I wanted to take a bit of a different approach with this mock draft since so many mocks right now for the Broncos especially have them taking some form of a linebacker or cornerback in the first round. If not, then many have them taking a cornerback.
But John Elway’s pre-draft comments provided us some tea leaves in which we could dive into a bit. He talked about how T.J. Ward could provide an in-the-box presence on third downs for the Broncos’ defense, which would leave room on the back end. With Rahim Moore recovering from an injury, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what the Broncos might do if given an opportunity at the bottom of round one to add to the safety position and get a guy who can also play the nickel spot if needed.
1. First Round, 31st overall: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
At 5’11″ 193 pounds, Ward is almost built more like a solid cornerback than what you picture the ideal safety, but that hasn’t prevented him from being a physical, instinctive playmaker throughout his career.
Some have compared his game and what he can do to that of Kenny Vaccaro, a first round pick of the Saints a year ago.
Ward isn’t as big as Vaccaro, but he’s faster and there is a belief out there that not only can Ward be a ball-hawking safety — which the Broncos could use — but he can also play the nickel DB role and give you that versatility on passing downs. This would be a really intriguing pickup by the Broncos.
2. Second Round, 63rd overall: Phillip Gaines, CB, Rice
A near-6’1″, 193 pound cornerback prospect, this is the kind of player with length the Broncos would like to develop at the CB position. Gaines got his hand on a lot of footballs in his time at Rice, picking off four passes and breaking up nine in 2013 alone.
Long arms, great speed (4.31), and the type of experience that John Elway loves in prospects (was a four-year starter). This is the kind of player the Broncos would love to snag.
3. Third Round, 95th overall: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
A 6’6″ 265 pound in-line tight end with speed and the ability to create a mis-match in the passing game. Fiedorowicz was a late addition to the Broncos’ pre-draft visit list, but with all the two-tight end sets they like to run and the way they want to get back to running the football, CJF is really a perfect prospect to think about adding here.
This is one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft, and a guy with soft hands who can really be a matchup problem.
4. Fourth Round, 131st overall: Christian Kirksey, LB, Iowa
Back to back Hawkeyes in this mock, the Broncos get a speedy linebacker with more size but in the mold of a Wesley Woodyard type of player. Kirksey was an absolute stud the last three years at Iowa, proving his versatility and ability to make play after play.
Whether in the passing game or against the run, Kirksey was always around the ball and has some of the best coverage skills of any linebacker in the draft.
5. Fifth Round, 171st overall: Isaiah Crowell, RB, Alabama State
Grinder at the RB position with some character concerns but the reward outweighs the risk at this point in the draft. Former Georgia freshman phenom has a chance to redeem his football career with a chance to play in the best offense in football.
6. Sixth Round, 207th overall: Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley State
Big 6’3″ target with speed, will have to adjust to playing against bigger, faster, stronger corners in the NFL than he played at Saginaw Valley State. Solid developmental guy.
7. Seventh Round, 246th overall: Ryan Grant, WR, Tulane
Really sound fundamental player who was on the Broncos’ pre-draft visitation list. This is a guy who doesn’t have elite straight line speed, but is quick and a solid route runner. Had a great week at the Senior Bowl and stood out among some of the top players at this position.