from Denver’s final 30. There are seven receivers, four running backs, four tackles, three interior offensive linemen, two defensive linemen, and an edge.