With the NFL draft less than a month away, the Denver Broncos might just be in the market for a running back. A season ago, the running game could be best explained as sluggish. The combination of C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker, Kapri Bibbs and Justin Forsett combined for just over 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground the entire season.
Anderson and Bibbs got injured in 2016, and Booker did his best to run behind one of the worst offensive lines in football. In fact, the Broncos were so injured at the running back position they had to bring in Forsett, who had been waived twice during the season.
If the Broncos decide to draft a running back early there are most likely three realistic options. Leonard Fournette is the top-ranked running back and is expected to be one of the first selections. It is not realistic to think that the Broncos would trade up that high in order to select him. That leaves Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon and Christian McCaffrey as options if Denver decides to go running back early.
Cook is projected to be taken around the 10th overall pick. He is an explosive runner and a play maker out of the backfield. Cook has shown breakaway speed, extremely quick feet, toughness and the ability to pass block and catch in space. He has also played in a pro-style offense at Florida State. The thing about Cook that nobody seems to be talking about is his character.
In a time frame from 2009 through early this year, Cook has been charged with several crimes. First, he was charged with robbery (the case was dropped). Next, Cook was charged with firing a weapon and possessing a weapon at an event on school property (that case was dropped as well). Since arriving at FSU, Cook has also been charged with criminal mischief after being involved in a BB-gun shooting incident that caused minor property damage. Additionally, Cook was also charged with misdemeanor battery after allegedly punching a woman in the face several times outside of a bar. Finally, Cook was also cited for animal cruelty after tying up three dogs.
Much like Cook, Mixon is a very good player on the field with character questions off of it. Mixon is explosive and also has playmaking ability with his breakaway speed. In fact, Mixon’s skillset should fill a lot of needs that the Broncos have. Again, the issue here is Mixon’s character, which is a big reason why he is projected to be taken outside the first round.
In 2014, Mixon was caught on tape punching a woman in the face. He never faced prosecution; however, Mixon was suspended by Oklahoma for the 2014 season and the video of this incident has gone viral. Mixon has been apologetic regarding the incident and has had a meeting with the Broncos in which he seemed to impress the team with his general attitude.
Mixon is clearly public enemy No. 1 because his incident was caught on tape and Cook’s incidents have not been shown on television. You cannot defend the actions of Mixon that night in 2014; however, it seems like Mixon is making more progress to reform his image than Cook, who continues to allegedly re-offend.
The fact of the matter is: if Denver goes running back early the only truly safe option seems to be McCaffrey. The Broncos can use McCaffrey as a change-of-pace running back, slot receiver and a returner. Additionally, there are no character concerns regarding McCaffrey and he has an understanding of what the Denver community and Broncos’ football are all about.
In time, there is a chance that McCaffrey may turn out to be the worst player of the three. The question to Broncos’ fans is when comparing these players’ skillsets and overall character right now who would you feel comfortable with Denver drafting?
I think it is pretty clear that McCaffrey is far and away the best option if the Broncos go running back early in the draft. He has the skillset to fill Denver’s immediate needs at the position and his character poses the least amount of risk for potential distractions. Also, McCaffrey is projected to be taken close to where the Broncos pick first at No. 20.
Based on what the city of Denver went through last year with the backlash of the Jose Reyes domestic violence incident, taking a guy with huge character concerns is not what the Mile High City is about.
NFL teams often do draft best player early instead of taking someone in a position of need. This year’s draft class is not exactly loaded with offensive line talent. Do not be surprised to see the Broncos throw a curveball and draft a running back in the first round. And, if Denver does that, I’m hoping they choose McCaffrey based on skill, and more importantly, on character.