Denver Broncos NFL Draft Best Case Scenario Targets: Broncos Look To Add On Defense & Offensive Line

The Denver Broncos don’t have a first-round pick this year as they traded it to the Seahawks as part of their Russell Wilson acquisition, but they have made a habit of finding value in the middle rounds in recent drafts and could do so again this year. While this offseason saw the Broncos become one of the most-improved teams in the NFL, they still have a few significant needs, and this article will look for some top options to fill those holes in this draft.

Broncos Offseason Round-Up

The trade acquisition of Russell Wilson is the most significant offseason move the Broncos have made since signing Peyton Manning. After years of quarterback purgatory, Denver now has a passer who’s a borderline top-five player at the position when healthy. For the first time in a long time, the quarterback doesn’t profile as a need in the draft.

Denver has also made a few critical free-agent signings so far. Randy Gregory was brought in as a high-upside pass-rusher to play opposite Bradley Chubb. D.J. Jones will help shore up the interior of the defensive line. K’Waun Williams will be the team’s starting nickel corner. Billy Turner is a high-floor right tackle with experience in new head coach Nathaniel Hackett’s system.

The re-signing of Kareem Jackson was also important as he’s the team’s starting strong safety and provides stability next to Justin Simmons. Josey Jewell has become one of the leaders of the defense, so his re-signing was vital as well, especially with Alexander Johnson and Kenny Young also becoming free agents.

Biggest Remaining Team Needs

Linebacker: The Broncos were killed by injuries at the linebacker position last year, and they didn’t have the depth to overcome it. The resigning of Jewell was important, and Alex Singleton was signed as a presumed starter. Still, neither player is a top-ten player at the position. The Broncos could stand to add more talent to their linebacker corps, especially with Baron Browning transitioning to the edge position.

Cornerback: The top three starters on the Broncos’ depth chart are very solid. Patrick Surtain II should be in for a big second season, Ronald Darby should be able to bounce back after a down year, and Williams is a solid option in the slot. However, this group still lacks depth, and Darby’s overall volatility could see the team continue to look for better options as a starting boundary corner.

Offensive Tackle: Denver had a solid offensive line last year, and Billy Turner should provide an upgrade over last year’s starting right tackle Bobby Massie. However, the Broncos haven’t drafted a single offensive tackle since Garett Bolles in 2017, and Turner is only on a one-year deal. Denver should be looking to add a developmental offensive tackle with upside with one of its early draft selections.

Tight End: After including Noah Fant in the Russell Wilson trade, the Broncos don’t have a lot of proven talent at the position, especially with Albert Okwuegbunam missing 15 games over the last two seasons. This draft class doesn’t feature a Kyle Pitts talent, but there is a lot of depth at tight end. Russell Wilson hasn’t always utilized tight ends in the passing game, but the Broncos should look to address the position as soon as Day 2.

Honorable Mentions: Defensive Line, Interior Offensive Line, Safety

George Paton Draft History

George Paton became the Broncos’ general manager in 2021, and his first draft with the team was nothing short of phenomenal. Patrick Surtain II looks like a superstar corner in the making. Javonte Williams is poised for a massive sophomore season. Quinn Meinerz provides elite depth on the interior, while Baron Browning and Caden Sterns figure to be key rotational pieces on defense this year. Even Jonathon Cooper flashed some upside as a seventh-round pick.

Paton was also part of some excellent draft selections in Minnesota, including helping the team bring in 22 Pro Bowl players via the draft or free agency. With a history of finding value in the later rounds, we can expect Paton to take advantage of the draft this year despite not having a first-round pick to work with. That’s especially true of such a deep draft class overall.

One common theme of Paton’s 2021 draft class was the prevalence of players who tested as great athletes. Four players in Patrick Surtain, Quinn Meinerz, Baron Browning, and Caden Sterns tested with a Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.5 or better. Those four players happened to be the most productive players in the draft class, other than Javonte Williams who had a RAS of 8.79.

Best Case Scenario Second-Round Targets

DT Logan Hall, Houston: It’s not very common to see a prospect weigh in at 6’6”, 283 lbs, but Hall is a rare prospect across the board. He’s an elite athlete who tested with a 9.40 RAS and can contribute across the defensive line. His pass-rush technique is well-refined and he had 16 hurries and seven sacks on just 296 pass-rush snaps last year per PFF. With an elite career 16.5% pass-rush win rate that isn’t far off from some of the top edge prospects in this class, Hall can get after the quarterback from several alignments.

EDGE Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma: One of the Broncos’ pre-draft meetings was with Nik Bonitto, and it’s easy to see why with his class-leading 27.3% career pass-rush win rate at Oklahoma per PFF. Bonitto is another elite athlete with a 9.37 RAS, but he’s pretty undersized at 6’3”, 248 lbs – some teams will view him as more of an off-ball linebacker. Denver taking a pre-draft meeting with him shows they see a significant role for him in their defense, and he has the athleticism and refined pass-rush skillset to win in the NFL.

EDGE Drake Jackson, USC: If George Paton wants an edge player with a RAS of 9.0 or better, he won’t be hard-pressed to find one in this draft class – all but one of my top eleven prospects at the position meet that threshold. Drake Jackson is in that group, and he improved every year at USC to become a highly successful pass-rusher with 17 hurries and six sacks on just 179 pass-rush snaps last season per PFF. If the Broncos aren’t fully committed to resigning Bradley Chubb due to his inability to stay healthy, Jackson could be a high-upside replacement.

IOL Dylan Parham, Memphis: The Broncos have met with a handful of interior offensive linemen in their pre-draft process, and Dylan Parham is one of them. Parham excelled at right tackle and right guard at Memphis, but his best fit might be as a center in the NFL. He’s undersized at 6’2”, 311 lbs, but his athleticism makes him a great fit for Denver’s zone-blocking scheme. That positional versatility also helps him project as an immediate contributor with future high-level starting upside.

LB Quay Walker, Georgia: Walker has been one of the biggest pre-draft risers – he had an average draft position in PFF’s mock draft simulator of around 140 in January and is now in the 40s. Walker was one of the leaders of the championship Georgia defense and he’s one of the best tacklers in this class with only seven career missed tackles on 138 attempts per PFF. With a remarkable 4.52-second 40-yard dash ranking in the 91st percentile per MockDraftable and an elite sub-6.9 second 3-cone, Walker is an excellent athlete worthy of a second-round selection.

Best Case Scenario Third-Round Targets

IOL Cole Strange, Chattanooga: One of the other interior offensive linemen who the Broncos have met with is Cole Strange. He tested as the most athletic offensive lineman in this draft class with a 9.95 RAS, and that put him in excellent company with Evan Mathis and Ali Marpet who both met that threshold. I particularly love the Marpet comparison as a small-school prospect who carved out a successful NFL career and was a starter on the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl-winning team.

EDGE Josh Paschal, Kentucky: At 6’3”, 278 lbs, Josh Paschal has an unconventional build. Still, he is a force with the bull-rush who was also a dominant run-stuffer with a 12.4% run-stop rate, the best among Power Five programs per PFF. He also had a RAS of 9.70. Paschal could be a contributor for the Broncos across their defensive front, although it will be interesting to see how the Broncos evaluate his lack of length. Perhaps he’s more of a five-technique player in the long run rather than a true outside rusher.

DT Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma: This year’s Senior Bowl MVP, Perion Winfrey was very impressive when he had the opportunity to play inside more as a three-technique instead of as a nose tackle. He doesn’t really have the power as an anchor to hold up against the run consistently, but he offers a ton of explosiveness as a pass-rushing three-tech. He would have a home in the Broncos’ scheme, but it all depends on how they value their current options along the defensive line.

S Cam Taylor-Britt, Nebraska: In Mel Kiper and Todd McShay’s recent three-round mock draft for ESPN, Taylor-Britt went off the board to the Broncos in the second round. However, he could easily still be on the board when they are up again 11 picks later or even later in the third round. Taylor-Britt offers a ton of physicality and range with his 4.38-second 40-yard dash, and some scouts see him as more of a safety at the next level. Regardless, he would be an ideal high-upside depth piece in the Denver secondary.

LB Troy Andersen, Wyoming: One of my favorite players overall in this draft class, Troy Andersen played quarterback, running back, and linebacker at Wyoming. He tested as a perfect 10 out of 10 on the RAS scale with elite grades in their explosiveness, speed, and agility categories. He has an ideal build for a linebacker at 6’3”, 243 lbs, and he had an absurd 67 run stops in his one full season at linebacker per PFF. Andersen still being on the board in the third round might be a pipe dream, but he would be an ideal selection for the Broncos given their lack of depth at the linebacker position.

I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. With my educational background in the sports business and a strong knowledge of the inner workings of professional and collegiate sports, I hope to tell enthralling stories about the world of sports as it unfolds around me.

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