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Who fits the Broncos’ needs in the 2022 NFL Draft?

On this week’s Cover 2 Broncos, Sports Info Solutions Nathan Cooper joins me to dig deep on prospects who make sense for Nathaniel Hackett and the new coaching staff.

In less than a month George Paton will call the shots on his second ever draft as the general manager of the Denver Broncos. His first won the front office an award from Inside the League, but he’ll have his work cut out for him this time around. Following the Russell Wilson trade, Paton finds himself without a first round pick in 2022. In fact, the Broncos do not have a single pick until the last selection of the second round.

To get a better idea as to what that means for this year’s draft class I reached out to Sports Info Solutions Senior Football Scouting Analyst Nathan Cooper for this week’s Cover 2 Broncos. The SIS draft guide was an instrumental part of my own draft preparation last year and I look forward to this year’s release. In the meantime, I hope our chat can help to better inform you on Paton’s options. What follows is a brief synapsis of Cooper and my conversation.

Thoughts on the class overall

  • The Broncos don’t pick ‘til 64 but still have quite a few pick thanks to the Von Miller and Trinity Benson trades. Paton even hinted at the possibility they trade down to acquire more capital.
  • What position groups stand out as particularly deep?
  • Are there any positions where an early run really hurts the Broncos chances at landing talent?
  • What kind of expectations are realistic for late Day 2 and Day 3 picks?

Broncos current picks according to Tankathon

64

75

96

115

116

145

207

233

Who fits the Broncos new scheme?

Offensive Tackle

The Broncos have drafted one offensive tackle since 2017 and Garett Bolles turns 30 shortly after the draft. Calvin Anderson, Tom Compton, and Billy Turner all signed one year contracts to compete for right tackle, but sound bytes and the official visits suggest the Broncos are open to drafting a developmental prospect.

  • What are realistic expectations for a Day two or day three tackle?
  • How long should the Broncos expect a mid round tackle to develop?
  • Are there mid round prospects who could be available that may surprise in a competition?
  • What day 2/3 prospects stand out as ideal ZBS developmental prospects?

Edge rusher

The Broncos pass rush cratered after the Von Miller trade. They signed Randy Gregory to a 5 year deal worth $70 M. They also tendered RFA Malik Reed. Both Reed and Bradley Chubb have contracts that expire in 2023, and Gregory’s never played a full season in his NFL career, so edge remains a question.

  • Does it make sense to add rookies to the Broncos’ room?
  • Who stands out as fits at 64 and across Day 3?
  • If David Ojabo slides to 64 because of his injury, does he make sense for Denver?
  • Should Travon Walker go number one?

Cornerback

Despite throwing significant resources at corner since Paton joined the Broncos, it remains a long term question mark. Patrick Surtain II looks like a future All Pro, but Ronald Darby’s cap number is $12,823,529 and the Broncos can move on in 2023 if they wish to avoid a $13 M cap hit. K’Waun Williams will be 31-years-old by training camp and his two-year contract is more like a 1+1. The rest of the depth chart has more questions than answers. Michael Ojemudia’s played in 18 of 33 games because of a benching as a rookie and an injury last year, while Essang Bassey bounced between the Broncos and Chargers in 2022 following a season ending knee injury his rookie year.

  • What corners stand out to you as potential fits for a Fangio type of system?
  • Is it realistic to hope for a developmental slot somewhere on day 3?
  • What to look at when projecting an outside corner to the slot.

Tight end

The Broncos traded away Noah Fant to secure Russell Wilson and the room now consists of Albert O, Eric Tomlinson, and Shaun Beyer. The Packers used heavier (12, 13, 21, 22, 23) about a third of the time under Hackett/LaFleur.

Given the time it typically takes a tight end to develop in the league it makes too much sense to ignore this position on draft day.

  • Thoughts on the TE class?
  • Do the Broncos need an H or a Y tight end?
  • What will the rookie tight ends give the Broncos in year one? What is an realistic expectation for year two?
  • Are there any receiving tight ends that look like strong fits for this offense that could be available when Denver picks?
  • Is it a big deal if a tight end struggles to separate as a receiver?
  • What traits tend to improve once a prospect reaches the NFL?

Defensive line

The Broncos signed D.J. Jones to a 3-year contract worth $30 M to help plug up a rather leaky run defense. He’ll pair with Dre’Mont Jones as the starting DL and play about 60% of the snaps. Depth behind them is a serious question mark: DeShawn Williams signed a one year deal for close to the vet. minimum. McTelvin Agim hasn’t played much despite John Elway drafted him in the third round of the 2020 draft. Mike Purcell’s played in 19 of 33 games over the last two years and could be a cap casualty since he and Jones have overlapping skillsets.

  • One underrated aspects as far as scheme fit for a Fangio type of defense is the ability to play gap and a half or two-gap. Are there any players that probably lose value to Denver because of this requirement?
  • It looks to me like Paton didn’t really replace Shelby Harris after the Wilson trade. Jones is a nose tackle. Are there any 5T base ends who could rush inside that make sense for the Broncos’ picks?
  • Does it make sense to prioritize nose tackles over pass rushers?

Safety

Justin Simmons is one of the best safeties in the NFL, but Kareem Jackson’s contract ran out and he may not return. The Broncos did draft two safeties in the 5th round last year and Caden Sterns looked very promising across his 311 defensive snaps, but I don’t know if Paton wouldn’t take another safety if the right player is available.

  • Does it make sense to consider safeties early?
  • Does Cincinnati's Bryan Cook make sense for a 2-high scheme like the Broncos will run?

Running back

Javonte Williams is the lead back and the Broncos have Mike Boone under contract, but both suffered injuries last season. There’s been talk about a potential return for Melvin Gordon, but nothing yet.

  • One of the big knocks on Williams last year was his vision. Is he a fit for a Packer-esque offense?
  • Are there any day three backs you like for this offense?