The way things have gone in the month of March have put the Denver Broncos into somewhat of a bind on one of the most crucial positions in football--left tackle.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... After letting Russell Okung walk, and eventually sign with the Chargers, the Broncos have a massive hole at left tackle that could potentially make them predictable come the NFL Draft over a month from now.
Of course, they could make a couple of quick fixes at the position. King Dunlap might work as a bridge starter for the right price, Menelik Watson could potentially slide over to left tackle, or Donald Stephenson might even have to make a cameo on the left side.
But the wise move, at least in the big picture, would be to draft a left tackle. And let's say for the sake of this exercise that the Broncos will do that in the first round. Garett Bolles, Ryan Ramczyk, or Cam Robinson... either way.
For the sake of the hypothetical, I'll assume the Broncos have filled their most glaring need on the first day, and now they want to get the best value possible in the last six rounds.
Fortunately, there's a few positions where the Broncos could potentially find a steal in the mid-to-late rounds, whether it's a true blue-chip player or just a solid role player that rounds out the roster. Let's take a look.
Typically, tight ends don't get taken very early in the draft. There's exceptions along the way like Eric Ebron (who has yet to play up to his high selection), but more often than not the run on tight ends doesn't begin until the late-first or second round.
That will change this year, and that's because of Alabama's O.J. Howard. Don't let the production fool you. Howard is an excellent athlete and receiver who was criminally underused in the passing game mostly because he was such a dominant blocker in Alabama's run-heavy offense.
Howard's likely off the board before Denver's selection at 20, so I don't expect that they'll even have to consider him. Miami's hyper-athletic David Njoku could go around where the Broncos pick, but he doesn't match Howard's usefulness in the run game. The only reason the Broncos should go tight end in Round One is if Howard falls. Otherwise, there's too much depth to be explored in the later rounds.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1763465-rumors-abound-connecting-... One of the more enticing prospects is Evan Engram out of Ole Miss. The thing about Engram is that he's almost as much of a wide receiver as he is a tight end. And that's fine, if you're taking him after the first round. Engram is a burner (4.43 40-yard dash), and he should be used as such. He's not your do-it-all tight end like Howard, but rather a good flex receiver like Jordan Reed who will stretch the field vertically. It would be a poor choice to bulk him up and force him to body up defensive ends. If you draft a player in the draft, you have to set them up to succeed by letting them be who they are and allowing them to play to their strengths. Engram could be that for the Broncos, exploiting poor matchups and giving them a potent third target in the passing game. With his strong combine showing, he may not make it to the back of the second round, however.
Michigan's Jake Butt is another hidden gem that could go later than he should in the draft. And it's not because he's lacking in any area, but rather because of a torn ACL in the Orange Bowl, his last game for the blue and maize. Before his injury, Butt was a possible first rounder, but the injury will cause teams to overlook a really good prospect. If the Broncos could grab him in the third round and let him take his time to get healthy, there could be serious long-term rewards.
Like with tight ends, the running back position has slowly been fazed out of the first round over the last few years. Every few years, a back will go top-five, but there's always risk (consider Ezekiel Elliott vs. Trent Richardson).
This year, there's three likely first-rounders. The clear-cut leader is LSU's Leonard Fournette, and he'll be gone well before Denver is on the clock. Prior to the Combine, Florida State's Dalvin Cook was the consensus number two back, but Christian McCaffrey's stock has risen to the point where some teams might pull the trigger on him at any time after the first ten or so picks.
The Broncos didn't have a deficiency of talent at running back last year, but they did on the offensive line and they had bad luck with health. I have plenty of faith in Devontae Booker in his second year, especially if his role is C.J. Anderson's complement. However, if there's a year to take a flyer at the position, it's probably 2017, and that's because those three aforementioned prospects, Fournette, Cook, and McCaffrey have overshadowed some other talented players.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1763363-report-rb-joe-mixon-visit... The big elephant room right now is Oklahoma's Joe Mixon, who just this past week visited with the Broncos. I absolutely love Mixon the football player, but there's obviously the moral implications that need to be considered. That situation deserves its own post, so for the sake of this exercise I'll talk about him purely as a running back.
Mixon has exceptional vision, patience, and receiving ability, which has drawn him a ton of comparisons to Le'Veon Bell. He can even line up at wide receiver and has shown a lot of attention to detail in his route running. In today's NFL, guys like that are often more valuable than a pure-running back type like Adrian Peterson who doesn't necessarily factor in as a receiver because the runner-receivers can stay on the field for all three rounds.
If they want Mixon, they'll probably have to burn their second-round pick on him.
But if for one reason or another he's not on the board (or they very understandably don't want him in general), there's other good options mid-round options like Tennessee's Alvin Kamara or Boise State's Jeremy McNichols.
Even in the late rounds, there's plenty of options. Mixon's Oklahoma teammate Samaje Perine has been largely forgotten with all the attention on Mixon, but he quietly surpassed 1,000 yards in limited opportunities last year and once ran for 427 yards in a 2015 game against Kansas.
Finally, there's some deep sleepers like Pitt's James Conner, who went from battling cancer to rushing for over 1,000 yards in a year, and San Diego State's Donnel Pumphrey, who ran for over 2,100 yards last season, but lacks size and played against Mountain West competition (as did McNichols).
With the departure of Kayvon Webster and the ever-looming uncertainly surrounding Aqib Talib, you could make a pretty strong case for the Broncos to draft a cornerback in the middle of the draft this year.
They're probably not in a spot to get the top guys like Florida's Teez Tabor, Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore, or Alabama's Marlon Humphrey, but it's a fairly loaded position this year. You could make a case that five or six guys are worthy of a first-round pick.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1762838-rams-sign-cb-kayvon-webster If Denver waits, there's a good chance to get value. The main corner I'll have my eye on is Washington's Sidney Jones. Jones was almost certainly a first rounder until he tore his achilles at the end of his Pro Day, which will sideline him in his rookie year. It's probably not a good idea to stock up on players that are already injured, but like Jake Butt, if they drop far enough it would almost be negligent not to at least think about it. And with three excellent corners already on the roster, there would be no need to rush Jones in his recovery.
Aside from Jones, there's still plenty of good options. Denver need look no further than down the road at Boulder to find one of the best corner duos in college football a year ago in Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon, who should both be options after the first round. Awuzie is the more physical, versatile player like Chris Harris, while Witherspoon is a lengthy corner that could project well against big, tall wide receivers like Talib.
There's not as much depth in the later rounds as there is with the other positions, but the position is so top-heavy that some really quality corners will fall to the middle rounds.
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