The Denver Broncos won five of their last eight games in 2019, perhaps providing a glimpse of what the future might hold for John Elway, Vic Fangio, and Drew Lock as the new triumvirate at Mile High Stadium. They’ll ride a very active free agency period into the 2020 NFL Draft later this month, and if their draft goes anything like this updated Broncos 7-round mock draft, they’ll be in prime position to compete for a playoff spot after a hiatus too long for a team with such history.[sv slug=mocksim]
The Broncos were very proactive in free agency, supplementing needs such as offensive line and defensive line with standouts like Graham Glasgow and Jurrell Casey. They also traded a fourth-round pick for Jaguars cornerback AJ Bouye, slightly diluting the need at that position. Their secondary need at running back was also resolved, as the team was able to sign former Chargers star Melvin Gordon to an opportunistic deal, pairing him with the dynamic Phillip Lindsay.
As of now, the Broncos are a team trending upwards, and with a bevy of picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, they can fill most, if not all, of their remaining needs and move into the 2020 season with a clear desire to compete. After free agency, they still have fairly pressing needs at wide receiver, cornerback, and interior offensive line, and they could also afford to add depth at safety and linebacker. But things are looking up for the Broncos, and with this 7-round mock draft, they can finally put all the pieces together.
Round 1, Pick 15: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
The Broncos’ most advertised need is speed, which is why Henry Ruggs III is a common match for them at #15. But in truth, they’re in a position where they can pick the best receiver on the board, because while Ruggs provides the top-tier speed, all three of the NFL Draft’s premier receivers are dynamic in their own right. Thus, in this case, where Ruggs was already off the board, a player like CeeDee Lamb provides just as much utility in his own right.
Lamb doesn’t have elite speed, but he thrives at the catch point and as a runner after the catch. With a good blend of toughness and elusiveness, Lamb has the traits to maximize Drew Lock’s style as a thrower, and help him capitalize on measured risks, while also offering home-run potential on short passes as well.
Round 2, Pick 46: Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn
The Broncos have a good baseline set at the cornerback position. But in a modern NFL where coverage is one of the most important aspects of a defense, Vic Fangio can’t afford to settle on the outside. The Broncos need more talent, and that’s what Noah Igbinoghene provides at #46.
In my opinion, Igbinoghene is a top-3 cornerback in this class in terms of physical upside. He’s one of the most explosive, aggressive cornerbacks on tape, and while he’s raw in terms of hand usage, he’s such an easy mover in space and he can close gaps in the blink of an eye, using his fluidity to match up with receivers all throughout their routes. Igbinoghene also has natural ball skills due to his past as a pass catcher, and with a coach who can hone his elite athletic upside, he could be a premier starter on the outside with the versatility to move into the slot as well.
Round 3, Pick 77: Ben Bartch, OT, St. John
Given that Garett Bolles progressed over the course of the 2019 season, and given that Ja’Wuan James is set to come back from injury in 2020, I’m not so sure the Broncos look to add an immediate starter at tackle in the 2020 NFL Draft. They should certainly keep an eye to the future, however, as Bolles’ contract is soon up, and James is no guarantee to return to full strength.
In Round 3, there should be a good amount of solid tackle prospects available, although none may match up with Ben Bartch, a Division III prospect who consistently stood out from his counterparts with his athleticism, power, and tenacity in the trenches. Bartch could theoretically start on Day 1 for Denver, but Vic Fangio may not need him to.
Round 3, Pick 83: Lloyd Cushenberry, C, LSU
The Broncos signed Graham Glasgow to solidify their interior in free agency, but there still exists a need at the interior spot that Glasgow won’t occupy. There’s been talk of Elijah Wilkinson potentially manning the guard position, while Glasgow moves to center, but Wilkinson was called for nine penalties and allowed ten sacks in 15 games in 2019. He shouldn’t be handed the keys.
A more optimal alternative might be to keep Glasgow at guard, and draft Lloyd Cushenberry at center. Cushenberry is a good athlete with impressive strength at the point of attack, with the length to anchor opposing linemen. He possesses a good mix of immediate utility and future upside, and he’d provide security on the line, which the Broncos need.
Round 3, Pick 95: Davon Hamilton, DT, Ohio State
The Broncos engineered an impressive feat when they got productive nose tackle starter Shelby Harris to return on a one-year deal in free agency, but they should still invest in some long-term security in the middle of their defensive line. The end positions are set around Harris, but getting some more versatility on the inside is a venture that offers good returns.
Davon Hamilton provides some of that upside, as he has good burst for his 6-foot-4, 320-pound frame, and outstanding poise and positioning at the head of the defensive front. Hamilton can provide utility as both a nose tackle and a defensive tackle in even fronts, and he’ll also have immediate chemistry with defensive end Dre’Mont Jones, who played at Ohio State with Hamilton in 2018.
Round 4, Pick 118: Amik Robertson, CB, Louisiana Tech
The wide receiver position is the top need for the Denver Broncos, but cornerback is a close second, due to the uncertainty surrounding the team’s current starting unit. The slot cornerback is particularly important for this pick, as Bryce Callahan is coming off an injury-lost season. There’s a chance he could return without much rust in 2020, but just to be safe, the Broncos should double-up on their earlier investment at the position. And in Round 4, Amik Robertson is a very good selection.
Robertson is undersized; there’s no getting around that. But he plays larger than his frame and has unmatched fearlessness in one-on-one situations, unafraid to get physical and impact the catch point. Robertson’s ball production over the course of his collegiate career is proof of his success, and he can pick up where he left off in the slot at the NFL level.
Round 5, Pick 178: Oluwole Betiku Jr., EDGE, Illinois
The Broncos are set on the edge at the moment, as Von Miller is coming off his eighth Pro Bowl campaign, while Bradley Chubb should be able to return to form after having almost a full season to recover from a partial ACL tear. But with the modest degrees of uncertainty surrounding Miller’s age, Chubb’s injury, and the overall depth at edge, the Broncos could stand to use a Day 3 pick on the position. Illinois’ Oluwole Betiku Jr. is a good fit in this range, providing decent athleticism and density to pair with an unstoppable motor. He has enough mobility to fulfill the 3-4 outside linebacker role, and flourishes from a pass-rushing position.
Round 6, Pick 181: Alohi Gilman, SS, Notre Dame
The Broncos locked down star free safety Justin Simmons for the 2020 season with the franchise tag, but lost Will Parks, who started seven games at strong safety, including four of the last five, in free agency. Veteran Kareem Jackson played well in that role and should reprise it in 2020, but he’ll soon be 32 years old. If the Broncos can’t look to the future, they should at least add security and youth.
That’s what Notre Dame’s Alohi Gilman provides. Gilman is a strong, stout presence in the box, and he provides a good balance of aggression and instincts in run defense. While he might not have universal starting potential at the next level, he has enough traits to find a role as a backup with special teams utility.
Round 7, Pick 252: Isaiah Coulter, WR, Rhode Island
This late in the NFL Draft, it’s all about adding developmental upside, or players with the athletic traits necessary to make an impression without a great deal of experience. The Broncos, who still have a need for sheer speed after picking CeeDee Lamb in Round 1, would benefit from the presence of Rhode Island’s Isaiah Coulter, in that sense.
Coulter ran a 4.46 and logged a 36.0-inch vertical at the 2020 NFL Combine, exemplifying the speed and explosiveness that led him to accrue 1,039 yards and eight scores on 72 catches in 2019. Coulter could sneak onto Denver’s roster with his athletic traits and dynamism, and this late, he’s a low-risk, high-upside bet worth taking.
Round 7, Pick 254: David Woodward, LB, Utah State
At this point, the Broncos’ roster is fairly well-rounded. Credit a busy free agency period and an excellent fill-in general manager for that (sarcasm). But the Broncos can still add depth at certain positions, such as inside linebacker. At the end of Round 7, Utah State’s David Woodward is a good value addition. Woodward is only an average athlete, but he’s a workmanlike player who has the mentality to fulfill a depth or special teams role and potentially factor in as a rotational defender in due time.