Broncos must address OL early in NFL Draft
Sitting just a day away from the start of the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia, the Denver Broncos still have a glaring need along the offensive line, namely the blind side of whichever quarterback — Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch — wins the job in the first year under head coach Vance Joseph.
Yes, the Broncos signed guard Ronald Leary and tackle Menelik Watson away from the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders this off-season, but that’s simply not enough. Center Matt Paradis is an underrated blocker for the Broncos and should be a building block moving forward, but looking at the left side of the offensive line there’s just no set starter with long-term potential.
That’s where this weekend’s draft comes into play.
While the class of tackles and guards this spring isn’t great as a whole, there are a few prospects that can step in right away from Day 1 to hold down a starting spot for the orange and blue.
It doesn’t matter what offensive line position the Broncos draft at No. 20 overall, it just has to be a big ox that can step in right away and contribute.
Last season, Denver finished 27th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (92.8), 21st in passing yards per game (230.3) and allowed a ridiculous 40 sacks last season. The pressure on Siemian in the pocket played a big part in him missing extended time due to injury, as well as Lynch’s struggles in relief.
General Manager John Elway knows that he needs to protect his quarterback, considering he went through a similar beating early in his career behind his porous line, so it leads me to believe that he’ll take a shot on a tackle or guard at No. 20.
What he can’t do is get enticed with a guy like Miami’s David Njoku or Ole Miss’s Evan Engram at tight end, as well as a guy like Jabrill Peppers as a chess piece defensively. No, this has to be a boring first two days for Elway and Co., drafting in the trenches early on both sides of the ball, giving the Broncos their physical, smash mouth style back.
At 20th overall, I’d like to see the Broncos target a guy like Utah’s Garett Bolles or Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp. Bolles is a big, physical left tackle that moves really well for his size (6 feet, 5 inches, 296). He excelled in a zone-style blocking scheme at Utah and should be able to start right away in the NFL.
Lamp (6 feet, 5 inches, 306) is another enigma along the offensive line. Projected to be more of a guard in the NFL due to his athleticism, Lamp has shown throughout his four years as a Hilltopper that he can play anywhere along the line. In fact, Lamp was a key cog as a four-year starter and brings high character to the group.
He could be a franchise cornerstone as a first-round pick.
However, if Elway and Co. decide to draft a guy like Njoku or Engram to give Siemian a serious weapon at tight end, Denver can certainly draft some quality linemen in the second and third rounds, starting with tackles Antonio Garcia (Troy, 6 feet, 6 inches, 293) and Chad Wheeler (USC, 6 feet, 6 inches, 310), or guards Dan Feeney (Indiana, 6 feet, 4 inches, 303) and Dorian Johnson (Pitt, 6 feet, 5 inches, 300).
It might not be a big-name class, but there’s plenty of NFL talent in the ranks along the offensive line, so it would be wise for Elway to grab a tackle guard in the first three rounds to protect his investments at quarterback.
Denver could go through another growth year in 2017 offensively, but drafting offense heavy in the first three rounds should speed up their clock on reaching Super Bowl contention once again.