Among the Broncos top priorities this off-season is revamping their offensive line, a group that lagged for much of the past two seasons amid injuries and a rotating cast of players. They need to get better and they will, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy declared at his introductory news conference earlier this month.
But the how, the where and the who still need answers. And in a draft class that is weak at offensive tackle, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock believes the Broncos' opportunities to upgrade might be better served outside the front five with their first pick.
“To tell you where this draft is for tackles, the two top guys - (Ryan) Ramczyk (from Wisconsin) and Garett Bolles from Utah - are both one-year starters in major college football, which is kind of amazing,” Mayock said on a conference call with reporters Monday. “Then I would say if Ramczyk were in last year's draft, he would either be the fourth or fifth guy taken, just to give you some perspective there. So I think Ramczyk and Bolles are going to get pushed up a little bit just because there's a dropoff after them so I'm not sure either of them are going to be available at No. 20. But I could very easily see Denver being involved in the free-agency side of the offensive tackle game.”
Mayock said there's more depth among interior offensive line prospects but “trying to get a starting tackle in this draft is going to be difficult.” Given the dearth of starting talent at the position, Mayock said the Broncos may have to go “best player available” picking at No. 20.
“If they don't go tackle, where is value at No. 20? I think inside linebacker but Reuben Foster is probably gone,” Mayock said. “I think wide receiver makes a little bit of sense there. I think they could use some depth behind those first two guys (Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders).”
Although the 2017 draft class is loaded with defensive talent, it also has a bevy of tight ends who could be of value to the Broncos, a team that has lacked typical production from that group in recent years. Alabama's O.J. Howard and Miami's David Njoku are widely regarded as the top tight ends of 2017.
“When you look at what the Broncos have had, whether it's a Virgil Green or a (Jeff) Heuerman or whomever, you're probably looking for one of those dynamic receiving types, and that helps a young quarterback,” Mayock said. “Whoever is starting for Denver, a good pass-receiving tight end who's a matchup nightmare can really help. At 20, we've talked a bunch about O.J. Howard and Njoku, who are distinctly different kind of players and both of whom I think are worthy of the 20th pick for different reasons and both of whom I think would fit in Denver.”
But the Broncos could also find a key contributor at tight end in latter rounds.
“If they went in the second, third, fourth rounds, you could be looking at an Evan Engram (Mississippi) or a Gerald Everett (South Alabama), both of whom probably go in the second and third (rounds) and they're really good pass-catching tight ends,” Mayock added. “I think Jordan Leggett is a different conversation - he's about 6-5 from Clemson. … Bucky Hodges from Virginia Tech. Shoot, there's a kid named Adam Shaheen (Ashland University), a small-school kid that's 277 pounds and catches the ball really well."
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