The 2021 NFL Draft is now in the book and the Broncos made a total of ten selections during the draft. The selections included two cornerbacks, two safeties, two linebackers, a running back, a center, a receiver, and a defensive lineman. They’re also adding a number of college free agents to round out the roster as they head into the summer months.
Now it’s time to look at the ramifications these picks have on the players who were already on the roster. I’ll give you some players who came out as winners and a few who came out as losers and could have their roster spot in jeopardy.
Winner(for now) - Quarterback Drew Lock
Yes, the Broncos acquired quarterback Teddy Bridgewater a day before the first round of the NFL Draft which isn’t a positive thing for Lock. However, they passed up on Justin Fields and Mac Jones in the first round and didn’t draft another quarterback during the draft. This leaves him in an open competition for the quarterback job with the veteran Teddy Bridgewater.
Also, there were reports/rumors that if the Broncos did indeed take a quarterback in the first round that there was a strong indication that Lock would be traded. That obviously did not happen, so that’s another win for Lock.
For now, at least.
Asked Vic Fangio, where's Aaron Rodgers: "Who? (smile) Next question." #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) May 2, 2021
The potential of Aaron Rodgers however likely that is at this point will keep Lock on the hot seat until the situation resolved. If Rodgers is somehow acquired, I would assume Lock could be the odd man out. Paton brought in Teddy and is “his guy” and could provide the Broncos with a reliable veteran backup behind Rodgers. Now, an argument definitely can be made for Lock staying in this scenario, but I personally don’t see it as the likely one.
So while Lock is a “winner” currently, that could change down the road depending on how the Rodgers situation plays out.
Loser - Running Back Royce Freeman
Freeman was already on this list after the signing of Mike Boone, but the selection of Javonte Williams who they traded up for cemented his likely fate with the Broncos.
Hell, even Head Coach Vic Fangio already forgot about him
Vic Fangio on the RB rotation this year: “Hopefully this year, with our three backs, Boone being one of them… we’ll get a nice flow”— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) May 1, 2021
Freeman will likely stick around through camp and the preseason because injuries happen, especially to backs, but he’s certainly on the outside looking in.
If the Broncos make it through camp and the preseason without any significant injuries to their backs, Freeman could among the cuts and likely on the trade block.
It’s a tough break for the former third-round selection, but it never panned out for him with the Broncos.
Winner - Tackle Ja’Wuan James
James who has been a bust since signing with the Broncos in 2019 is far from a sure thing. He has an injury-riddled 2019 season that had his toughness questioned. He then followed up opting out of the 2020 season(not holding it against him) so we have really only seen James on the field for a handful of snaps since signing two offseasons ago.
Add in Bolles comments about James needing to earn back the trust of the locker room and you could see how the Broncos may try to replace him or at least get some insurance behind him. Well, after seven rounds and free agency, the Broncos have yet to add a tackle.
It appears they will be adding a few UDFA tackles to compete during camp, but for now, Ja’Wuan James is your unquestioned starter at right tackle. This obviously can change, but for now, the team is showing confidence in their big right tackle.
Loser - Wide Receiver DaeSean Hamilton
Hamilton entered the draft on the outside looking in already and reportedly on the trade block as well. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo a few weeks ago reported that Hamilton is someone who could be traded in the coming weeks.
The Broncos have four receivers with solidified roster spots and a few special teams guys rounding out the roster including sixth-round pick Seth Williams. So Hamilton, who isn’t really a special teams guy is most likely going to be traded or released before the start of the 2021 season.
I’d assume he would make it to camp like Freeman and either be dealt or released during final cuts. Either way, the writing is on the wall for Hamilton.
Loser - Cornerback Michael Ojemudia
The 2020 rookie flashed and even started a handful of times last season before being benched after some up and down play by Head Coach Vic Fangio. It was assumed that he would still be in the starting conversation this year, but now? His roster spot could be in danger after the Broncos added two veteran starters and a 9th overall pick to the roster.
I say this because the Broncos have really added at the cornerback position. First, they signed veteran Ronald Darby to a long-term contract and then signed veteran Kyle Fuller to a one-year deal to be their number one corner. That left Ojemudia as the fourth corner at best heading into the draft. Then, the Broncos spent a 9th overall selection on Pat Surtain II and now Ojemudia is on the roster bubble.
They also added Kary Vincent in the 7th round and a handful of UDFA’s hungry for a roster spot as well. This is not even mentioning the corners already on the roster. So it could be a tough summer for the 2020 third-round selection who will be facing some stiff competition for that final cornerback spot.
- Winner: OT Calvin Anderson - He’s currently the team's swing tackle after the Broncos didn’t draft a tackle or sign one during free agency. I think we’ll see a veteran added eventually, but for now, he has the inside track for the Broncos third tackle spot
- Loser: OC Lloyd Cushenberry: The Broncos selected Quinn Meinerz in the third round of the draft and he’s going to start out playing at center. I don’t expect him to push Cushenberry right away but it’s never a great sign when a team uses a day two selection to add competition behind you. Cushenberry struggled a bit in 2020 so he might be entering on a short leash.
- Winner: The Broncos - The Aaron Rodgers situation is looking ugly and the Broncos appear to be the frontrunners if/when he’s traded. A week ago this wasn’t even a possibility, now it’s at least something we can hope for. So, for that hope alone, I’m listing the Broncos as winners because they may luck into another future Hall Of Fame quarterback who can help lead them back to the Super Bowl.