The Broncos’ season is finally over and you know what that means: It’s mock draft time.
This draft should be more entertaining than most for Broncos fans, given the sheer draft capital Denver possesses. There’s a very good chance the Broncos trade up this year, even though doing so hasn’t been John Elway‘s tendency.
They should have 12 picks in total once compensatory picks are added, and while Denver wasn’t a playoff team last year, this roster is still too talented for 12 rookies, most of whom will be late-round players, to make the final squad.
Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to package some of those picks to move around the draft board some, but we’ll forecast a tradeless mock for simplicity’s sake.
Round 1. 15th Overall: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Player comparison: Tre’Davious White, CB, Buffalo Bills
Players already off the board: Joe Burrow, Chase Young, Jeff Okudah, Andrew Thomas, Tu’a Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jedrick Wills, Tristan Wirfs, Jerry Jeudy, Isaiah Simmons, CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs III, Derrick Brown, Grant Delpit.
If Denver stays at 15 and the board falls like this, Broncos fans should be excited with the selection of Kristian Fulton.
The top tackles are already off the board. So are the top three receivers with CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy expected to not make it out of the top 11. Henry Ruggs’ 40-yard dash time should guarantee he’s off the board as well before the Broncos’ selection. In 2017, John Ross was nowhere near as talented a prospect, had massive injury concerns and still went in the top 10. It is widely considered a disappointment if Ruggs doesn’t break his record.
Fulton is the latest elite cornerback prospect from LSU, the school that continues to churn out first-round defensive backs. With Fulton, the Broncos wouldn’t be getting a flashy, twitched-up, freak athlete like Jalen Ramsey or Denzel Ward. Instead, he’s a very polished, technically-skilled cornerback who will be a solid starter from day one and has the upside to become a top-end cover man down the road, which the Broncos will need.
Chris Harris Jr. feels like a longshot to be on the team next year, and the Broncos don’t have a sure thing elsewhere on the roster. They should feel confident about Bryce Callahan‘s ability once he’s back, but they’ll have nothing behind him. Fulton not only solves that problem but may just be the best player available at this point in the draft.
Round 2. 46th overall: K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State
Player comparison: DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Players already off the board Broncos could’ve targeted: A.J. Epenesa, Laviska Shenault, Tee Higgins, Javon Kinlaw, Austin Jackson, Kenneth Murray, Xavier McKinney, Justin Jefferson, Raekwon Davis, Creed Humphrey, Trey Adams, Mekhi Becton, Neville Gallimore, Jalen Reagor.
The Broncos miss out on their ideal speed receiver in the first round with Ruggs going off the board early, so they get the next best thing with Penn State speedster K.J. Hamler.
Yes, offensive tackle is a top priority for the Broncos in this draft, but with where they’re currently picking, it’ll be hard to land one. Unless either Wills, Wirfs, or Thomas falls to them in the first round, or they make a trade, it’s hard to see the Broncos taking a tackle early.
However, unlike at tackle, there is value all over the board at the receiver position. Hamler is considered one of the most special athletes in the entire draft class. He has a good chance to run a sub-4.3 40-yard dash and his short-area burst and quickness are rare to say the least. When Hamler gets the ball in his hands, he makes plays happen with his elusiveness and speed, he’s excellent at tracking the deep ball, and he’s much better at blocking than you’d think given his size.
The major concerns with Hamler are his size and hands. Hamler is small for a wide receiver. Measuring in at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, he’s roughly the size of Steve Smith and just a shade bigger than Phillip Lindsay. You also occasionally see Hamler rely on his body to catch the football instead of his hands, and as a symptom of that, you see him drop the ball more than you’d like.
He also wasn’t asked to run a diverse route tree while with the Nittany Lions, though he seems to have the ability to do so given the flashes we’ve seen. Drafting Hamler would be a swing for the fences, but he’s a solid complement to Courtland Sutton.
Round 3. 77th overall: Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M
Player Comparison: B.J. Hill, DT, New York Giants
Players already off the board Broncos could’ve targeted: Nick Harris, Tyler Biadasz, Ashtyn Davis, Lucas Niang, Prince Tega Wanogho, Trey Smith, Rashard Lawrence, Darryl Williams, Monty Rice, Josh Jones, Hamsah Nasirildeen, Brandon Jones, Calvin Throckmorton.
The board continues to do the Broncos no favors, as eight more offensive linemen get picked before Denver’s next selection, forcing them to address the holes along the defensive line. (Remember, we’re mocking based on no trades for Denver.)
The Broncos have more contracts expiring along the defensive line this season than they do at any other position including all three starters, Shelby Harris, Derek Wolfe, and Mike Purcell. Denver will be able to re-sign some of their hog molly free agents, they’ll still have to fill some gaps through the draft.
Justin Madubuike does just that and would be an excellent value pick for the Broncos. Madubuike is a strong run-stuffer for the Aggies that can deliver interior pressure and shows potential as a pass rusher. His technique has to be developed, but the upside is certainly there.
Round 3. 83rd overall: Lloyd Cushenberry III, IOL, LSU
Player Comparison: Erik McCoy, C, New Orleans Saints
Players already off the board Broncos could’ve targeted: Netane Mudi, Antoine Winfield Jr.
The Broncos are finally able to address the offensive line midway through the third round, though it’s much later than they’d like to fill that hole.
Cushenberry was primarily a center at LSU, but could move to guard to help the Broncos replace the aging Ronald Leary. However, if Connor McGovern leaves in free agency, Cushenberry could fill that role as well.
I actually prefer Cushenberry at guard even though it’s not his natural position, as one of his biggest question marks is his ability to read and diagnose defenses and pressures, which is one of the center’s most important skills. Cushenberry is also raw in regards to his technique, which is why he lasts this long in the draft given his positive traits.
He shows impressive athleticism for an interior lineman, making him a good fit for the Broncos’ scheme, and is often able to make it to the defense’s second level. The Broncos can also rely on the legendary Mike Munchak to make sure they get the best version of Cushenberry.
Round 3. 95th overall: Troy Dye, LB, Oregon
Player Comparison: Fred Warner, LB, San Francisco 49ers
Players already off the board Broncos could’ve targeted: Soloman Kindley, Tyler Johnson, Jaylon Johnson, Zach Baun, Alton Robinson.
Alexander Johnson has been an incredible find by the Broncos, and one that should anchor the inside linebacker spot for years to come. That being said, the Broncos could use some depth behind him, as Todd Davis and Josey Jewell are still liabilities in coverage, and arguably, the Achilles’ heel of the defense.
Troy Dye could be the solution to that problem, with his impressive coverage skills for a linebacker. His best trait outside of his instincts in coverage is his ability to match with running backs exiting the backfield and being able to carry the tight end up the seam.
Dye struggles in the run game and lacks some of the physicality you’d expect in a linebacker of his size, but the Broncos already have two run-stuffing linebackers in Davis and Jewell, and pass coverage linebackers are a valuable commodity in today’s league.