The Denver Broncos are at the NFL Combine and the 2022 Draft is less than two months away, so I thought it was was a perfect time to dive deep into prospects in the upcoming class. On this week’s Cover 2 Broncos I had the opportunity to speak with RiseNDraft’s Ryan Roberts to identify scheme fits up and down the board who fit what Denver will do under their new coaching staff. What follows is a brief overview of the players we discussed, along with links to their scouting profiles at Rise N Draft.
The Broncos will select Cole Kelley in the 2022 NFL Draft… confirmed. https://t.co/7IXfSWnSVK— Ryan Roberts (@RiseNDraft) March 2, 2022
The QB class
Since the Broncos elected to pass on Justin Fields and Mac Jones last year they’ve been caught in a holding pattern at quarterback. George Paton told NBC’s Peter King he felt he “owed it” to Drew Lock to give him a chance, but the third year pro lost his starting job to Teddy Bridgewater and started thee games last season. Now he’s the only QB under contract.
If we assume the Broncos can not land a QB such as Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson via a blockbuster trade, they’re in a situation where they’ll have to consider Jimmy Garoppolo vs. free agents like Jameis Winston, Mitch Trubisky, and Bridgewater vs. the 2022 QB class. Knowing that Nathaniel Hackett plans to run a variant of the offense the Packers used under Matt LaFleur, who should the Broncos consider in this class?
We discussed the following quarterbacks:
Mitch Trubisky by the numbers:— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) March 3, 2022
Completed 64.1% of his passes for 10,609 yards, 64 touchdowns, and 37 interceptions across his time with the Bears. Took 111 sacks and fumbled 27 times.
Finished above 24th in DYAR once in four years, and ranked 27th in EPA+CPOE among qualifiers. pic.twitter.com/ruufQOQ3iD
Other scheme fits
This will come as a surprise to some in Broncos Country, but Denver actually has significant needs beyond quarterback and given Roberts’ background with talent evaluation and his time scouting the entire draft it was a perfect chance to pick his brain.
The Broncos currently have one tackle with NFL experience under contract, and Garett Bolles turns 30 in May. Denver has not drafted a single tackle since Bolles in 2017, and I’ve got to believe that changes some year. At least to me it looks there’s really two needs at this position: a starting RT and a swing tackle who could potentially develop into a starter down the road.
Hackett means the Broncos are moving towards a zone/duo blocking scheme, which means lateral quickness is probably a little more important than previously. Are there any prospects that stand out as fits?
We discussed the following tackles:
- Evan Neal
- Ikem Ekwonu
- Charles Cross
- Trevor Penning
- Bernhard Raimann
- Max Mitchell
- Nicholas Petit-Frere
- Dare Rosenthal
- Kellen Diesch
- Matt Waletzko
- Tyler Smith (iOL?)
- Kenyon Green (iOL?)
- Darian Kinnard (iOL?)
CLEAN rep from Boye Mafe against CMU’s Bernhard Raimann@seniorbowl pic.twitter.com/VPkC9avglt— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) February 2, 2022
The Broncos most obvious defensive need as their pass rush cratered after the Von Miller trade. This class looks extremely rich at the position, but NFL history suggests teams need to strike early if they want a difference maker at edge.
All signs point to the Broncos continuing with a Fangio-esque system, and believe it or not L.A. edge rushers dropped into coverage more than Denver’s did last year. With that in mind, who stands out as prospective fits?
- Which edge prospects look like strong fits at nine?
- Who else makes sense in the top 50?
- Any guys we should keep an eye on that look like they’ll fall out of the top 50?
We discussed the following edge rushers:
- Kayvon Thibodeaux
- Aidan Hutchinson
- David Ojabo
- Jermaine Johnson
- George Karlaftis
- Myjai Sanders
- Arnold Ebiketie
- Boye Mafe
- Amare Barno
- DeAngelo Malone
- Travon Walker (DL vs. Edge?)
Despite throwing significant resources at corner in 2021 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. After him the depth chart has more questions than answers. There are two corners with NFL experience: 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.
Looking at the position, I believe the Broncos need to consider nickel corners. Ideally, a nickel who can potentially develop into a boundary guy down the road. Under Fangio the Broncos utilized a heavy mix of man coverage and zone match, but that could change a bit with Ejiro Evero now the defensive coordinator as the Rams defense evolved a ton over the last 3 years. With all of that in mind, are there any corners who jump out as potential fits?
We discussed the following cornerbacks:
- Kyler Gordon
- Sauce Gardner
- Derek Stingley Jr.
- Andrew Booth Jr.
- Kaiir Elam
- Roger McCreary
- Alontae Taylor
- Cam Taylor-Britt
- Marcus Jones
Big opportunity for Ahmad Gardner (Cincinnati) and Trent McDuffie (Washington) with Stingley and Booth not doing on field work. The cornerback position is going to be an interesting one to monitor.— Ryan Roberts (@RiseNDraft) March 3, 2022
Dre’Mont Jones and Shelby Harris look set to play 60ish% of the snaps once again in 2022, but the Broncos have significant questions about their DL depth. McTelvin Agim hasn’t played much despite John Elway drafted him in the third round of the 2020 draft, and Mike Purcell’s played in 19 of 33 games over the last two years and could be a cap casualty.
The Broncos look like they have what is actually two long term needs along the interior: they could use a big body who can take over for Purcell as a 0/1T type and they could use more DE/3T types, as Shelby Harris will turn 31 in August and his contract becomes moveable in 2023. If the Broncos do maintain the system they’ve used under Fangio the last 3 years versatility and the ability to play gap and a half will be heavily considered.
- Is this a decent draft for those needs?
- Who stands out as potential fits?
We discussed the following linemen:
- Devonte Wyatt
- Jordan Davis
- Travis Jones
- DeMarvin Leal
- Perrion Winfrey
- Thomas Booker
- Logan Hall
- Travon Walker (DL vs. ED)
The COD for 290+ pounds isn’t regular from Texas A&M defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal working against the read… but mannnnnn, what a nice play from Jayden Peevy (@JAYDENPEEVY). Shows quick, aggressive hands to split the gap and threaten the mesh. Forces the issue. pic.twitter.com/oLoeyX1fWt— Ryan Roberts (@RiseNDraft) September 22, 2021
Justin Simmons is one of the best safeties in the NFL, but Kareem Jackson’s contract ran out and 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.
- Everyone talks about Kyle Hamilton, but who else stands out among this safety class?
- Are there any safety prospects who could make sense for a defense using two high shells as often as Denver probably will?
We discussed the following safeties:
- Lewis Cine
- Jaquan Brisker
- Nick Cross
- Verone McKinley
Daxton Hill’s speed in a nutshell.— Derrick (@Steelers_DB) February 28, 2022
Reminder that Jalen Nailor has a reported 4.39 40 yard dash. He gets a running start here, too.
Watch Hill flip those hips and track him down in a hurry to save a touchdown. pic.twitter.com/EMLjYf4qPs
Javonte Williams is the lead back and the Broncos have Mike Boone under contract, but both suffered injuries last season. With Hackett pushing Denver to an zone/duo run game similar to the Packers, I suspect there will be an eye on backs with good vision no? I suspect Pookie means they won’t take on too early?
We discussed the following running backs:
- Rachaad White
- Tyler Allgeier
- Keaontay Ingram
#USC RB Keaontay Ingram (5114, 210) is a prospect who’s really caught my eye this week at Shrine Bowl practices. Spent 3 years at Texas (2018-2020). Good feet, vision, runs with a plan, and is a natural as a pass catcher. pic.twitter.com/8jppoOPQ6C— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) January 31, 2022
9News’ Mike Klis has reported the Broncos are speaking with Josey Jewell’s agent at the Combine and there’s mutual interest about a return.
Linebacker looks like the Broncos will take a swing at prospects on Day 3 to give a boost to special teams and serve as depth. Which Day 3 sleepers Broncos Country should keep an eye on here?
We discussed the following linebackers:
- Devin Lloyd
- Nakobe Dean
- Chad Muma
- Terrel Bernard
- Damone Clark
- Channing Tindall
- Troy Andersen
- Leo Chenal