In our continued look at the draft results of the rest of the AFC West, we look at the Denver Broncos and how they addressed their most pressing needs for 2018.
Denver Broncos general manager John Elway was known during his playing career for big comebacks. Entering the 2018 NFL Draft, Elway was playing with a lead this time in the form of the fifth overall pick in the first round of the loaded draft.
Weeks before the draft, Elway had said publicly he was willing to entertain offers for the pick. On draft day, Elway and Denver had a deal in place to trade down with the Buffalo Bills, who were in desperate need of a quarterback. For Denver, it was a done deal albeit for one exception: if North Carolina State linebacker Bradley Chubb miraculously fell to them, the deal with the Bills was off.
Unexpectedly, to the delight of Elway, that’s exactly what happened. The Broncos grabbed the highly touted defensive end with that pick and continued to add weapons to their roster throughout the remainder of the draft.
In our pre-draft series exploring their strengths and needs, we identified what Elway’s goals were to improve the struggling Broncos team. Not only did they address some of them, but Denver had a good draft, where almost all of its needs were met with amateurs from the 2018 draft class. Let’s take a more in-depth look at what they were able to do.
Broncos Get Skill Position Rich
Chubb was the first of many skill positions the Broncos added, but this pick was the big splash for Denver. Chubb was the top-rated edge-rushing prospect in the draft. Shane Ray, the Broncos 2015 first-round draft pick, has not been the heir apparent to DeMarcus Ware they hoped he would be. The addition of Chubb helped remove some pressure off All-Pro edge rusher Von Miller by offering quarterback pressure on the opposite side of the Broncos defensive line. Chubb terrorized ACC quarterbacks over the last two seasons, accounting for 20 sacks. at 6-foot-4, 269 pounds, he is built like a 4-3 defensive end. The Broncos run a 3-4 defensive scheme and will try and convert him into an outside linebacker. Because of this, Ray is still expected to be the starting outside linebacker while Chubb learns the position.
Next up, the Broncos selected wide receiver Courtland Sutton from Southern Methodist. Sutton is one of those big-bodied receivers at 6-foot-3 220 pounds. He isn’t blessed with blazing speed, but can muscle up and win contested catches. He is a terrific route runner with solid hands and a needed target for the Bronco’s new quarterback Case Keenum. Denver then added Oregon running back Royce Freeman. Freeman is a huge old-school power runner. With a 6-foot, 240-pound frame, he is built like a locomotive. He blends power and speed and was Oregon’s all time leading rusher.
More for the Defense
The Broncos then focused again on the defensive side of the ball. In need of a cornerback. they selected Boston College’s Isaac Yiadom, and then addressed depth at linebacker grabbing Josey Jewell out of Iowa. With Aqib Talib jetting to the Los Angeles Rams, cornerback was a serious need. The Broncos are hoping Yiadom will be the answer, replacing Talib at the nickle corner position. Jewell brings a serious inside linebacker mentality that the Broncos have not had since Danny Trevathan galloped off to Chicago in 2016. Jewell has all the tools to play inside linebacker and can thump the run, cover backs and tight ends, and he can blitz the quarterback. He was an All-American last season with the Hawkeyes and Denver needs serious help stopping the run. They have been bottom-third in the league against the run for the past two years.
Fleshing out the rest of the picks.
The Broncos added slot receiver DeaSean Hamilton out of Penn State next, then followed that up with tight end Troy Fumagalli from Wisconsin. Both have solid hands, with Hamilton being an agile slot guy, and Fumagalli adding solid blocking skills – both of which were glaring needs for Denver. Arizona State guard Sam Jones is no Flash Gordon, but he is athletic for boasting a 6-foot-5, 305-pound frame. He was a solid player in the Pac-12 but will take some time to develop into a capable pro.
The Broncos again addressed needs at linebacker drafting Keishawn Bierria from Washington. They believe Bierria contribute immediately on special teams. The last pick for Elway and company was Arkansas running back David Williams. Williams is a shifty speed back, and even though he was their last pick, actually stands a decent chance making a solid contribution for the team on third down and special teams.
Building Their Way Back
Denver identified the list of needs heading into the 2018 NFL Draft and did a fine job of filling needs at key positions all throughout the draft. In fact, it would not be surprising if most of their 2018 picks make the 53-man roster. That really will be a mixed bag for Denver.
It’s good the team filled needs, but bad that just three years removed from winning a Super Bow, the team has this many holes. Additionally, they were not able to address their huge need at offensive line. The Broncos operated a turnstile on the O-line last season and, although they added tackle Jared Veldheer, still have a a massive question mark in front of Keenum.
The Broncos will not be a serious contender for the AFC West crown, nor a playoff birth in 2018. Still, they are on their way back to respectability and should be credited for the progress they made this offseason.