The Broncos find themselves in a solid position at the 15th pick with 12 players available (Chase Young, Jeff Okudah, Isaiah Simmons, Derrick Brown, Javon Kinlaw, Jedrick Wills, Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton, Andrew Thomas, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and CeeDee Lamb) they should be more than happy to walk away with, in the first round.
What if the board doesn’t favor Denver though and all 12 of those players are unavailable by the time John Elway is on the clock? Who should they look to draft then?
C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
A.J. Bouye will serve as a more than adequate replacement for Chris Harris Jr. but the Broncos could still stand to add another cornerback opposite of him. Bryce Callahan is more of a slot corner and who knows what he’ll look like after taking a year off with a foot injury.
Enter C.J. Henderson, a super quick, instinctive, twitched-up corner who thrives in man coverage. He has great length and can even play the ball well which would be an exciting addition to Denver’s defense. Unfortunately, Henderson is a downright awful tackler when he does tackle, but more often than not, he avoids it like the plague.
That’s a serious problem for Vic Fangio, who demands physicality and toughness from his corners, two things Henderson is very short on.
Josh Jones, OT, Houston
The Broncos could finally move on from Garett Bolles by selecting Josh Jones at 15.
Taking the draft’s fifth-best tackle this early is less-than-ideal value, but the left tackle position has been such a bugaboo for the Broncos over the past several seasons, finally solving that problem is worth the reach.
Jones is nothing flashy at left tackle, but he’s a really solid pass-protector and that’s what the Broncos need to ensure Drew Lock’s success.
Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
If the Broncos miss out on Jeudy, Justin Jefferson might just be the next best thing. Jeudy is a better route-runner, but Jefferson has better hands and is still a fantastic route-runner in his own right, which has proven to be a key determining factor for the success of receivers making the jump to the pro game in recent years.
The big complaint with Jefferson was the lack of top speed or long speed, but he tempered those concerns with a stellar combine performance. Any 40-yard dash time in the low 4.5’s would’ve been considered a success for Jefferson, and he managed to run it in fewer than 4.45 seconds. Even if his play speed is slower than his test speed, he’d be an ideal pairing to Courtland Sutton and projects to be similar to Davante Adams at the next level.
Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
Drafting Denzel Mims at 15 would be one of heck of a gamble, but it’s one that could pay off in a huge way. Mims arguably tested better than any other receiver at the NFL combine, including Henry Ruggs.
Mims was the third-fastest receiver at the combine and one of just six to get under a 4.4 40-yard dash. He also has an impressive catch radius to pair with his top speed, making him an ideal deep-threat for a gunslinger like Lock. One aspect of Mims’ game that Broncos Country would surely fall in love with is how physical he is. Mims seeks out contact as a run blocker and could pave wide-open gashes for Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman.
The problem with Mims is his value and his route-running. He needs to polish up that aspect of his game quite a bit, which could put his rookie impact in question. Ideally, the Broncos would trade down to the mid-to-late 20s and select Mims there, but he’s such a rare athlete, he could justify the reach.
Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Safety isn’t one of the most pressing needs for the Broncos, but they could still look to add someone opposite of Justin Simmons. They did lose a valuable contributor in Will Parks this offseason, and as good as Kareem Jackson played at strong safety last year, it’s not his natural position and he isn’t getting any younger.
Xavier McKinney could move Jackson back to cornerback day one and give the Broncos a supremely exciting and young safety tandem. McKinney isn’t a freak of nature athletically, but he’s incredibly versatile, has a sky-high football IQ, is incredibly instinctive, and loves contact. His tackling needs some work, but that’s more a question of technique than ability or eagerness.