The Broncos were turned on their heads in the off season, as head coach Gary Kubiak was forced to retire due to health issues, and in came former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph as the new head coach. Both offense and defense also have new head honchos in charge, with former Chargers head coach taking over the offense and defensive backs coach Joe Woods replacing the mastermind of the championship winning defense, Wade Phillips. While fans might rush to the conclusion that our new coaching layout will be the biggest question mark in the 2017 season, as it is new and untested, however, there are definitely some parts of the Broncos that needs improvement in between the sidelines. Here are the top needs for Denver Broncos in the 2017 NFL Draft, and realistic expectations of what the Broncos could pick up when they are on the clock.
1.) Offensive Tackle – This is just the first step into revamping the whole offensive line. The offensive line was the biggest problem with the Broncos in 2016, so this is the area that would benefit the most from young talent. We’ll start with offensive tackle first, as most if not all the top offensive tackles in every draft are taken in the first round. While there are plenty of arguments regarding his place in the NFL, there is a good chance that Cam Robinson of Alabama could be still available at the 20th overall pick. If he is, it would be wise to take him over Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramcyzk, who needed hip surgery in January, and Utah’s Garett Boles, who has a concerning amount of off-the-field issues. Robinson would fit best at right tackle, where he could use his very good run blocking skills to the greatest effect. He has the ability to shut down some of the quicker defensive linemen in the NFL, and playing at right tackle gives him more room for error than if he were playing left. The Broncos should absolutely pick up a tackle in the first round because if they decide to wait, all the ones who are ready to start on day one would likely be gone.
2.) Defensive Tackle – The Broncos have an excellent defense that will continue to succeed in 2017, however, defensive tackle was the one position that the Broncos has glaring weaknesses at. Since the Broncos will likely continue running a 3-4 scheme in 2017, picking up a defensive tackle that would excel at playing nose would be ideal. While Caleb Brantly would likely be the best overall defensive tackle available at this point, he isn’t a natural fit in a 3-4 defense according to some NFL teams. With that in mind, the Broncos could probably afford to take a risk and skip on picking a defensive tackle in the third round in favor of a tight end, and instead pick up Clemson’s Carlos Watkins in the third round. Watkins is a phenomenal playmaker and was able to pick up 10.5 sacks and tip 4 passes in 2016, so, he could potentially be better than Brantly. If the Broncos don’t feel like waiting, picking up Brantly or perhaps Auburn’s Montravius Adams would be fine, however, this is one area I think the Broncos have a bit of wiggle room in.
3.) Tight End – While the Broncos likely need a dedicated offensive guard a bit more than a tight end, this year’s draft class features a great amount of talent at tight end, and even in the third round the Broncos could likely get an improvement over Virgil Green. Michigan’s Jake Butt would be a great pick, as he might still be available, and he looked very impressive in Michigan’s pro-style offense last year. He is a good receiving tight end, and has potential as a blocker, however, he would benefit from an extra five pounds of muscle (Butt is 246 pounds, which still isn’t terrible). Butt would give the offense an extra playmaker in an offense severely lacking in them, save for Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
4.) Offensive Guard – In another step to rebuilding the offensive line, a guard would be the next logical step. While many of the top guards will likely be gone by the middle of the third round, LSU’s Ethan Pocic will likely still be available. I consider Pocic to be a better investment than the injury-riddled Dan Feeney, as Pocic has proven his skill as a blocker due to the success of Leonard Fournette running behind him. Pocic is a reliable blocker that gives the offense time to make plays, which it sorely needed in 2016. Hopefully he falls to the end of the third round so the Broncos can nab him up.
5.) Center – Just to round out the offensive line. Luckily the Broncos have some options here, as Ethan Pocic has the ability to play center, and also, Ohio State’s Pat Elfein is a center who can also play guard. This gives a lot of options for the Broncos to shift people to where they best fit on the line, an option sorely needed in today’s NFL.