Denver Broncos Draft Grade + Analysis: 2020 NFL Draft Review

The Broncos went into this draft with a clear plan in mind – support Drew Lock with plenty of new offensive weapons. Their free agency period was focused on building out Vic Fangio’s defense with additions in Jurrell Casey and A.J. Bouye who will join Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Justin Simmons, and Kareem Jackson in a suddenly stacked defense. Melvin Gordon was signed in the offseason to provide more of a physical rushing presence, but with holes in the receiving corps and offensive line, the Broncos had work to do in supporting their hopeful franchise QB Lock.

Round #1, pick #15 – Jerry Jeudy (WR, Alabama) A

Rumors were flying all week about the Broncos’ desire to trade up a few picks to make sure they secured the talents of Jerry Jeudy, who I had rated as the top receiver prospect in a loaded class. Courtland Sutton is trending toward becoming a top-end receiver in the NFL, but he could use some help in taking defensive pressure off him in the passing game – Jeudy should provide that and so much more. Jeudy’s a transcendent route-running technician and his track-star like acceleration makes him a dominant yards-after-the-catch threat. His footwork is already excellent and he might be the most fluid player in this class with the ball in his hands. He has the potential to go for 1,000+ yards in his rookie season and immediately become one of the best players at his position in the league. Jeudy has this dead-leg drag move that fools the defender every single time. His juke moves and fancy footwork to free himself for massive YAC totals remind me of OBJ. His technically proficient route-running reminds me of Antonio Brown. Am I overselling Jeudy as an overzealous Broncos fan? Absolutely, but he’s a transcendent talent who should immediately transform the Broncos’ offense. This was masterful by John Elway too, as the team sat back and waited for the guy they wanted all along to be available at 15.

Round #2, pick #46 – KJ Hamler (WR, Penn State) B+

Why add just one speedy receiver to assist Drew Lock’s development when you can add two? This is not the direction I expected the Broncos to go with this pick, but I can’t say I’m disappointed in the slightest. Hamler is the definition of a field stretcher – despite not running the 40-yard dash at the combine, he flies down the field in his film and said he ran a 4.27 previously. John Elway claimed that Hamler hit a 3.93 40-yard time, with a full head of steam of course, on this 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against my Michigan Wolverines. The former Penn State receiver isn’t going to be losing many foot races, and to go with his straight-line speed he showcases impressive explosiveness to get out of breaks. He’s certainly not the most imposing physical presence at just 5’9”, 178 lbs, but the NFL is transitioning more toward the smaller, shiftier, speedier receivers. Hamler’s catch radius is understandably not huge, although he does a good job of tracking the ball over his shoulders downfield and is a threat to gain separation and make plays on deep routes. He has the versatility to work from out of the slot or on the perimeter, which will allow Jerry Jeudy to run from either spot as well. Denver is suddenly putting together one of the best receiving corps in the NFL.

Round #3, pick #77 – Michael Ojemudia (CB, Iowa) B-

Even after adding A.J. Bouye through a trade earlier this offseason, the Broncos needed another cornerback to add depth to their secondary. With how often teams are running 10 or 11 personnel (three or four receivers), it’s really important to have three or four starting-caliber cornerbacks. After Bouye and Bryce Callahan, who’s better working out of the slot, there wasn’t quite enough talent between Isaac Yiadom, Duke Dawson, and De’Vante Bausby. Ojemudia’s lack of instincts, anticipation, and ball-tracking ability would make him a poor fit for a zone-heavy scheme. Fangio likes to run a lot of press-man coverage, though, and Ojemudia’s combination of size (6’5″, 200 lbs) and speed (4.45 40-yard dash) makes him a high-upside man-to-man corner moving forward. There aren’t too many cornerbacks built like Ojemudia and it’s easy to see why Fangio and the organization fell in love with his potential. I’m not sure if he’s polished enough to start on Day 1, and I honestly thought he would be more of a Day 3 pick, but he should be a special-teams contributor early and he has the potential to develop into a strong outside corner.

Round #3, pick #83 – Lloyd Cushenbery III (C, LSU) A

This is the guy I wanted with the Broncos’ first third-round pick. I was touting him as having first-round potential a couple of weeks ago, and I was shocked that he didn’t come off the board in the second round. Denver has lacked a high-level starting center since Matt Paradis left in free agency a couple of seasons ago, something that can be very important for a young quarterback’s development. With an 84-inch wingspan, Cushenberry had the longest reach of any interior lineman at the combine. He combines that special length with massive hands and a strong core and lower body to power through interior defensive lineman. Cushenberry seems like an immovable force against pass-rushers and did an awesome job of protecting the Heisman winning quarterback Joe Burrow last season. He doesn’t quite have the lateral quickness or agility to be an elite run-blocker, but he should be a force in the middle of the Broncos’ offensive line and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him starting at center from Week 1 this season. He’s also a vocal leader and was one of the preeminent veterans for the LSU team that just won the championship, helping out the young guys around him.

Round #3, pick #95 – McTelvin Agim (DT, Arkansas) B-

The Broncos needed some depth in their defensive line group, and Agim has the ability to line up as a defensive tackle or end in odd or even fronts. The Broncos resigned Shelby Harris to a one-year contract after the free agency market wasn’t quite what he wanted, so while Agim will be a valuable depth piece this year, he could be starting as early as next season. He has a lot of work to do with refining his technique, mechanics, and strength, but the Broncos are the right team to work with him with Bill Kollar (defensive line coach) and Vic Fangio. The Arkansas product ran a 4.98 40-yard dash and is an explosive pass-rusher off the defensive line. He should only benefit from playing next to Von Miller and Bradley Chubb on the outside. I would have liked the addition of Lucas Niang here as a developmental tackle, but Agim has a lot of long-term potential as well.

Round #4, pick #118 – Albert Okwuegbunam (TE, Missouri) B

How many people in the world can run a 4.49 40-yard dash at 258 pounds? That’s exactly what Albert O did at the combine, and his upside is enormous. Okwuegbunam was Drew Lock’s favorite target while at Missouri, and the pair’s college chemistry should only be an added benefit to what becomes an upside tight end. The Broncos signed Nick Vannett in the offseason and return Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, and Jake Butt at tight end, so it’s unclear how much playing time Okwuegbunam will see right away. He’s a super raw route-runner and his ball skills could use some polish, but the Broncos are a great landing spot for him to hone his skills. He scored a touchdown 23.4% of his collegiate passes and should be an excellent red-zone target in the near future.

Round #5, pick #178 – Justin Strnad (LB, Wake Forest) B+

Strnad is coming off biceps surgery in October, but the Broncos were comfortable enough with his medicals to take him here. Last season at Wake he led the team in interceptions and special-teams tackles. Strnad should be an immediate contributor on special teams with the upside to be a solid contributor at linebacker as well. He doesn’t quite have the size (6’3″, 238 lbs) to be a bruiser in the middle of the field, but he runs like a safety and has high-level play speed on film despite only an average 40-yard dash (4.74 seconds). He’s not going to be a heavy hitter at the next level, but he has awesome range and athleticism which could allow him sideline-to-sideline ability in the NFL. Most teams had Strnad rated as one of the best special teams players in this class, which tells you a lot about the impact he could have right away.

Round #6, pick #181 – Netane Muti (OG, Fresno State) A-

Muti was one of my absolute favorite Day 3 players in this class. He has some of the most fun film to watch of any player – yes, as a guard. Muti is just an absolute mauler, running through defensive linemen and linebackers alike. Muti fell in the draft due to a history of Achilles and foot injuries, but he has massive upside as a Day 3 pick. He puts fear into the minds of opposing linemen with his pure power and awesome handwork. Muti needs to improve his footwork and would ideally have better lateral quickness to be an every-down offensive lineman, but his powerful run-blocking should at the very least make him a high-level extra offensive lineman in red-zone and short-yardage scenarios.

Round #7, pick #252 – Tyrie Cleveland (WR, Florida) C+

The Broncos had a clear desire to add speed to their receiver group in this draft, and Cleveland offers that with his 4.46 40-yard dash. He’s extremely raw as a prospect as he was a backup for most of his time at Florida, and only finished with 25 receptions and one touchdown this past season as a starter. Cleveland is another player who can contribute on special teams, an area Denver clearly needed help with. He has decent hand skills and his athleticism will make him a solid slot contributor, but he lacks the necessary burst and physicality to create separation from defenders.

Round #7, pick #254 – Derrek Tuszka (OLB, North Dakota State) B

Out of North Dakota State, the Broncos grab another developmental edge rusher. Tuszka had incredible production in the FCS with 31 tackles for a loss and 21 sacks in his last two seasons combined. ND State won 3 consecutive national championships – Tuszka was a huge part of that success. His athletic profile isn’t particularly elite as he lacks high-end length, explosiveness, and speed. I’m not sure he has the athletic makeup to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 and he’s likely a better fit for a base 4-3 scheme, but his hand technique and footwork, as well as high motor, should make him an intriguing developmental guy.

Broncos Team Draft Grade: B+/A-

Bottom Line: The Broncos’ main plan was clearly to add speed to their offense, and they grabbed four different playmakers in Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Albert O, and Tyrie Cleveland. Denver did an awesome job of not panicking and letting the draft board come to them, leaving them with plenty of picks to grab high-upside developmental guys later on. Cushenberry is likely a Week 1 starter at center, and coming away with a couple of clear starters and plenty of upside makes this a masterful draft for John Elway and co.

  
What's up, I'm Jacob. I grew up watching Peyton Manning play and stuck with the Broncos after he retired. I'm also probably the only Clippers fan you'll ever meet. I'm from Southern California but I'm a junior at the University of Michigan studying sport management. Beyond my passion for sports I play guitar, grill a mean rib eye, and enjoy gambling on pretty much everything.

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