The Denver Broncos will undoubtedly be in the market for starting caliber offensive linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft. How should they plan to attack it?
There’s no doubt that the Denver Broncos are going to be attacking the offensive line early in the 2020 NFL Draft, but exactly how they do that in this particular draft class matters.
The Broncos have plenty of needs all over their roster. They have been getting slotted one wide receiver after another in mock drafts, including on this website, and for good reason.
The Broncos need help at the wide receiver position, but they have arguably much bigger needs elsewhere on the roster. Notably, the Broncos likely need two new starters on the offensive line that aren’t on the team right now (or are pending unrestricted free agents) and they need at least one new starter both on the defensive line and at cornerback.
Depending on who you ask, center and right guard aren’t the only needs on the offensive line for the Broncos, either. Garett Bolles has averaged about one (awful) penalty per game since he’s been in the NFL. At least, that’s what it feels like. And Ja’Wuan James’ first season in Denver after signing a huge contract to be the team’s right tackle was lost with nagging knee injuries.
Some would argue the Broncos need a starting tackle just as bad as they need a center or guard.
I’d say that’s mostly fair.
What the Broncos decide to do in the 2020 NFL Draft at the tackle position will depend largely on what Mike Munchak thinks of Garett Bolles, who is going into his contract year with the team, but the Broncos are tied to James for now.
That doesn’t mean they can’t take out an ‘insurance’ policy in the NFL Draft, and I think they undoubtedly will.
I’ve been vocal on Twitter about this, but it’s worth saying over and over again.
Any fewer than two offensive linemen selected in the 2020 NFL Draft is a failure for the Broncos.
Why? This year’s class of offensive linemen is incredible. Probably the best I’ve seen since I’ve been covering the draft.
While the draft is deep on the offensive line, it’s a bit top heavy at the tackle position. Still deep, but top heavy, and I think there are probably 10 guys you could consider early starters in this class at tackle.
The Broncos could take any number of wide receivers in the first round depending on what happens in the 14 picks ahead of them, but they could also benefit from a run on quarterbacks if a couple of offensive linemen happen to fall into their laps.
But which ones, specifically?
I contend that the Broncos should be targeting offensive tackles who project well as guards in the NFL in round one, but not tackle-only players in round one.
Players who seemingly project well at the next level as guards as well as tackles would be players like Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas.
What’s the thought process here?
The thought process is simple. While it would not be overly popular to take a starting right guard in the first round of the NFL Draft, it would be wise to invest in a player who could potentially be an All-Pro for you at guard or tackle if the need should arise.
What if the Broncos pass on one of those aforementioned players, put their faith in Bolles and James, and one of them doesn’t work out? That’s not just going to look bad for John Elway, it could stunt Drew Lock’s growth and prevent the offense from being what it is capable of being.
Just about every big board you read will have those guys in the top 15, which means they are blue chip players in a pretty loaded class. To secure a blue chip player like that who could help your team at a variety of positions? That’s smart drafting.
In the second round, I think the Broncos’ strategy changes a bit.
In the second round, the Broncos should play the value card and take a tackle if he’s high on their board, but don’t reach for it as a position of need.
The second round is a spot where the Broncos should be actively looking to add a tackle if they can (depending on what happens in round one) because they may only have one year left of Garett Bolles depending on how things go.
If the Broncos take a wide receiver in the first round, they shouldn’t be scrambling to take the best tackle left when their second round pick is up. It’s all about how the board looks, because the second round may be the place where the Broncos get a player like LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry or Michigan’ Cesar Ruiz, interior linemen who could wind up being great starters at the right guard spot as well.
If a player like Wirfs, Wills, or Thomas is taken in the first round, I would still keep an open mind about tackle in the second round.
Yes, that’s right.
This draft is so deep at receiver, I think you could afford that kind of strategy if you’re the Broncos because it’s such a valuable position and such an area of need for this team.
One way or another, I think at least one of the Broncos’ top two picks will be an offensive lineman, and in my mind it has to be someone who starts in 2020. If not, it has to be an offensive tackle-only prospect who is so good, he has no business being on the board when they pick.
Once the Broncos have selected a (hopefully) starting player on the offensive line in their top two picks, I think it’s a no-brainer to use one of their remaining picks in the top four rounds on a guy they see starting potential in on the offensive line.
One of the most popular picks in mock drafts has been Kansas offensive tackle Hakeem Adeniji, who has some flexibility to play guard in the NFL, potentially. He’s a heck of a tackle, though.
Armed with 12 picks in this draft after compensatory picks are awarded, the Broncos have enough ammo to rebuild their depth in the offensive trenches, and do just about whatever else they want to do to add playmakers, take flyers, and add talent to a roster that is already looking pretty good in the young talent department.
This should be a fun draft, one where the Broncos can set themselves up very nicely for the future on the offensive line.