The Broncos still have important roster moves left to make before the 2018 season kicks off, and one of those is to find a playmaker to complement starting wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Fortunately, the upcoming NFL Draft provides plenty of potential solutions, and the Broncos have the picks available to take advantage of them. After their fifth overall pick in the draft, the Broncos own five more picks in the next three rounds, and could look to find Thomas and Sanders’ running mate there.
Jordan Taylor doesn’t quite fit the profile, Carlos Henderson is an unknown after missing all of last season with an injury, and the less said about fumble-prone Isaiah McKenzie, the better. The Broncos haven’t made a free agency move for a depth wide receiver, so it’s reasonable to expect them to look to the draft to obtain one with greater potential at a bargain price.
It’s almost certain the Broncos will not be selecting a wide receiver in the first round which means top prospects Calvin Ridley and Courtland Sutton should be off the board. But there are plenty of quality wide receivers in the draft that could become a great third option for new quarterback Case Keenum and the Broncos. Players like Christian Kirk, D.J. Moore, James Washington, Dante Pettis, and Michael Gallup should be available through the middle section of the draft. All five are six foot tall or under — but all have explosive, big-play ability that could provide the Broncos with another catch-and-run option.
A 5’10’’, 200-pound junior from Texas A&M uses his speed to create separation underneath with quick slant routes or on the deep ball. The only question surrounding Kirk is that he has never played with a top-flight quarterback, so it’s hard to tell what his full potential really is, even though he racked up 2,856 yards and 26 touchdowns over his three-year college career. On top of those impressive numbers, Kirk showed he could potentially be a good fit on special teams, returning six punts for touchdowns with an impressive return average of 22.0 yards. Kirk may be the best option, but if the Broncos don’t select him in the second round, don’t expect him to be available as they get deeper into the draft.
The junior from Maryland is an interesting option. Even though he is only 5’11’’, he has shown he can line up in the slot and outside — and be very effective in both areas. Moore is one of the better route-runners in the draft and has shown he can be dangerous after the catch when given space. What makes Moore so interesting is that in his first two seasons at Maryland, he played 25 games and had a total of 994 receiving yards with nine touchdowns. In 2017 alone, Moore played 12 games and had 1,033 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Moore has often been compared to Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate, who’s put together a solid NFL career. Similar to Kirk, if Moore is not selected in the second round, there is a good chance he won’t be around in the following rounds.
Washington was nearly unstoppable on Oklahoma State’s high-powered offense and he was one of the most explosive players in all of college football. The senior has the ability to run solid routes and track down the deep ball, but it’s Washington’s speed that dazzles. Washington can get to top speed in the blink of an eye and is often given a respectable cushion at the line. In his four years at Oklahoma State, Washington was the leading receiver the last three seasons and had 4,472 receiving yards with 39 touchdowns in his time there. Years down the road, Washington could become a top-two receiver on any team but until then, he could be an immediate third option for the Broncos, one that could give the offense plenty more options.
The Washington Huskies senior comes in at six feet tall and a slim 175 pounds, but has some of the best speed and acceleration available. Pettis is a strong route runner who does a good job of using his elusiveness to create separation against opposing defensive backs. He’s also a brilliant punt returner, setting the NCAA record with nine punt return touchdowns in his career. The concern with Pettis is his size; bigger defenders can make life difficult for him. If he were taller, he might be considered the most well-rounded receiver in the draft. Over his four years at Washington he had 2,256 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns, and could be a nice option for the Broncos — not only as the third wideout, but as the point returner, as well.
The Colorado State alum may be the most underrated receiver in the draft. Though his speed, vertical jump, and height may all be less impressive than other highly-ranked receivers, Gallup’s production has been excellent. In two seasons with the Rams, Gallup had an impressive 2,685 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns for his career. Gallup runs nearly perfect routes and wins most of his 50/50 battles, while showing he can succeed in the slot and out wide. He could be an interesting option come the third or fourth round. If he is available still in the middle of the draft, why not keep Gallup in Colorado?
Case Keenum succeeded last season not because he was the best quarterback in the league but because he was surrounded by a variety of great players. Adding another wide receiver to the mix can do nothing but help.