George Paton is the new general manager and brings with him a new approach to team building. The Broncos new boss could mean a change in positional value as well as a more trades on draft day. So long as we assume he’s building for the Broncos current defensive system it isn’t hard to identify a few prospects who look like clean fits. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Vic Fangio’s defense places a stronger emphasis on certain traits that others around the league. As I’ve begun to dig through prospects to become as familiar as possible with the 2021 draft class their fit with the Broncos is at the center of my mind.
These prospects look like they’d make sense on the Fangio defense.
1 - Azeez Ojulari, Edge, Georgia:
Fangio was dropping backers into coverage before it was cool and I expect the Broncos simulated pressure package to only grow in 2021. That means the Broncos edge players will need some ability to drop into space, which is also an area where Ojulari’s athleticism shows up. He’s a dynamic athlete with very good bend and explosiveness. While standing at 6’3” and 240 lbs. means he’ll be dogged with size concerns throughout the process, Malik Reed has played 1253 snaps over the last two years at 6’1” and 234 lbs. Play strength is going to be a question as I continue to evaluate him, but Ojulari’s run defense caught my attention in Georgia’s matchup with the Crimson Tide as he displayed a consistent ability to meet and stonewall pulling guards.
It’s an open question as to how high the Broncos would be willing to go to draft an outside linebacker this year. Ojulari’s tape is going to garner him first round attention.
So I turn on Georgia to watch the corners and see this on the first snap.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) January 19, 2021
Azeez Ojulari has my full attention. pic.twitter.com/TSSsbhdDYV
2 - Caleb Farley, Cornerback, Virginia Tech:
On last week’s Cover 2 Broncos Coach Alexander and I discussed how big a need the Broncos’ cornerback situation is. 10 different players logged snaps at corner or nickel in 2020. While health luck almost has to improve at the position, A.J. Bouye looks like a looming cap cut and Bryce Callahan have never played 16 games in an NFL season.
If the Broncos stick at ninth overall, the decision probably comes down to best available defender. One name that warrants a ton of consideration is Farley. Standing 6’2” with prototypical size, his 2019 tape is littered with the kind of fluidity and athleticism you dream of for a corner. He’s got the goods to bump and run, play soft press, or click and close from off. There will be some who love Patrick Surtain, and he looks like a perfect fit for the Seahawks’ style defense that’s prevalent around the NFL. That isn’t Fangio’s defense though, and out of all the top cornerbacks in this class Farley looks like the best fit.
It needs to be said at every opportunity that I do not blame any prospect for opting out of a pandemic that has killed 400,000 Americans. They need to do what is right for them and their families. That reality will not change that the big question with Farley will be one every opt out player faces this draft season: evaluators have less tape and a longer projection since the prospect last played. Most in the NFL are risk adverse and so they will need to feel comfortable with where the prospect is after the time off to make the pick.
Long story short: If Farley made the jump from last year to this on tape I would expect, he’d be the clear CB1 in this class. Could be a very exciting pick at 9th overall.
Caleb Farley or Patrick Surtain II? pic.twitter.com/P4fYIyz2gw— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) January 20, 2021
3 - Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Penn State:
There are a couple things to unpack with the Broncos plans at linebacker. Alexander Johnson looks likely to return for 2021 as a Restricted Free Agent. If he does so he will start at one spot. Where there are open questions is the spot beside him: the Broncos were interested in both Joe Schobert and Patrick Queen last offseason before they drafted Justin Strnad. All fit as more athletic backers whose strengths lie in space.
Parsons isn’t necessarily that player. At least in what I’ve seen of his 2019 tape so far, the Nittany Lions didn’t ask for him to be a play maker in coverage. He has the athletic tools to improve here and he is a reliable tackle in space, but where he clearly fits the Broncos defense is in a similar role to what Johnson thrived in last season. Recruited as an edge out of high school, Parsons’ strengths lie in attacking the line of scrimmage. He’s very good at leveraging gaps, meeting and defeating blocks. Fangio could also use him as a weapon on blitzes or as part of pressure packages.
All of the limited interaction between the league and prospects this year could hurt Parson’s draft stock. As another prospect who opted out of the 2020 college football season Parsons will have similar questions to those facing Caleb Farley. NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks also said he’s known the 21-year old since high school and that his level of immaturity scares him. Parsons is also involved in a lawsuit that an NFL team will need to feel comfortable with.