(CBS4)- The NFL Scouting Combine is officially behind us, and with it, the league inches closer to the dawning of a new league year. Free agency is set to get underway on March 16th with the beginning of the “legal tampering” period prior to the opening of the new league year on March 18th.
The Broncos have the sixth-most cap space this offseason, according to Over The Cap, and there are plenty of decisions for GM and President of Football Operations John Elway to make. While the team will be able to fill some holes in free agency, it remains unclear what they’ll do come draft time?
The Broncos had the 11th-youngest roster in the league last season as they continued their youth movement following the Super Bowl 50 win. This April they have a chance to add to that young core with nine picks (not including compensatory picks). But the most focused-on is always the first-rounder, which sits at No. 15 overall. Who should the team target in that spot? Let’s take a look at some of the most recent mock drafts from CBSSports.com and NFL.com to get an idea.
Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Wilson explains his full reasoning for why Jeudy falls into the Broncos laps here, but if this scenario were to play out on draft day, fans should be ecstatic. Jeudy is pegged by many as the top receiver in this class. A route-running master with 4.45 speed, he hauled in 77 catches for 1,163 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide this past season despite a crowded, and extremely talented, wide receiver corps in Tuscaloosa. If Elway and company are looking for complementary play makers to pair with Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant, Jeudy along with his teammate Henry Ruggs III, fit the bill.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports & Todd McShay, ESPN
Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
Speaking of Ruggs, that is where Pete Prisco is going with the Broncos pick in his latest post-combine mock draft. Ruggs was one of the stars of the Combine over the weekend when he posted the fastest 40 time (4.29 seconds) and combined it with the third-highest vertical (42 inches) and fifth-longest broad jump (10’9″) of any wide receiver. His speed in the 40 exactly matched what teams saw on tape, as he averaged 17.5 yards per reception in his three seasons with the Tide. Pairing Ruggs (5’11”, 188 pounds) with the big-bodied targets of Sutton and Fant would give Drew Lock a fun arsenal of weapons in his first full season as a starting QB.
Tom Fornelli, CBS Sports
Andrew Thomas, OL, Georgia
While Fornelli agrees that the Broncos will go offense with their first pick, he has them addressing the offensive line with Thomas, a 6’5″, 316-pound mauler out of Georgia. Thomas was a first team All-American and first team All-SEC selection in 2019 for the Bulldogs, starting all 13 games at left tackle. While he started on the left side last season, Thomas was also effective on the right side in his freshman season for Kirby Smart. With the ongoing struggles of left tackle Garrett Bolles and a solid if unspectacular Ja’Wuan James on the right side, Thomas would definitely fill a need as the team looks to protect Drew Lock.
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com
Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
While the first two experts here have filled out the offensive side of the ball, Jeremiah is going to the defensive side with the athletic Murray. A tackling machine for the Sooners (325 tackles in three seasons), Murray wreaked havoc on opposing offenses by both getting into the backfield (36.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks) and showing coverage ability (six passes defensed last two seasons). Todd Davis and Alexander Johnson had their moments last season, but Murray would be a clear upgrade in the middle.
Those are the picks from the most recent mock drafts that have come out following the Combine. Some of the other names that have come up in other experts’ mocks are Louisville OT Mekhi Becton, Florida CB C.J. Henderson, and Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb. There is still plenty of time to speculate between now and draft day, and free agency will shape the team’s draft plans. But for now, the experts remain just as widespread in their opinions as fans do.