ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — At long last, the 2020 NFL Draft is almost here.
In just a few days, we'll know if the Broncos are really trading up, if they're staying put or if they're prepared to move down in the first round.
For now, though, the uncertainty hasn't ended — and neither has the appetite for answers about what Thursday, Friday and Saturday could hold.
In this edition of "Ask Aric," I do my best to answer some of the biggest remaining questions.
What are the chances Denver is smoke and mirrors about trading up for a wideout in a draft full of talent at the position? Is Denver actually looking to trade back? – Donnie G. (@1stRoundBust)
The short answer is nobody knows. If Denver has locked in on a wide receiver to complement Courtland Sutton, it wouldn't shock me to see them move up to No. 8 or No. 10, as has been reported. I think it's less likely they move up to take a tackle, just because I believe there are more pressing needs on the roster. I wouldn't rule out any of the three options — trading up, staying put or moving back. John Elway, though, has made five first-round trades during his nine seasons, two of which came in 2012. If I had to make a guess, I suspect the Broncos will stay put initially and then trade back when all three of the top receivers are off the board.
What do you think about getting Kenneth Murray? - @brayden_tillman
I love it, especially in a trade-back situation. If the Broncos could move from No. 15 to, say, No. 20 and grab Murray, I'd be over the moon. Murray has the athleticism to cover in space, and he was a second-team All-American in his final season for the Oklahoma Sooners. A two-time team captain, Murray would bring tremendous leadership to the locker room and has shown his durability, playing in 42-of-42 games over the last three seasons. He's also a tackling machine, as he averaged more than nine tackles per game over the last two seasons and recorded 28 tackles in a 2018 game vs. Army. He'd bring a new level of athleticism to the linebacking corps. LSU's Patrick Queen would also be a home run in the same scenario. Plus, if the Broncos picked up Murray while trading back, they could potentially grab another pick in the Top 50.
What would Broncos need to give up to trade for no. 3 pick with Lions? I would love to see Vic gets Isaiah Simmons. He would definitely solidify that defense. - Andy H. (@Waterboy888)
I, like most others, love Simmons and what he could bring to the Broncos' defense. This trade, though, is too pricy — especially since teams could be trying to trade up to get a quarterback. We'll go through the motions, though. Using the famed Jimmy Johnson draft points chart, the Broncos would need to equal or better 2,200 points. That means tossing in the 15th-overall pick (1,050 points), 46th-overall pick (440) points and likely their 2021 first-round pick. If the Broncos are a wild-card team in 2021 but don't win a playoff game, that would make their first-round pick worth somewhere between 740-875 points. There are other ways to get the deal done, but this example illustrates how expensive it could be.
I don't think this a very likely scenario, in part because I don't think Denver would need to get to No. 3 to get Simmons. It's quite possible that he's still on the board at No. 8. That would be a much more palatable trade, as it would cost far less draft capital. If he's there, several teams could call the Cardinals with interest in trading up. Of course, if the Broncos went all the way to No. 3, cornerback Jeff Okudah and tackle Jedrick Wills could also be there.
Who is one Broncos player that you could see being a draft-day trade piece that might end up elsewhere? - @RegulatorsPod
This is tough, because these sometimes come out of left field. In Elway's nine years leading the Broncos' football operations, he's made just one player-for-pick trade (Kapri Bibbs to the 49ers in 2017) on draft day. Bibbs was part of a crowded running back room, and he wasn't likely to get carries in Denver. If I were to pick a few position groups to watch, I'd identify a few position groups with lots of competition. That includes tight end (added Nick Vannett in free agency), running back (added Melvin Gordon), defensive line (added Casey and retained Harris) and outside linebacker (have two solid reserve players behind Miller and Chubb). This could also change depending on how the Broncos use their first couple of picks.
Aric, we have seen numerous projections for the first three rounds. What gems do you see in the later rounds that could be eventual impact players or key developmental pick-ups for the Broncos? - Greg G.
Greg, what the Broncos do on Day 1 and Day 2 of the draft will get the most attention, but there's certainly value on Day 3. Denver currently holds the following picks on the third and final day in the draft: 4-118, 5-178, 6-181, 7-252, 7-254. I'd be surprised if Denver uses all 10 of its picks, only because it's unlikely that all those players could make the team's roster. It makes more sense, in my opinion, to package some of those picks and move up to get a higher-quality player. I've got my eye on a pair of Oregon players on Day 3: linebacker Troy Dye and interior offensive lineman Shane Lemieux. Dye led the Ducks in tackles for three consecutive seasons, and while he's unlikely to be a huge upgrade in the pass-coverage department, he'd provide good depth and be a special teamer from Day 1. The Broncos could grab him in Round 4. Lemieux, meanwhile, was a second-team All-American and could play guard for Denver if Graham Glasgow moves inside to center. It's also possible he could play center at the next level. Denver would likely be able to snag Lemieux in Round 5. Kentucky's Logan Stenberg is another interior offensive lineman to consider on Day 3.
If the Broncos draft a plug and play type interior O-line (maybe Robert Hunt or Logan Stenberg or...) would Risner become an option at center leaving Glasgow at guard as he prefers? DR did play there as a freshman at KSU right? — Daniel J.
Risner earned Freshman All-America honors as a 13-game starter at center in 2015 before he switched to right tackle for the final three years of his career. But while Risner has that positional versatility, the Broncos seem likely to keep him at left guard. He was on the Pro Football Writers of America's All-Rookie team, which could signal a Pro Bowl or All-Pro selection in his future. Instead of moving him, the Broncos are more likely to kick Glasgow inside to center, as he has experience in the NFL at that position. The preferred option, though, would be to find a player to slot in between Risner and Glasgow. Between those two players, I think you could trust a rookie to handle the center duties.
I'm doing a mock draft and Javon Kinlaw slipped down to the broncos at 15. Could they take the D-tackle from South Carolina or do they fix their eyes on a guy like Justin Jefferson? - Max L.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah projected Kinlaw to the Broncos in his latest mock draft, and there's plenty to like about Kinlaw's game. He's the second-ranked defensive tackle on the board, and he was a first-team All-American in 2019. Some have compared him to Kansas City's Chris Jones, who was dominant in the Chiefs' Super Bowl LIV win. Kinlaw must get better from a technique standpoint, but he has the athleticism to be a dominant player. He has injury concerns, though, which could scare teams off. The Broncos also reloaded their defensive line in free agency as they retained Shelby Harris and Mike Purcell and traded for Jurrell Casey. To me, that makes Kinlaw a bit of a luxury piece. As for Jefferson, I'd like the pick — just not, probably, at No. 15. Jefferson projects to be a slot receiver, and it's quite possible the Broncos could move down into the early 20s and still get him.
How are players' paychecks effected by the virus issues given no OTAs, etc.? Particularly low-level ones on regular roster and practice squad folks? - Ray S.
Ray, this really only impacts players with workout bonuses. It's been reported that players would still receive their workout bonuses if they attend the voluntary virtual offseason program, but that only impacts a couple of players on Denver's roster. Most players tend to get paid via their signing bonus, base salary and incentives. The base salary gets paid in weekly installments during the season — NFL players only get 17 checks per year, rather than have their salary spread out over the entire year. This will reportedly change in 2021 when the new CBA begins, but the old method will remain in place this season.
If the season is impacted, salaries could become a bigger discussion. For now, though, it's largely business as usual.
If Denver can't land a top 3 wide receiver do you think Elway might take a chance on someone like Justin Jefferson or Jalen Reagor or just draft an O-lineman or defensive back? - Ahmed B.
I suspect the top four tackles — Jedrick Wills Jr., Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton and Andrew Thomas — are more likely than all three of the leading receivers to be off the board by No. 15. But if there's a situation where one of those tackles is on the board, you'd certainly have to consider it. It may not be an immediate need, but the Broncos must decide in the coming weeks whether to exercise Garret Bolles' fifth-year option. If they do not, that will be a need going into 2021. C.J. Henderson is the only cornerback who would be good value at No. 15, and I wonder if his inconsistent tackling is a red flag for Vic Fangio. At receiver, both of those players could be an option in a trade-down scenario. As I mentioned above, though, I'd rather grab a linebacker in Round 1 and a receiver in the second round.
If the NFL season had to be changed in some way to accommodate this virus situation, how do you expect it would change? - Braden R.
Braden, we haven't received any official indication that the NFL is planning to shorten or alter its season. During league meetings a few weeks ago, several high-ranking league officials said they were proceeding as if the season would proceed as scheduled. That said, there have been reports that the league is investigating contingency plans involving a shortened season and/or a season without fans in attendance. Again, neither of those is official in any way. But when the schedule is released, which will be on or before May 9, I suspect all division games will be backloaded. That will help ensure competitive balance if the schedule has to be shortened. It also seems likely that teams have the same number of home and away games during the first four weeks of the season. That would also help ensure teams aren't at a disadvantage if the season is delayed.