ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — We're another week closer to the NFL Draft, and that's where Broncos Country's attention remains.
In this edition of "Ask Aric," I again dive into your draft-related questions and also take a stab at projecting next year's win-loss record.
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Is there a dominant player in this year's 2020 Draft, that John Elway could move up to pick, that could blow Broncos Country away, bring the team to a whole new level, and turn John Elway into an even bigger HERO off the field than he was on the field? - @BigKidRook
That would have to be quite the selection to outweigh his five Super Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl wins. If I'm trying to identify a player that would make the biggest impact, though, I'd turn toward Clemson's Isaiah Simmons. The potential top-five pick can play linebacker, safety, slot corner, outside corner and edge rusher — and he earned all sorts of awards during his final collegiate season. The Butkus Award winner and ACC Defensive Player of the Year would be a bit of a luxury pick, as the Broncos' need at wide receiver is greater than for a Swiss Army Knife-type player. With Simmons, though, Denver could boast the league's top defense and finally have a way to stop Travis Kelce. If he starts to fall down the board and is available at the eighth-overall pick or so, I'd certainly inquire what it would take to move up.
I also don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that the Broncos would trade up for a CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs III. If any of those players pan out the way they're projected, the Broncos could have one of the league's best receiving duos with Sutton and the rookie.
I think LSU's Justin Jefferson will ultimately be the best wide receiver in this draft class. Do you think he would pair well with Sutton and what the Broncos want to do on offense? – James U.
Jefferson hasn't often been mentioned among the likes of Lamb, Jeudy and Ruggs III, but he's still a talented option. He tied for the FBS lead in receptions in 2019 and finished second in the nation in receiving touchdowns. A 6-foot-1, 202-pound receiver with 4.43-second 40-yard dash speed, Jefferson seems set to excel as a slot receiver. If the Broncos wanted to put Sutton and Tim Patrick on the outside and slide Jefferson in the slot, they could line up in three-receiver sets where Sutton and Jefferson were on the same side to put pressure on the defense. With Noah Fant also in the equation, the Broncos' offense would take a step forward. As NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah pointed out, the fit could be good for Denver. Jefferson had the most red-zone touchdowns of any draft-eligible receiver, and the Broncos ranked 28th in the league in the red zone last season. Jefferson also thrived on third down.
The question, to me, is about value. Would the Broncos be better served to trade down if they want a player like Jefferson and the top three receivers are off the board? That seems like the smart choice, as you would also be able to pick up an additional pick or two.
If a premier tackle is available at 15 shouldn't we take him over a receiver? It's supposed to be a deep WR draft and we could pick one up later. - Terry R.
Terry, there's certainly a chance the Broncos could move in this direction. If any of Jedrick Wills, Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton or Andrew Thomas were to fall to 15, the Broncos would have a serious decision on their hands. This will all come down to where John Elway and the Broncos stand on Garett Bolles. We've heard from Denver's football leadership that they believe Bolles improved late in the 2019 season, and he's been available during his three years with the Broncos. I tend to believe them, and I suspect Bolles will remain at left tackle in 2020 and perhaps beyond if the team exercises his fifth-year option after the draft. I think the better move would be to pick a tackle later in the draft that Offensive Line Coach Mike Munchak can work with and help develop. The Broncos have other areas on the roster where they need to insert a Day 1 starter.
Why do you keep overlooking safety as a position of need in the draft. The Broncos still need to replace Will Parks with another dime safety. That is in fact the only hole left on their defensive roster, any other defensive addition would be for upgrade or depth. – Eugene W.
The Broncos will indeed need to figure out who will play the slot corner position in their nickel defense (five defensive backs) and who will be the third safety in their dime package (six defensive backs). I'd rather decide who the nickel corner will be before I worry about the dime safety. The Broncos have two options, as I see it: Draft or sign an outside cornerback and move Bryce Callahan to the slot or draft or sign a slot cornerback. I believe there must be an addition in some way. The dime package seems easier to solve. The Broncos tendered safety Trey Marshall, who seems able to fill the role. Perhaps Duke Dawson Jr. is also an option. If there's a safety on the board who is the best player available and could someday fill Kareem Jackson's starting role, I'm open to hearing the argument. It doesn't, though, seem like a bigger need than cornerback.
I recognize the fact of Phillip Lindsay's lack of third-down production and consequently understand the signing of Melvin Gordon. I do not understand the criticism of Lindsay's pass receiving skills. The Broncos certainly threw plenty of screen passes to him last year. He sure has the look of a slot receiver. What's the problem? – Ken P.
Lindsay is an impressive player. There's no doubting that, and his Pro Bowl nod in 2018 is proof. Plus, he's the first undrafted rookie in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards for each of his first two seasons. But here's the truth: While people want to characterize Lindsay as a change-of-pace back because of his 5-foot-8, 190-pound frame, that's not what he is. Lindsay may not be the size of your average running back, but he's still a between-the-tackles runner. His quickness allows him to hit holes that other players can't reach, and he then can break free in space.
So while he can be used out of the backfield at times and will continue to do so in Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur's system, that simply hasn't been his strength so far in the NFL. Even in college, Lindsay only had one season with more than 30 catches. It's not a problem, it's just not his game.
What are the odds of a 10-6 season? – Stan H.
I tend to cluster games in three groups when trying to project a team's record: Likely wins, likely losses and toss-ups. In most seasons, that makes it pretty clear to me where a team is going to stand. That's not necessarily the case this year. A home game against the Dolphins and a road game against the Panthers seem like the only likely wins to me, and a home game against the Saints and road game in Kansas City appear to be the only ones that would require a major upset.
That means there are 12 games on the schedule that I think could go either way, depending on how the Broncos and these other teams pan out. If the Broncos can go 8-4 in those games, that would put them at the 10-win mark. The road record would certainly have to improve, as Denver went just 2-6 in away games in 2019. Let's say the Broncos, in addition to a win over the re-building Panthers, grab wins over the Jets, Chargers and Raiders. That would make them 4-4 on the road. Looking then at the home schedule, the Broncos would need to beat some quality opponents to reach the 10-win mark. In addition to a win over Miami, they would again need to beat the Chargers and Raiders, earn another win against the Titans and then beat two of the Bills, Buccaneers and Chiefs.
That won't be easy, but a 10-6 record (or better) is certainly not out of the realm of possibility.