With the Senior Bowl around the corner, I wanted to do a little preview on a few players the Broncos should keep an eye on in Mobile. Obviously, every prospect there should be on their radar, but I wanted to highlight just three for this piece. For this one, I wanted to focus on the skill players on offense. I’ll highlight a few on each team that I think will boost the Broncos’ offense, regardless of who the next offensive coordinator is.
National Team (Jets)
RB Tyler Badie, Missouri
If you’ve been reading my draft content for a bit, you’ll know that I’ve wanted Denver to pursue a RB to play committee to Javonte Williams. With Melvin Gordon likely leaving in free agency, having a good change of pace back who can also act as a receiver would be a welcome weapon for Denver.
Tyler Badie is on the smaller side of backs, but he’s pretty explosive through his cuts and plays so physical for his size. He’s a big-play threat whenever he touches the ball, and finished third in the country in rushing yards. Not only is he effective as a runner, but his work as a receiver can’t go unnoticed either. Badie has caught over 100 passes in his career for 1,149 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s an ideal third-down back for Denver and would be an electric weapon to pair with Javonte.
WR Christian Watson, North Dakota State
Wide receiver isn’t a popular need for the Broncos, but they need speed and they need a returner. Fortunately, Watson solves both at once. The Bizon superstar is reportedly a 4.3 candidate at 6’4 200+ pounds and his tape on the field shows an excellent deep threat. It caught me off guard how often they would drop back to pass and Watson would already be well behind the defense. He’ll have to prove he’s more than just a deep threat in Mobile in the one-on-ones, but his film shows a smooth mover who shouldn’t have trouble getting open despite the leap in competition.
Where I’m most intrigued by Watson is as a returner. While he’s a great receiver, Watson was an elite kick returner at the FCS level. He averaged almost 34 yards a return and housed two kicks for touchdowns in 2021. With the durability concerns about KJ Hamler and new staff in place, they could be looking for a new answer at returner and add to the speed in their receiver room.
TE Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin
The tight end room has Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam as the main two, but if their new offense shifts to more 12 and 13 personnel looks, they might want to add another tight end to their room that’s a better blocker. Ferguson has over 900 snaps as a blocker per PFF, and he’s a reliable run and pass blocker. Fant and Albert O have struggled in run blocking the last couple of years, and Ferguson would alleviate those concerns.
Ferguson is more than just a blocker, however. He’s a pretty reliable catcher and downfield threat. He fits pretty well as a Y-TE at the next level, and he could be a nice scheme fit for Denver moving forward.
American Team (Lions)
RB James Cook, Georgia
A 4-year back at UGA, Cook’s been buried behind some of their standout backs in recent years, but he’s enjoying a nice breakout year now under Todd Monken. He’s quite the dynamic weapon out of the backfield in the receiving game. UGA loves to mix his skillset up, putting him out wide and running sweeps, putting him in motion to mix up looks and coverage, using him as a receiver out of the backfield, and then as a natural runner.
Cook is patient and quick, which is why I think a zone rushing attack would suit him well. I’d love for him to be a complementary weapon to Javonte Williams, much like how the Colts use Nyheim Hines for Jonathan Taylor or the Cowboys use Tony Pollard for Ezekiel Elliott.
WR Calvin Austin III, Memphis
Calvin Austin is a national track star, and that shows on the field. He simply flies around, making play after play with his explosiveness and change of direction. In case you don’t watch a ton of Memphis football, he’s been one of the best playmakers in college football this season. The more threats that Denver has on offense, the better.
Much like with Watson, this pick has a lot to do with speed+returning ability. Hamler’s absence has been noticeable, as the Broncos don’t really have that kind of speed elsewhere. Adding another world-class athlete who has been an outstanding punt returner can’t hurt for a team looking to compete right away.
FB Connor Heyward, Michigan State
I didn’t love any of the TE options for the American team for what Denver might be looking for, but Connor Heyward might be right up their alley. Paton has seen firsthand how a good fullback can help a team’s run game in CJ Ham, and the Shanahan tree has quite a few notable fullback names throughout.
Heyward’s not just a traditional fullback, however. He’s used in a variety of ways at Michigan State, and he’s made some tremendously athletic plays as a runner and receiver. He’s thrived all over and has plenty of eyes NFL eyes on him. Notably, Heyward has also been a key special teamer for the Spartans, something that George Paton will take note of.