John Elway’s aggressive approach to free agency answered a lot of questions surrounding the Broncos and filled a lot of needs but there are still plenty of mysteries still lingering around the Broncos’ draft.
How heavily will they target the receiver position? How will they replace Connor McGovern? What’s the plan with Garett Bolles? Let’s take a look at some potential solutions to those problems.
Round 1. Pick 15: Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
Before free agency, the Broncos were likely out of range of the top-four offensive tackles, but the DeAndre Hopkins trade and the Tom Brady made it all but certain they wouldn’t survive to the 15th pick. Denver could still look for a receiver here, but that’s less likely now as well because the 49ers traded for the 13th pick and wide receiver is one of their top needs.
If all of the top-four offensive tackles and top-three wide receivers are off the board, Javon Kinlaw would be a dream pick for the Broncos.
His mix of strength and rare wingspan make him a rarity at the position. His unique length for the position allows him to engage first and keep the offensive linemen’s hands at bay. Attempting to block him is like trying to win a boxing match with Mr. Fantastic.
He’s much rawer than fellow elite defensive prospect, Derrick Brown, but his ceiling is arguably higher as he’s been this successful and productive relying purely on the gifts he was born with than technique. Polish that technique up, and you have a perennial All-Pro.
Round 2. Pick 46: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
The Broncos miss out on their dream wide receiver in the first round, but still land a damn good one in Round 2 with Brandon Aiyuk.
Aiyuk’s route-running needs some serious polish, as more than 45 percent of his receiving yards last season came off go routes or screens, and he’s also not as physical as you’d ideally like, but that’s where his drawbacks end.
Outside of CeeDee Lamb, no one in this draft is better at gaining yards after the catch. Aiyuk would also give the Broncos the speed receiver they’ve been searching for to complement the size and jump-ball ability of Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant, though he has pretty impressive catch radius himself.
If the Broncos are looking for instant impact, Aiyuk isn’t their guy, as he’ll have to rely on a crafty offensive coordinator to deliver him touches earlier in his career while he develops his route running. If the Broncos are trying to build around their young core for the future and want the best player they can get to add to that mix, then Aiyuk is a no-brainer in the second round.
Round 3. Pick 77: Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
Kyle Dugger should be a second-round prospect but with uncertainty around what his position is at the next level, and uncertainty in general about small-school prospects due to the limited scouting brought on by the pandemic, he could easily fall to 77.
If he does, the Broncos should snatch him up in a heartbeat because of all he could offer to their defense. Both Aiyuk and Kinlaw are world-class athletes that would shine even in comparison to their fellow draft prospects, but Dugger is in a league of his own as far as his freakish talent is concerned. He’s built like a linebacker at almost 220 pounds but moves like a safety.
When you put a player of that ability at the Division II level, it’s difficult to determine just how much of his success is due to him and how much can be attributed to the poor level of competition. Because of this, you wouldn’t want to make Dugger your starting safety as a rookie, but the Broncos wouldn’t have to with Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson in the fold. In the meantime, Dugger can be an elite special teamer and fill the role left behind by Will Parks. In 2021, Denver could re-evaluate as Jackson isn’t getting any younger, and Dugger would be one hell of a replacement.
Round 3. Pick 83: Matthew Peart, OT, Connecticut
The Broncos would love to draft a tackle earlier so that they could replace Garett Bolles immediately, but the board doesn’t fall their way in this mock, so they settle for the next-best-thing, drafting his eventual replacement.
Peart’s ability to anchor his feet and stand tall against opposing pass rush is poor, as is his hand technique, but he’s built like a textbook NFL offensive tackle and has rare movement skills that make him an ideal swing tackle at the very least.
That trouble with balance is enough to earn Peart a redshirt season, or at least half of one, while Munchak fixes his technique and balance problems. If the Broncos are willing to be patient and wait though, they could find their franchise tackle of the future for pennies on the dime.
Round 3. Pick 95: Nick Harris, C, Washington
After letting Connor McGovern go and choosing not to sign a center in free agency, the Broncos need to add someone through the draft for some insurance. While Mike Munchak has done more than enough for Elway and Co. to trust him on Morris, if he’s wrong, Denver would find themselves up a creek without a paddle in a hurry.
Nick Harris is one of this year’s best center prospects. He’d a perfect fit for a zone-blocking scheme, but should still be effective under Pat Shurmur. Unlike the other players in this mock, Harris isn’t some rare example of the extremes of human athleticism. He’s just a really good center that plays with a ton of grit, which would fit perfectly with Dalton Risner.