The possibilities in the draft are endless, and one good class can completely change the fortunes of a franchise. We see it every year, and we’ve seen it here with the Denver Broncos who built the foundation for their Super Bowl 50 team trough the draft.
As the new coaching staff is assembled in full, it’s time to turn the page and look at how the Denver Broncs can get back into contention by upgrading their roster through the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. Specifically, we’re focusing in on the options in the first round of a draft crop that’s looking quite talented.
So without further ado, here’s some options the Broncos might consider on the offensive side before looking at some defensive prospects in our second part.
Adding speed and playmaking threats
Let’s face it, we can talk about offensive “swagger” and get excited about the new offensive staff that the Broncos have assembled. But philosophies and coaches don’t win games, players do, and outside of their two star receivers, Denver doesn’t have anyone who really scares opposing defenses.
The Broncos lack reliable options over the middle of the field, something that’s been missing ever since Wes Welker’s decline and the departure of Julius Thomas. While the run game has been searching for a true star for a long time now.
Simply put, the Broncos need more playmakers, guys who can stretch defenses out and who can help their young quarterbacks to create big plays.
The dream scenarios
Every year there are players who seem to be guaranteed to go in the first-round or top 20 picks but for one reason or another fall out. The Broncos have seen this happen in the past with Shane Ray and Bradley Roby. Anything can happen from now to April 27th when the Draft’s first round will be held.
Meaning just about every scenario is still on the table right now, with that said, here are a couple of dream scenarios at pick No. 20.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cook is a borderline elite talent in this class who’s supremely gifted with instant burst and home run ability that’s reminiscent of Jamal Charles. A star from the moment he set foot in Tallahassee, the all-time FSU rushing leader is a bit undersized but can run between the tackles and is a threat to take the ball the distance every time he touches it.
His ability as a receiver out the backfield gives him added value on third down, making him a truly special talent in an already phenomenal draft class at the running back position.
Cook is, however, only a running back and considering he isn’t a 220-punder like the three backs taken in the first round the past two years; he might not go as high as his talent merits. There are also concerns over his medical history that’s forced him to miss games throughout his three years with the Seminoles—his shoulder issues stand out the most.
Those are deterrents for teams drafting ahead of the Broncos, who would have to be delighted in having a truly special playmaker out the backfield to help their offense be more dynamic. Cook would truly be a dream scenario for Denver.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Ed’s son’s reputation in this state doesn’t need to be overstated too much. At Stanford, he’s become a big-time player showing some deceptive power for someone who’s “only” 205-pounds, has great vision and even better agility in making defenders miss in the open-field. All that on top of some high-level breakaway speed. He’s a complete running back with slightly less stellar gifts than Cooks but stellar nonetheless.
McCaffrey is also a phenomenal receiver, not just out of the backfield, but can be lined up in the slot and is a promising route runner. His dual-threat ability would make him a dangerous weapon in Mike McCoy and Bill Musgrave’s hands as they could use him in two back sets and flex him out as the defacto third wideout. The former Heisman finalist is also a special player in the return game where his ability as an open field runner truly shines. More than just a running back, McCaffrey would be a playmaker who could be used in a variety of different ways helping the team score points, regardless of where he’s lined up.
Others to consider
D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
Foreman is a big 240-pound back who beats defenses down. For such a big man he has deceptive speed, taking several long runs to the house for the Longhorns this season on his way to 2,000 yards. More importantly, he’s able to hit a hole and go, doesn’t need to gear up like most guys his size would, not to mention he has some decent agility to make cuts and steer through lanes.
Foreman is much more limited as a receiver than the above-mentioned players, and he’s only the pick if Denver intends to use him as a bell cow back—allowing him to slowly pound a defense to a pulp, beating them down physically. That’s what new offensive line coach Jeff Davidson’s teams did in Carolina and Minnesota with Adrian Peterson. Don’t count it out, though a top-20 pick would be a bit too rich barring a stunning 40-yard dash time.
Curtis Samuels, RB/WR, Ohio State
More so than Cook and McCaffrey, Samuels is more of a scatback, and his best fit might be as a slot receiver.
Samuels is a true burner and is a threat to score from anywhere on the field, but he’s also impressive in his ability to shake defenders loose when running routes. In fact, his ability to create space for himself as a receiver might be his best quality.
That might be just what the doctor ordered for the Broncos young quarterbacks who could use a safety blanket who doubles up as a home run threat. Samuels could also be a threat in the return game as well.
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Howard might not jump off the tape as a big-play threat, but he’s shown on the biggest stage that he’s not one to mess with once the ball gets into his hands. Though he’s been unproductive at times at Alabama, he’s a constant on the field thanks to his ability as a blocker, an area in which he excels.
He also is tough to cover down the seam and got open more so than he was thrown to. Howard might not be a flashy pick, but he’s a complete tight end and could give Denver a long-term option at the position. Not to mention another big and fast target in the Broncos attack who can turn a 5-yard pass into a 50-yard score.
David Njoku, TE, Miami
Did you say big and fast targets? Let me introduce you to Njoku whose talent is mouth watering. An inline blocker who’s played a large percentage of snaps for the Hurricanes, he can also be flexed out as a big slot and can really do damage as a receiver.
Still raw as a route runner, with a few added drops, Njoku is a terrific athlete who’s a threat getting open downfield and a talented runner with the ball in his hands. He’s shined this season and has the potential to be a beast in the red zone, an area that the Broncos should be looking to get better in.
His stock is quickly rising due to his immense potential. Denver could be tempted by his intriguing skills even if he might be too raw for a top-20 selection.
Help in the trenches
This class of offensive linemen isn’t all that deep and lacks sure-fire talents at the top. Meaning that likely no one merits a pick in the top 20. Though, given the importance of the tackle positions, in particular, there are teams bound to take some risk and draft one higher than expected.
Given the need that the Broncos have across the line to get better here are a few options that they could consider.
Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
Ramczyk started only one year at Wisconsin after a crazy journey back to major college football, but he’s shined.
He’s long and is a smooth technician, two factors that allowed him to effectively block some of the best pass rushers in the country when facing LSU, Ohio State, and Michigan giving up very few pressures and zero sacks. Ramczyk is still raw especially when angle blocking at the second level, but he has good power at the point of attack and is an effective run blocker on top of his gifts as a pass protector.
A hip injury that will require surgery this offseason likely will hinder his stock and ability to contribute immediately on an NFL field. On pure talent, he’s likely the only linemen worthy of this high a pick.
Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Robinson is the prospect many in the scouting community looked forward to when there were complaints of weak o-line groups the past two seasons. “Wait till that freshman left tackle at Alabama is eligible,” they said. Now he is, and he’s old news after a tough outing in the national championship, one riddled with costly penalties and sloppy blocking.
Robinson’s talent is immense, and he’s also a powerful run blocker—particularly when he submarines on 3rd-and-short, he simply blows through people.
But he’s been so inconsistent as a pass blocker the last two years that many are beginning to doubt if he’ll ever be a franchise blindside protector. The issues are fixable; his lower body mechanics are way off, his stance is too wide and he’s often off balance, he just needs to have more active feet. But he’ll be a big reclamation project. Will the Broncos be willing to go through that?
Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
Bolles is 25 and like Ramczyk was a transfer from junior college and in only one year of major college football is already having his name thrust into the first round conversation. He’s rugged and has some nastiness to his game. The Ute left tackle is also a splendid talent when used as a pulling run blocker.
Bolles also has length and good athleticism as a pass protector though he’s still raw. He suffers most with power in pass pro and also will let more agile pass rushers get under his pads to turn the edge on him. His talent doesn’t merit a top-20 pick, but since you’re already seeing his name in mocks to Denver, he’s worth mentioning.
Options at guard
It’s not as disappointing as the tackle class, but the interior offensive line group isn’t supreme either, lacking in talents worthy of a top-20 pick.
Indiana’s Dan Feeney would be adapt for Davidson’s man-block, and Western Kentucky left tackle Forrest Lamp—who’ll likely convert to guard in the league—is another name worth keeping an eye on. Though they’d be much better value picks in the second round.
Keep an eye out for part two, when we break down the defensive options for the Broncos in the first round. It may seem forgone that they’ll go offense, but John Elway has a reputation for going after the best player available.