The 2020 NFL Draft is in the books and the Denver Broncos once again stacked another impressive draft class. By my count, that is three in a row of promising draft classes and the team is certainly on the rise once more.
After getting Noah Fant, Drew Lock, and Lloyd Cushenberry in a trade last year moving from the 10th pick to the 20th pick in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, they also added Dalton Risner, Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler in the last two drafts as well to form an impressive offensive transformation. Add in Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay, Melvin Gordon, and Graham Glasgow and you have one hell of a young and dynamic offense heading into 2020.
Not everyone is happy. There are still questions about the Broncos offensive tackle situation, but after well over 5,000 votes in our poll on Saturday we have a 55% grading ‘A’ and 37% grading ‘B’ for the Broncos draft class. I’ll take that. Although fans do tend to be overly optimistic, so let’s see how the rest of the nation feels about the Broncos 2020 draft class.
First up isn’t necessary a grade, but rather a shout out from Nex Gen Stats showing the Broncos were the top team to prioritize athleticism and production over all other teams in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Final Top 5 Draft Classes by Overall Draft Score— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) April 25, 2020
The #Broncos, #Colts, #Ravens, #Titans and #Steelers prioritized athleticism and production throughout the draft, as represented by average overall draft score of their class according to the Next Gen Stats draft model.#NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/8Xqe01F0wG
While that isn’t a grade, it does show where John Elway and his staff were focused on at every step of the way with their 10 draft picks.
Denver Broncos Draft Grades
It’s clear the Broncos’ goal in this draft was to help second-year quarterback Drew Lock. They did that with two back-to-back wide receivers starting with Jerry Jeudy in the first round. Denver was lucky Jeudy was around with the 15th pick. He’s the best wide receiver in the draft, and gives Lock a dependable pass catcher. Jeudy is a stellar route runner, has speed, and his hands are good.
The team’s second-round pick was used on Penn State’s KJ Hamler. If there is a DeSean Jackson in this draft, it is Hamler. His game is speed and more speed. Speaking of, the Broncos got Lock another speedy target in tight end Albert Okwuegbunam of Missouri in the fourth round. A year after taking Noah Fant, the Broncos now have two young tight ends to diversify their offense.
The Broncos were one of several teams that had three third-round picks, and their first selection in that round went to Iowa’s Michael Ojemudia. He’s a bigger cornerback with speed, so he should start opposite A.J. Bouye.
Nose tackle was a big need for the Broncos, and they got one of the better ones in the draft in the third round with McTelvin Agim of Arkansas. If he’s healthy, guard Netane Muti will be a steal. The problem with this draft is a lack of an offensive tackle.
This class has too much bust potential for my liking, with Ojemudia, Hamler and Okwuegbunam as low-floor prospects. So while I love the Jeudy fit in Round 1, I’m going to knock the rest.
Day 1: The fact that Denver didn’t have to give up additional draft capital and trade up to land Jerry Jeudy is absurd. The former ‘Bama wide receiver had a consensus rank of No. 8 and ranked fifth on PFF’s big board. He’s a special separator in this class with great YAC ability. He may not look like Julio Jones or Amari Cooper physically, but Jeudy is every bit as good a prospect as those two coming out of Alabama.
“Jeudy is the best route-runner I’ve seen in college football in awhile — at least since Amari Cooper.” — PFF’s Mike Renner
I figured the Broncos would hammer the receiver position — getting Jeudy and Hamler will cause headaches for opposing defense. The team then found help at center, cornerback and the defensive line on Day 2. The Broncos must have figured Okwuegbunam was too good of an athlete to ignore in the fourth round, and it’s tough to argue with them, despite his inconsistency on the field. Strnad would have been picked in the top 120 overall if not for an injury that cost him the majority of his senior season. Muti plays like a second-rounder but injuries have kept him to a handful of games in recent years — he was a very worthwhile pick in the sixth round. Tuszka was a value edge rusher pick late in the seventh round.
Front-office executive John Elway did all he could to help QB Drew Lock, who showed promise last season as a rookie. Elway used the Broncos’ first two picks on WRs, getting Jerry Jeudy 15th overall and KJ Hamler in the second round. There were no major additions to the offensive line other than third-round center Lloyd Cushenberry III, but the passing offense should be revved up if Lock is given enough time to throw.
The Broncos have a budding star in “X” receiver Courtland Sutton, who can consistently win one-on-one downfield on the perimeter and hurt teams with in-breaking routes. But for their optimism in 2019 second-round quarterback Drew Lock to be fully realized, they needed a “Z” receiver—that guy who can go in motion, run every route at every level and contribute via yards-after-catch. Some feel that Jerry Jeudy is the best route runner coming out of college in this era. The Broncos addressed a glaring need with a stylistically perfect prospect, and they didn’t have to trade up to do it.
After rounding out the outside spots in their receiving corps, the Broncos added a prototypical super-shifty weapon inside, in slot receiver KJ Hamler. It won’t be hard to predict where Denver’s wide receivers will line up on any given play, but with three players so perfectly suited for their roles, it will be hard to stop them.
Broncos GM John Elway had one objective this draft: Give Drew Lock enough weapons in 2020 to figure out if he’s the long-term starting quarterback. Mission accomplished. I personally would have drafted CeeDee Lamb instead of Jeudy but still find the pick a great one. He can play inside or outside, win downfield or underneath, and can be a go-to target or complementary option. Jeudy’s route running is elite, and the fit is good enough for Jeudy to be in the rookie WR1 discussion.
Is there anyone in Denver happier than quarterback Drew Lock right now? Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy was an absolute heist at No. 15 overall, and Penn State’s K.J. Hamler gave lock an undersized by explosive big-play threat in the second round.
The Broncos did a good job of addressing needs for John Elway and Vic Fangio, taking advantage of volume. Jeudy, Ojemudia and Cushenberry stand out as their best picks. That said, they probably overloaded on offensive skill too much hoping to lift Drew Lock vs. putting a higher priority on defense. Hamler and Okwuegbunam were interesting picks of luxury for a team that couldn’t afford it, considering it already has DaeSean Hamilton and Noah Fant.
The headliner was the Jerry Jeudy selection. A strong case can be made that Jeudy was the top receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft, and yet he was taken at No. 15 overall. The Broncos continued to add talent at the position, selecting K.J. Hamler as the speed threat they needed to complement Courtland Sutton and now Jeudy. Albert Okwuegbunam was a nice bonus in the fourth round as a second tight end for Lock.
The Broncos didn’t spend as much energy on pass protection, but they added two quality linemen, Lloyd Cushenberry and Netane Muti. Cushenberry could start right away at center, while Muti was a steal in the sixth round. He has second-round talent, but injuries pushed him toward the end of the draft.
The consensus grade here is just shy of an ‘A’ and would have been if not for Mel Kiper’s odd distaste for the Broncos draft class compared to the rest of the analysts we shared here. I didn’t copy over their full analyses, but you can click the link and read in further detail.
In the long-term, the Broncos are doing Lock a solid by ensuring he has as much talent around him as possible. Elway wants him to succeed and there is little more he can do to make that happen now. The job falls on offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and his offensive staff.