For the Denver Broncos, 2018 was a year to forget. They finished the season with a 6-10 record. They missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Coupled with their 5-11 2017 campaign, it was the first time they had back to back losing seasons since 1971-1972.
For owner John Elway, things had to change, and this off-season they have.
Gone is former head coach Vance Joseph. Last year’s big free agency acquisition, quarterback Case Keenum, has found himself shipped out to Washington. Stalwarts of the Denver Broncos Super Bowl 50 winning team, Brandon Marshall and Darian Stewart were surplus to requirements.
In comes Vic Fangio as head coach. The much lauded former Chicago Bears defensive co-ordinator will look to return the Broncos to the fearsome defensive units of old. At the same time, he will need to kick start an offence that was one of the more stale units in the league last season.
Replacing Case Keenum, at least in the short term, will be Joe Flacco. He’ll be having his right hand side protected by new tackle, Ja’wuan James. They return last year’s undrafted rookie sensation, Phillip Lindsay at running back.
With all the comings and goings, Denver still have a large number of holes to fill in the upcoming NFL Draft. With that in mind, let me introduce Broncos fans to my seven round plan to return the franchise to winning ways!
Round 1 – Pick 10: Drew Lock – QB – Missouri
I don’t think there’s a person alive who doesn’t think the Broncos select Drew Lock here. John Elway has enthused about the Mizzou product throughout the process. I actually think that there is value in addressing other needs with this pick and then draft someone like Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham later in the draft. However, that just isn’t going to happen. So, the Denver Broncos draft their quarterback of the future here. How distant future that is will depend on Joe Flacco. We’re not even six months removed from Flacco losing his starting job in Baltimore to a rookie quarterback let’s not forget.
When you use a high pick on a quarterback, it is rare to see him carry a clipboard for too long. Lock is everything that Elway looks for in a quarterback. He can stand tall in the pocket and has big throw accuracy. His completion and touchdown to interception ratio have improved with every year he has played in College Football.
Round 2 – Pick 41: Dexter Lawrence – DL – Clemson
Lawrence should not be available at this pick. As part of the greatest College Football defensive line of all time, he should be joining them in the conversation of first round material. However, Lawrence’s reputation took a hit at the end of the season when he returned a failed drug test. Although he has maintained his innocence, the result raises red flags for teams. His opportunity to put on a show at the combine was cut short with an injury during the 40 yard dash. I still believe that he would be a fantastic addition for the Broncos defensive line. Lawrence can be a game wrecker in both the passing and ground games. He has been consistently brilliant in his three playing years at Clemson. He also brings a winning mentality to a team that has been short of that in recent seasons.
Round 3 – Pick 71: Darnell Savage Jr – S – Maryland
With the release of Darian Stewart, the Broncos depth chart at safety is, well, not that deep. Darnell Savage Jr, for me, is the most underrated safety in this draft class. This is quite possibly due to his size being shorter than the NFL desired height for a safety. What he lacks in size, he certainly makes up for everywhere else. He is athletic, fast, and has a nose for the ball. He is particularly effective in coverage and against the running game. During his time in Maryland, he had several interceptions returned for touchdowns. Savage Jr has a high football IQ which will help him learn quickly from new head coach Vic Fangio. Broncos fans should be very excited with this pick.
Round 4 – Pick 125: Sean Bunting – CB – Central Michigan
With the pick of Sean Bunting, it is three straight picks on defence for Denver. Although many of the struggles for the Broncos last season were on offence, I can’t help but feel that Vic Fangio is going to place high value on defence as he looks to return to winning ways. Bunting gives the Broncos a playmaker in the secondary. He is a fast and flexible corner, who has the ideal frame for a corner in today’s NFL. He put up a 4.42 in the 40 yard dash at the combine. Like Darnell Savage Jr, he returned a number of interceptions for touchdowns in his college career. With Chris Harris Jr, Kareem Jackson and Sean Bunting, expect a return to the “No Fly Zone” that was a key part of the Broncos defence not so long ago.
Round 5 – Pick 148: Bobby Evans – OT – Oklahoma
The Broncos offensive line took a large part of the blame for the dismal performance of Case Keenum last season. Ja’Wuan James was signed at the beginning of free agency to shore up the right side. Here the Broncos bring in help at the left side. Evans was a part of the Oklahoma Sooners offensive line that won the “Joe Moore Award” for best offensive line in College Football. He has spent the last three years blocking for Heisman winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. One of Evans’ best attributes is blocking in the running game and as such, he could be used at both tackle and guard. Given Ronald Leary’s past injuries, that would be a major advantage for this unit.
Round 5 – Pick 156: Germaine Pratt – LB – North Carolina State
With the release of Brandon Marshall, the Broncos need depth at inside linebacker. Germaine Pratt gives them a tough tackling, run stopping option at the position. His coverage skills leave something to be desired, however with the safety and corner acquisitions in this draft that shouldn’t be too much of an issue. In his senior year at NC State, Pratt added a strong pass rush game to his repertoire which had been missing. The main question surrounding Pratt is his athleticism, which currently seems to be keeping him out of the conversation for a top 100 draft position.
Round 6 – Pick 182: Penny Hart – WR – Georgia State
Last year’s draft saw the Broncos select Courtland Sutton to be the big bodied, deep threat wide receiver threat. Here they select the perfect accompaniment to him in Georgia State’s Penny Hart. You can read all about what will make him a great pick for Denver right here:
Round 7 – Pick 237: Jordan Brailford – EDGE – Oklahoma State
Brailford missed the whole of 2016 with a leg injury and that seems to have had a knock on his draft stock. As has his pedestrian second half on his final campaign in College Football. Don’t be fooled by these things though, Brailford has the skills to succeed at the NFL level. He is a consistent player who can contribute in the run game and coverage, in addition to being an excellent pass rusher. He was one of the stand out performers at the East-West Shrine Game back in January.
With that, the Denver Broncos 2019 Mock Draft is complete. Broncos fans have their quarterback of the future, and the defensive pieces to succeed right now. Next week, I will break down the LA Chargers draft path to success. Don’t miss it! If you have any feedback from this Broncos mock draft, feel free to hit me up at @ojhodgkinson on Twitter.
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