One of the most overlooked parts of the NFL Draft is how it is a giant guessing game. Every team hits on picks and every team will miss. With that in mind, I’ve long been a proponent for taking as many good throws at the dart board as you can within reason.
If there’s no other reason to be optimistic about the Broncos’ draft, the fact they made all 10 picks is awesome. Going into the Thursday night I was convinced the Broncos were going to trade away capital to reach on Henry Ruggs. There was also talk that Elway wanted to move up for Patrick Queen, and later that there were talks between the Broncos and Indianapolis Colts about 34. Instead they stood pat and grabbed 10 prospects.
What follows are my thoughts on all 10, broken down by what I like, what I don’t, and what I’d have done if Elway had passed the GM role down to me. Surely that won’t upset anyone.
15. Jerry Jeudy - Wide Receiver
He was the fifth best player on my board and the top receiver. His ability to separate is the best I’ve ever seen in a college receiver and it’s a trait that is critically important in the Pat Shurmur offense. Additionally, Jeudy’s ability to play both in the slot and on the boundary frees up his play caller to mix and match personnel around him.
Right before the draft news dropped about concerns with Jeudy’s knee. While I’d heard rumors about it back at the Combine it is notable because there may be some long term ramifications of such an injury. Beyond that, he did have some concentration drops last year.
I would have taken Jeudy, and there was not a single player ranked above him that I expected to be anywhere near 15.
46. K.J. Hamler - Wide Receiver
His start/stop acceleration and lateral mobility are elite traits. If Drew Lock can stay alive, it’s going to be nigh impossible to stick on him in man coverage for any prolonged length of time. Experience as a returner adds to his floor. If the Broncos can find ways to get the ball in his hands via screens, crossers, in and out routes he’s so explosive after the catch that he should demand a lot of attention.
Has already had an ACL injury in his past. If you can look beyond that, his hands are marginal at best. While the Broncos’ coaching staff has said they’ll fix his hands, it’s worth mentioning that body catchers with a propensity for drops rarely improve in a significant way.
Additionally, his size hinders his catch radius which puts a cap on his value as a deep threat: he isn’t going to win contested catch situations downfield and will need to be blowing by a defender to serve as a real target. If his hands do not improve, do you really want a fourth or fifth receiving option you need to manufacture offense for?
I would have taken Josh Jones here. I had him as my OT4 and the 18th best player on my Broncos’ adjusted big board. A career left tackle at Houston, he’s a promising pass protector who will need to refine his hands and feet, but brings all the physical talent you could ask for. He slid to 72 with the Arizona Cardinals.
77. Michael Ojemudia - Defensive Back
Physical zone corner who brings the kind of understanding of spacing and mental acuity to be an early contributor on the boundary. He’s a better athlete than given credit for and has promising ball skills. Has the length to perhaps eventually grow into a viable press-zone corner in the Prince Amukamara mold.
Additionally, he received a degree in mechanical engineering during his time in Iowa City and was a member of the Hawkeye’s Leadership Council in 2019.
Scheme specific and may never be more than a solid cover man. His ability to click and close or turn and run with speed looks more solid than good. For all his physicality as a tackler, he needs to improve at taking on and defeating blocks.
There were two players I had my eye on here. I would have taken Cameron Dantzler here and had him as the ninth corner on my board. My biggest questions with him were his weight and physicality, but the games he had against LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase had me willing to take a chance. He fell to the Minnesota Vikings at 89.
The other player I had my eye on here was Terrell Burgess. The Utah Ute looked like a great scheme fit as a former corner who can play nickel early before sliding back to safety after Kareem Jackson’s contract expires. He fell to the Los Angeles Rams at 104.
This is one thing that I kept coming back to. It's hard to underestimate how much mental processing matters to the #Broncos coverages, and it's hard to completely pin that down by watching tape.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) April 25, 2020
Fangio may love that in Ojemudia, and I can dig it. https://t.co/C5ivKQOqvQ
83. Lloyd Cushenberry - Center
A battle tested interior offensive lineman. The team captain was also voted Team MVP in 2019 and will be a high character pivot who spent a large part of his last season in Baton Rouge pass blocking in five man protections as Joe Burrow lit up the score board. He’s an intelligent player who’s capable of anticipating and picking up stunts, twists, and late pressure. His anchor and ability to reset are very promising.
Closer to solid than elite in the run game. Cush looks like he’ll be an asset on combo blocks and shows the footwork to stick on his assignment, but will need to improve at reaching and sticking on moving targets at the second level.
I considered Cushenberry at 77, but he was one spot behind Cameron Dantzler on my board and Matt Hennessy hadn’t gone yet. He would be the pick here whether the Duke or I was making the pick at 83.
I talked with Lloyd Cushenberry at the Senior Bowl and asked his role in protections at LSU, and he said he was the guy on the Oline setting protections and calling out blitzes.— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) April 25, 2020
Great football IQ and was the QB of the best Oline in college football on the best offense in CFB.
95. McTelvin Agim - Defensive Line
A five-star recruit and the No. 1 player in the state of Arkansas coming out of Hope High School, Agim has the kind of natural talent that coaches dream of and didn’t lose his athleticism as he gained weight. He’s a promising gap shooter who has the quickness and flexibility to challenge opponents off the snap and brings a variety of hand moves to get past blockers. Versatile enough that he played all over the defensive line over his career at Arkansas, 9-technique to 0.
Additionally, he made the SEC All-freshman team and has been on the Academic Honor Roll in the years since in addition to being the team captain last season.
Needs to refine his technique, notably his counters and bullrush. Will need to play with leverage more consistently than he did for the Razorbacks and if he’s going to be more than a sub-package role player he’ll need to get stronger in order to hold up to double teams. Stacking and shedding may not ever be a strength.
At this point in the draft I was locked in on Akeem Davis-Gaither, who I had as the fourth linebacker on my board and a player I saw as a Day 2 Isaiah Simmons. I liked his ability to play out in a nickel/overhang role in sub packages while also showing the ankle flexion to help as an edge rusher in certain looks. He needed to get bigger, but I thought he’d be a great fit. He slid to the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round and we found out right before Day 3 began that his knee is bone on bone.
118. Albert Okwuegbunam - Tight End
Switched from wide receiver to tight end as a freshman and retained his soft hands. Does a good job of boxing out defenders with his 254 lb frame and looks like the former basketball player he is in bully ball situations. Has the tools and is a willing blocker, so he should improve here with NFL coaching. Former teammate and close friend with Drew Lock.
While he ran a 4.49 40-yard dash, every member of the scouting community was shocked by it. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said he plays like a 4.6 athlete. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler mentioned how he can run seams but lacks the burst to separate from defenders at the top of his routes.
My bigger issue, however starts when you look at the Broncos current tight end room:
Noah Fant - former first round pick
Nick Vannett - 2020 free agent, signed through 2021.
Jeff Heuerman - 2019 resigning, signed through 2020.
Troy Fumagalli - 2018 fifth round pick.
Andrew Beck - H-Back type
Add to that that in all of the digging I’ve done into Pat Shurmur’s roster construction through the years, he never carries more than four tight ends, and usually three with a fullback/H-back type. So the fourth round pick was spent on another tight end in a room that has a clear starter and two veterans.
What makes it even confusing is that Shurmur’s offenses over the last three years averaged just under 5 receptions a game for 51ish yards. Most of that production will go to Noah Fant if he’s healthy.
I wanted K’Von Wallace here. The Clemson safety played a variety of roles for the Tigers, but will likely wind up as a nickel corner in the NFL. His versatility and mental aptitude shows up in how well he plays in coverage. He has good ball skills, but iffy hands. That and his size seems to have pushed him down the board. He was drafted by the Eagles at pick 127.
I’ll admit I never even considered Okwuegbunam because the tight end group, so keep that in mind when it comes to who I’d have taken here. I plan to get into his tape and will have a GIF Horse about him later this spring.
I would take Albert Okwuegbunam here at 118 and flip off anyone who doesn't like it if I'm John Elway. lol— Sayre Bedinger (@SayreBedinger) April 25, 2020
178. Justin Strnad - Linebacker
Former high school safety who looks fluid in space and capable in coverage. Looks faster on the field than he tested in workouts and isn’t afraid to drop the hammer on ball carriers. Was selected as a senior captain.
Will miss tackles going for the big hit over simply performing his job of bringing the ball to a stop. Needs to improve at anticipating receivers to succeed in coverage like he did in the ACC. Had trouble shedding blocks and that won’t get easier in the league. Reason to wonder about his potential for growth as he’ll be a 24-year old rookie. Ruptured bicep ended his collegiate career with six games to go.
At this point I was looking at Prince Tega-Wanogho, but was doing so without knowing his medical situation. Word was that NFL teams were being scared away by the right knee that prevented him from working out at the Combine and his Pro day. He eventually went to Eagles in the 6th round.
The other players I was pining for here were Utah’s Bradlee Anae and Kansas Left Tackle Hakeem Adeniji. The former isn’t necessarily a great athlete, but brings a ferociousness to his game and really good pass rush moves. The latter is a 40+ game starter at tackle for the Jayhawks who may wind up as a starter at guard at the next level or a utility lineman.
Broncos get some LB depth with Justin Strnad #178. Injuries hurt his stock. Big motor and has range to make plays in zone. Consistent tackler who should add special teams help.— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) April 25, 2020
181. Netane Muti - Interior Offensive Line
Physique immediately stands out and it’s no surprise that he benched 44 reps of 225 lbs at the NFL Combine. He’s a heavy handed blocker who can whoop on his assignments in the run game and has the mobility to get to and excel on the second level. He was also an underclassman captain for the Bulldogs who brings a scrappy mentality to the field.
Injuries were so notable that I took him off my board despite knowing he was a scheme fit. Only played a grand total of 1273 snaps across 19 games at Fresno State because of injuries to both Achilles tendons and a Lisfranc injury this last season. Has not played more than 3 games in a season since 2017.
On the field, he’s still developing some of the technical stuff, which shouldn’t be a surprise given his inexperience. Needs to do a better job syncing his feet and hands together.
This far down the board I was open to chasing BPA over any positional needs, and Donovan Peoples-Jones was the 13th receiver on my board. I didn’t like him as much as some of the other players I scouted, but he had the long speed and explosiveness to gamble on here. I also still liked the idea of gambling on Prince Tega-Wanagho.
NETANE MUTI!!!— Thor Nystrom (@thorku) April 25, 2020
Congrats Denver — if he stays healthy, you just got the steal of the offensive line class
And easily the funnest mauler to watch
252. Tyrie Cleveland - Wide Receiver
Size/Speed prospect who stands 6’2 209 lbs and ran a 4.46 40 with explosive jumps at the NFL Combine. He was the third ranked receiver recruit in the country out of high school and his athleticism shows up on special teams.
Minor off the field issues, mostly with Airsoft and BB guns as far as I know. For all his athleticism, he couldn’t ever carve out a significant role on offense and never topped 410 yards receiving at Florida. Has never caught more than 25 passes in a single season.
I’ve mentioned a few times how late day 3 picks are usually getting picked up for their special team’s prowess and that’s the case here. That said, I had my eyes on Alex Taylor at this point in the draft. He’s a 6’9 raw tackle prospect who wound up going undrafted. I also wanted to draft the Broncos’ next selection.
254. Derrek Tuszka - Edge
You can’t control your competition, all you can do is take care of business on the field and that’s exactly what Tuszka did for the Bison. He was a dominant player in the FCS, finishing with 42.5 tackles for loss and 29.5 sacks in his career. He helped North Dakota go 70-5 over his collegiate career and was on the All-Academic team as a senior.
As far as transferable traits, Tuszka has violent hands and shows the mental aptitude to react quickly to changing situations. He displays good quickness, bend, and the ability to squeeze his way through gaps to attack the backfield. He’s also capable of dropping into space without trouble.
Going from the FCS to the NFL is a big league, and he’ll need to vastly increase his pass rushing repertoire and get stronger to be more than a bubble player in the league. Has short arms for an edge player, but isn’t the kind of souped up 4.45 guy who can threaten tackles with his first step and make up for it.
I was going to take Tuszka here because I think if nothing else he provides special teams depth and a little competition for Malik Reed. There’s enough on what I’ve seen of his tape to hope he can find a way to carve out playing time. Von Miller isn’t getting any younger, after all.
Denver stole Malik Reed late last year and this year steals Derrek Tuszka.— AJ Schulte (@AJDraftScout) April 25, 2020