Which big name college opt-outs should the Broncos target in the 2021 draft?

Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Micah Parsons (11) celebrates after sacking the Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan (not pictured) in the second half at TCF Bank Stadium.
Nov 9, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Micah Parsons (11) celebrates after sacking the Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan (not pictured) in the second half at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

With the majority of FBS conferences canceling or postponing their 2020 college football season, we’ve seen several top prospects opt-out in order to start preparing for the 2021 draft.

How strongly should the Broncos consider some of the biggest names who have declared for the draft?

Micah Parsons, LB, Penn. State.

Isaiah Simmons was an athletic freak that could be used as a chess piece anywhere on the field, but in terms of pure inside linebacker ability, there hasn’t been a prospect as good as Micah Parsons since Luke Kuechly.

Parsons reportedly runs a 4.4 40-yard dash, putting him on par with past top linebacking prospects Devin White and Devin Bush, but he has a much better frame. One of the biggest concerns with White and Bush coming out of college was that neither of them stood taller than six-feet, and both weighed under 240 pounds. Meanwhile, Parsons stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs 245 pounds, while maintaining his impressive wheels.

Not only does Parsons have the measurables, but he has the tape too. He’s just as rangy and impressive in coverage as the top linebacking prospects we’ve seen in recent years, but he’s much better than those blue-chips of years past in the run game and in rushing the passer. Parsons has the size and strength that prevents him from getting washed out by blockers and allows him to penetrate into the backfield and blow plays up.  That size also makes him less of a mismatch in coverage against the Travis Kelce’s and George Kittle’s of the world.

The only problem is, Micah Parson is such an unbelievable prospect, it would take a miracle for him to fall out of the top 10, and he’s worthy of going in the top five, likely putting him out of Denver’s range.

Desirability for the Broncos: 10/10

Chances he’s on the board when Denver is picking: 10-15%

Caleb Farley, CB, Va. Tech.

The Broncos could stand to add another cornerback in the first round of next year’s draft, making Caleb Farley a name to watch. Farley has the ideal frame for a boundary corner, with a 6-foot-2, 207-pound frame and incredible length.

He wins often in press coverage, because he’s able to use his strength and length to drastically slow the receiver down on his release and kill the route before it even starts. While press coverage is where he’s at his best, he’s shown the versatility to hold up in both man and zone coverage as well. He is also good at tracking the quarterback’s eyes and has the ball skills to capitalize on mistakes made by the offense.

In his pick-six against Georgia Tech (#3 at the bottom of the screen), you can see a lot of those abilities combine, as he sits in his zone with discipline, watches the quarterback, and then jumps the route to make a big play.

As of now, he’s somewhat reliant on his ability to press receivers at the line, but if he can continue to progress in covering receivers when he isn’t able to get his hands on them, he’ll be a highly-coveted prospect. He could go anywhere in the first round from the early-teens to the mid-twenties.

Desirability for the Broncos: 8/10

Chances he’s on the board when Denver is picking: 60%

Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami

Gregory Rousseau is both one of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects and one of the most fun prospects to watch in the 2021 NFL Draft. He doesn’t look like your standard edge rusher, standing at 6-foot-7 and weighing 265  pounds, but he is incredibly productive.

Last year, in his redshirt freshman season, Rousseau earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors as he tallied 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. He’s quick and strong, which when paired with his rare size and length at the edge, allows him to bully most offensive tackles. He’s also versatile enough that Miami moved him up and down the defensive line last year, and he collected six of his sacks from the nose tackle position.

The big knock on Rousseau is how raw he is and his lack of technique. He has some solid pass rush moves, but he doesn’t have too much bend, and his size will occasionally hurt him as he takes on blockers too high.

Rousseau has unbelievable potential and Von Miller is nearing the end of his six-year contract, so it wouldn’t be too crazy for the Broncos to find their future partner for Bradley Chubb. That said, if Miller returns to form in 2020, which he should, there are higher-priority positions Denver should target with their first-round pick.

Desirability for the Broncos: 5/10

Chances he’s on the board when Denver is picking: 20%

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