After a superb first round, Broncos make baffling back-to-back receiver picks

John Elway at the NFL Combine. Credit: Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports.
John Elway at the NFL Combine. Credit: Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports.

What just happened?

On Thursday night, everything went perfectly for the Broncos as they watched the best wide receiver in the entire draft fall to them at No. 15. Jerry Jeudy, a surefire stud and Day 1 starter outside, was the correct pick.

Then, on Friday night, everything started out the same way. The Broncos, waiting at No. 46, watched as multiple cornerbacks and offensive linemen — even a center — fell to them. But, instead of again filling one of those glaring weaknesses, John Elway and the Broncos decided to go with a second straight receiver in K.J. Hamler. 

What what he thinking?

Yes, the Broncos were basically sitting with one starting wideout — star Courtland Sutton — when the draft began. But, they also have only one starting cornerback — A.J. Bouye — and no starting center.

Cornerback Trevon Diggs of the Alabama Crimson Tide was still on the board, and some believe his NFL comparison is Aqib Talib, who Broncos fans remember fondly. Jaylon Johnson, a cornerback out of Utah who played through a knee injury to be named an AP Second-Team All-American in 2019, was also there at 46. Either one of them would have been a second slam-dunk for Elway and Co. Instead, we’re all just left wondering what could’ve been.

As for offensive linemen, Lloyd Cushenberry was available, and if not one of those could-be dynamic defensive backs, he should have been the pick. Cushenberry was an All-SEC lineman last year and could have started for the Broncos immediately at center in 2020. If not Cushenberry, Matt Hennessey, a center out of Temple, was there as well, although he would have been a stretch at 46. Instead, now they’re still looking at Patrick Morris, a complete unknown, as the starter at an immensely important position.

Yes, the Broncos still have three more picks tonight, all in the third round, but they also have two starting positions left to be filled. While it’s not always as simple as this; the earlier the round, the better the player and more likely he’ll become an impact player.

Now, they’ve got to hope they can find a center (could Cushenberry fall to No. 77?) and a corner today.

And back to receiver for a second. Hamler is a speed demon and seems like Henry Ruggs-lite. He’s 5’8″ and 175 pounds, able to run a 4.27-4.32 40-yard dash depending on the source of information, though is official 40 isn’t listed by the NFL. Hamler is a field-stretcher, a deep threat who can pull away from defensive backs with ease. And, he’s also a threat in the punt return and kick return games, which Denver has needed for years.

But, not only was receiver the wrong position for the Broncos, Hamler wasn’t the best receiver prospect on the board at 46, either.

Denzel Mims and Chase Claypool, each physical freaks of nature at 6’3″ and 6’4″ respectively, would’ve been better selections at 46. Either of them could have played “Z” receiver, opposite of Sutton, the Broncos “X” man. Then, Jeudy, who played 60 percent of his snaps from the slot position in 2019, could line up there for the Broncos in the NFL.

Of course, if and when Hamler contributes to the special teams unit — either in the punt or kick return games — that will add value to his selection in the second round. But, unless he’s taking kicks to the house, we’ll all still be wondering if the Broncos should have taken Diggs, Johnson or Cushenberry at 46.

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