NFL writer Michael Lavery joins the Colorado Europe team to recap the 2020 NFL Draft for the Denver Broncos.
APRIL, 2020. The world was seemingly falling to pieces around us, lockdown had a stranglehold on society and morale was at an all-time low. But from the dark, came the light and from his basement Roger Goodell hosted 3 full days of the first ever virtual NFL Draft. In scenes which will be forever immortalised in meme history, the NFL Commissioner lay up on his weathered, leather recliner, reading aloud picks from his man cave in the same position many of us couch potato experts were watching from home – The only thing missing was a cold beer!
The Denver Broncos entered this draft on the back of a promising end to the 2019 campaign. Despite missing the playoffs, they saw signs of life from rising star Quarterback, Drew Lock.
The Missouri Alumni turned heads in the five games he played at the end of last season. Finishing with a record of 4-1, Lock was able to lead the Broncos to victory against the Raiders, Lions, Texans and Chargers with the only loss coming to the eventual Superbowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Recognising the talent they had in Lock, the Broncos front office made moves to surround him with a supporting cast designed to compete. When you share a division with the heavy-hitting Chiefs who seem to put up 40 points with ease – the best option is to go toe-to-toe with them and try your best to score 41 points. The Broncos defense is strong and laden with playmakers across the board but offense matters in the AFC West. With that in mind, the front office made the appropriate moves to arm Lock with the weapons he needed to compete.
With 10 picks in the draft, the Broncos selected 6 offensive players and 4 defensive players.
Rounds 1 & 2
The centrepiece of the Broncos 2020 draft class was without a doubt star Wide Receiver from Alabama, Jerry Jeudy. With many of the experts having tipped Jeudy to be the first Wide Receiver off the board, he miraculously fell to the Broncos at the #15 overall pick. The Broncos division rivals, The Las Vegas Raiders selected the first WR of the night when they took speedster Henry Ruggs III. This freed up Jeudy who fell to the Colorado natives.
With many already satisfied that John Elway had secured an offensive gem to line up across from Courtland Sutton and thus finishing the Broncos receiving corps, they pleasantly surprised many by doubling down at wideout when they selected KJ Hamler from Penn State University. With the two receiving targets secured in Sutton and Jeudy, Hamler and his speed will unlock a new side to the Broncos offense. Opening up the ability for gadget plays, quick screens and sweeps – he immediately becomes a valuable asset to the Denver offense.
Rounds 3 & 4
The first of three third round picks for the Broncos was used to select CB Michael Ojemudia from Iowa. Joining a youthful secondary, Ojemudia will have to work to secure his role as a starter but will no doubt see the field at some stage of the 2020 season. A quick, versatile player, he will be a welcome addition to a secondary which has to face a plethora of speedsters this season.
Just six picks later at the 83rd overall selection the Broncos selected Lloyd Cushenberry, Center from LSU. Cushenberry played on the National Championship winning LSU side, and spent last season protecting the Number One overall selection in the 2020 draft, Joe Burrow – so he knows a thing or two about protecting prized assets and will slot into the starting role on an ever improving Denver line.
With their third and final pick of the third round, the Broncos went back to the defensive side of the ball and selected defensive lineman McTelvin Agim (Without a doubt the coolest name in sports). Playing out of Arkansas the scouting reports tell you all you need to know. The SB Nation Arkansas Razorbacks report states “many coaches raved about his motor during practice, his hulk like strength, quickness off the line and ability to move in small areas of space.” When someone is compared to the hulk – you stop there. This is a good pick.
Tight End Albert Okweugbunam was taken at #118 in the fourth round. A former teammate of Drew Lock while at Missouri, he was one of his favourite targets especially while in the Red Zone. Over two seasons he caught 72 passes and scored 17 touchdowns. Another weapon for Lock to utilize on offence and hopefully some of their past chemistry will shine through at Mile High.
Rounds 5, 6 & 7
Day three of the draft saw the Broncos add four new rookies to their roster:
Round 5 – Pick 178 – Linebacker, Justin Strnad
Adding depth on the defensive side of the ball is always a smart idea and the addition of Strnad will help to no end. Drafted from Wake Forest, he will likely serve as a special teamer for most of his rookie year while also getting a few defensive reps.
Round 6 – Pick 181 – Guard, Netane Muti
Brought in to serve as a backup, Fresno State guard Netane Muti will be learning the ropes behind Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow. Injury problems caused Muti to fall into the sixth but if he can stay healthy he is a great addition for Denver.
Round 7 – Pick 252 – Wide Receiver, Tyrle Cleveland
The Gator becomes the Bronco. Adding further depth on both offense and special teams, Cleveland will come in and have to earn his stripes before seeing any real playing time. Nonetheless, a good pick up for the Broncos who are transitioning to a speed first air raid.
Round 7 – Pick 254 – EDGE, Derrek Tuszka
Joining one of the busiest pass-rushing rooms in the league, Tuszka will help with rotations but is a long way off a starters gig any time soon. Drafted out of North Dakota State, many Broncos fans will be hoping that coming from a small school puts a chip on his shoulder and that he works hard to prove his worth in the NFL.
A well rounded draft, with offensive fire power the clear intention from the get-go. John Elway likes what he sees in Drew Lock and is doing the best he can to surround him with weapons that will win games, win divisions and get into the playoffs. Competing in arguably the toughest division in football, the Broncos know they have a lot of catching up to do. Patrick Mahomes isn’t going anywhere. In fact, he’s here for the next 12 years – so for Denver to be so proactive in getting a squad ready to challenge him for the next decade should do nothing only excite Broncos Country!
Image: Jerry Jeudy Twitter. Click here to watch.