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Broncos’ 2020 pre-Free Agency mock draft

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Who is looking to spend big, and who is looking to sell parts?

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NFL Combine - Day 2
The Broncos should be aggressive this spring.

Last week we dove into a scenario to look at what the NFL Draft could look like if Joe Burrow did not wind up in Ohio. This week, we’re going to do something a little different. With free agency looming and the reports and rumors starting to emerge, it’s time to take a look at what each team needs. The hope is that this can shine some light as to how each team will compete with and/or aid John Elway’s hope for building a Super Bowl contender this year.

The needs listed are what I currently see as their biggest issues. That doesn’t mean others don’t exist, but rather that those are positions I could see them look to address in an effort to fix a glaring deficiency on the roster.

Let’s get to it.

1. Cincinnati Bengals - QB, Joe Burrow, LSU

Needs: QB, OL, DL, LB, CB, WR

Got to give it to Zac Taylor and the Bengals, they got to the first overall pick by earning it. As of now they have $44 million in cap space and should see that figure jump a little after dumping Andy Dalton in a trade. There have been reports that they have made contact with both Shelby Harris and Derek Wolfe.

2. Washington - ED, Chase Young, OSU

Needs: WR, OL, TE, CB

One of the unsung reasons Washington would be wise to try and bait a team into trading up for Tua is that they don’t desperately need Chase Young. There are corners of the NFL media sphere that believe they may even take Tagovailoa here and look to dump Haskins. I personally believe it’s just trying to drum up a trade in order to collect a capital on the way down the board.

Yes, they’d pass on Young in that case and yes, he’s the best edge rushing prospect to come out in a long time so it makes sense to grab him if you’re here. But if they can collect a chunk of draft capital to move down to say, five it could help Ron Rivera add young talent to more positions that are sorely lacking talent.

Dan Snyder is notorious for winning free agency, and Washington has $61 million in cap space. So expect them to overpay somebody.

3. Detroit Lions - CB, Jeffrey Okudah, LSU

Needs: CB, ED, LB

One of the biggest issues Bob Quinn has as a GM is that he’s adding veteran talent with former Patriots and drafting positions that are low impact. Taking a linebacker and then a tight end in the first round of previous drafts is a bad use of limited capital, and it’s caused holes to emerge at critical positions in the modern NFL.

Matt Stafford’s injury issues the last two years will dominate the talking head level of the media because Tua here is exciting, but it’s more realistic to expect them to chase defensive help. Matt Patricia is a dead man walking unless he can prove himself, and he’s a former DC. Consider this Chase Young’s floor.

Lastly, Detroit has $47.7 million in cap space. With hot seats beneath all their decision makers I’d expect them to aggressively chase help in free agency.

4. New York Giants - OT, Mekhi Becton, Louisville

Needs: CB, OT, LB, ED

New York finished 27th in defensive DVOA last year and there are issues at all three levels, so Gettleman could certainly surprise people and go after Isaiah Simmons or a sliding Okudah here. There’s also a report by KOA’s Benjamin Allbright out there that he loves Derrick Brown and could make his first trade down to grab him.

The national media at large has New York pegged for a tackle, with Becton the favorite. Nate Solder was a sieve on the blind side. Combine that with Daniel Jones’ penchant for fumbling and a need to justify the Saquon Barkley pick from 2018 and that’s where I lean right now.

As far as free agency goes, a new coach means there will be a desire to churn the roster. New York has $73 million in cap space at the moment.

5. Miami Dolphins - QB, Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

Needs: QB, OL, Everything else

I said last year that signing Ryan Fitzpatrick was going to ruin Miami’s efforts to bottom out. On the plus side, they now have a veteran in place if they want to grab Tua Tagovailoa and ease him into the starting lineup. With multiple first round picks, $88 million in cap space, and a bare bones roster, expect them to be one of the biggest X-factors across the next two months.

6. Los Angeles Chargers - QB, Justin Herbert, Oregon

Needs: OL, QB, DL, CB, RB

Last year at this time the Chargers were considered one of the best rosters in football outside of their offensive line. An injury plagued season and Rivers exodus leaves a lot of questions hanging in the air.

They still desperately need help across the line and could go that route if Herbert goes to South Beach. They’re also a bit iffy in the secondary outside of Casey Heyward, who’s now 30. Okudah could wind up falling here if some crazy things happen above. Lastly, Jerry Tillery was a first round pick in 2018, but the run defense slid to one of the worst in the league last season so they may chase upgrades on the front.

Tom Telesco has just shy of $50 million in cap space, which is one reason they’ve been linked to Tom Brady. Maybe a Hall of Fame quarterback can fill the empty stadium Rivers didn’t. The Russell Okung trade also leaves me wondering if they believe three quarterbacks will go in the top five, leaving them with Becton, Young, or Okudah.

7. Carolina Panthers - DL, Derrick Brown, Auburn

Needs: CB, QB, OL, LB, TE, DL

Matt Rhule signed a 7-year deal when he came on as head coach. In the immediate aftermath everyone was caught up in the future for Cam Newton. It’s been back and forth in the media, but Carolina can’t really move him if he’s still hurt. Since the Combine, reports have started to crop up that Carolina is looking to have a firesale.

As of now, the Panthers only have $34 million in cap space. That figure will increase dramatically if they do as most expect and strip the roster. At the end of the day, I expect them to clean house and have a firesale as the first year of a long contract is when a coach will have the kind of good will to preach patience as he reshapes the roster. They’re one of my two early favorites for Trevor Lawrence in 2021.

8. Arizona Cardinals - OL, Tristan Wirfs, Iowa

Needs: OL, LB, CB, DL, S, WR, ED

We know Vance Joseph has already shown interest in reuniting with Derek Wolfe. Steve Keim has already re-signed D.J. Humphries after the tackle’s first healthy season as a pro. In many ways Kliff Kingsbury remains in the middle of a rebuilding situation as the Cardinals still lack talent across their roster, especially on defense outside of Chandler Jones and Patrick Peterson.

The David Johnson contract should serve as a cautionary tales to fans wanting Denver to go out and spend big on a running back. The veteran’s $14 million cap figure is bad enough that some have speculated Keim may try and trade a draft pick to dump it on someone. As it stands, Arizona has $39 million in cap space.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars - X, Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

Needs: LB, DL, OL, TE, CB, ED(?), QB(?)

The Jaguars had six different linebackers play 200 or more defensive snaps this season. They’re also in the middle of a tear down so QB is a dark horse need if whoever they hire after Doug Marrone is inevitably canned doesn’t believe in Gardner Minshew. Trading A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey creates issues in the secondary and if they trade Yannick Ngakoue and move Calais Campbell as expected they’ll have Josh Jones and question marks on the edge.

As I write this, Jacksonville has $21 million in cap space. More and more, it looks like the Jags will be this year’s Phish. If they do a tear down, I expect them to compete with Carolina in the tankapoolza.

10. Cleveland Browns - LT, Andrew Thomas, Georgia

Needs: LT, LB, S, ED(?)

There has been speculation that the Browns do not plan to keep Olivier Vernon, which would move their cap space to about $77 million. It would also create a need for help on an edge for both the offense and defense. Combine that with the reports that the team will not meet Joe Schobert’s asking price and they could go a number of ways at this pick if they sign a left tackle in free agency.

11. New York Jets - OL, Jedrick Wills, Alabama

Needs: OL, CB, WR, ED

Kelvin Beachum was halfway decent for the Jets last year, but they desperately need help across the rest of their offensive line. When they let Robby Anderson go they will also desperately need help at wide receiver, so they represent a team to watch for Broncos’ Country as they’re likely to take a player at one of the two premium positions Elway seems to be targetting.

For the same reasons, keep an eye on what they do in free agency. Joe Douglas currently has $49 million to play with and already signed Josh Doctson to help their receiving corps.

12. Las Vegas Raiders - WR, Henry Ruggs, Alabama

Needs: WR, CB, S, LB

The Tom Brady and Derek Carr situation is what’s created most of the headlines for Vegas. I may be in the minority when I say that I hope Jon Gruden goes out and pays $30+ million for the 43-year old quarterback. Even if he’s good in the short term, it could serve to help Denver going forward, because Chucky has $50 million and multiple first round picks in this draft. Better they waste a bunch of it appeasing a short term solution than build a legitimate contender going forward.

13. Indianapolis Colts - WR, CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

Needs: QB, WR, DL, ED

It’s been popular to mock Chris Ballard to Jordan Love, but if the Colts go out and sign a veteran quarterback like Philip Rivers or Teddy Bridgewater to unseat Jacoby Brissett they could pivot to grabbing a sliding alpha receiver in this class.

Last year the Colts hoarded cap space like it’d win them games, and they enter free agency with $86 million. They’ve been linked by Allbright to Shelby Harris, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they also emerge with Jadeveon Clowney or Robert Quinn on the roster.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - QB, Jordan Love, Utah State

Needs: ED, OL, DL

The Bucs will be a team to watch in free agency as what they do could have huge ramifications for the Broncos. They may franchise Shaq Barrett and let Jameis Winston go. They may extend Shaq and franchise Winston. They could go out and chase outside free agents at both spots.

Tampa Bay could also bring in a Teddy Bridgewater, Philip Rivers, or Ryan Tannehill. Arians doesn’t strike me as a guy looking to bring up a rookie, but if they’re left chasing on Love makes some sense for the guy who wrote a book called The QB Whisperer.

At the Combine Arians was also very clear that he thinks highly of this tackle class. They’re also going to play on the depth at receiver, though with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in the fold I expect that to be farther down the board.

15. Denver Broncos - DL, Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

Needs: DL, WR, CB, LB, RB

The Broncos can go a number of ways at this pick, so watching what happens in free agency is going to be telling. A.J. Bouye and what we know of Elway’s meetings at the Senior Bowl and Combine suggest cornerback is not going to be a priority in the first. Everyone and their mother has Henry Ruggs locked in here, but I don’t see him sliding to 15. If he does, he’ll be the pick. If he doesn’t, Jerry Jeudy is also a distinct possibility.

As of now, Kinlaw makes sense because of the Broncos’ reported interest in D.J. Reader. If they don’t meet his price and lose both Wolfe and Shelby Harris there will be a need for another interior disruptor. Kinlaw does that.

If the Broncos place a franchise tag on Justin Simmons, release Joe Flacco, and place 2nd round RFA tenders on both Mike Purcell and Elijah Wilkinson as expected, they’ll have about $48.2 million in cap space.

16. Atlanta Falcons - ED, K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU

Needs: DB, ED, OL

Dan Quinn is facing one of the hottest seats in the league and I can’t imagine Thomas Dimitroff is far behind him. They’re currently in cap hell with less than $5 million in space and badly need some defensive help.

17. Dallas Cowboys - CB, C.J. Henderson, Florida

Needs: QB(?), WR(?), CB(?), SS, DL

If Jerry Jones was smart, he’d resign Dak Prescott, Byron Jones, and Amari Cooper. Letting any of them go creates a huge hole at a premium position. They currently have $77 million in cap space and did try to trade for Jamal Adams last year, so they clearly want to upgrade at safety.

18. Miami Dolphins - WR, Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

19. Las Vegas Raiders - LB, Patrick Queen, LSU

20. Jacksonville Jaguars - CB, Kristian Fulton, LSU

Could see Trevon Diggs go here a well as he’s a cleaner fit for the Seattle Seahawks’ style of corner that Doug Marrone likes.

21. Philadelphia Eagles - WR, Denzel Mims, Baylor

Needs: WR, DB

The Eagles have perhaps one of the more loaded rosters in all of football and so it does make some sense that they’d want to try and trade up to get Henry Ruggs. They have $41 million in space and so it’ll be interesting to see what Howie Roseman does over the next couple weeks.

22. Buffalo Bills - WR, Tee Higgins, Clemson

Needs: WR, ED, OL

What the Bills do with Cody Ford and if he plays guard or tackle could have ramifications on their draft strategy. Brandon Beane also enters free agency with north of $80 million in cap space, so their roster could look quite different in a month. Regardless, there’s a need for a receiver who can make Josh Allen look competent good in the passing game. Tee Higgins has the kind of catch radius and hands to adjust to off target passes and he profiles as a potential red zone weapon.

23. New England Patriots - S, Xavier McKinney, Alabama

Needs: QB(?), WR, DL, ED, OL, S

What happens with Brady will have a huge impact on Bill Belichick’s strategy. I’d be guessing if I told you I knew what was going to happen, but if 12 returns they’ll need to do all they can to provide him a legit shot to win. They do have $41 million to chase some talent. If he doesn’t, they could pivot into a full rebuild or try to add a stopgap QB to make the most of 2020. They have an older roster as it stands and lost draft capital in the Mohamed Sanu trade so a move down the board may also make sense.

24. New Orleans Saints - WR, Justin Jefferson, LSU

Needs: WR, CB, OL, DB

With Drew Brees return means Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton will need to make some tough cuts to skirt the cap. They have $9 million as of this writing and that’s before Brees is technically under contract (he does currently count for $15 million against their cap though). The fluid nature of their current roster does make them a bit of a wildcard come draft day, but whether they keep or cut some of their defenders though, it’d be wise to dip into this receiving class to take some of the burdern off of Michael Thomas. Jefferson profiles as a Z/Slot option at the next level, with the versatility for Payton to move him around and play hide 13 on opposing defenses.

25. Minnesota Vikings - CB, Jeff Gladney, TCU

Needs: CB, OL, WR, DL

Another team that is a bit tricky right now because their cap is such a mess. They have less than $2 million in space and will almost certainly dump Xavier Rhodes. With Gary Kubiak in the fold and a desire to run the ball on every down, offensive line can’t be ruled out here, especially someone like Austin Jackson or Ezra Cleveland.

26. Miami Dolphins - LT, Josh Jones, Houston

27. Seattle Seahawks - DL, A.J. Epenesa

Needs: OL, ED, DL, DB

Sacks and pressures are a quarterback stat, but that alone does not justify what the Seahawks have done to Russell Wilson for his entire career. There is Swiss cheese in front of him, and they would be wise to upgrade their offensive line. History has shown they probably won’t. It’s also shown they’ll probably make a bad surprising choice here, as they have the past two seasons.

They also have $44 million in cap space and Clowney to decide on.

28. Baltimore Ravens - LB/ED, Zach Baun, Michigan

Needs: ED, LB, DL, OL, WR

Even though the Ravens have $30 million in cap space, I don’t expect them to do much in free agency. They’re notorious for playing the compensatory pick game to receive as many picks back as they can. Last year it led them to leaving Z’Darius Smith leave for the Packers. The thing to keep an eye on this spring is if they tag and trade Matthew Judon.

Wink Martindale is one of the more respected defensive coordinators in the NFL. The Ravens have embraced a very blitz heavy scheme that surprises quarterbacks with a variety of pressures and coverages. Having a player like Baun who can drop into space, run, or blitz would give them a versatile chess piece. A player like Ross Blacklock or a receiver could also make a ton of sense for them. Maybe even a Laviska Shenault as his versatility paired with Lamar Jackson would give opponents migraines.

29. Tennessee Titans - RB, Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Needs: ED, OL, QB(?), RB(?), DL

Funny thing about the Titans, they’ve been a decent roster held back by quarterback play for a number of years. Their defense was Super Bowl caliber all of last season but Dean Peas retirement will probably expose their lack of talent along the edge. They currently have $50 million in cap room, but it could evaporate quickly if they overpay Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry.

30. Green Bay Packers - WR, Jalen Reagor, TCU

Needs: WR, TE, OT, LB, CB

Brian Gutekunst surprised the league last year when the Packers new GM went out and aggressively added talent to the roster in free agency. This offseason could be even more critical for him as he can’t just sign the premier names with just $20 million in cap space.

T31. Chicago Bears - OL, Ezra Cleveland, Boise State

Needs: QB, OL, WR, CB, TE, LB

Few teams make as much sense to trade down as the San Francisco 49ers do. After their pick at 31 John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan are not on the clock again until the fifth round. With only $13 million in cap space, they’ll need to make a littany of moves in both the draft and with their own roster if they wish to upgrade the talent around Jimmy Garoppolo (or Tom Brady if the rumors are true). They could use along the line and in the receiving corps and have a need in the secondary if/when Jimmie Ward departs.

Chicago looms as a potential mover and shaker on the other end of the spectrum as Ryan Pace tries to save his job after the disastrous Mitch Trubisky pick. The Bears have $16 million in cap room right now and could create more if they wish to move Leonard Floyd or Akiem Hicks. They appear to be the favored destination for Andy Dalton and also lurk as a new garage for Derek Carr.

T32. Los Angeles Rams - OL, Cesar Ruiz, Michigan

Needs: OL, ED, LB, DL, S

Life on top is going to get interesting for Andy Reid, as the franchise tag on Chris Jones and a looming deal with Patrick Mahomes cuts into their cap space. This is one reason why all of the interest Chris Harris Jr. has shown in the Chiefs is so interesting. They’re going to need to make some real juggling if they want to go out and sign him at anything close to a market rate. One way forward is to move on or renegotiate a contract with Sammy Watkins. Another way to cut some cost is to duck out of the first round of the draft for future capital.

No General Manager has been more aggressive in dumping future picks than Les Snead of the Rams. Jalen Ramsey is just the most recent example of how he’s thrown picks around, and all of the moves and big contracts have left LA with little wiggle room under the cap.

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Your Broncos’ Links

Denver Broncos trade for Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye - Mile High Report

The Denver Broncos bolster their secondary ahead of free agency with trade with Jacksonville Jaguars for A.J. Bouye.

Denver Broncos: Was the A.J. Bouye trade savvy or cheap? - Mile High Report

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John Elway crushed the move to get A.J. Bouye - Mile High Report

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On this week’s episode of Cover 2 Broncos, Jeff Essary and Joe Rowles dig into the aftermath of the Combine and what it tells us about the Broncos’ draft plans.

NFL Draft Links

2020 Mock Draft 4.0: Combine winners see a boost in three-round projection – The Athletic

15. Denver Broncos – Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama The Broncos have a budding No. 1 wideout in Courtland Sutton, but adding more speed opposite him would help open the offense. Ruggs has world-class speed and his ability to shift gears puts cornerbacks in a blender, creating passing windows downfield.

2020 NFL mock draft: Utah State QB Jordan Love lands up high

15. Denver Broncos Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy Missing out on Ruggs would be a bummer, but this is a decent consolation. Some teams’ WR1 can do a few things with the ball in his hands, too. Jeudy isn’t the same style of deep threat that Ruggs, his college teammate, was. But it’s easy to see how Jeudy also could add some reverb to the Broncos’ offense and make life easier for Drew Lock.

The Ringer’s 2020 NFL Draft Guide

SCOUTING REPORT Ruggs is an explosive pass catcher with track speed (he broke the Alabama high school state record for the 100-meter dash with a 10.58-second time in 2017) and natural instincts for eluding defenders after the catch. If he gets some green, he’ll take advantage of it; the Crimson Tide standout has excellent acceleration and uses long strides to weave through defenses, annihilate pursuit angles, and pull away from the crowd.

The dynamic playmaker followed up a 46-catch, 741-yard, 11-touchdown performance in 2018 with 40 catches for 746 yards and seven touchdowns this season, adding one rushing score to again prove that he’s a high-level touchdown-maker. Ruggs finished at Alabama with 24 of his 98 career receptions ending up in the end zone. Because of that home-run potential, defensive backs and deep defenders always need to know where Ruggs is lined up―but he’s more than just a straight-line deep threat.

The 5-foot-11, 192-pound pass catcher takes advantage of typical cornerback cushions on hitch and stop routes and is a back-shoulder master near the sideline. He’s also a major pain in the ass on crossing routes, where defenders struggle to match his easy speed across the field. While he was durable at Alabama, playing in 40 games, he has a slender, wiry frame that could make him susceptible to big hits at the next level.

The Risers and Sliders at the 2020 NFL Combine - The Ringer

The week of measurements, testing, and interviews in Indianapolis is a good time for prospects to make money—or lose it. Here is who helped or hurt themselves the most ahead of the NFL draft.

NFL Links

Derek Carr, Alshon Jeffery among top NFL trade candidates - NFL.com

Which players will be on the move via this offseason?

The Tom Brady to San Francisco possibility keeps gathering steam - ProFootballTalk

It’s an intriguing discussion, given that Brady has won six Super Bowls and that his former understudy, underutilized for much of the postseason after throwing an interception and two other potential picks against the Vikings, had Emmanuel Sanders wide open for a potential touchdown late in Super Bowl LIV and missed him. But with no real steam linking the two, and with the 49ers saying all the right things about Jimmy Garoppolo, I forgot about it.

Then came more recent developments, with Deion Sanders talking about Brady to San Fran on Sunday and Peter King writing about it on Monday and Simms and me kicking it around on Monday and Tom Curran giving real credence to the 49ers as an alternative to what otherwise seems to be a Patriots or Titans proposition for Brady. Next comes Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald, who reports in response to Curran’s Tuesday comments that he “might be onto something.”

Patriots intend to pick up option for Jason McCourty - NFL.com

The option will pay McCourty nearly $4 million, while he’ll account for $5.5 million of the team’s salary cap.

George Kittle seems to weigh in on #Jimmytommy talk - ProFootballTalk

“Let’s run it back 10,” Kittle tweeted on Wednesday afternoon, with a link to an Instagram photo of Kittle and current 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Ryan Tannehill: It’s gonna be an exciting couple of weeks - ProFootballTalk

“We’ll see,” Tannehill said. “It’s gonna be an exciting couple of weeks no matter what happens.”

Steelers’ 2020 Free Agent Wishlist (Offensive Line) - Steelers Depot

5 players the Steelers may chase with their limited cap space.