With the major moves out of the way, it’s time to look ahead to the NFL Draft. At present, the Broncos still have 10 picks and a slew of needs in the short and long term to address. I tried to keep both in mind as I threw on my GM hat and got to work, so bear with me. Keep in mind that I made all of my picks off of the Draft Network’s Mock Machine, so any complaints about value should be directed at them. I just picked what was there.
Without further adieu:
T34. WR - Jalen Reagor - TCU
The top three receivers go off the board 11-13, and I’m left with Jedrick Wills, Javon Kinlaw, and Andrew Thomas staring me in the face at 15. With questions about Wills mental acuity cropping up at the Combine and the fact that we may be in the wilderness on Kinlaw’s knee due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it seemed like a good chance to explore trade down options.
Fortunately, Jordan Love remains on the board and so I gave Chris Ballard a call. While the Colts did just sign Philip Rivers, the fact is they have no quarterback under contract in 2021. Love lands in a situation where there is almost zero pressure to play this year with two veteran quarterbacks ahead of him on a win-now roster, while I get two second round picks for the price of 15 and some Day 3 flotsam.
Sliding out of the first round seems like a huge gamble until the clock stops on 34 and a Horned Frog is still staring me in the face. I’m a bit surprised Reagor’s still available, he’s a first round talent. He adds an explosive element to the offense and can contribute right away on manufactured touches, returns, and polish his route running.
T44. OT - Austin Jackson - USC
First the bad: Jackson’s tape has some really rough reps from last year. Looking at his Notre Dame and Utah film will leave you straight up concerned about this one. He got schooled by Julian Okwara and Bradlee Anae, so how will he hold up to professional pass rushers?
Now the good: Jackson’s also 20-years old with exceptional tools and time to develop under the best offensive line coach in football behind Garett Bolles and Ja’Wuan James. Part of his struggles last year no doubt happened because he donated bone marrow to safe his sister’s life right before the season.
He’s my OL7 in this class, but I feel good taking a chance on him here.
46. CB - Trevon Diggs - Alabama
This pick came down to Diggs or Antoine Winfield, two players that I’m debating for the first round of my final first round big board at the end of April. The latter is carrying significant medical questions that won’t really be answered before the draft. The former did not work out at the Combine and we’ll never know his true measurements because Alabama didn’t have a Pro Day.
When it comes down to both tape and positional value, I had to go with Diggs as he’s my fourth best corner. I wrote about him yesterday.
One of the common misnomers during draft season is the idea of athletic ability. Often times it’s equated with the time a player can run 40-yards, despite most agreeing that running that distance in shorts and a T-shirt have little to do with someone’s ability to play football. Athletic ability also goes beyond a player’s straight line speed to their lateral mobility, explosiveness, ability to jump, etc. To really get a decent idea for a player, you also need to consider their size at which they’re making these movements.
This applies to Trevon Diggs because I do not believe he is quite the mover someone like Jeff Gladney is. Maybe I’m wrong, because he did not work out at the Combine and Gladney’s agility scores came in horrifically low. That said, I doubt he’s quite as fast in a straight line as Kristian Fulton is, too.
Diggs is a good bit taller though. In fact, he came in at 6’1” with 32 3/4” arms, both figures are above the 75th percentile for NFL cornerbacks. That’s important because his size and length has a noticeable impact on some of his bigger strengths.
In the NFL he looks like he’ll eventually be at his best pressing up on opponents and using his length to jam and disrupt their release. He’s athletic enough to stay in trail on their hip, and to use his long arms to reach up and contest passes at the catch point. His ball skills are an underrated part of his game, and when he’s shown an ability to bait opponents into throwing in his vicinity. Underestimate his ability to drop and go up for the pass at your own peril.
In the league, he’ll need to better use his length to shed blocks and contribute on the perimeter once the ball is in play. He’s a solid tackler, but I’d like to see more from him here. He has the talent to do so. His length does work to his detriment a bit when he’s outside of trail because he’s not as quick in a phone booth. I have concerns about his ability to play in off, which is why he could move a good bit if the speed scores don’t measure up.
77. S - Ashtyn Davis - Cal
Davis is a weird pick for a couple of reasons. Because Fangio’s defense uses two high safeties and split field concepts a good bit, there’s a demand for the safeties to come down and help fill against the run. It’s one of the unsung reasons why Kareem Jackson coming in for Will Parks after week four last year helped the run defense as much as it did. Right now that’s a not a strength of Davis’ game. It’s not that he’s necessarily a bad or unwilling tackler, but he needs to improve at taking on blockers, staying under control, and bringing down ball carriers in phone booths.
So why did I take him? Well simply put, his range will open up options in the pass defense that simply didn’t exist before. He also offers the skills to match up and cover slots or tight ends in the passing game, which can only expand what the defense can do. In the long term that could matter a great deal and free up Justin Simmons to continue doing the things he does at an All Pro level. If you have any doubt about the fit, he has some comparable strengths to another Fangio safety.
83. DL - Jordan Elliott - Missouri
Missing out on D.J. Reader hurt, there’s no doubt about it. The Broncos were willing to pay $12 million a year to beef up the interior of the defensive line. The move to keep Mike Purcell and trade for Jurrell Casey surely helped, but one look at the base defensive line reveals how they didn’t necessarily improve on last year’s group. Yet.
Elliott should help that. He had a breakout season last season and has the physical traits to eventually be a base defensive end and an interior pass rusher in the nickel. I was torn between him and Ohio State’s Davon Hamilton, but with Patrick Mahomes running the AFC it made more sense to find a pass rusher.
95. C - Tyler Biadasz - Wisconsin
If you believe that Centers can be superstars, throwing on this Badger’s 2018 tape would have convinced you that’s where he was headed. This season wasn’t as great, and he comes with some questions about his balance and lateral quickness. That said, I love how experienced he is playing in a diverse blocking scheme. Giving someone like him to Munchak has me confident that between Patrick Morris and him, the pivot will have an answer this year.
118. LB - Akeem Davis-Gaither - Appalachian St.
Since we all got time lately, I strongly advise you go to Youtube and turn on some ADG tape. You’re welcome. If he’s here this late in the real Draft it will be due to the fact that he’s coming out of a small school and people are sleeping on this linebacker class. Simply put, I’d love to see what Fangio can do with him.
While his 224lb frame is undersized, it isn’t badly so. Especially when you watch him battle tackles and bang against SEC. He should be a strong blitzer in the right hands in the league and has the athleticism to be a weapon in space. In college he played a lot of overhang so it’ll be a bit of a learning curve for him as he moves to the box in the Broncos’ base defense, but since Todd Davis and Alexander Johnson are under contract in 2020 this isn’t as big a concern.
178. LB - Davion Taylor - Colorado
One of the harsh truths about late Day 3 picks is that they’re essentially throwing darts at a wall. The return tends to be so low that it makes sense to chase upside and hope a player can help on special teams. Well Taylor fits both those asks to a T, which is why I chose him over Liberty’s Antonio Gandy-Golden.
Taylor’s instincts and understanding of the Fangio defense may never reach a level where he can be a legitimate starter, but I love the range and tenacity he brings to the position. Who knows, maybe the Godfather can coach him up. All reports have suggested the Buffalo is very coachable, as he was considered a Mel Tucker favorite.
What grade would you give this draft?
This poll is closed
A - I love it!
B - Pretty darn good.
C - I’m dead inside.
D - Displeasure is not the word I’d use.
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THE DENVER BRONCOS The Denver Broncos are good? I love the way Vic Fangio builds a defense. The trade for A.J. Bouye was excellent and gives the Broncos a quality secondary across the board with the top-flight safety duo of Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons. Fangio has gotten quality play out of linebackers Todd Davis and A.J. Johnson and EDGEs Malik Reed and Jerry Attachou — those positions are only going to get stronger as Fangio steps into Year 2 of his defense. Casey is just the cherry on top. The defensive unit is going to be good and was good for Denver in the back half of 2019. The Broncos offense had flashes, especially as rookie quarterback Drew Lock took over for Joe Flacco and second-year X-receiver Courtland Sutton emerged as a top wideout. But nobody stepped into the void left by Sanders in the passing game. DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick have both underwhelmed as WR2, and tight end Noah Fant isn’t yet a developed NFL route runner with consistent hands. Denver has two big-time needs: WR2 and left tackle to replace Garett Bolles. The offense will take time to add the final pieces and is conditional on development from Lock. With the defense ready to roll and the offense starting to take the right steps after adding running back Melvin Gordon and guard Graham Glasgow, they could be a lot of fun next season.
NFL Draft Links
Who should Vic Fangio add to the secondary in the 2020 NFL Draft?
Broncos Henry Ruggs III WR, Alabama The Denver Broncos have one of the best young core groups across the league. Drew Lock, a 2019 second-round pick, had a strong performance starting the final five games and receiver Courtland Sutton showed plenty of promise as WR1. The next best asset is a field stretcher for the strong-armed Lock to throw to as well as open things up even more for Sutton and Noah Fant. John Elway has worked to flip the narrative about himself as an evaluator and roster builder.
The inability of ESPN to secure Al Michaels’ services from NBC also may have been a factor. Manning surely won’t want to enter a broadcast booth without someone he regards to be among the very best at handling football play-by-play.
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