Pick #31 — Denver Broncos
Since free agency became a thing, fans everywhere are quick to call for the presumed instant fixes it supposedly provides; too often though, it results in wasted money and unworkable cap situations that end up seeing teams end up pushing reset far sooner than hoped for, with everyone involved usually fired along the way.
The all-in mentality is a dangerous path that swallows far more teams than those that become success stories, but sometimes things do work out as hoped. Denver’s championship is proof that it can work and result in a championship, but now we get to see the after-effects that inevitably follow this path.
The team has hemorrhaged a glut of talented pieces this offseason, with everybody now pricing themselves out of Denver and onto greener (re: $) pastures; meanwhile, the team has to now scramble to fill the many holes that have formed. Some get filled with players already on the roster stepping up, but even if all those guys are legit contributors, the depth they used to provide is now nonexistent and must be replenished.
This is where the draft is key. Succeed in finding instant contributors, and you can maybe mitigate the newfound roster problems; fail to do so, and the team could easily find itself outside the playoffs just a year after winning it all.
Here’s where I see their biggest holes to be:
- Quarterback. Really, they could’ve used one last year too. Peyton Manning had his worst season by miles, and they won many games in spite of him. They added Mark Sanchez and have worked to add someone else as well (Colin Kaepernick, and now also Sam Bradford apparently), but with the departure of Brock Osweiler they need to bring in somebody who can become the future of their position.
- Tight End. They do have the underrated Virgil Green, but Gary Kubiak runs an offense that utilizes tight ends often; with Manning gone, we should see even more of that put into practice. Beyond Green however, there isn’t much to get excited about as of now. Henry is still available, so he should get strong consideration.
- Nose Tackle. They still have a massive assortment of talents along their line even after free agent departures by guys like Malik Jackson, but they don’t really have a dynamic nose tackle option. They could definitely look to someone like Billings; even if he doesn’t play immediately, he can be groomed into an eventual starter without any rush to get him out there.
- Offensive Line. This spot has the most immediate need — and also is the area where they can find an immediate contributor here in the draft. Conklin and Taylor Decker are still here at tackle, with someone like Germain Ifedi possibly worth the selection sitting there at guard.
With this first pick, they can go in any of those directions. The Billings pick reeks of the kind of smart long-term move that teams will do to bolster a strength while hopefully preventing a drop off from ever having to occur. Henry is the top tight end by a mile, and would fit perfectly into the Kubiak system to give whoever the QB is (now, and in the future) a good passing game target for years. A quarterback would be smart as well, giving the coaches a player to groom behind capable stopgap guys who don’t have to do much as it is with that defense and quality receivers already in place.
I think they have to go OL here though. This is based on not just their need (nobody besides the center gets even an average grade from PFF for last season, including recent addition Russell Okung) but who is still available.
Each of the two remaining tackles can be an instant upgrade on the edge, while the guard would be just as valuable.
With three decent options — any of which is worth the pick — the best move is to grab whoever you consider to be the best of the bunch. Conklin has the better grading of the two, but both project strongly; Conklin could be the next Jon Runyan, Decker another Sebastian Vollmer.
You can’t go wrong either way, but with Conklin grading out better he should be the choice.