The Reese’s Senior Bowl will be held on Saturday, Jan. 27 and the Denver Broncos staff will coach the North team in Mobile, Ala. The Senior Bowl provides a unique opportunity for the Broncos’ staff to scout some of the best college players entering the 2018 NFL Draft.
The 5-11 Broncos, who finished last in the AFC West, have multiple needs to address. While the results of the NFL’s free agency period will alter their trajectory somewhat, it’s likely that the Broncos will target offensive linemen, inside linebackers, and most importantly, a quarterback.
This year’s Senior Bowl provides many promising options for general manager John Elway to choose from. Here are the top 10 prospects the Broncos should be paying attention to throughout the week:
10. Mason Cole, C, Michigan (North Team)
Ranked the ninth-best center in the draft by CBS Sports, Cole anchored a Michigan offense at center and left tackle with 50 straight starts, culminating in an AP All-Big Ten selection following his senior season. At 6-foot-5, 305 pounds, he has NFL size, and as a four-year player for the Wolverines, he’ll have more high-level experience than most rookies — handy for a Broncos team that needs immediate help on the offensive line. Matt Paradis has been a rock at center for Denver, but having undergone multiple hip surgeries already in his young career it may be in the Broncos’ best interest to have a solid option coming up behind him.
9. Micah Kiser, ILB, Virginia (South Team)
Widely considered on the five best inside linebackers in the draft, Kiser finished his career fifth all-time at UVA with 411 career tackles and became the second player in ACC history to lead the conference in tackles for three straight seasons. The winner of the Campbell Trophy and the Dudley Award in 2017, Kiser would fit wonderfully with Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis in a position that the Broncos need to reinforce.
8. Jaleel Scott, WR, New Mexico State (North Team)
At 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds, Scott’s length and athleticism can potentially propel him as high as the first round. The Aggies’ leader in receptions and touchdowns this season, Scott’s size mirrors Mike Evans, the Texas A&M product drafted by the Buccaneers seventh overall in the 2014 draft. The Broncos, who have been in search of a third receiving option for years, could use a physical specimen like Scott to complement the explosiveness of Emmanuel Sanders. With Demaryius Thomas getting up there in years and still carrying a big price tag, Scott and his massive frame could be Denver’s next big-bodied receiver.
7. Tyrell Crosby, OT, Oregon (North Team)
A first-team All-Pac-12 performer and Morris Trophy winner, Crosby is a talented offensive lineman with superb fundamentals. Crosby did not allow a sack — or even a single hit — on his quarterback during the first five games of the season. He could contribute significantly to a struggling Broncos offensive line that desperately needs a starting tackle in the wake of free agent Menelik Watson’s disastrous season.
6. Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State (North Team)
Over the course of the season, Gallup’s stock continued to rise so high that he’s now considered one the best receivers in the upcoming draft. The Atlanta-born Gallup starred Colorado State — only a hour’s drive from Denver — and was named one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award and a consensus All-American. With relentless drive and NFL size (6-foot-1, 200 pounds), Gallup has all the tools to be impact player at the next level.
5. Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford (North Team)
A team captain for the 20th-ranked Stanford Cardinal, Phillips has an excellent understanding of the game and an excellent motor. The Pac-12 All-Academic first-teamer, second-team All-American and first-team All-Pac-12 lineman won’t have any problem picking up the Broncos’ playbook, either. His strength and smarts can immediately help a versatile interior defensive line that includes Derek Wolfe, Domata Peko Sr., Adam Gotsis, Shelby Harris and Zach Kerr.
4. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming (North Team)
One of the most intriguing prospects in the draft, Josh Allen could be the next under-the-radar superstar. Coming from a smaller program, Wyoming, Allen enters the 2018 draft with a chip on his shoulder. In 2017, he completed 56 percent of his passes for 1,812 yards with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions, disappointing numbers given his previous season (56.0/3,203/28/15). Nevertheless, Allen has all the tools, and ESPN’s draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. had Allen listed as the top overall pick in his first mock draft. The Broncos’ highest priority in the draft will be at quarterback (providing they don’t sign an expensive starter in free agency), and Allen could be their man.
3. Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP (North Team)
Hernandez, a second-team All-American in his junior and senior seasons, is a bit short at 6-foot-3, but what Hernandez lacks in height, he more than makes up for with extraordinary strength. Uncommonly powerful at the point of attack with a heavy, 340-pound base and excellent technique, especially with his hands, Hernandez has been rocketing up draftniks’ big boards. Impressing at the Senior Bowl may cement his status as one of the three best guards available in the draft, and would certainly draw the attention of a Broncos coaching staff that needs a dominant interior lineman to put alongside Matt Paradis and opposite Ronald Leary.
2. James Washington Jr., WR, Oklahoma State (South Team)
Ranked by Mel Kiper Jr. as the top senior receiver in the country, Washington was tabbed as the best returning receiver in college football heading into 2017. His 26 career receiving touchdowns mark the highest total among all active FBS players, and the deep-threat receiver was a consistent producer. Look for Washington to be drafted late in the first round or early in the second — where he might land right in the Broncos’ lap.
1. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (North Team)
Quite possibly the answer to the Broncos’ quarterback question, Mayfield was this season’s Heisman Trophy winner and ranks second in FBS history in passer efficiency rating (175.4). Mayfield completed 71 percent of his passes in 2017 for 4,627 yards with 43 touchdowns and six interceptions, but his height (6-foot-1) and his off-field antics raise concerns. Mayfield’s intangibles are elite, and the confident swagger that stands out in college fits right into the NFL game. Mayfield has excellent mobility to avoid sacks, escape pressure, and extend plays with his feet, as well as pick up crucial yards on the ground as a runner. Mayfield, who recently signed with Capital Sports Advisors in nearby Boulder, has a cult following in Denver already, and could be the solution for the Broncos’ offensive problems.