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What do the Broncos’ visits tell us about their NFL Draft strategy?

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In past offseasons, the Broncos’ visits have been a huge indication of where they’re leaning.

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NCAA Football: Alabama at Auburn John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

One only has to look back to the 2019 NFL Draft to see the importance Elway and the Broncos have placed on official visits. Noah Fant, Dalton Risner, and Justin Hollins are just a few of the players that met with Denver leading up to the draft.

In 2018 the Broncos brought Phillip Lindsay in for an official visit as well. Meanwhile, The Duke’s infatuation with Drew Lock was one of the worst kept secrets in draft circles a year ago.

Sort of like Henry Ruggs this year, if I’m being completely honest.

Most consider Ruggs’ floor 15.

Jeff Essary mentioned on Cover 2 Broncos a few weeks ago that Elway is pretty transparent about his interest. He likes who he likes and leaves the chess games to other GMs. If the player Elway wants is there, the Broncos consider him.

Unfortunately, Covid-19’s impact on Pro Days and official visits has made it harder for those of us outside the Broncos’ organization to discover what prospects are being chased. Even still, we have a picture from the Combine and a few of the Zoom meetings that have been leaked.

I thought it’d be worthwhile to dig into the names and what it could mean.

Thanks to Mike Klis, Nicki Jhabvala, and other members of the local media, we know 22 of the 30 formal interviews the Broncos had at the NFL Combine last month:

  • 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
  • DL Javon Kinlaw
  • ED Derreck Tuszka

On top of those names above, so far we know that the Broncos will meet with Temple interior offensive lineman Matt Hennessy and LSU cornerback Kristian Fulton.

So what does it mean?

For those counting at home, the Broncos met with seven receivers, four tackles, three interior offensive linemen, and four running backs. I suspect some of those final eight Combine visits were linebackers and defensive backs, but I’m not sure. Keep in mind once again that I don’t have the other eight visits at the Combine or any other Zoom meetings right now but will be happy to share if I find them out.

One thing that does stand out to me is the expected range for some of these players. All the receivers but Davis are expected to be top 50 picks. Most in the draft community expect the four tackles to go in the first round. Fulton will be a top 75 player, and could be the second or third corner selected.

As far as the running backs are concerned, I assume Melvin Gordon signing a two-year, $16 million contract means J.K. Dobbins is an afterthought now unless he takes a serious slide. I don’t think the other backs are necessarily ruled out though, as Shurmur is an offensive coordinator who has shown a clear preference for big backs over his career. If Royce Freeman’s on the roster bubble, Elway could dip back in the pool to get a back.

A.J. Dillon running a concept that should look pretty familiar to Broncos’ fans.

Both Cesar Ruiz and Matt Hennessy are guard/center prospects who would probably compete with Patrick Morris to replace Connor McGovern. Ruiz is expected to push for the first round, while Hennessy is expected to go on Day 2 or early Day 3. Move the Sticks’ Daniel Jeremiah mentioned last week Robert Hunt as one of the only interior offensive linemen he’d consider in the top 75. Shane Lemieux will probably go on Day 3, but also brings many of the tools to eventually develop into a viable starter at guard.

The defensive linemen Denver interviewed at the Combine have been something in the back of my mind since. Both Javon Kinlaw and Ross Blacklock are toolsy athletes who project as eventual disrupters on the interior. They also have a background two-gappng, which is something Fangio wants out of his defensive lineman. Josiah Coatney is a player who most expect to go late Day 3 or even fall out of the Draft, but has some tools that Bill Kollar could refine into a nice rotational piece.

Even with free agency in mind, the Broncos could add more talent to the defensive line.

Kristian Fulton is perhaps the most interesting of the known meetings because people seem to be all over the board on him. He is my CB3 behind Jeffrey Okudah and Jeff Gladney, and would be a tremendous fit in the Broncos’ defense. If you have any doubt, watch what he did to Henry Ruggs when Alabama played LSU last year. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein did not place him in the first round of his most recent mock. While I’m hesitant to read too much into that, it could be a sign that teams are cool on him after he tried to play through an injury last year, or his 2017 suspension.

Fulton would be an exceptional fit for the Broncos’ defense.

If forced, I’d guess the Broncos are still locked in on Henry Ruggs come hell or high water in the first round. But if they balk at the cost of moving into the top 10 and he’s gone at 15, I expect a receiver or tackle in the first round. From there I think the Broncos will take an opportunistic approach in the second round, with hope that a Garett Bolles’ replacement is available.

There’s less than a month away now, so “lying season” should really pick up soon.

Your Broncos’ Links

Throwback: Denver Broncos 17, New York Jets 13, 11/17/2011 - Mile High Report

The 2011 season for the Denver Broncos might be the most improbable and amazing season in NFL history.

Throwback: Denver Broncos 35, Minnesota Vikings 32, 12/4/2011 - Mile High Report

During the height of Tebow Time came the biggest offensive performance the team had in the regular season. A 35-32 shootout road win over the Minnesota Vikings.

How will the Broncos use their two running backs? - Mile High Report

The MHR Radio Podcast looked at the possibilities in the Broncos backfield

Could the Broncos be playing in an empty stadium this season? - Mile High Report

Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright discussed some potential scenarios as the NFL tries to move forward with the 2020 season as planned despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

AFC West odds show a tight race for second place for Denver Broncos - Mile High Report

Oddsmakers are all over the map with the Denver Broncos, but they ended up with the best odds of finishing last in the AFC West in 2020.

Denver Broncos: Matt Hennessy will have pre-draft call with team

The Broncos will have a pre-draft conference call with Temple center Matt Hennessy.

NFL Draft Links

Day 2 Prospects that could be great Denver Broncos - Mile High Report

We all know the big names, let’s dig a little deeper.

Should the Denver Broncos take Tua Tagovailoa if he falls to 15? - Mile High Report

It’s not as far fetched as you might think.

2020 NFL Mock Draft: A ‘BPA’ Denver Broncos Mock Draft - Mile High Report

Quarterback in hand, how do you value each position?

Maurice Jones-Drew NFL mock draft 2.0: Justin Herbert at No. 1! - NFL.com

Lamb is an automatic threat with the ball in his hands and gives the Broncos a weapon opposite Courtland Sutton.

Peter Schrager NFL mock draft 1.0: Dolphins take QB, WR, RB - NFL.com

I had an NFL GM tell me at the combine that Murray was the best interview subject he’s had in years. Teams love what they see on film, but Murray might be an even better leader and person. The Broncos obviously already have two absolute studs on defense in Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Make it three with Murray.

Steve Palazzolo’s 2020 NFL Mock Draft: Giants land Chase Young, Dolphins trade up for Tua Tagovailoa | College Football and NFL Draft | PFF

15. DENVER BRONCOS — CB KRISTIAN FULTON, LSU Another team that would love to take one of the speedy receivers should they fall to pick No. 15, the Broncos will attack another important position with Fulton. The depth chart features newly acquired cornerback A.J. Bouye on one side and a group of unproven, younger players, so Fulton could start right away and allow Bryce Callahan to man the slot. Fulton had the fourth-best coverage grade in the draft class last year (86.3), and he has forced incompletions on 27.4% of his targets over the past two years, best in the class.

A Crash Course on the 2020 Wide Receiver Draft Class - The Ringer

Who might flame out and who might become the most exciting player in the NFL from the deepest receiver class in years

NFL Links

Kyle Allen ready to ‘compete’ with Haskins for QB1 job - NFL.com

”I think the continuity with the system is huge for me, and I think it’s going to be big for the team too,” he said. “If we don’t have a lot of OTAs or don’t have OTAs at all, it gives at least someone on the team a chance with experience in the system to be able to teach it to the other guys and the offense, and relay what the coaches are saying, and just kind of teach the offense to everyone and teach the language.”

Titans GM has been in contact with Clowney’s reps - NFL.com

Jadeveon Clowney is still on the market. Tennessee might be a landing spot. Titans GM Jon Robinson said he’s spoken with Clowney’s reps, but the inability to evaluate his health has apparently been a hiccup.

Saints, Packers virtually visiting with QB Jordan Love - NFL.com

The Saints, Packers, Chargers, Raiders, Dolphins and Colts have been in contact with former Utah State QB Jordan Love, Ian Rapoport reports. Given the broad range of where he could land, it’s no surprise several teams are reaching out.