The 2015 NFL Draft just ended a few weeks ago and NFL teams have already started doing work on prospects for 2016. Scouting for the draft is a long process and to be honest, teams started doing work for the 2016 draft before the 2015 draft had even started. Scouts have been breaking up game tape from previous years on players that will, or are expected to, enter the 2016 draft. It is just the beginning of a long process.
The 2016 NFL draft is expected to be a very strong class. There is a lot of talent to be had throughout. With how the Denver Broncos roster looks next year, they could potentially be looking for help in a lot of places.
If people thought the Broncos had a lot of talent set to hit the free agent market this past year, it is even worse next year, though the cap situation is a little better.
Set to hit the market are, Demaryius Thomas (if no long term deal gets done), Von Miller, David Bruton, Derek Wolfe, Omar Bolden, Brock Osweiler, Marvin Austin, Brandon Marshall (RFA), Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan, C.J. Anderson and many others. That could put the Broncos in a pickle with the roster.
I would expect a good portion of those guys to get re-signed. The Broncos will sign some other free agents off the roster, but a good portion of the replacements will come via the draft, both between this past 2015 draft and the 2016 draft.
The Denver Broncos are set to have six draft picks in the 2016 draft. Their own first, second, third, sixth and seventh round pick. They also will get the Baltimore Ravens fifth round pick, while the Broncos sent their fourth to the Ravens and their fifth to the Detroit Lions as part of the trade to move up in order to draft Shane Ray.
On top of their six draft picks, the Broncos are expected to get multiple compensatory picks next year. Early projections have the Broncos netting five compensatory picks, but I have them getting four just like they did in this past draft.
With all that said, let us dig into some prospects that the Broncos should keep an early eye on for the 2016 NFL Draft.
Shawn Oakman, DE/DT, Baylor
Shawn Oakman is a physical specimen, but is still a raw player, despite a lot of experience. He is versatile enough to play in a four or three-man front. When Oakman decided to return for his senior season, draftniks split. Half thought it was good, half thought it was bad.
I thought it to be a great idea, as he was looking like a second day pick. If he can show great growth in his senior season, Oakman could look like a high first round pick.
DeForest Buckner, DE/DT, Oregon
Another big-bodied defensive linemen, Buckner returning was a bit more surprising, as he was widely thought to be better than former Oregon defensive linemen Arik Armstead and get drafted earlier. As with many on this list, Buckner is versatile enough to play in a four or three-man front.
That versatility is something the Broncos could be looking for next year, with so many on their defensive front set to hit the open market. However, unless Buckner takes a step down, or the Broncos do much worse than expected, Buckner will be gone by the time Denver picks.
Chris Jones, DE/DT, Mississippi State
Chris Jones' draft stock is in major question. He had a good start his freshman year, then fell into obscurity his sophomore season behind Preston Smith. Entering his junior season, and first year of draft eligibility, Jones will have to show a lot of growth after a sophomore slump.
If he is unable to, it is unlikely he even declares for the draft in 2016 and returns for his senior season. If he does declare, odds are it is because he is hearing a first round grade for him.
Tyler Johnstone, OT, Oregon
Johnstone has first round talent, but a couple of ACL tears in under a year may see him fall in the draft, as may a concern with him keeping weight on. Johnstone’s ideal weight is in the 300-pound range, but in an interview, Johnstone said he doesn’t think he was ever over 275 pounds for a game in 2013 or 2012.
With him in his senior year, Johnstone is hoping to stay healthy and be able to keep the weight on. If he is able to do both, he could be looking as one of the first offensive linemen off the board. If not, he likely will fall to mid/late rounds.
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Charles Tapper, DE/DT, Oklahoma
Tapper is a bit raw when it comes to overall technique, though he has shown growth with the more experience he gets. He has a good background in basketball, but is young in his football career, which explains the rawness to his game.
With the potential of Denver losing both Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe, Tapper would be a great pickup to replace one of them in the 3-4 front Denver runs. Tapper has the versatility to play in a three or four man front in multiple positions and roles.
Robert Nkemdiche, DE/DT, Ole Miss
Unless Denver completely bombs the 2015 season, or Nkemdiche bombs or gets hurt, Nkemdiche will be long gone by the time Denver should be picking. Nkemdiche has everything you want in a dominate offensive linemen. He has the power, athleticism, size and versatility teams covet in defensive linemen.
Doesn’t matter what scheme, or role you play him in, as long as his hand is in the dirt. Leonard Williams was the majority's top defender for the 2015 draft and in 2016 Nkemdiche will likely be top-two, with Joey Bosa from Ohio State.