With the NFL Combine in the rear-view mirror and free agency quickly approaching, it’s time to reevaluate my first round big board. With the exception of agility drills, we now have a pretty good picture how most of the top talent stacks up athletically. There’s also been a little noise out of Indianapolis about how the league feels about player’s.
Keep in mind that this board is aimed at the Broncos’ systems first and foremost. Some players may move up or down over the next month and a half because of Pro Days, Free Agency, and as I start digging back into the 2019 tape.
So what’s changed since the first board? Let’s take a look.
Tier 1: If they slide we’re making calls.
With rumors that John Elway called about the first pick in the draft, it’s worth considering what prospects he’d look to move up for. I doubt the Duke is trying to go up for Burrow with Drew Lock on the roster, but there are plenty of other blue chippers that could intrigue.
1. ED1 - Chase Young - OSU
The Buckeye ran as much in Indy as I did. Doesn’t matter, he’s a ridiculous combination of size, speed, and technique. Barring some sort of ridiculous situation he’ll be long gone by 15.
2. CB1 - Jeffrey Okudah - OSU
Another Buckeye, and another guy who didn’t move in the slightest. One of the most interesting parts of some of these Combine “winners” and the talk about Wirfs, Simmons, and the quarterbacks is how it could impact the presidential cornerback prospect. No way he falls out of the top five, right?
Tier 2 - Are you going BPA or chasing a need?
If you don’t care about the holes in your current lineup these players represent the best talent available.
3. X - Isaiah Simmons - Clemson
Simmons’ performance was otherworldly. The thing is, I expected him to jump out of the dome and run really well and so I’m not going to gush about his athleticism ‘til we see the agility scores.
Instead, he’s moving up a spot because Vic Fangio’s comment to Troy Renck last week. Simmons looks like generational hybrid that could serve as a second level defender in a Derwin James mold with the kind of instincts in space to erase opponents when he’s in coverage. If he lands in a situation with a coach who knows how to use him and stays healthy, his ceiling is a gold jacket. If he lands with a team that just throws him out as a 3-down linebacker, it could be a waste of a top 10 draft pick.
4. OL1 - Tristan Wirfs - Iowa
He was considered a freak before the 2019 season began, and now we know for a fact he’s just that. In fact, it’s hard to tell if Simmons or Wirfs had a freakier Combine. All of the scores we should care about were in the 99th percentile. He’d test as an elite athlete for a tight end. His jumps were better than Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb’s. On top of that his arms met what team’s consider long enough to play on the outside.
Now, Wirfs college tape has more blemishes than a couple guys lower on this list. He wasn’t as strong a pass blocker as Wills or Thomas were in 2019, and in the NFL that’s job #1 for a a tackle. But he’s probably the safest of the top tier because if he can’t cut it on the edge his game looks like it should make for a strong fit inside at guard. With the coaching Denver has in place, I’d feel really excited with this pick.
My biggest beef with Wirfs is all the reports out of Cleveland suggest the Browns are his floor.
5. DL1 - Derrick Brown - Auburn
If you’re sweating Derrick Brown’s agility times, I’m here to talk you off the ledge. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many prospects put in bottom 10 agility times. When the NFL reorganized the Combine for primetime money, they $crewed up what it was really about. His tape shows a monstrous human being who has heavy hands and the kind of power to embarrass opponents.
If you’re sweating Derrick Brown’s jumps and wondering if he’s in the same tier as Ed Oliver or Quinnen Williams and if he’ll be an impact pass rusher? Well, that’s fair. I want to see his Pro Day. The big question by a few in the national media is that Brown didn’t take preparation for the Combine as seriously as he maybe should have. His tests could be the wake-up call.
6. DL2 - Javon Kinlaw - South Carolina
If you’re looking for a perfect talent for the Broncos’ defensive scheme, Kinlaw’s your guy. He’s long and carries his weight extremely well, with an explosive burst and heavy hands to shock and overpower opponents. He’s also the kind of character guy that both Elway and Broncos’ Country would love, having grown up homeless and working to provide a better life for his family. He needs to improve his repertoire as a pass rusher and get more consistent with his pad level, but the tools are there to be a dominant player under Fangio.
The big question with him at this point is a balky knee. He pulled out of the Senior Bowl with knee tendinitis after dominating the first part of the week, and then skipped out on workouts at the Combine. The Broncos met with him, if they feel comfortable with the knee I would ecstatic with this pick.
Tier 3 - BPA at position of need.
The only argument I’d make for any of these players over the prospects I placed above is the positions they play. That said, they fill long term holes that free agency probably can’t.
7. OL2 - Andrew Thomas - Georgia
This Bulldog’s the boring tackle. He isn’t a 6’7 370 lb freakshow, and no, he didn’t out-jump first round receivers. Instead he just held up to NFL talent on the blindside for the last three seasons. He only has 36” arms, and only posted elite athletic numbers. The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs has said he may fit best in an offense that features “a lot of power rushing concepts between the tackles and implement West Coast offense tendencies in the passing game.”
Guess who does just that?
8. OL3 - Jedrick Wills - Alabama
Based purely on the tape, Jedrick Wills was a better player than Tristan Wirfs in 2019. The reports out of Indianapolis about teams taking him off their tackle board raises alarm bells though. It could be b.s. or a team overthinking things, I don’t know. After all, I don’t get to sit in on interviews, and I like his tape a lot, so OT2 seems fair. Worst case scenario, Denver could use a right guard.
9. WR1 - Jerry Jeudy - Alabama
In a lot of ways Jerry Jeudy is the Andrew Thomas of this wide receiver class. Part of it’s because he didn’t work out particularly well, and the other reason is he’s been in pole position for a year. People have gone over his tape with a fine tooth comb and now Ruggs’ 40-time is there to fawn over.
The thing is, we knew Ruggs was fast. We also know Jeudy is the best separator most have ever seen in a WR prospect. He played a little over 50% of his snaps inside and can do damage on the boundary. I’ve debated Jeudy vs. Lamb so long that it’s kept me up at nights, but watching Drew Lock and Pat Shurmur’s offense for Cover2Broncos, I’m at a point where it’s clear who fits the Broncos’ needs best.
10. WR2 - Henry Ruggs III - Alabama
The safe bet If you’re looking for the player Elway is most likely to risk it all for. There’s rumors that the Broncos will look to go up and get him, and I just can’t see them passing on him if he somehow slides.
The thing is, teams know Elway wants to grab speed as he telegraphed it all offseason. Because of this, someone will move up to chase the most complete burner in this draft in order to emulate what Tyreek Hill gives the Kansas City Chiefs on the field.
I don’t want the Broncos to throw away picks in a loaded draft class, but dang if he winds up in Denver it’ll be fun to see what Drew Lock can do with him.
11. WR3 - CeeDee Lamb - Oklahoma
I can’t decide if it’s more amusing that people are overreacting to his 40-time or the catch he made in position drills. Both aspects are what you’re getting with Lamb, who is the closest I’ve seen to DeAndre Hopkins. I love his game and think he’ll be a star, but I do wonder if he’s the best fit for the Shurmur offense. He’d look great on slants with his nasty demeanor after the catch, and has the body control and hands to make plays downfield, but both Ruggs and Jeudy bring strengths to the receiving corps that better compliment Courtland Sutton.
12. DB2 - Xavier McKinney - Alabama
A few of the guys above McKinney have the “let’s see the Pro Day” caveat, but he’s probably THE “let’s see the Pro Day” guy. The big question mark about him coming off the tape was what he could do in the underwear Olympics. It was okay. He had good enough jumps and pulled up lame on his 40-yard dash. The agility scores never came in and we know they’d have been junk regardless.
I love his tape. Love it. You can’t be dumb and play safety at the level he did for Nick Saban. I’d be pretty dang happy with him at 15 if Fangio is because he’s the kind of nickel/safety hybrid who could thrive in the modern NFL.
13. WR4 - Denzel Mims - Baylor
Now that we have the numbers, there’s an argument to make that he’d be a great pick at 15.
- One of the best size/speed prospects in this class.
- Unteachable explosiveness.
- Body control that is only second to CeeDee Lamb’s.
- Improved as a route runner throughout his college career.
- Strong on a vertical plane with a great catch radius.
- Early breakout age with iffy quarterbacks.
- Perfect fit as a Z-receiver for the Broncos’ system under Pat Shurmur.
Now that we’re here though, he also has a couple of question marks. Concentration drops were an issue at Baylor. Like Jalen Reagor, his best plays will make you want to forgive him for them but it is notable. He also needs to grow as a route runner if he’s going to thrive in the NFL.
Tier 4 - Make me an offer
These are exceptional scheme fits who may be aren’t quite on the same level as the tier above them. At this point I would hope front office is gauging interest in a trade down scenario. After all, the draft is essentially a lottery, collect extra picks and capitalize.
14. CB2 - Jeff Gladney - TCU
The big thing that pushes Gladney here for me is how he’d fit in the Broncos’ scheme. His ability to mirror receivers of all shapes and sizes is a strength and his ability to click and close out of off coverage or come up and play in trail makes him extremely versatile. He’ll have a bit of an adjustment in the NFL where he can’t be so grabby in routes, but he’d be going to one of the better DB coaches in the league.
One thing to remember: we’re not worrying about poor agility scores ‘til the Pro Days.. Beyond that, he checked all of the boxes for me. One concern evaluators had was his size. Well he measured in at 5’10 191, 2 inches and 6 lbs below Kristian Fulton. At the same time he had longer arms.
15. WR5 - Justin Jefferson - LSU
It’s weird how boring Jefferson is. He scored 18 touchdowns in perhaps the best offense in college football history last year. He broke out at 19 when he accounted for 29 percent of LSU’s passing offense. He’s got reliable hands in traffic, underrated body control, can alter his speed and routes to toy with defensive backs, and tested as a far better athlete than people were giving him credit for.
The Tiger would be a huge upgrade on DaeSean Hamilton in the slot. That has a ton of value when the offensive coordinator wants to run 3 receiver sets more than 70% of the time.
16. CB3 - Kristian Fulton - LSU
One of the biggest misnomers about the Vic Fangio defense is that he’s strictly a zone guy. This ignores the fact that the 2018 Bears used man more than all but 8 teams in the league. Like Gladney, Fulton has a versatile game. His strength lies in his ability to line up in soft shoe and trail his opponents, and he is very good at it. Testing in Indianapolis was a bit of a mixed bag for him. Some had questions about his long speed and a 4.46 should alleviate that, but he came in with shorter arms than expected.
Tier 4 - They intrigue
These are players you can talk yourself into, or out of. They either play a less valuable position or bring more risk to the table.
17. WR6 - Jalen Reagor - TCU
Once again a reminder to throw out the agility times. Early in the week this was a concern and I still do suspect getting as big as he did had a negative impact on his runs. Then the agility scores came in for everyone else and Reagor is just one of the guys who apparently can’t change directions.
Trust the tape on him and look to his Pro Day. If the Broncos miss on Ruggs at 15 and want to grab an explosive player who can take a screen to the house or make plays on deep crossers, Reagor makes a ton of sense. I have concerns about his ability to make contested catches and he has more body catches than I like, but the upside is very obvious.
18. DL3 - A.J. Epenesa - Iowa
His draft stock is going to be fascinating to watch. The glacial 40-yard dash probably took him off some boards who may have wanted him to play as a power end in a 4-3. Here’s the thing, though. He’s long and played at above 280 lbs for the Hawkeyes, with a little under 100 snaps inside. Imagine him in a Derek Wolfe type of role and he could be a steal if he falls out of the first round. He’ll need to add to his pass rush repertoire, but most prospects do.
A.J. Epenesa is a DE prospect in the 2020 draft class out of Iowa.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 1, 2020
He posted a poor #RAS with great size, very poor speed, good explosiveness, okay agility at DE.
Also an elite RAS at DL with good speed, elite explosiveness, and great agility.https://t.co/QL5rg0pBTq pic.twitter.com/OvQWYZOuQd
19. OL4 Cesar Ruiz - Michigan
The Broncos talking to Ruiz was interesting because it signaled with some certainty they really are prepared for life after Conner McGovern. There’s been rumors for some time that they don’t value him at what he’ll make on the market.
As for the Wolverine, he’s a talented and versatile 20-year old who could turn into a rock in the center of the line with time and guidance from Mike Munchak. All signs point to the Broncos continuing to utilize a hybrid blocking scheme and a center who has the chops to play at a high level on both gap and zone runs has a ton of value. He’s also shown the tools to hold up in pass pro with a solid base and quick feet.
20. OL5 - Mekhi Becton - Louisville
People lost their minds over his 40-time, despite the fact that 40 times have close to no predictive value on offensive line play. Then he missed the agility drills and jumps. Now his tape suggests he’ll look like an elite athlete laterally. But let’s see what he does at his Pro day before we crown him, because at this point the hype machine is moving beyond the fact that he’s a pretty big projection in pass pro and is probably too long to survive inside. If he can’t cut it at tackle, the floor is quite low.
May be nothing, but it’s interesting to me that he’s the one top tier tackle Denver did not meet with in Indy.
21. OL6 - Josh Jones - Houston
22. OL7 - Austin Jackson - USC
Tackle bros unite! It was pretty telling how Elway and Fangio spoke with the media last week that they do not view Garett Bolles as the long term solution at left tackle.
It did not escape my attention that the Broncos met with Austin Jackson, but not Josh Jones. If they’re considering a project tackle, I much prefer what I’ve seen of the Cougar’s tape to the Trojan’s. Now, I trust in Munchak so if he believes he could turn Jackson into an elite bookend I’m not going to complain. I just can’t get his Iowa and Utah tape out of my brain.
Who is your favorite prospect in the NFL Draft?
This poll is closed
Henry Ruggs III
Other (please comment)
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Winners and losers from the 2020 scouting combine
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The 2020 draft appears to feature the deepest class in a long time. It feels like we say this about a draft every few years, but it’s hard to argue with the assessment this time around. More than 20 defensive backs ran sub-4.5 40s. A loaded receiver class performed even better than expected in terms of measurables and on-field workouts, with Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III stealing the show. Do-it-all Clemson defender Isaiah Simmons ran a ridiculous 4.39 40 at 238 (!) pounds. And Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton clocked a 5.1 40 at 364 pounds earlier in the weekend—the fastest time for a player weighing more than 350 pounds since 2003.
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The Pick: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma The Denver Broncos find themselves in the incredibly fortunate position of having CeeDee Lamb still on the board at No. 15 overall. One of the best run-after-catch receivers in the 2020 draft class, Lamb is a physical route-runner with a big catch radius and the ability to make defenders pay with his contact and toughness. As John Elway drafts to fill out his offense, placing Lamb opposite Courtland Sutton gives young quarterback Drew Lock the talent and targets he needs to thrive. Offensive tackle could be considered here, but the value of Lamb over the No. 5 offensive tackle in the class is too good to pass up.
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15) Denver Broncos, Henry Ruggs III, Alabama Y’all know the player. This pick just seems like fate at this point. He’s a fantastic compliment to the also very athletic but differently built Courtland Sutton. He’ll be able to take the top off any defense, can track those deep Denver bombs by Drew Lock 70 yards downfield and can take a slant to the house while the secondary stands still. But he’s more than just a speed receiver. He’s just a damn good one all the way around.
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Broncos Jerry Jeudy WR, Alabama With Lamb, Ruggs and all four of the top offensive tackle on the board, the Denver Broncos will likely turn their attention to the wide receiver class with their eyes set on Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy’s quick feet and elite separation would make him a perfect compliment to Courtland Sutton on the outside. Ruggs appears to be the Broncos’ top target, so they could get aggressive for him in a potential trade up, but Jeudy would elevate the offense plenty himself.
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15. Denver Broncos: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama Offseason needs: Wide receiver, offensive tackle, cornerback, linebacker Although Ruggs didn’t break John Ross’ 40-yard dash record, he still had an excellent combine. That means the discussion point will be about whether or not he’s jumped over Jeudy or Lamb. The Broncos should hope not. Ruggs is a perfect complement to Courtland Sutton and would give Denver a strong wide receiver duo.
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Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan (4.48 40 / 44.5 vert)
Chase Claypool, Notre Dame (4.42 40 / 40.5 vert)
Tyrie Cleveland, Florida (4.46 40 / 39.5 vert)
John Hightower, Boise State (4.43 40 / 38.5 vert)
Joe Reed, Virginia (4.47 40 / 38 vert)
KJ Osborn, Miami (4.48 40 / 37.5 vert)
Darnell Mooney, Tulane (4.38 40 / 37 vert)
Freddie Swain, Florida (4.46 40 / 36.5 vert)
Jeff Thomas, Miami (4.45 40 / 36.5 vert)
Quez Watkins, Southern Mississippi (4.35 40 / 36.5 vert)
Isaiah Coulter, Rhode Island (4.45 40 / 36 vert)
Dezmon Patton, Washington State (4.48 40 / 36 vert)
Devin Duvernay, Texas (4.39 40 / 35.5 vert)
If we believe the Bucs won’t select a receiver until the third round or later (probably on Day 3) in the 2020 draft class, one of the above players is most likely to be their selection out of the receivers that worked out at the Combine.