Broncos: Draft priorities could change after Ronald Darby signing
The Denver Broncos have been active in the opening day of the “legal tampering” period of NFL Free Agency, re-signing veteran defensive lineman Shelby Harris and bringing in Washington Football Team cornerback Ronald Darby on three-year deals.
Re-signing Harris was something that everyone in Broncos Country had been hoping for, if not banking on going into the 2021 offseason.
Signing a cornerback was also expected, but bringing in a player like Darby could have an impact on the team’s 2021 NFL Draft plans, at least early on.
For months, the Broncos have been projected to take one of the 2021 NFL Draft’s top cornerback prospects — most mock drafts have them taking Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley or Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II — but that could change with the addition of Ronald Darby to the defensive backfield.
Broncos projected 2021 starting defensive backfield
- CB1: Ronald Darby
- CB2: Michael Ojemudia
- Nickel: Bryce Callahan
- FS: Justin Simmons
- SS: Kareem Jackson
The addition of Darby, at least on paper, gives Vic Fangio a really good-looking starting secondary to open the 2021 season.
Now, injuries are part of the NFL gig, so you have to, on some level, plan for that. Do you use a first-round pick on insurance, though? Not typically. Your first-round pick — unless it’s a QB sitting behind an established star — has got to play.
The Broncos could determine that they want to upgrade over Ojemudia with that top draft choice and still take a cornerback in the first round, but it’s not out of the question to think that the signing of Ronald Darby might take them out of the running for first-round corners.
At the very least, it certainly diminishes the likelihood slightly.
The Broncos will continue to be active in the free agency market for cornerbacks. According to Benjamin Allbright, they could be planning on signing one more.
If the Broncos do sign another free agent cornerback, that should all but solidify them as out on first-round cornerbacks, which shifts the attention in an interesting direction.
Defensively, the team could still go after edge players, but this year’s edge class is not great at the top. There are still first-round guys out there, but the value in this draft is on offense, no question.
The Broncos may fall in love with a quarterback in the pre-draft process (they already attended Trey Lance’s pro day) or they could go with an offensive tackle to replace Ja’Wuan James, or perhaps trade back and take a running back.
Defensively, linebacker is still in play for the Broncos in the first round, but the strength of this class at linebacker is probably beyond the first round.
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It will be fascinating to see how the Broncos approach the draft after free agency, but it appears they are poised to potentially go a different direction than cornerback.