Now that the major free agent signings have been finalized, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will be looking at the top three needs for each team heading into the 2016 NFL draft. Today, the Denver Broncos are the focus. The Broncos have the 31st overall pick and 10 picks in total. Look for John Elway to move up, down and all around the draft board to solidify his team and build on the Broncos Super Bowl championship from last season.
Denver Broncos 2016 NFL draft: Top 3 needs:
With the retirement of Peyton Manning and the unexpected departure of Brock Osweiller to the Houston Texans, quarterback has become a critical need for Elway and the Broncos. They tried to fill this void via free agency by acquiring seasoned journeyman Mark Sanchez. The Broncos were also in talks with the San Francisco 49ers over Colin Kaepernick. However, Kaepernick and the Broncos could not reach a monetary agreement. Sanchez is a savvy veteran with a good arm and mobility. He can be a good fit in Gary Kubiak’s offense, but as far as being a franchise quarterback to build a team around, not likely. So with the draft approaching, Elway and company will no doubt look for a young gun slinger to develop into “The Guy”.
This year’s quarterback class has some talent that’s for sure. Two names that might peak Elway’s interests are Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook among others. Lynch out of Memphis stands tall at 6’6″ and weighs just under 250 pounds. He did well at the combine showing a good skill set with his feet. Lynch is a very accurate passer with a strong arm. He ran a 4.86 40-yard dash, so his quicks and mobility will be a good fit for Kubiak. Lynch’s one draw back is his football IQ, but would there be a better fit for that particular education than Denver? Hard to argue otherwise. Another strong-armed leader that Denver is no doubt eyeballing is Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook. Cook has a leg up on some of the others in this quarterback class, as he has run a pro-style offense all through college. He has a good arm and is very mobile. At 6’4″, Cook is big enough to see over the line and make his reads. Cook threw for over 3,100 yards last year with the Spartans while tossing 24 touchdowns.
Whomever Elway picks it will no doubt be a guy he feels will lead this team into the future.
Last season, the offensive line was a definite weak link with the Broncos. Players were injured and shuffled around. Sometimes linemen would shift positions on the same drive. Denver strengthened the line, particularly the tackle positions, with the acquisitions of Donald Stevenson from Kansas City and Russell Okung from the Seahawks. These additions look to move Ty Sambrailo inside to Guard along side Matt Paradis at center and Max Garcia at the guard position. The Broncos are hoping for big things from this unit, but definitely need to strengthen their depth chart.
Joshua Garnett from Stanford would fit nicely into this squad. He is a solid man at 6’5″ and 325 pounds, but this kid has quick feet, is well balanced and great at pulling on run plays.
These attributes would make Garnett an ideal candidate for a second or third round selection. Plus there’s the Stanford connection with Elway. If Garnett is not available the Broncos are extremely high on Christian Westerman from Arizona State. At 6’4″ 305 he is extremely athletic and would be a good fit at left guard. He has the ability to pull as well. Westerman will need to improve his pass blocking to be a solid starter, but his potential is a mile high.
The strength of the Broncos championship run last year was their defense. Demarcus Ware, Von Miller and company dominated from week one until the season culminated in lifting the Lombardi Trophy. This year’s free agency market has done its share of damage to that vaunted defense, losing players like Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan and David Bruton Jr. Those players need to be replaced and this year’s draft has the talent to do just that.
One player that the Broncos are real keen on is Robert Nkemdiche from Mississippi. This is a strong kid at 6’3″ and 294 pounds. He has had some off field issues, but with leaders like Ware and Miller, Nkemdiche is sure to focus, and bolster that defensive line for Denver. Look for Elway to snatch him up with the 31st pick or possibly trade up the board to take him. Another good fit along the line would be Jonathan Bullard of Florida. He has good speed and athleticism and can rush well from the inside. He is a great run stopper, finishing last season with 66 tackles and 6.5 sacks. The former Gator’s presence will free up Ware and Miller from the double teams they are usually given. Now, one guy that could be a late round sleeper for Elway and company is Tyron Holmes from Montana. This kid was outstanding in the East-West Shrine game. He displayed some great pass rush skills and with 87 tackles to compliment his 18 sacks last year, he can no doubt stop the run. Don’t be surprised to see Holmes go off the board in the 6th or 7th round, but plan on hearing his name for years to come. He has tremendous upside.
As the war room heats up and the hour draws near. Whomever Elway and his staff choose, it will be a solid move for the Broncos. One thing Elway has shown has an executive is that he knows what he’s doing.