The NFL Draft rarely disappoints, and Thursday’s first round was no different. The top 12 picks set the tone and the rest of the night continued to give us several surprises. There’s a lot to take from a draft, after all, it’s when we finally get to see how a team really thinks, but from the Denver Broncos perspective, these are the most interesting things to take from Thursday night. Plus the best players remaining in the draft for day two.
The Broncos aren’t the only team looking to add “juice” to their team
The Broncos have talked a lot this offseason about adding more “juice” to their offense, and it was clear after Thursday night they’re not the only team in the NFL trying to do so. The 2017 draft started on offense and surprisingly so considering it’s a strong defensive class. But beyond that, there was a premium put on players who could be versatile, explosive assets in the passing or return game. You could call this the Tyreek Hill effect.
Christian McCaffrey’s selection to the Carolina Panthers at eight overall is a perfect example. As the ground and pound Panthers are adding a jack of all trade speedster, who opens up lots of options for them offensively.
The Cincinnati Bengals, who already have lots of great targets on offense, added the fastest man in NFL Combine history by selecting John Ross and his 4.22 speed. Even more noteworthy, they took him ninth overall despite Ross’ extensive injury history which includes multiple ACL surgeries on both knees and microfracture surgery. The Tennesee Titans also added some significant “juice” by selecting Adoree Jackson, the do-it-all cornerback who might be most appealing as a returner and offensive weapon.
There were also three wideouts taken in the top 10 picks and three tight ends taken in the first round on top of two running backs who went in the top eight picks. That’s a major premium placed on offensive playmakers and particularly targets in the passing game.
That’s not to say that there aren’t lots more playmakers remaining on offense in this draft; Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, Curtis Samuel, Alvin Kamara, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and D’Onta Foreman are just a few potentially juicy picks. All those guys could go very high in the second round, and the Broncos have the ammunition to move up from pick 51 if there’s a player they covet.
OL is not a priority
After their last press conference before the draft, it seemed as if the Broncos weren’t going to force their selection based on their need at offensive tackle. Considering the premium that’s placed on the position it was possible that Denver at 20 wouldn’t have had their tackle of choice still available to them. But that didn’t happen, and the Broncos took care of their most important need by taking Garett Bolles, the highly athletic 25-year-old, one-year starter who has enticing skill and upside.
As of Thursday night, Denver’s seemingly the only team that prioritized the offensive line position in the first round as Forrest Lamp, the supposed top guard dropped out of round one. As did Cam Robinson, the big and talented kid with some off-field concerns – not to mention technique issues.
The only other big-ugly to go in the first round was Ryan Ramczyk who, like Bolles, only started one season of major college football. Ramczyk went to the New Orleans Saints, who prioritized defense first by selecting Marshon Lattimore with their first pick at 11 and took Ramczyk with the very last pick in the first round. Interestingly enough, the Saints won’t need Ramczyk to play on the left side as they have Terron Armstead. Ramczyk instead will likely be in competition with their other former first round pick, Andrus Peat – who’s started at guard so far – for the right tackle spot as the “loser” of the competition should be moved inside. In a league in which the Dallas Cowboys were a revelation in large part thanks to their offensive line’s dominance, the NFL as a whole is much more interested in adding talented playmakers.
The AFC West is wilder than ever in the 2017 draft
So the wild AFC West now has some true gunslingers as you’ll be hard pressed to find four quarterbacks with bigger arms than Philip Rivers, Derek Carr, Paxton Lynch, and now Patrick Mahomes.
Another theme in the division was the emphasis on the passing game. Denver addressed their need for athleticism from their tackles to counter the speed rushers in the division. With Bolles, Menelik Watson, and even Ty Sambrailo you have the foot speed to compete against those guys with this group.
The Oakland Raiders added a cornerback (Gareon Conley) that they sorely needed and they added one who can cover in the slot as well, maybe an even bigger need. The Los Angeles Chargers went after a wide receiver adding Mike Williams who gives them more size and a great red zone option for Rivers in the passing game.
The Kansas City Chiefs were the biggest surprise as they moved all the way up to the 10th pick giving up two first-round picks and an additional third to take their quarterback of the future in Mahomes. For a team that seems to be a potential contender with a few more touchups that’s a strong statement to their existing quarterback Alex Smith.
The Paxton Lynch trade looks like a bargain a year later
It’s hard to say in retrospect but had Paxton Lynch gone back to Memphis and played at a comparative level to what he did in 2015; he’s likely the top quarterback taken in the 2017 Draft. The Broncos moved up five spots to take him in the first round in 2016 and gave up a third round selection. In retrospect, that was a very good trade. This year, three quarterbacks were taken, and all arrived at their new teams via trades.
The Chicago Bears started things off by trading up one spot from the third to the second pick and gave up two third rounders and one fourth rounder to take Mitchell Trubisky. Then came the Chiefs trade for Mahomes. Next, the Houston Texans, who already traded Brock Osweiler at the cost of a 2018 second-round pick this offseason, moved up to the 12th pick from the 25th at the cost of a 2018 first round selection. They’re now without their top two picks in the 2018 draft as a result of their quarterback roster moves.
There might still be lots of uncertainty with the Broncos quarterbacks, but at least the team has all their future picks to select another QB next season if they feel like the young guns on the roster aren’t up to snuff. The Bears, Chiefs, and Texans no longer have that luxury.
Best players available for Denver in day two
As the Broncos look to add a few more playmakers now that they’ve patched up their line problems, here are the best available players on the board for tomorrow at Denver’s positions of need.
Note, the number to the left of the player’s name is their overall standing in our Big Board
10. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State*
30. Curtis Samuels, WR/RB, Ohio State
32. Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
33. Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma*
35. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
36. D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
40. Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State*
42. Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado
43. Derek Rivers, EDGE, Youngstown State
44. Tim Williams, OLB/EDGE, Alabama*
45. Tedric Thompson, FS, Colorado
47. Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
52. Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida
53. ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama
57. Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn
58. Chris Wormley, DT, Michigan
59. Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming
60. Tarik Cohen, RB, North Carolina A&T
61. Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
63. Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech
66. Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma*