INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Over the coming days, dozens of the top collegiate prospects will aim to improve their draft stock at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine.
With five selections in the first 100 picks — including the ninth-overall pick — the Broncos could be in position to add a handful of these playmakers to their roster.
Before the players meet the media and hit the field for workouts, DenverBroncos.com is taking stock of a few players who could catch the attention of General Manager George Paton and Co. And because we already noted a handful of players to watch at the Senior Bowl, this list will largely be comprised of underclassmen who didn't get the chance to compete in Mobile. For a look at those players — who will look to make another statement at the Combine — click here.
Also of note: Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral was the lone top prospect at the position who was not at the Senior Bowl, but we left him off the list following reports that he would not throw this week in Indianapolis.
T Ikem "Ickey" Ekwonu, NC State
Paton told DenverBroncos.com earlier this offseason that he believed this is a "pretty strong tackle draft," and that he hoped to find a long-term solution at the position. If Denver chooses to attack the position in the first round, it's possible Ekwonu could be an option. Ekwonu is the second-ranked prospect on NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah's prospect rankings, and Jeremiah describes him as a "thick, powerful tackle prospect with a nasty play style." The 6-foot-4, 320-pound player, nicknamed "the pancake king," was named the ACC's most outstanding blocker in 2021. Though he played left tackle in college, Jeremiah projects him as a right tackle at the next level. He may not be there at No. 9 for the Broncos.
T Charles Cross, Mississippi State
If the Broncos are set on upgrading the tackle position, Cross could be another option. The redshirt sophomore profiles more as a left tackle, according to Jeremiah, but he could take over at right tackle immediately for a team in need. The 6-foot-5, 310-pound player had the second-highest pass blocking rating in the SEC in 2021, according to Pro Football Focus. He was twice named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week in 2021. Cross could be an option both at No. 9 or if the Broncos decide to trade back.
OL Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
The Broncos have good talent among their interior offensive linemen, but Linderbaum could be an option if Paton wants to upgrade that area even more. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound player was named an unanimous first-team All-American in 2021 and earned second-team honors in 2020. Linderbaum is Jeremiah's 22nd-ranked prospect — and Jeremiah said he could have a similar impact as a rookie to Kansas City's Creed Humphrey, who started all 17 games after being selected in the second round.
CB Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, Cincinnati
Could the Broncos pick a cornerback with the ninth-pick in consecutive drafts? Pat Surtain II was as good — if not better — than advertised as a rookie, and Ronald Darby makes up the other half of a strong cornerback duo. Bryce Callahan and Kyle Fuller are both set to be free agents, though, so perhaps it's possible the Broncos would target another cornerback. Gardner is rated as Jeremiah's top cornerback in the draft, and Jeremiah compared him to four-time Pro Bowler Antonio Cromartie. Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. could also be a high-upside player, but he's not slated to work out at the Combine. Washington's Trent McDuffie is also among the top cornerbacks in the draft.
EDGE David Ojabo, Michigan
The edge rushing position is among the strongest in this year's draft, as Jeremiah slated six edge rushers to go off the board within the first 20 picks in his latest mock draft. Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux will likely be off the board before the Broncos make their selection, but Ojabo could be among the next-best options. Jeremiah describes him as a raw player, but he said Ojabo has "incredible burst off the ball" and as much upside as any rusher in the draft. Ojabo broke out with 11 sacks and 12 tackles for loss as he played alongside Hutchinson, and he could be an option for Denver. Also keep an eye on Jermaine Johnson II, who showed out at the Senior Bowl. The Florida State product has risen up draft boards and has been mocked to the Broncos by several analysts.
DT Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
The lone Senior Bowl player featured on our list, Wyatt could be an option for the Broncos if they want to upgrade their defensive line. Jeremiah believes Wyatt will impress with his Combine workout, and he wrote that Wyatt may emerge as the best defensive lineman in the class. Part of Georgia's national championship defense, Wyatt was named a first-team All-SEC player and second-team All-American in 2021. If the Broncos trade back from the No. 9 slot, Georgia's Jordan Davis — who is largely known as a run-stuffer — could be an option.