Can the Denver Broncos get back to playoff form after the 2017 NFL Draft? They try with this 7-round mock draft after free agency.
From winning the Super Bowl to not making the playoffs, that was the route that the Denver Broncos unfortunately took from the 2015 to 2016 seasons. With the retirement of Peyton Manning and departure of Brock Osweiler (perhaps a blessing in retrospect), their offense was left in flux and couldn’t even get their vaunted defense to carry them to the postseason. Now it’s up to the 2017 NFL Draft and the rest of the offseason to get them back in the playoff mix.
One of the biggest issues that the Broncos faced this past season was the fact that their offensive line was abysmal. That limited the offense in a number of ways. However, there are other holes that need to be addressed. Those holes include depth on the defensive side of the ball, the ever-present need for an every-down running back and plenty of others. Luckily, they may be able to address them in the draft.
Picking as the last non-playoff team, the Broncos aren’t in a prime position to get a superstar at the end of April. In a deep draft, though, they should be able to address needs and improve their team as a whole. That’s what the Denver Broncos look to do in this seven-round mock draft.
Note: This mock draft was compiled using the FanSpeak On The Clock mock draft simulator.
Jan 2, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk (65) in action during the game against the Western Michigan Broncos in the 2017 Cotton Bowl game at AT&T Stadium. The Badgers defeat the Broncos 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1, Pick 20: Ryan Ramczyk, OT – Wisconsin
Looking at the shortcomings of the Denver Broncos offense one season ago, the easy place to point the finger is at Trevor Siemian. Admittedly Siemian wasn’t particularly impressive for much of the year. However, he also wasn’t done any favors by his offensive line. Not only did they frequently get him effectively lit up, but they also couldn’t help bolster a running game to help to take pressure off of the quarterback in the passing game.
Subsequently, the biggest key for the Denver offense this offseason has to be addressing the offensive line. And lucky for them in this mock draft, they get the chance to do so with the guy who many believe is the best offensive tackle in the class, Ryan Ramczyk out of Wisconsin. Though he only started for one year for the Badgers after transferring from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, he showed incredible proclivity at the position and the potential to be a starting left tackle.
At 6-6, 310 pounds with impressive athletic traits for a player his size, Ramczyk seems like a can’t-miss tackle prospect. He progressed tremendously throughout last season as a run-blocker, adding to his biggest strength as a pass-blocker. Considering what the Broncos have on the defensive side of the ball, they can’t continue to let their offense suffer. Thus, Ramczyk is the obvious selection.
The Denver Broncos’ success has been predicated on the strength of their defense. That’s how they won Super Bowl 50 and that’s how they flirted with making the playoffs one season ago as Trevor Siemian started at quarterback. However, with the departure of Malik Jackson in free agency in 2016, they still have a hole to fill on their three-man front—even if for no other reason than to add depth behind veteran nose tackle Domata Peko.
That’s why Larry Ogunjobi might be the perfect man for the job in Denver. He’s a versatile player who probably isn’t big enough to be a true nose, so he wouldn’t be a true backup to Peko. However, he’s a player with the explosiveness and grit to play numerous positions across that front and have some level of effectiveness. He’s a sure tackler in the trenches, but is also a disruptive player capable of getting into the backfield and helping to generate a pass rush.
Playing at Charlotte and starting playing the game later in life, there are still unrefined parts of Ogunjobi’s game. However, that’s the beauty of bringing him into Denver. Though they need help on the defensive front, they can still use him just situationally right now as he continues to learn and get coached up. He’s picked up the game quick enough thus far that he could possibly be an every-down player by the end of the 2017 season. This is a guy with tremendous upside that could develop into a first-round type talent.
Mar 4, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Youngstown defensive end Derek Rivers speaks to the media during the 2017 combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Round 3, Pick 18: Derek Rivers, EDGE – Youngstown State
Again, when you think about the Denver Broncos, their defense is the first thing that comes to mind. Specifically, you probably think about Von Miller coming off of the edge and making tackles and quarterbacks generally have a rough go of it. And yes, they have a young prospect in Shane Ray opposite of Miller who, at the very least, has shown flashes of being able to have an impact. However, they need depth on the edge to keep their defense thriving.
Derek Rivers can certainly help with that, or should be able to down the road. Obviously playing at Youngstown State raises the cliched level-of-competition questions about Rivers. However, he’s proven throughout the pre-draft process and on tape that he has the tools and mentality to be a factor. He’s slight of frame for a 4-3 end, so standing him up on the edge of a 3-4 is a more natural fit.
While playing at Youngstown State, Rivers proved that he has a relentless pursuit as a part of his game. His technique isn’t exceptionally refined and he can be thrown off his attack at times. However, he’s never going to stop coming. He plays until the whistle with the intent of getting after the quarterback. If you take that and factor in nice explosiveness and athletic traits, Rivers could benefit from being molded in Denver’s defense and could be a factor as a pass rusher sooner rather than later.
Nov 5, 2016; Denton, TX, USA; Louisiana Tech Bulldogs wide receiver Carlos Henderson (1) carries the ball for a touchdown against the North Texas Mean Green at Apogee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports
Round 3, Pick 37: Carlos Henderson, WR – Louisiana Tech
What might stick out when you look at everything that Carlos Henderson has to offer coming out of Louisiana Tech is seemingly a plethora of contradictions. While his 5-11, 199-pound frame isn’t ideal, his quickness and hands most certainly are. And while he’s not a polished route-runner, he has the ability to beat his man in coverage any time he gets into the open field. He’s a bit of an enigma to say the least.
After posting gaudy numbers last season with the Bulldogs, Henderson elected to try and make it to the pro ranks. We know that the Broncos are set at the Nos. 1 and 2 wide receiver spots with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. While that may be so, they’re lacking a real playmaker behind them. Henderson could undoubtedly provide that for them with a little coaching and experience at this level.
He may not be it upon arrival in Denver (or wherever he plays next season), but he has the talent to develop into a real weapon in the passing game. While he may contribute out of the slot for the Broncos or on the outside even at times as he has experience there, he can also affect special teams as a return man. This is a nice Round 3 addition for the Broncos.
Nov 10, 2015; Mount Pleasant, MI, USA; Toledo Rockets running back Kareem Hunt (3) runs the ball at Central Michigan Chippewas defensive back Kavon Frazier (5) during the fourth quarter at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Rockets win 28-23. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Round 4, Pick 19: Kareem Hunt, RB – Toledo
Had Kareem Hunt been able to go into his workout at the NFL Scouting Combine or his Pro Day and run a better time than the 4.62 he posted in Indianapolis, he might sneak into the third round. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, which confirms one of the shortcomings of his game that you see on film. He’s not going to be a game-breaker by any stretch and he doesn’t have the speed to simply blow through and by defenders.
At 5-10 and 216 pounds, though, Hunt is undoubtedly a load to bring down when he has the ball in his hands. He runs with power and has no issue fighting through contact and weak arm tackles. What’s more, his lack of speed doesn’t translate to a lack of quickness. Hunt has the ability to make defenders miss and to cut up into holes with ease. That’s more than what you can say for some of the running backs on Denver’s lineup right now.
The Broncos have been searching for stability in their backfield for some time now. Hunt may not be the next Adrian Peterson or even close to being the best back in this class. But he can help bring stability as Denver improves their offensive line in front of him. Hunt would be a great mid-round pickup that would address perhaps the overall biggest need of the offense not on the O-line.
Oct 15, 2016; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes tight end George Kittle (46) runs past Purdue Boilermakers safety Leroy Clark (3) at Ross Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5, Pick 33: George Kittle, TE – Iowa
If teams keep sleeping on George Kittle, I feel like I might lose my mind. Watching the Iowa Hawkeyes tight end’s film, it’s hard to see why he’s not considered an easy Day 2 selection by most everyone. When you look at his athletic ability and the refinement of his game, there’s not much that Kittle is unable to do.
At 6-4, 247 pounds, Kittle is undoubtedly going to be a factor in the passing game for whatever team he goes to in the draft. He has sure hands, crisp route running and the athletic profile to break open big plays both before and after the catch. He’s a weapon that can be utilized in a variety of ways and simply be a playmaker for any offense in the NFL.
What’s more, Kittle is also exceptionally sound when it comes to his ability to get involved on the edge and blocking. Though he has the propensity to get overpowered by bigger defenders, it’s rarely the cause of a lack of technique or willing to get into someone. You can add muscle, weight and strength, but you can’t teach that type of mentality for a tight end. When you put this all together, Kittle seems to be a complete tight end.
Though Gary Kubiak is gone, expect the Broncos to still utilize the tight end a lot and Kittle could help make that venture more fruitful moving forward.
Oct 8, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight (8) is pushed out of bounds by Tennessee Volunteers linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (21) during the second quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The fact that Jalen Reeves-Maybin is still available in the sixth round is largely due to an injury plagued final season with the Tennessee Volunteers. He was in and out of the lineup for most of the year and it caused his draft stock to bottom out a bit. When healthy, though, Reeves-Maybin is an athletic playmaker capable of affecting the game on every level.
When you have a player whose stock took a hit due to injuries, that’s a concern certainly moving forward that the Broncos will have to monitor. If he can stay healthy and get on the field, though, Denver would be getting a steal this late in the draft.
Round 7, Pick 20: Jerry Ugokwe, OT – William & Mary
Obviously the Broncos addressed offensive tackle early in the draft with Ramczyk and have to think he’s the guy for now and the future. However, they could add another player at the position that could develop into a long-term piece with a late-round flyer on Jerry Ugokwe. Playing at William & Mary, Ugokwe is a mammoth of a man at 6-7, 321 pounds.
While all the physical tools are there, Ugokwe didn’t pick up playing football until his junior year of high school. As such, he’s very much a ball of clay that’s still being molded. He’s shown a tremendous ability and knack for picking up the position, though. With more work in the NFL under pro coaches, he should be able to develop into potentially a starting caliber tackle.
Oct 8, 2016; Starkville, MS, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive back Johnathan Ford (23) tackles Mississippi State Bulldogs wide receiver Donald Gray (6) during the first quarter of the game at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Round 7, Pick 34: Johnathan Ford, S – Auburn
Johnathan Ford is one of the more interesting prospects in this draft class, largely because he’s played just about every position coming into the draft. Once a running back, once a safety and playing in the nickel corner, Ford really did it all with Auburn.
With that said, it’s hard to say exactly where he projects at the next level, though most surmise that he’ll be able to develop as a safety. Regardless, he’s a moldable piece and could be added to the Broncos defense to learn and grow behind a veteran unit that will help his progression as a player.
Round 7, Pick 35: Brendan Langley, CB – Lamar
There’s a good chance that you have no idea who Brendan Langley is, and that’s okay. Playing at Lamar in college, he wasn’t in a position to play in the spotlight all too often. However, he’s shown solid quickness and speed throughout pre-draft testing this offseason. Unfortunately, his tape is inconsistent as his footwork is sloppy and his reactions can be a bit slow at times.
What Langley does bring to the table, though, is the ability to make plays when the ball is in the air. He showed a knack for coming down with the pigskin when thrown at. He definitely won’t be a starter, but Langley can add nice backup value in the secondary.