Zach Gotlieb | April 28th, 2020
Concluding the most important offseason in recent memory, the Denver Broncos had 10 picks to make final improvements going into the 2020-21 season. Surprisingly, despite several confirmed rumors about attempts to trade up and down in the draft, Denver stuck with all 10 picks at their original spots. John Elway’s draft strategy over the past two years of drafting high-quality players and people. A strategy that no doubt came through again this year.
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Round 1, Pick 15: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
According to Elway, Jeudy was number one on their board, and they were extremely surprised he made it to them at 15. Jeudy is widely seen as one of the best wide receiver prospects in recent memory. An outstanding route runner who can separate with almost any DB. He’s not a “speedster” by any means, but he’s quick, decisive, and fast enough. This was an outstanding pick for The Broncos as they addressed their number one need.
For more on Jeudy click here
Round 2, Pick 46: KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State
This pick was a bit of a surprise. Many, including myself, believed they would address the tackle position with this pick. Instead, they chose to stack speed on top of speed. Hamler has elite speed. He said he can run the 40 in the 4.2’s. Some say he could even get faster with adjustments to his running technique. Hamler has a bit of a problem with drops, but Elway said after the pick that he believed the drops were about concentration and can be coached. If that’s true and he fixes the drops, that’s two excellent receivers to pair with Courtland Sutton in making a truly dynamic receiving corp.
For more on Hamler click here
Round 3, Pick 77: Michael Ojemudia, CB, Iowa
Everyone knew that the secondary was a place where Denver was looking to upgrade. Addressing the cornerback spot was a good choice. Still, many didn’t expect it to be Ojemudia, at least this early in the draft. While it was a bit of a reach in that they could have gotten him later, it’s tough to be mad at the pick. Ojemudia appears to be a perfect pick for Vic Fangio’s system. He has good skills in zone coverage, plays a physical brand of football and a good tackler. He’s got tools to develop into a good player, he may not be there right now, which lowers his grade, but he could outplay this grade.
Round 3, Pick 83: Lloyd Cushenberry III, C, LSU
This pick was a steal. Tackle is a problem, but it seems Elway is comfortable with Garrett Bolles and Ja’Wuan James going into this year. That leaves the center spot as the only real question for this year’s starting offensive line. Cushenberry is a top 3 center in the draft and was believed to be picked in the second round. Rumors were that Denver may have tried to trade up to get him. They got lucky to see him at 83. Odds are that he will be the starter day one and solidify what could be one of the best interior offensive lines in the league.
Round 3, Pick 95: McTelvin Agim, DT, Arkansas
Agim wasn’t talked about too much in the pre-draft process. While he’s no doubt a bit of a project, Agim could end up being a mid-round gem. Watching Agim, he’s in the backfield a ton and can get there quickly. He has a chance to be a rotational player this year but could have a more significant impact in the next couple of years. He’ll be playing with veterans Jurrell Casey and Von Miller, who should be good for his development.
Round 4, Pick 118: Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri
Not only did Denver double down on weapons for Drew Lock, but they also tripled down, and this time with his former teammate. They also tripled down on speed by picking the fastest tight end in the draft for the second straight year. Okwuegbunam had his most productive years with Lock at the helm. He’s big at 6’6 and has impressive mobility. He can play all over the offensive in the slot or inline and is good with his hands and blocking. He has to get better with route running and contested catches. Noah Fant should still get the lion’s share of the touches at tight end since Pat Shurmur generally doesn’t use many two-tight end sets. Still, Albert O is an excellent backup that could be a starter on multiple teams.
Round 5, Pick 178: Justin Strnad, LB, Wake Forest
Strnad is slated as an outside linebacker but is expected to get reps in the box as well. He is a little undersized to be in there consistently, but he can get stronger. What he possesses is what Denver desperately needs from their linebackers: coverage ability. He can still work on his ability to recognize plays and routes a little better. Still, he plays with enough speed (faster than his combine time) to be around the ball consistently. He will likely find a role in sub-packages this year and can find the starting lineup at some point in his rookie contract.
Round 6, Pick 181, Netane Muti, G, Fresno State
Muti could be the steal of the draft if he can stay on the field. He’s got the talent to be a top-three guard in this class, but he’s only played five games in the last two years. He’s coming off a LisFranc injury and a torn Achilles, but the team’s head athletic trainer gave the go-ahead. It’s the sixth round, that’s the time to take a flyer on talent with injury issues given there’s less to lose from a sixth-round pick not working out. Muti primarily played guard at Fresno State but did play a little left tackle. If they wanted to kick tires on his ability to play tackle, he very well could be an option there. However, as things stand, he’ll suit up as the backup to Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow on the interior of the line.
Round 7, Pick 252: Tyrie Cleveland, WR, Florida
Picking Cleveland here is a bit of a head-scratcher given the Jeudy and Hamler picks. He didn’t have standout production at Florida but showed some upside. He’s another guy that really move and break big plays. At this point in the draft, you’re just throwing darts at a dartboard, but there were likely other positions that could have been addressed here.
Round 7, Pick 254: Derrek Tuszka, DE, South Dakota State
Tuszka is an interesting prospect and an underrated one. He dominated the FCS, ending with 30 sacks in three years as a starter. Tuszka does well with his hands and has good acceleration towards the ball. The question is whether he can make the jump from D2 to the NFL and maintain his effectiveness. Having Bradley Chubb and Von Miller as mentors should definitely help him. He does have a chance to find a special teams role and potentially a rotational pass rusher.
By and large, the Broncos had a productive draft. Yes, you can gripe all you want about not taking a tackle, but truthfully, the tackle situation isn’t nearly as bad as some say. Obviously, they don’t have their long term answer at either tackle spot, but they can get by this year. This year they focused on getting weapons for their quarterback. Nabbing the best receiver in the draft in the first round and a receiver with elite speed with their second pick creates a dynamic receiver group with the potential to be one of the top receiver corps in the league. Cushenberry at 83 was a steal. Getting Lock’s former tight end is significant. Overall, you have to love the Jeudy pick, and it was definitely their best pick. That said, I’m not a fan of the Cleveland pick. That was a spot where they could have gone after a safety or a tackle, both of whom would have a better chance of making the final 53 man roster. Other than him, it’s hard to see how Denver doesn’t come away as winners in this draft.
Overall Grade: B+
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