Nine weeks into the season and the Broncos’ sit at 3-6, good for only third place in the AFC West, and have been on the losing end of six of their past seven contests.
The season appears to be lost, but there is still reason for Broncos’ fans to remain hopeful. For starters, of Denver’s six losses, four came against teams that currently sit atop their division (Rams, Chiefs, and Texans) and all four losses were by a combined 16 points.
There’s also the 2018 draft class, which NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling recently ranked as the third-best in the league. The Broncos appear to have found two future starters at running back, a starting receiver or two, a possible starter of the future at linebacker, and an elite pass-rusher in Bradley Chubb.
If Denver is able to replicate their phenomenal 2018 draft in 2019, they could quickly return to contender status. So, let’s take a very early look at the Broncos’ needs and some of the players they could target to patch those holes.
Quarterback may be the most obvious, and most pressing need for the Denver Broncos if they want to compete for a playoff spot in 2019. Case Keenum has certainly been an upgrade on the Siemian-Lynch tandem, but to nowhere near the extent John Elway and the rest of the Broncos’ faithful hoped.
Unfortunately for the Broncos, the 2019 quarterback class has been labeled the worst since the 2013 class, which produced busts like E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith and Ryan Nassib. The lone exception to this rule, Oregon’s Justin Herbert, would’ve been “The fifth- or sixth-best quarterback in the 2018 class,” according to NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah. To make matters even worse, rumors are that Herbert is leaning towards returning to Oregon, leaving the 2019 class without a single, solid prospect.
If Herbert opts to stay, I’d recommend for the Broncos to avoid the Drew Lock and Dwayne Haskins first-round landmines and instead wait for a 2020 class that appears to be special – headlined by studs like Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama, Jake Fromm of Georgia, and possibly even Herbert.
Unlike the quarterback class, this year’s offensive tackle class should be one of the best in recent memory. As it appears that Denver has shored up their interior line with center Matt Paradis and guards Ronald Leary and Connor McGovern (even though the first two are done for the season due to injury), the outside of their line still presents multiple questions. Whether right tackle Jared Veldheer will play past this season and if Garrett Bolles really is the long-term answer are questions chief among them.
These questions are why it would make perfect sense for the Broncos to grab an elite offensive tackle early in the draft. Alabama’s Jonah Williams is the perfect candidate. Williams consistently mauls opposing defensive linemen and excels in both pass protection and run blocking because of how technically savvy he is.
The big concern with Williams is a lack of size and length. His arms are a little shorter than ideal, and his 6’5″ stature is less than ideal, leaving some to believe he may have to move to guard. If these concerns are enough to scare the Broncos off, they could target Trey Adams, Greg Little, or Mitch Hyatt, who have been projected as prospects who could go in either the late first or somewhere in the second round.
Denver’s defense is still somewhat shallow is along the defensive line. Adam Gotsis looks to be a solid starter, but Derek Wolfe and Domata Peko are getting up there in age and/or mileage, and may need to be replaced sooner rather than later. This was never more evident than against the Jets, when Denver allowed over 300 yards rushing. Luckily for Denver, if this draft class has one strength, it’s the defensive line.
There are almost too many talented prospects to choose from. There’s Houston’s Ed Oliver, an athletic freak that’s being compared to Aaron Donald and has even been called the best defensive tackle prospect since Ndamakong Suh. Michigan’s Rashan Gary, who was the No. 1 prospect out of high school, is another, supremely talented athlete – one who could do anything from lining up outside to help Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, to lining up right on top of the opposing center. That’s not even to mention Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, a defensive tackle skyrocketing up the boards so quickly that he might even be drafted before Oliver.
If any of those defensive linemen are on the board, Denver’s pick should be rather straightforward.
The last of Denver’s pressing needs lies in the secondary. With the departures of Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward, the ‘No Fly Zone’ is no more. Despite the Broncos possibly finding long-term answers at safety in Justin Simmons, Will Parks, and possibly even Su’a Cravens, their cornerback depth is abysmal.
The solution to that lack of depth may just be in this year’s draft. Cornerback Greedy Williams is the latest in a long line of high-end cornerbacks out of LSU. Williams has incredible length and speed that would make him a great replacement for Talib. Plus, he lives up to the name Greedy, collecting eight interceptions over the past year and a half.
If not Williams, the Broncos could target one of the other elite corners in this draft like Deandre Baker of Georgia, Trayvon Mullen of Clemson, or even Byron Murphy of Washington. After the first round, though, cornerback becomes one of the more shallow positions in the draft. That means that if Denver wants a corner, they better take one early.
With the Broncos on the bye, they can’t lose this week, and they’re currently preparing to face the Chargers on Nov. 18 at 2:05 p.m. MST.