ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When the Broncos went through a series of mock drafts in the lead up to the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Jerry Jeudy was still available at No. 15 less than 50 percent of the time.
Jeudy was selected by an earlier team so often that John Elway and the Broncos started to operate as if Jeudy would not be an option when they came on the clock with the 15th-overall pick. The Broncos, Elway said Thursday night, laid out plans for first-round scenarios based on the assumption that Jeudy wouldn't be available.
But then, somehow, he was there. And so, too, was CeeDee Lamb.
Fifteen picks into the draft, the Broncos' top two players at the team's top position of need were still on the board.
"We were actually surprised both of them got there — CeeDee as well as Jerry," said Elway on Thursday after the Broncos drafted Jeudy with the 15th-overall pick. "What we liked about Jerry was … his route-running ability, his speed, being able to plant his foot and get out of a break, the experience that he has and obviously playing in the SEC and plus the production that he's had. We met with him in Indianapolis [at the 2020 NFL Combine] and really liked him and liked his mentality and what he thought about the game of football and how he wants to attack the game of football and it's important to him.
"It was very close, but we were glad that we had an opportunity to pick — and Jerry was our guy from the get-go."
Elway said Jeudy was the No. 1 player on the team's draft board, while Lamb ranked second.
"For us to be staring at 15 [and] to sit there and look at … the top need on the board and we have our top two guys that are still on the board, well obviously we felt very comfortable with it," Elway said. "So we felt good about the opportunity there."
But the Broncos' decision only came after lots of consideration. Jeudy, a consensus first-team All-American in 2018 and a first-team All-American selected by FBS coaches, as well as a Biletnikoff Award winner at Alabama, certainly led the Broncos to consider moving up in the draft.
Elway said the Broncos talked to different teams and evaluated the price, but they ultimately decided to wait at No. 15.
"We had several plans [for] different scenarios that came because of our mocks and that we'd gone through," Elway said. "We felt like we were going to get a very good football player at 15. Obviously, a wide receiver was our No. 1 goal, and it fell that way that we were able to get that. We had other plans too that if things had gone a different way, we felt like we'd still get a good football player there. So we thought about, talked about trading up, looked at what it would cost us to go up, but at that point in time we figured, 'We like where we are with our picks and we can continue to add football players that can help us.' So, we decided to stay at 15."
The draft fell nicely for the Broncos. Three quarterbacks came off the board within the first six picks, Derrick Brown and Isaiah Simmons were drafted next, CJ Henderson went earlier than expected and a run on tackles began with the 10th pick. The Raiders took Henry Ruggs III — who was no higher than third on the Broncos' board — with the 12th-overall pick and made him the first receiver off the board. Once Tampa Bay traded up from No. 14 to No. 13, Elway and the Broncos felt comfortable that Jeudy or Lamb would be available. The Bucs, they believed, were targeting a lineman. Indeed, they took Tristan Wirfs.
At that point, the Broncos were guaranteed either Lamb or Jeudy, depending on what the 49ers did. San Francisco chose defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw, whom Elway said was not in the Broncos' plans.
The Broncos then had another choice to make, as they arrived on the clock with both Jeudy and Lamb available. They spent "about a week" before the draft debating whether to use the 15th pick on a wide receiver or to wait until a later round to select a player in a historically deep class of wideouts.
"Jerry, who we had as our top-ranked guy, when he fell to us there, he was our guy," Elway said. 'We had those discussions and had it fallen different, who knows how it would've gone. But I think we definitely were talking about it all week and for the last three or four days, especially when you talk about … what our strategy's going to be with the draft. We were just glad Jerry was there and we didn't have to make the move of going back."
Denver turned in the card for Jeudy — they were "very comfortable" with his previously injured knee after extensive work — and secured their top receiver in the draft.
For less than a 50-50 proposition, the odds sure worked out in Denver's favor.