Two days into the 2021 NFL Draft and new Denver Broncos GM George Paton has certainly stamped this selection process with his imprint.
There’s a new sheriff in town — or general — calling the shots for the Broncos in 2021.
Paton kicked things off by landing the best cornerback in the entire draft, the long and athletic Patrick Surtain II who follows in the footsteps of his dad, who played in the league, too. Surtain was a wonderful selection, even if the Broncos could have snagged Justin Fields at No. 9 and decided to address cornerback instead.
On Day 2, Paton and Co. traded up and took Javonte Williams, a beastly running back who is a completely different player than Phillip Lindsay. Some had Williams as the top back in this year’s draft class, and many draft experts had him in their top-3.
Then, there were multiple trades back, as the Broncos must’ve thought they’d be safe to find Quinn Meinerz — the gargantuan guard/center — at No. 98 overall. And they finished off the third round by taking Baron Browning, an underrated, rangy linebacker.
So, the Broncos addressed multiple needs. They have their cornerback of the future, even if he may not play immediately. They found their running back of the future who will be asked to carry some of he load this season. And then Meinerz and Browning provide valuable depth, with Browning possibly being that coverage linebacker Denver needs and he’ll play on special teams, too.
What holes are left for Denver to fill?
They need a young tackle, interior defensive lineman depth, a young safety and more.
Let’s take a look at a wish list for the Broncos with their five picks.
Those picks are:
Round 5: No. 152
Round 5: No. 164
Round 6: No. 219
Round 7: No. 237
Round 7: No. 239
Round 7: No. 253
James Hudson, OT, Cincinnati
Hudson is 6’5″ and 313 pounds and fits what George Paton has been looking for: Raw athleticism. Hudson isn’t polished, but he does show flashes of brilliance and it’s possible offensive line guru Mike Munchak could turn him into a consistent tackle for years to come.
Jamar Johnson, S, Indiana
If the Broncos don’t go offensive line twice in three picks, they could instead turn to safety. Yes, the Broncos re-signed Kareem Jackson, but only to a one-year deal and eventually Denver will need another young safety to pair with Justin Simmons. Johnson stepped up his game in 2020, filling in for an injured teammate and picked off four passes in only eight games. He offers positional fluidity, meaning he can play either free or strong safety.
Jay Tufele, IDL, USC
At 6’2″ and 305 pounds, he’s got the perfect size to play interior defensive lineman at the next level, where the Broncos are needy for depth. Tufele only played two years at USC and opted out of 2020, but in his last year of action he was superb. As a sophomore, he earned All-Pac-12 honors, putting up 41 tackles, 6.5 TFLs and 4.5 sacks. Can he get back to that level of production after taking a year off?
Jordan Smith, EDGE, UAB
Smith is tall (6’6″) and lanky (255 pounds) so he will need to put on some weight, especially on his lower half, if he wants to make an impact at the NFL level. He’s got a ton of burst and will be a prospect, even in the 5th round, but Denver could try to let him learn from Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
Elerson Smith, EDGE, NIU
Elerson Smith is almost the same exact body type as Jordan Smith, at 6’6″ and 252 pounds. He has long arms, speed and quickness but may need a year on the practice squad to really develop himself. He may fall to the 7th, where Denver has three picks.
Ar’Darius Washington, S, TCU
Or, the Broncos could go with Washington if they like him better. While Johnson is of prototypical size (6′ and 208 pounds) Washington is smaller, about the size of a typical cornerback (5’8″ and 176 pounds). He enjoyed five picks in 2020 and plays with great instinct despite his smallish size. Expect him to go in the 6-7th rounds while Johnson is more likely a target in the 4th.
Day 3 of the NFL Draft kicks off at 10 p.m. MT.