[Editor’s Note: Version 1.0 below was originally published on February 12]
The air is lighter (or maybe thinner) at Mile High Stadium than it was at the start of Vic Fangio’s tenure as the Denver Broncos head coach. The Broncos started the season 0-4 through four weeks and 2-6 through eight weeks. But a late-season resurgence led by electric rookie quarterback Drew Lock pulled the Broncos to a 7-9 finish, and now, familiar greatness is on the horizon, ever closer to being claimed. This 7-round mock draft can help the Broncos traverse the dwindling gap.
The Broncos have a clear foundation for success heading into the second-year of Fangio’s tenure. On defense, there’s a compelling mix of established talent and youthful upside, and on offense, blooming, dynamic weapons like Phillip Lindsay, Courtland Sutton, and Noah Fant bolster a budding scoring unit. Lock has shown he has the physical talent and the contagious swagger to be a franchise quarterback. Now it’s up to John Elway to complete the team around him. A simple task in diction, made difficult in execution.
Primary Needs: Wide Receiver, Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Cornerback
The Broncos have a coating of talent at almost every position, at the very least, but there are several areas in which they can both add starting talent and improve their depth heading into 2020.
The first and foremost area is wide receiver, where Courtland Sutton is the only surefire starter to return from 2019. DaeSean Hamilton has some utility as a rotational weapon, and Fred Brown has athletic upside, but the Broncos can’t settle when it comes to Lock’s arsenal. They need to add more complementary abilities in their receiving core, and the 2020 NFL Draft is a great place to accomplish that.
Additionally, on offense, the line can use more fine-tuning. Dalton Risner looks to be a starter for the foreseeable future at offensive guard, and Ja’Wuan James, a high-priced free-agent addition from 2019, will be back in 2020 after missing his first season in Denver with an injury. But aside from those two, the line is mired in uncertainty. Ronald Leary is past his prime at the other guard spot, Garett Bolles is an enigma entering a contract year, and Connor McGovern is a free agent. No investment of picks is too much when it comes to protecting Lock in the pocket.
On defense, the Broncos have substantial needs both on the defensive line and at cornerback. The interior defensive line is the most significant cause for concern, as the team has no returning player who can man the middle as a versatile interior defender. Dre’Mont Jones has promising potential as a 3-4 end. Still, the Broncos may need a starter across from him, with Derek Wolfe’s future also uncertain, and Adam Gotsis’ developmental path unclear.
At cornerback, the Broncos aren’t necessarily short-staffed, but there’s a startling lack of security there as well. Renowned veteran Chris Harris is set to be a free agent at almost 31 years old, slot cornerback Bryce Callahan is returning after missing all of 2019 with a foot injury, and 2018 third-round pick Isaac Yiadom has yet to run away with a premier role. A deep 2020 cornerback class is just what the Broncos needed, and it’s a position that every Broncos 7-round mock draft should include.
Secondary Needs: Safety, Running Back, Linebacker
A lot of the Broncos needs will depend on free agency, but perhaps none more than safety. Key contributor Will Parks is set to hit the market, as is Justin Simmons, a 26-year old playmaker who’s coming off an All-Pro campaign in 2019, one in which he caught four interceptions and logged 15 pass deflections. The Broncos ideally re-sign Simmons, but no matter what they do, they can afford to add depth at that position. Linebacker is similar, although the starting lineup should be set there with Todd Davis and breakout star A.J. Johnson.
And last, but probably not least, running back is always a position that can use more late-round investment. It’s not a position that deserves a high pick from the Broncos, as Lindsay is a dynamic threat, with Royce Freeman serving as competent depth. But an offense can never have enough weapons, and running back is one position where dynamism can be acquired for a cheap price.
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