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Why I love the Broncos’ 2020 Draft

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In terms of fit and overarching strategy, the Denver Broncos 2020 draft class was perfect.

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There is no doubt that this year’s draft will always be remembered as Drew Lock’s draft class. I mentioned on Cover 2 Broncos that I liked the overarching strategy to bolster the passing weapons and give Denver’s 2020 starter every weapon he could possibly need to prove he’s “the guy.” As I’ve ruminated over each pick, I love Elway’s 2020 class even more. As much as I liked the additions of Lloyd Cushenberry, McTelvin Agim, Netane Muti, and Derrek Tuszka, this draft will be defined by the pass catchers.

The Broncos built a basketball team.

If you kept up with my musings and analysis leading up to the NFL Draft, you’ll know that I strongly believe in the idea that the best receiving corps share a lot of similarities with a starting lineup in the NBA.

In an ideal world, the room will have a true alpha dog as the number one. This is a do-it-all threat who can produce efficiently with a high volume of touches. Courtland Sutton emerged as this player in 2019 after his route running, releases, and concentration at the catch point took a big step forward.

What was clearly lacking last year were complimentary pieces. Noah Fant flashed moments as a rookie and should improve with a year under his belt, but neither DaeSean Hamilton or Tim Patrick really came through as difference makers. For the Broncos’ passing attack to take a step forward, they need to get a legitimate number two. If the alpha is a Michael Jordan, the number two, in a perfect world, is the Scottie Pippen: fills in around the WR1’s strengths to cover for weaknesses while helping his strengths shine even more.

This idea is a big reason why I’ve had Jerry Jeudy as the top prospect in this generational receiving class. Sutton’s developed into a good route runner and solid separator who can win above the arc, play bully ball, and excel after the catch as an X-receiver. Jeudy’s ceiling looks like an elite separator and inside/outside threat from the Z-receiver. He’s more quick than physical, but his shiftiness, short area quickness, and a nasty dead-leg should punish any opposing coordinator for devoting too much attention to Sutton.

Adding Jeudy to Sutton and Fant gives the Broncos’ passing game a legitimate “big 3” to build the receiving corps around. Building around stars in the NFL means adding valuable role players who present match-up issues of their own if there isn’t enough attention devoted to them. Ideally, these are players who can maximize more limited opportunities and provide skill sets that aren’t redundant when overlapping with the pass catchers who will log the vast majority of playing time. If both K.J. Hamler and Albert Okwuegbunam develop, they fit this ideal to a T.

Hamler is a twitched up space athlete who’s as quick laterally as he is in a straight line. With a little polish to his route running and some creativity by Pat Shurmur, he’s going to be a nightmare to cover one-on-one out of the slot. He’s too sudden to fall asleep on and too explosive with the ball in his hands to ignore when he goes into motion.

It’s a bit freaky how fast Albert O ran his 40-yard dash at 6’5, 255 lbs, but the skills that most stand out about his game are how comfortable he is boxing out defenders. It became a cliche to cite Antonio Gates’ prowess as a basketball player as he had himself a Hall of Fame career for the Chargers, but there’s hints of those abilities in Okwuegbunam’s game.

While tight ends are notoriously tough to count on as rookies, big Al has all of the traits to become a dangerous TE2 who will be a pain in the keister in the red zone. That sneaky speed should also be an asset as teams forget about him to cover Jeudy, Hamler, Sutton, and Fant. Or when play action to Phillip Lindsay or Melvin Gordon sucker the second level.

Lost amid the excitement of the players themselves is the most underrated part of all this: each of the pieces compliment Drew Lock’s own strengths as a young quarterback. Back when Jeff Essary and I first set out to start Cover 2 Broncos, we dove into Lock’s five starts in order to breakdown his growth and strengths.

What stood out to me is that Lock remains a see-it, throw-it passer (albeit an improving one) who is willing to give his targets a chance to make a player on the ball. He has an aggressive mindset that wasn’t fully maximized in last year’s offense because of a lack of weapons around him. He also excelled in the quick game and at buying a little extra time for his receivers to get open after plays broke down, but needs to improve against the blitz.

When you stop to consider that both Hamler and Jeudy should become elite separators, it’s easy to imagine how they could provide Lock better looks in the passing game. In time, Okwuegbunam, Sutton, and Fant all profile as excellent red zone and jump ball options who can make Lock right on 50-50 balls.

So long as Pat Shurmur and the Broncos’ coaching staff helps the young receivers along and they put in the work to develop, it’s going to be a really exciting time to root for the orange and blue.

Your Broncos’ Links

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I’ve debated Jeudy with Henry Ruggs and CeeDee Lamb as the top receiver in this class for more than a month now. Elway may not agree, but based on what I’ve seen from the Pat Shurmur offense over his time with the Vikings and Giants, there is little doubt in my mind that Jeudy is the best possible option.

32 NFL players most likely to be cut or traded after the 2020 NFL draft

Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton The Broncos used their top two picks on wide receivers, adding Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler to surround 2020 breakout star Courtland Sutton in their new-look wideout corps. Hamler seems likely to win the slot receiver job away from another former Penn State Nittany Lion in Hamilton, who has averaged just 9.3 yards per catch over his first two NFL seasons. With Hamilton playing just one special-teams snap last season, he wouldn’t retain much value on the roster as Denver’s fourth or fifth wideout.

2021 NFL Draft: Compensatory pick projections for every team -

Teams projected to not receive any compensatory picks: Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Las Vegas Raiders, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins

The Five Most Revealing Strategies of the 2020 NFL Draft - The Ringer

There’s no way to misinterpret Denver’s approach to the 2020 draft. Even with budding star Courtland Sutton and 2019 first-round pick Noah Fant in place, the Broncos still needed to add some pass-catching talent. After stumbling into Alabama superstar Jerry Jeudy at no. 15, Denver double-dipped at wide receiver by grabbing Penn State burner KJ Hamler in the second round. If that wasn’t enough, the Broncos added tight end Albert Okwuegbunam—who ripped off a 4.49 40 at the combine—in the fourth round.

It seems that John Elway is trying to take a page out of the Chiefs’ playbook—put as many explosive pass catchers on the field as possible and dare defenses to stop them. A starting quartet of Sutton, Jeudy, Hamler, and Fant could be the speediest group of receivers in football. Last season, Sutton finished with 427 yards on passes of 20-plus air yards—the sixth-highest mark in the league. Fant struggled on throws down the field (catching just one of his eight deep targets on the season), but Denver clearly plans on using his seam-stretching ability in coordinator Pat Shurmur’s offense. Jeudy has been lauded for his route-running ability, but he’s still good for plenty of big plays. And outside of former Jeudy teammate Henry Ruggs III, Hamler might have the best top-end speed of any receiver in the draft. It’s fair to question whether second-year QB Drew Lock is the right guy to take advantage of all this offensive artillery, but he’ll have no shortage of vertical options..

PFF’s favorite and least-favorite picks from the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft | College Football and NFL Draft | PFF

Denver Broncos — WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama (Pick No. 15) Jeudy is the most polished route-runner to come out in the draft since at least Amari Cooper. He also fills the deep threat role the Broncos reportedly craved across from Courtland Sutton. It’s easy to fall in love with Henry Ruggs’ pure speed, but it was Jeudy who was the far more productive deep threat over the course of his Alabama career. Jeudy hauled in over twice as many deep catches (25 to 12) over the past three seasons.

Denver Broncos 2020 NFL Draft Class Recap | The Draft Network

Denver is quietly assembling a roster that will make it fun to watch an AFC West divisional game.

NFL Links

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He called it the “best opportunity to grow as a quarterback” and that was worth more than any money he may have left on the table. “I don’t think you can beat that. Especially if you believe in yourself,” Winston said, via Luke Johnson of the New Orleans Advocate.