The Broncos have the fifteenth pick after finishing 7-9. After selecting Drew Lock, who looks to be their quarterback for the next few years, the Broncos have stability at the most important position.
Denver has eleven picks in the draft: one each round plus two extra picks in the third and two more in the seventh. The extra picks in the third round are from Pittsburgh and San Francisco. Pittsburgh’s pick was from the trade that enabled the Steelers to pick Deon Bush and San Francisco’s was for Emmanuel Sanders.
I list the needs below, including major, for depth, and areas they are unlikely to look at. I may add categories for a particular situation.
Major Needs (No Particular Order):
Wide Receiver: Courtland Sutton broke out in his second year with 72 receptions for 1,112 yards. Once they traded Emmanuel Sanders, the rest of this group was not productive. The main receivers who played were Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton. Others on the roster are sixth-round pick and Englewood alum Juwann WInfree, Diontae Spencer, and Fred Brown. The Broncos need help at this position if they are going to challenge Kansas City in the AFC West. At least two receivers will be picked, in my opinion, and possibly one in the first round.
Offensive Line: This was an ineffective unit that improved with the free-agent signing of Graham Glasgow from Detroit, who can play guard or center. He will be in the interior with Dalton Risner, a second round pick last year, and possibly Elijah Wilkinson, who started 12 games. The tackles are Garrett Boles and Ja’Wuan James. Boles has been criticized for his play, but his 75.9 grade per Pro Football Focus was good enough for sixteenth best among tackles – his amount of penalties is a problem, though. James was a free agent signing who missed most of the year. The top reserves are Jake Rodgers at tackle and Austin Schlottmann at guard, while Patrick Morris did an admirable job filling in late last year. Ron Leary, who started, was released and is currently a free agent. A key addition to the Broncos is the hiring of one the game’s best offensive line coaches, Mike Munchak. This is an area of need and the Broncos can address it in any round of the draft.
Inside Linebacker: Alexander Johnson came on last year and more is expected this year. His partner is Todd Davis, who had a very good year. Josey Jewell will be in his third year and has started. Joseph Jones is on the roster, along with Josh Watson and Tre Crawford. Corey Nelson is an unsigned free agent. The Broncos will address this area in the mid-to-late rounds and Davis can be a free agent after the season.
Cornerback: Long-time corner Chris Harris Jr. left for the Chargers in free agency, leaving a hole. The Broncos have attempted to fill the hole by trading for AJ Bouye. The other corner could be Bryce Callahan, who missed the season. De’Vante Bausby was re-signed and in reserve are Isaac Yiadom, Duke Dawson, and Davontae Harris, with all seeing time. Cyrus Jones is unsigned. This will be on the team’s shopping list, possibly an early pick.
Safety: Justin Simmons has become one of the game’s better safeties and he had the franchise tag put on him this offseason. Kareem Jackson is also a good player next to him, but he just turned 32. Trey Marshall is the main backup. Backup help is needed and a choice may be possible at any point in the draft.
Quarterback: The Drew Lock era is underway as the second-round pick was inserted into the lineup late in the year, as the team won four of five. Jeff Driskel signed as a free agent from Detroit and Brett Rypien was a rookie free agent last year. The Broncos released Joe Flacco, who they hoped would be the answer at quarterback. If a quarterback is chosen, it will be in the last rounds.
Running Back: With the free-agent signing of Melvin Gordon, things could get crowded in the Bronco backfield. Phillip Lindsay rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his two years, but the Bronco brass thinks there is room for both players. Gordon did not have his best season, but a holdout that lasted into the season may have had something to do with that. Royce Freeman also had 496 yards rushing and just over 1,000 in his first two seasons; in addition, he had 43 receptions last year. Andrew Beck started six games as a fullback as a rookie free agent pickup from New England. Also on the roster is Khalfani Muhammad. This has the makings of a crowded backfield and it is unlikely to see them pick here unless there is a best-player-available scenario.
Tight End: Last year’s first-round pick, Noah Fant, caught 40 passes and Jeff Heuerman started 11 games as the blocking tight end. This makes for a good pair, but Heuerman’s contract expires after the season. Troy Fumagalli is a solid reserve and Nick Vannett signed as a free agent from Seattle. Jake Butt has battled injuries in his three years, while Austin Fort impressed as a rookie free agent before tearing his ACL in the preseason. This is a deep group and I am not expecting any picks here.
Defensive Line: The trade for Jurrell Casey is a big upgrade for the line. He has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last five years and is able to play outside or inside. End Shelby Harris was re-signed, had 6 sacks last year, and is very good at deflecting passes. Mike Purcell is very good against the run and the team’s play against the run greatly improved when he became the starter at midseason. Dre’Mont Jones, a third rounder from last year, played well when he played with 3.5 sacks and is a candidate for more playing time. DeMarcus Walker had 4 sacks in a reserve role, while Kyle Peko and Jonathan Harris are also on the roster. Derek Wolfe left in free agency for Baltimore and Adam Gostis is unsigned. The acquisition of Casey makes this a better unit and lessens the need in the draft, but somebody could be picked.
Outside Linebacker: Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are an imposing duo on the outside. Chubb hopes to bounce back from an ACL tear he suffered last year and Miller is coming off a season where he had 8 sacks, the first season he finished in the single digits since 2013, when he only played in nine games. Jeremiah Attaochu picked up 4 sacks while filling in for Chubb late in the year. Malik Reed, a fifth-round pick, also started eight games. Justin Hollins and Malik Carney are also in reserve.
*Information from various sources, including Pro-Football Reference, Sportac, and ESPN.