The Denver Broncos currently hold the number 20 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Yesterday we talked about how no matter what the outsiders and insiders say about the Broncos need for a left tackle, to expect the Broncos to take the best player available when it is their time to select in the first round.
Now, who might that player be? That is the question no one can quite figure out.
Here are five players that the Broncos might just be able to take if they stay in the number 20 spot:
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
This might be a stretch given his current ability and potential to be an NFL star might land him in a top 10 spot — but the failed drug test for a diluted sample at the combine could have a number of teams worried about trusting his character. If he falls, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see John Elway and company take a shot at him. This philosophy and luck worked out in the past on players like Shane Ray and Bradley Roby who fell in the first round right into Denver’s lap, so there’s reason to believe that the Broncos have their eye on the star linebacker from Alabama.
Where does he fit? Well, the Broncos have had some tackling machines at the inside linebacker position over the years, and guys like Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevethan were key pieces to this dominating defense. Denver’s D definitely missed Trevethan last season, especially since Brandon Marshall had a down year. Not a lot of folks are talking about the Broncos need at the position, but it is there. The group could use some better players inside the front-seven to help out the great pass rushers they feature. Reuben Foster has star written all over him, and his character questions likely aren’t a concern to the Broncos brass.
Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
If no body unexpectedly falls into the Broncos lap, and they don’t look to trade up, it remains a likelihood that they think long and hard about taking a tackle — despite the talk about them not settling for one in the article yesterday. The issue is, the value for these guys just isn’t there when you’re talking about a 20th overall pick. This is why, if Denver decided to move back and stock pile some more picks, they could take Ramczyk or another one of the tackles with a later first round, or possibly early second round pick.
Ramczyk is widely considered the best offensive tackle in the draft, and most NFL ready — however, let’s just remind ourselves that we are not talking about an Orlando Pace or even Ryan Clady here. He still doesn’t really look like an All-Pro type out of the gate; and that is why the value of him at No. 20 just doesn’t seem appealing.
Still, he might be better than truly what the Broncos have right now at left tackle, even if John Elway was trying to mask that by praising Ty Sambrailo and Donald Stephenson among others. Left tackle is a need, but it’s not the only need on the Denver Broncos roster.
David Njoku, TE, Miami
The Broncos three leading receivers in 2016 were Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas and…… Devontae Booker. That third option is not necessarily ideal for a team with a young quarterback group. Denver needs more pass catchers in the offense, and this guy looks like he’s ready to step in and contribute in the NFL right away. Njoku would instantly become the Broncos No. 1 pass catching tight end, and his presence alone would not only give Trevor Siemian [or Paxton] an extra option to read, but it would free up Sanders and Thomas for more big plays down the field.
Virgil Green looks like he would be a physically gifted, dominating tight end in the NFL, but the truth is he is really only great at blocking. The rest of his game just isn’t there. Denver took tight end Jeff Heuerman in the third round in 2015 out of Ohio State, but he has been hampered by injuries since then and hasn’t been able to get on the field to contribute.
OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
I really don’t think it’s a secret that John Elway has taken a very hard look at the tight end position in hopes of possibly finding that guy with Shannon Sharpe potential to help his young quarterback(s). You can flip a coin with all of the talk out there on which of these guys is better — literally half of the mocks out there have Howard going first, and the other half have Njoku going first.
OJ Howard seems to have a more projectable future in the NFL and is probably more NFL ready than Njoku. He is considered one of the safest picks in the draft, and because of that has been projected as high as the sixth overall pick. There are some questions on what teams actually need a tight end, and that is why one of both of these guys could fall down to around the No. 20 spot.
Think of the great receiving threats that have come out of Alabama lately in Julio Jones and Amari Cooper. That is the type of potential you are looking at here in the tight end position. NFL scouts have already compared Howard to Greg Olsen at his current ability — imagine this guy after a few years of getting used to the physicality of the NFL!
Howard would be a steal for the Broncos, even if it means moving up to get him.
Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
Over the past week, no one has risen on “experts” draft boards and mock drafts more than Temple linebacker Haason Reddick. He is probably the most versatile linebacker in the draft, and is a guy that looks like he’s instantly ready to step in and make an impact on any defense he goes to.
Linebacker is a very needy position around the league, so it will be interesting to see where Reddick falls — he could be a top 10 pick, but at the same time, he could fall if certain teams go in different directions.
Like I said above, the Broncos would be wise to think about a tackling machine like Reuben Foster, but if he’s not available, and Haason Reddick is… they could give him a look. The guy can play inside and dominate on the second level holding teams to short runs, or he can step outside and rush the passer or make tackles for losses on run blitzes.
Reddick is the guy I have the Broncos pegged to pick in my own 303 Football Mock Draft, and I seriously think there is a strong possibility here.
Those are five players that I believe might be available for the Broncos if they stay at No. 20. However, the rumors have it out there today that the Broncos might be looking to trade up — and if that is the case, then Colorado’s own Christian McCaffrey comes into play. I personally believe that McCaffrey will be a top 10 pick, and that the Carolina Panthers are looking hard at him with the No. 8 pick. Denver will likely have to trade into the top seven to be able to get the Stanford standout. But the good thing is, they have 10 picks overall in the draft, so trading is a real possibility.