John Elway came back to the Denver Broncos as general manager in 2011 to pull the team out of mediocrity and he did that, thanks to Peyton Manning and Gary Kubiak. The team made it back to the Super Bowl twice under Elway’s tenure and won one. Manning retired, then Kubiak was forced into stepping down for health reasons. Now, the Broncos are in pretty much the same shape they were in when Elway first took over.
Second-year head coach Vance Joseph is on thin ice, but Elway knows he can’t get Denver back atop the league without a real quarterback. Two years ago he pulled the trigger on Paxton Lynch in the first round and it’s not worked out in the way he’d hoped. It’s time for the Broncos to look at QB again. Case Keenum got a two-year contract from Denver, which will give them time to develop a young guy or, as I suspect, hand over the reigns before the year’s up when the team is out of contention.
Here’s how their draft should go down.
Round 1, Pick 5: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
2017: 70.5 completion percentage, 4,627 yards, 43 touchdowns, six interceptions, 311 rushing yards, five rushing touchdowns (6-1, 220 pounds)
With Saquon Barkley and Bradley Chubb both off the board, the Broncos should have no trouble at all in drafting the quarterback of the future. Mayfield is my top-ranked QB prospect and has the John Elway-esque potential that the other signal-callers in this draft class lack.
Round 2, Pick 40: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE/OLB, Oklahoma
2017: 75 tackles, 17 for a loss, eight sacks, two passes defended, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries (6-1, 240 pounds)
I’ve seen Okoronkwo listed anywhere from a first rounder to a third rounder. I feel like his talent and production should take him off the board in the second and there’ll be no better fit for him than the Broncos. He should be able to rotate in immediately at outside linebacker to spell Von Miller and Shane Ray.
Round 3, Pick 71: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
2017: 49 tackles, 0.5 for a loss, four interceptions, one returned for a touchdowns, 11 passes defended, one forced fumble (5-11, 185 pounds)
The Broncos could trade Aqib Talib because they had two starters left on the roster, Bradley Roby and Chris Harris Jr. Hughes can slide right into the nickle corner position and start as a rookie if forced into action.
Round 3, Pick 99: Cedrick Wilson, WR, Boise State
2017: 83 catches, 1,511 yards, seven touchdowns (6-3, 188 pounds)
Denver has its starting outside receivers set in Damaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. What they need now is to develop a solid No. 3. Wilson, with his size, should prove to be a mismatch in the slot and has the speed to stretch the field.
Round 4, Pick 106: Will Clapp, Center, LSU
6-5, 314 pounds
The Broncos spent draft capital and free agent dollars to address their offensive line last season, but aren’t finished by a long shot. Clapp has starter potential at center and can play all three interior spots as a utility guy.
Round 4, Pick 113: Jaylen Samuels, TE, N.C. State
2017: 75 catches, 593 yards, four touchdowns, 407 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns (5-11, 228 pounds)
Samuels is listed as a tight end, but a creative offensive mind should be looking to put him in the backfield, either as a runner or as a fullback/h-back. He can make plays in the run and passing game and, at worst, should be a key third down and red zone contributor.
Round 5, Pick 149: Andrew Brown, DT, Virginia
2017: 46 tackles, 10.5 for a loss, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble (6-4, 285 pounds)
Brown is a guy that never really reached his potential as a collegiate player. That probably has a lot to do with picking Virginia. He’s a project, but one that could pay off in less than a year with professional level coaching. Brown was a Gatorade All-American coming out of high school and a Top 10 recruit. Something was missing with the Cavaliers. This should have been a kid drafted in the first round.
Round 5, Pick 160: Dorance Armstrong, Jr., DE, Kansas
2017: 63 tackles, 9.5 for a loss, two sacks, four passes defended, three forced fumble, one fumble recovery (6-4, 246 pounds)
With their final pick, the Broncos add another edge rusher here. Armstrong, like Oronkwo, will likely play stand-up linebacker for Denver, giving them a constant threat at disrupting the opponent’s backfield.
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