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Who should the Broncos take in the 2022 NFL Draft?

On this week’s Cover 2 Broncos AJ Schulte and I discuss how Denver’s needs align with their picks.

There’s one week to go until the start of the NFL Draft and the Denver Broncos are wrapping up their draft prep. We’re long past the point where it’s realistic to expect a major free agent signing before the big event, so on this week’s Cover 2 Broncos AJ Schulte and I discussed where we hope George Paton addresses the looming questions about the roster as well as players at each spot we like on day two and three. What follows is a very brief summary of what we discussed at length on the podcast.

Edge

What is the actual need

You can never have too many pass rushers and there’s long term questions about the starter across from Randy Gregory as Bradley Chubb and Malik Reed have expiring contracts in 2023.

Day 2 or 3?

Joe: Day two if the right player falls, but this class is deep.

AJ: Day two

Is there anyone you like for each day?

Joe: Nik Bonitto or Drake Jackson at 64, DeAngelo Malone in the third. Myjai Sanders in the late third or anywhere afterwards.

AJ: Nick Bonitto, Drake Jackson, Josh Paschal at 64, Kingsley Enagbare and Alex Wright for the third round. Christopher Allen is a day three sleeper no one is talking about. Myjai Sanders and Amare Barno in the fourth round.

Defensive Line

What is the actual need?

If Ejiro Evero plans to use a 3-4 or 5-1 for his base personnel grouping there are questions about five technique, where Shelby Harris was never replaced. There is a possibility the new regime leans on a rotation of McTelvin Agim, Marquiss Spencer, and/or DeShawn Williams, but they’re unproven in a starting role.

Day 2 or 3?

Joe: This is the position group to chase at 64 if Paton wants to find a player who can become a starting caliber five tech who can contribute in sub packages.

AJ: Day three.

Is there anyone you like for each day?

Joe: Phidarian Mathis, DeMarvin Leal, or Perrion Winfrey at 64. Kalia Davis isn’t a great five tech fit and comes with injury questions, but offers some upside on day three.

AJ: If there’s a guy at 64 I think the only one who makes sense is Logan Hall.

Joe: If Hall falls down the board I hope they trade up.

AJ: I’ve repeatedly mocked Eyioma Uwazurike to Denver because he makes so much sense with their fourth round pick.

Tight End

What is the actual need?

There are questions about the room in both the long and near term, but also uncertainty how big a need the Broncos will see this position because Russell Wilson’s rarely featured tight ends in his career. Albert Okwuegbunam is the presumptive starter, but he’s missed 15 games the last two seasons. Meanwhile Eric Tomlinson and Shaun Beyer have combined for 18 career catches in the NFL. Andrew Beck’s played 121 offensive snaps since 2019 and he’s best at fullback.

Day 2 or 3?

Joe: The sweet spot for this group looks like the third and fourth round.

AJ: Day three.

Is there anyone you like for each day?

Joe: Jeremy Ruckert may not last ‘til the fourth round, but looks like the best chance at a “complete” tight end in this class. Isaiah Likely’s testing could knock him into day three and he could be an intriguing fit.

AJ: Jeremy Ruckert, Daniel Bellanger, Grant Calcaterra, and Cade Otton would make sense on day three.

Running back

What is the actual need?

Competition for snaps behind Javonte Williams. Mike Boone is a capable backup when healthy, but he missed a significant stretch of 2021 and rarely played on offense. A strong running game would hide some of Russell Wilson’s limitations, so it makes sense to add more talent to the room.

Day 2 or 3?

Joe: Day three.

AJ: It depends.

Is there anyone you like for each day?

Joe: Kenneth Walker and Breece Hall on day two if they slide. James Cook and Hassan Haskins on day three.

AJ: James Cook and Rachaad White, Pierre Strong, and Jerrion Ealy. I’d prefer Cook in the third round to Trey McBride in the second.

Quarterback

What is the actual need?

Josh Johnson turns 36 in May and Brett Rypien’s contract expires in 2023, so it’d make sense to consider a developmental backup.

Day 2 or 3?

Joe: NFL history shows Day two QBs are typically a waste of finite resources.

AJ: I don’t think they should spend any more than a sixth round pick.

Is there anyone you like for each day?

Joe: No, not really.

AJ: There’s a few solid quarterbacks I could talk myself into late. Carson Strong is probably going to fall to day three. Bailey Zappe, Kaleb Eleby, Cole Kelley, Skylar Thompson, EJ Perry. If you want to take one of those guys in the sixth, cool. The goal of drafting a backup quarterback is you use them as little as possible. I think Eleby makes a lot of sense, as he had his best season at Western Michigan when his OC was Jake Moreland, who is now the Broncos’ tight end coach.

Defensive back

What is the actual need?

A pass defense is often defined by its weakest link, so it behooves teams to constantly add talent to their secondary. Additionally, every corner on the roster missed time to injury in 2021 and Kareem Jackson is at an age where a precipitous decline isn’t only possible, but likely.

Day 2 or 3?

Joe: Why not both?

AJ: I think corner is a day two need. I would wait on a safety because you’re not going to get Dax Hill or Kyle Hamilton. I would take a day three safety because there’s a lot of good prospects in this class.

Is there anyone you like for each day?

Joe: Kyler Gordon’s the dream, and Lewis Cine won’t be there, but I love both. Marcus Jones, Cam Taylor-Britt, and Jalen Pitre also intrigue on day two. Cordale Flott, and Ja’Quan McMillian make sense on day three.

AJ: Dane Belton or Bryan Cook are developmental safeties who are great athletes. Kerby Joseph makes sense too. I think with what you saw out of Caden Sterns, he’s a starter. Kaiir Elam may slide. Roger McCreary, I think he’d be the starting nickel. Marcus Jones would be a returner too, he has nine career touchdowns returns. Taylor-Britt I really like, I think he’s an exceptional player. I don’t know if he would start right away but he could become CB2 by 2023. Flott is raw, but a very good player, he’s a better prospect than Kary Vincent was.

Linebacker

What is the actual need?

If the new coaching staff is dead set on moving Baron Browning to outside linebacker there are questions about who will play beside Josey Jewell in the starting lineup.

Day 2 or 3?

Joe: Depends who falls to 64, but probably day three.

AJ: There is no reason to move Baron Browning. To my eye he was the best linebacker in the AFC West last year. If you did that to draft a linebacker at 64 it’s silly. There’s one thing if they’re trying this out in the offseason, or get creative with it in 5-1 looks. Moving him to an edge fulltime makes no sense to me.

Is there anyone you like for each day?

Joe: Chad Muma and Leo Chenal make sense on day two. Darrian Beavers and Channing Tindall may get overdrafted, but I like them in the fourth round. Brandon Smith’s a decent swing on traits on day three.

AJ: I think Muma could outplay the first linebackers in this class. I really like Leo Chenal. If you could get an average coverage player for how good he is against the run that’s a good pick in the late second.

Joe: He’s so strong. I don’t think he’s quite as quick laterally as he tested, but there are ways to weaponize him in this defense.

AJ: If Quay Walker fell I’d take him at 64 because he’s an upgrade over Jewell. Troy Andersen at 96 could make sense. I think linebacker’s a day three need though, because you just move Browning back to linebacker. Malcolm Rodriguez out of Oklahoma State is a baller, and you’re going to get guys like him that are good athletes who can play on special teams and contribute in a rotational role. That’s what you draft if you move Browning back. Brian Asamoah, Channing Tindall, D’Marco Jackson. Damone Clark had spinal fusion that will make him fall because he’ll miss this year, but he’s a player with upside who will go on day three.

Offensive Tackle

What is the actual need?

The Broncos have not drafted an offensive tackle since Garett Bolles in 2017, and he is set to turn 30 in May. In 2022 the starting right tackle looks like it will be one of three veterans who signed one-year contracts. There is a pressing long term need here.

Day 2 or 3?

Joe: If Paton wants a realistic shot at a developmental starter, he probably needs to strike before round five.

AJ: Day three.

Is there anyone you like for each day?

Joe: Valuation is pretty tricky with tackles because teams will chase upside. I’m intrigued by Tyler Smith, Rasheed Walker, Max Mitchell, Abraham Lucas, Spencer Burford and Braxton Jones.

AJ: I think Abraham Lucas has the upside to develop into a Brian O’Neil type. He’d make sense at 96. Lucas is probably the best scheme fit they’ll get if they don’t land Bernhard Raimann.

Interior Offensive Line

What is the actual need?

A move to a zone/duo run game means players who thrived in Mike Munchak’s multiple blocking scheme may have an adjustment in front of them. On top of that Dalton Risner’s contract expires in 2023.

Day 2 or 3?

Joe: Day two if you want competition for 2022, day three otherwise.

AJ: Day two.

Is there anyone you like for each day?

Joe: Cole Strange, Dylan Parham, and Cam Jurgens make sense on day two or early three if they slide. Dohnovan West or Zach Tom could be good later.

AJ: I think the world of Jurgens and believe he’d start right away. Parham and Strange could feasibly play center. Looking at day three Luke Fortner, Zach Tom, and Dohnovan West fit.

One last thing

We now know 26 of the 30 players who will meet with George Paton and company. Keep in mind Denver isn’t necessarily tipping their hand here. NFL teams host prospects to fill out their scouting report, double check medical information, or put a name to the face.

OT Tyler Smith

OT Abraham Lucas

OT Matt Waletzko

OT Braxton Jones

iOL Dylan Parham

iOL Cole Strange

iOL Cam Jurgens

OL Thayer Munford

CB Cordale Flott

DB Nick Grant

DB Martin Emerson

DB Ja’Quan McMillan

DB DaRon Bland

LB/S Tariq Carpenter

RB Isaih Pacheco

RB Shermari Jones

RB James Cook

RB Zamir White

TE Cole Turner

FB/TE Chigoziem Okonkwo

QB/WR D’Eriq King

QB/WR Jared Benhardt

WR Tyquan Thornton

ED Isaiah Thomas

ED DeAngelo Malone

ED Nik Bonitto