Following the first wave of free agency, NFL Draft experts have become nearly unanimous in their projections for the Broncos' first-round pick.
When Denver is on the clock in less than a month, most experts believe the Broncos will select a wide receiver to add another dynamic player to their offense.
Count ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. among that group, as he placed Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs III with Denver in his latest mock draft.
"The Broncos have made a few solid additions this offseason, signing guard Graham Glasgow and running back Melvin Gordon and trading for defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and cornerback A.J. Bouye," Kiper wrote. "They haven't addressed left tackle — former first-round pick Garett Bolles could be on his way out after a disappointing tenure — or wide receiver, where they have Courtland Sutton but not much else. Ruggs, who ran a 4.27 40 at the combine, would be a great complement to Sutton's size, as he could run crossers and catch deep balls from second-year signal-caller Drew Lock."
But if the Broncos want Ruggs or one of the other top-tier receivers, they may need a bit of luck.
Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb are widely considered the top receivers in the draft, and several other teams may be in the market for a pass catcher.
The Jaguars (pick No. 9), Jets (No. 11), Raiders (No. 12) and 49ers (No. 13) have all been linked as possible locations for a wide receiver.
Only the 49ers picked a wide receiver in Kiper's latest mock — he had the Raiders picking a receiver later in the first round — but an early run on receivers could force the Broncos' hand.
"They just have to hope that nobody in the Top 10 takes a receiver," Kiper said Wednesday.
If a team does select a receiver before the Jets make the 11th pick, the Broncos would seemingly have three options:
- Trade up for a higher pick. This could be difficult, especially if Oakland and San Francisco are set on wide receivers.
- Select the next best receiver on the board at No. 15. Kiper said he believes Clemson's Tee Higgins is the fourth-best receiver in the draft.
"He ran pretty well at his Pro Day," Kiper said. "It was one of the last Pro Days that happened. Obviously, you would like to see him be a little more physical in those final two playoff games. But Higgins is probably right now to me at four.
- The Broncos could select a player from a different position at No. 15 (or trade down) and pick up a wide receiver later in the draft, perhaps in the second round.
"The wide receiver position to me is the strongest in this draft," Kiper said. "Laviska Shenault Jr. could be there in the second round out of Colorado. [He] looked like he was a first[-round pick] until he had an injury question. Michael Pittman Jr., USC, could be there in the second. Brandon Aiyuk [of Arizona State] could be there in the second. K.J. Hamler, Penn State, could be there in the second. There's going to be some great opportunities because of the depth to get some really good players in that second-, third-round area at [that] position."
No matter which players end up being available on the evening of April 23, Kiper said he believes the draft should be held as scheduled, despite continuing COVID-19 concerns.
"I would move forward with it," Kiper said. "Everyone needs normalcy to set in. We keep doing radio, we're doing all the draft stuff, the mocks, everything's going along. Free agency went along as scheduled. Even though everything wasn't perfect and ideal, we see players moving all over the place, trades being made. Everything's being done. The draft can be done obviously without having everybody together. No teams go to the draft anyway.
"Everything's going to be different, and we have to adjust to it. There's a lot more important things going on, obviously, than the NFL Draft. And everybody's trying to deal with the health of their families and trying to get through this the best they can. I think the NFL can get through it. I think it's important, like I said, to give people something to focus on and occupy their minds and as something as kind of an escape during these trying times. Everybody's trying to deal with something much, much bigger than what happens with the NFL Draft. So I would think moving forward [with the draft on] April 23, 24, 25 is something we're hopeful happens."