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My Day 1 Broncos NFL Draft Board

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We’re finally here. Who should Elway select?

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos
How should the Broncos build around Drew Lock?
Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Welcome to the party, we’ve finally made it! After months of digging through film, reports, statistical profiles, draft, and positional value, I’ve arrived at what is my final big board for the 2020 NFL Draft.

Keep in mind that after obsessing over the Broncos’ 2019 defense and watching a lot of Pat Shurmur scheme with the Vikings and Giants, these are the players that I believe best fit the 2020 systems.

For what I hope is the last time, this past year was a juggling act between completing a 27,000 word Master’s thesis and writing about the Broncos. So if a player is not on this board, it is either because I do not believe he is a clean fit, or I simply didn’t get to him. My hope moving forward is that I can eliminate that last part as much as reasonably possible.

As far as the board itself: you will not find quarterbacks on this board, as I typically weigh them in a different manner. Each prospect’s position is based around a combination of how I view him as a player, how I think he fits, how valuable the position he plays is, and weighing upside vs. risk.

For these reasons, you will see “fit,” which is how I see the player fitting the Broncos scheme early; “risk,” being what could hold them back; and “3-year ceiling,” which is exactly that. All three impacted positioning.

When in doubt, I tried to ask myself one simple question: “Would you take A or B if both are staring you in the face?” If there is any you find yourself with questions on please feel free to ask in the comments, @Cover2Broncos, or my Twitter @JoRo_NFL.

Let’s get to it.

Tier 1: If they slide, we’re making calls.

There is little chance these players fall to within realistic striking distance, but they are the only prospects in this class I would consider trading up for.

1. Chase Young - ED1

Fit: Rotational edge between Von Miller and Bradley Chubb in year one. With a decision on Miller’s contract looming in 2021 and expiring in 2022, he’d look an awful lot like a replacement.

Risk: He’s a better pass rusher than run defender and could still improve his hand usage, but I’m picking nits here. He’s about as safe as prospects come.

3-Year Ceiling: On track for Canton as one of the best Edge rushers in the game.

At his best, Young is unblockable.
At his best, Young is unblockable.

2. Jeffrey Okudah - CB1/DB1

Fit: Boundary corner who pushes Bryce Callahan and the rest of the current group down one rung. Day one starter.

Risk: Going from CFB to the NFL is always a bit of a projection and he’ll need to continue honing his eyes and technique, but CB prospects this good don’t come along often.

3-Year Ceiling: Perennial All Pro and in the conversation for best corners in the game.

Prospects like Okudah don't come along all too often. If he's not an All-Pro in five years something went horribly wrong.
Prospects like Okudah don’t come along all too often. If he’s not an All-Pro in five years, something has gone horribly wrong.

Tier 2: True BPA

These prospects may not be a clean fit for what the Broncos’ biggest issues with the roster appear to be, but are so intriguing that they warrant consideration regardless.

3. Isaiah Simmons - DX1

Fit: Nickel personnel safety-backer/overhang.

Risk: Has the tools, but better running and hitting than stacking and shedding in the muck. Coaching staff may limit his potential by putting him in a box OR throwing too much on his plate too soon.

3-Year Ceiling: Derwin James-eque level impact as a second level eraser and defensive weapon that can move around to cover, blitz, and roam.

Simmons' versatility is so intoxicating it hides the inherent risk it brings.
Simmons’ versatility is so intoxicating it hides the inherent risk it brings.

4. Tristan Wirfs - OT1

Fit: Clean fit for what Munchak wants at tackle and possesses the tools to start Day 1 at right guard if needed.

Risk: Issues with top tier speed rushers in college could follow him into the NFL, and it’s already been one reason people believe guard is his eventual home.

3-Year Ceiling: All Pro caliber tackle who has the athletic tools to fill for pullers and get out in space to open up holes on the second level.

Tier 3: The Blue Chip prospects

Barring a Tier 1 or 2 prospect falling, these are the players I hope the Broncos consider at 15.

5. Jerry Jeudy - WR1

Fit: Day one starter at Z-receiver.

Risk: Played a lot of slot for the Crimson Tide and will need to get stronger to beat the best press corners in the NFL. Top tier QB play both his years as a starter means he didn’t face as many bad passes as other players. Workout numbers failed to meet expectations.

3-Year Ceiling: Elite WR1/2 who can move around the formation and dominate from both the boundary and slot.

6. Jedrick Wills Jr. - OT2

Fit: Immediate contender for a starting tackle job.

Risk: Career right tackle who has never taken a game rep on the left side. Rumors at Combine that teams have concerns about mental acuity. Career right tackle raises questions about versatility.

3-Year Ceiling: All Pro tackle who looks like a bulldozer on downblocks and can survive alone on an island in pass protection.

7. Henry Ruggs - WR2

Fit: Day one starter at Z-receiver.

Risk: Does not always play as fast as timed speed (see LSU tape) and is not as clean a separator as tools suggest. Needs to refine his route running to maximize tools and may never have physicality to excel against better press corners. Needs to improve in contested catch situations.

3-Year Ceiling: Elite WR2 and one of the most feared deep threats in the NFL.

8. CeeDee Lamb - WR3

Fit: Day one starter at Z-receiver.

Risk: College offense made life easier for him, did not face much press. Relies on technique over athletic tools to separate, which could be difficult to maintain in NFL.

3-Year Ceiling: All Pro inside/outside receiver whose ball skills, route running, and catch radius make him a true red zone threat.

9. Andrew Thomas - OT3

Fit: Day one competition for starting left tackle spot.

Risk: Balance questions in both run and pass game. Foot speed and mobility look closer to solid than elite. Played in run heavy college offense.

3-Year Ceiling: Pro Bowl blindside protector.

10. Derrick Brown - DL1

Fit: Day one competition for 0/5-technique in base personnel and 1-technique in sub.

Risk: May never be more than adequate as a pass rusher at the NFL level. Athletic testing was disappointing.

3-Year Ceiling: Pro Bowl interior destroyer in the Akiem Hicks kind of mold, playing all over the defensive line in both base and nickel personnel. Elite run defender.

One big risk with Derrick Brown is that he's never a good enough pass rusher to justify the cost of a top pick.
The big risk with Derrick Brown is that he’s never a good enough pass rusher to justify the cost of a top pick.

11. Javon Kinlaw - DL2

Fit: Day one competition for 5-technique in base personnel and 1/3-technique in sub.

Risk: Height hurts his ability to keep leverage. Technical parts of his game lag behind his natural talents and he’ll need to improve hand usage and mental processing to deliver on promise. Torn labrum in hip in 2018, battled knee tendinitis in 2019.

3-Year Ceiling: All Pro defensive linemen with the kind of heavy hands, power, and burst to be a destroyer of worlds on passing downs.

12. Denzel Mims - WR4

Fit: Day one starter at Z-receiver.

Risk: Developing route runner who will need to become a better salesperson in NFL. Dropped almost 13% of targets over final two seasons.

3-Year Ceiling: Elite WR2 who combines top tier body control with rare explosiveness and a stupendous catch radius.

13. Xavier McKinney - S1/DB2

Fit: Depth safety and day one competition for nickel reps.

Risk: Physical tools are closer to solid than elite.

3-Year Ceiling: Starting safety with mental acuity to quarterback the defense and hold his own in multiple assignments across a variety of coverages.

Tier 4: Day 1 prospects

Each of the following prospects brings something that holds them out of the tier above, but make plenty of sense for the Broncos in the first round of the NFL draft.

14. Justin Jefferson - WR5

Fit: Day one starter at slot receiver, competition for Z-receiver.

Risk: More quick than fast, and closer to solid than elite catch radius. He rarely faced press coverage his final season. Historic offense with Joe Burrow and presumptive 2021 WR1 Ja’Marr Chase inflated production numbers.

3-Year Ceiling: Pro Bowl WR2 who offers inside/outside versatility.

15. Jeff Gladney - CB2/DB3

Fit: Day one competition at boundary corner.

Risk: Below 50th percentile height/weight for boundary corner. Currently too physical in coverage, which will draw flags in league. Played through meniscus injury in 2019 and tore ligaments in knee in 2014.

3-Year Ceiling: Ball hawk boundary corner.

16. Kristian Fulton - CB3/DB4

Fit: Day one competition at boundary corner.

Risk: Arm length below 25th percentile. Play strength impacts his ability to defend the run and could pose issues against more physical receivers. Suspended for two seasons by NCAA over drug test that eventually turned into one year ban. Two season ending surgeries during collegiate career: finger in 2016, foot in 2018.

3-Year Ceiling: All Pro shutdown cornerback.

17. Jalen Reagor - WR6

Fit: Day one competition at WR2, WR3, kick and punt returner.

Risk: Callow route runner who ran simple tree. Concentration drops on film and will let ball get into body. Is his frame maxed out? He appeared to lose speed and explosiveness as he gained weight.

3-Year Ceiling: Pro Bowl Z-receiver who presents as a homerun threat in the return game.

18. Josh Jones -OT4

Fit: Depth player who can compete at left tackle or right guard.

Risk: Hands need to improve for him to grow in run game. Feet and drop needs to improve in pass protection. Needs to get stronger and improve core strength. Jumping from AAC to NFL. Career left tackle raises questions about versatility.

3-Year Ceiling: Pro Bowl left tackle with mobility to be a factor on second level or pulls and the tools to stand alone on an island protecting blindside.

Josh Jones is about as good a developmental tackle prospect as you'll find. He has all the tools for Munchak to turn him into a stalwart.
Josh Jones is about as good a developmental tackle prospect as you’ll find. He has all the tools for Munchak to turn him into a stalwart.

19. Austin Jackson - OT5

Fit: Depth player who can compete at left tackle or right guard.

Risk: Traits over tape. Hand placement and footwork needs to be refined. Will need to get stronger to hold up to power players in NFL. Young player at 20-years-old and just 25 starts. Career left tackle raises questions about versatility.

3-Year Ceiling: Pro Bowl Left Tackle with feet to mirror and recover against elite pass rushers. Mobility to be a factor on second level.

20. Cesar Ruiz- iOL1

Fit: Day one competition for starting center.

Risk: Length and athletic limitations may limit him to center only in NFL. Young player who needs to improve at recognizing and communicating incoming pressures and stunts. Technique needs to become consistently present.

3-Year Ceiling: Starting center with anchor to hold up on island against top tier power players.

21. K’Lavon Chaisson- ED2

Fit: Rotational edge rusher behind Miller and Chubb. Heir apparent?

Risk: Traits over production. Pass rush plan is elementary. Arms are below 50th percentile and he’s not a power player. Torn left ACL in 2018, right ankle injury in 2019.

3-Year Ceiling: Pro Bowl pass rusher who can bend the edge, drop into space, and run down plays.

Chances are Chaisson will go too high for it to make sense for the Broncos to consider him, but his upside is intriguing, even if the floor is rather low.
Chances are Chaisson will go too high for it to make sense for the Broncos to consider him. His upside is intriguing, even if the floor is rather low.

22. Patrick Queen- LB1

Fit: Rotational sub package linebacker, heir apparent to Todd Davis.

Risk: Size could limit upside as a stack and shed player in base personnel. Callow player still developing mental processing.

3-Year Ceiling: 3-down linebacker who is an asset in coverage.

23. A.J. Epenesa - DL3

Fit: Rotational 5/4i-technique in base personnel and 3-technique in nickel personnel.

Risk: Slow burn pass rusher who is light for traditional 3-4 defensive end. Lack of bend hurts pass rush upside on edge. Could use more pass rush moves.

3-Year Ceiling: Something similar to Derek Wolfe.

Epenesa's Combine workout shouldn't dissuade Denver from considering him. He's still a rather interesting fit as defensive end for the Fangio scheme.
Epenesa’s Combine workout shouldn’t dissuade Denver from considering him. He’s still a rather interesting fit as defensive end for the Fangio scheme.

What do you think, Broncos Country?