The Denver Broncos have at least five selections in the top 100 picks of the 2017 NFL Draft, and are in great position to add to one of the best NFL rosters…
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Oct 24, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch (12) looks on in the third quarter against the Houston Texans at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 27-9. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
The Denver Broncos are busy preparing for an early game on Sunday afternoon against the New Orleans Saints, but that doesn’t mean that scouting or the 2017 NFL Draft isn’t in full swing.
The Broncos clearly have one of the best rosters in the NFL, but it’s not without flaw. John Elway has done a phenomenal job of keeping his star-studded defense together — and deep — for the most part, but the offense is currently in a transition state, to be kind.
That being said, the Broncos have secured the services of two Pro Bowl caliber receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders for the foreseeable future, and they traded up to draft quarterback Paxton Lynch in the first round of the draft this past Spring.
With cost-effective options at quarterback, including a first round pick, the Broncos have ultimate flexibility coming up in a draft in which they control five picks out of the top 100.
That type of draft capital is made possible by our sponsors in the AFC South, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans, who paid a truckload of guaranteed money to get Brock Osweiler and Malik Jackson out of the Mile High City.
The Broncos are currently projected four compensatory picks in total (two in the 3rd round, one in the 5th, one in the 7th) thanks to all the departed free agents this offseason, and have already started exercising some of that flexibility (traded a 5th rounder to New England for TE A.J. Derby).
So, without any further delay, let’s take a look at what the first three rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft could look like in this very early projection as we assess the Broncos’ top needs and how to move forward…
Sep 26, 2015; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Indiana Hoosiers head coach Kevin Wilson talks with offensive lineman Dan Feeney (67) during the first quarter against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Offensive Guard, Indiana
Let me preface this selection by saying that I think the Broncos are likely to go after some help for the offensive line with some of their premiere free agency assets this upcoming Spring. They will have a decent amount of cap space, and I think this will be a great opportunity for them to make some wholesale changes up front that are overdue.
One position on the line that needs upgrading is offensive guard, which currently is occupied by former fourth round pick Max Garcia and former third round pick Michael Schofield.
Feeney is one of the most productive offensive linemen in the country as a redshirt senior, and will come into the NFL having played and started nearly 50 collegiate games.
Plus, with a nickname like ‘Mr. Feeney’, how can you pass this guy up?
The Broncos clearly have a need at either guard position, and Feeney has primarily played right guard in college. I think the 2015 All-American would be a big-time pickup for an offense that is desperately seeking upgrades on the line.
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Oct 17, 2015; Evanston, IL, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson (67) celebrates after a fumble recovery during the second half of the game at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Defensively, it’s hard to peg a ton of needs for the Broncos. One area you could point to directly is right up the middle, where the Broncos just haven’t been quite as strong this year as they were last year.
Sylvester Williams is coming up on a contract year, and with Vance Walker projected to return from injury, the Broncos’ top need on this side of the ball could be right down the pipe.
Enter Jaleel Johnson, a breakthrough defensive lineman for the Iowa Hawkeyes that has flashed the ability to dominate a game at times. He has quickness off the snap, makes plays in the backfield, can clog running lanes, and can get after the quarterback.
He has the ability to be a three-down player at the next level, and that will be essential for being successful in Wade Phillips’ defense.
I really like Johnson’s potential at the next level, and the combination of defensive line coach Bill Kollar and Wade Phillips could be just the right one to extract the very best out of him.
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Oct 29, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Cougars linebacker Steven Taylor (41) attempts to tackle Central Florida Knights quarterback McKenzie Milton (10) during the fourth quarter at TDECU Stadium. The Cougars won 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
At 6-1, 225 pounds, Taylor is a monstrously productive linebacker prospect who might be a key piece to rebuilding the void left behind by Danny Trevathan, now with the Chicago Bears.
Trevathan’s departure may have been arguably the most important one for the Broncos this offseason, as Denver has struggled at times to find anyone capable of covering backs and tight ends from the linebacker spot.
Taylor has the ability to play all over the field, and he’s fearless. He racked up 92 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, and 10 sacks as a junior and has already posted 64 stops, 11.5 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks as a senior.
This is a guy who’s been productive since day one for the Cougars, and who might just price himself out of the Broncos’ draft range here in the third round. This would be a steal, in my opinion.
Sep 3, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; USC Trojans offensive tackle Chad Wheeler (72) blocks Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) during the game at AT&T Stadium. Alabama defeats USC 52-6. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
There will be some significant off-field considerations with Wheeler for any team selecting him in 2017, but the talent is certainly there and the long arms, balance, and production are there for what the Broncos need in a potential left tackle.
Known for his quick punch, run blocking, and overall athleticism, Wheeler has a great combination of length and strength and would be a phenomenal prospect for the offense the Broncos would like to employ.
This would be somewhat of a risky pick on day two of the draft, but the Broncos have a desperate situation up front and need all the talent they can get.
**Projected Compensatory selection**
Picking Nathan Gerry will remain my favorite mock draft selection for the Broncos until he is actually picked by another NFL team. Gerry is an intriguing blend of size, athleticism, ball skills, speed, and bone crushing hits.
Since becoming a full-time starter at safety as a sophomore, Gerry has picked off 13 passes, and has the makings of the perfect addition to the No Fly Zone in case Darian Stewart doesn’t return.
Even if he does return, Gerry provides the Broncos with the perfect insurance in case one of Stewart or T.J. Ward isn’t around permanently. The Broncos have a nice young duo of safeties in Justin Simmons and Will Parks, but Gerry has the ability to come up and play linebacker if needed, and could be a very versatile threat for this defense to utilize.