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Broncos options at receivers as first round beckons

Peyton Manning a fan of Alabama's Jerry Jeudy
Posted at 4:58 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 19:27:12-04

DENVER -- Even Peyton Manning has an opinion on the Broncos' draft.

Denver has long been linked to Henry Ruggs III, had flirtations with CeeDee Lamb, and, most recently, shown strong interest in Jerry Jeudy. General manager John Elway, with his nine computer and TV screens ready, continues to keep an open mind. Monday, he acknowledged the Broncos "need a wideout." No less an authority than Manning would not have no issue with adding a weapon for Drew Lock.

"I never complained about that (for a quarterback to get another receiver)," Manning said on 104.3 the Fan with Stokley and Zach. "That would be exciting. I hear people talking about Jeudy from Alabama. I've watched him torch my Tennessee Vols for the past few years."

Manning outlined the traits he looks for in a receiver, among them love for the game, fierce work ethic (nobody embraced the grind of practice more than Manning) and durability. Sometimes a player's best ability is availability.

While many arguments can be created for the Broncos to pick a left tackle given the uncertain futures of Garett Bolles and Ja'Wuan James after this season, there's no denying the Broncos need an offensive boost. You cannot reach the playoffs scoring 17 points per game or even the 21 the Broncos averaged under Lock.

The Broncos have talked with the Browns about moving up to the 10th pick -- it would cost them at least a second-rounder this year, and another late-rounder -- to snare a wideout. To move that far up likely makes Jeudy the target. While there was buzz about teams being concerned about his left knee scope in 2018, the Broncos have not lost interest.

In a deep class, Jeudy is considered the best prospect, if only slightly. He takes better routes than Waze, is explosive in-and-out of cuts, can beat press man and brings a high football IQ shown in his nuanced approach to coverages. Jeudy remains comfortable lining up on either side, and has shown proficiency in the slot. NFL analyst Greg Cosell, a film junkie, said of Jeudy, "He's the best wide receiver in the draft and there's not even a close second."

There are other appealing options. The Broncos could trade up to 13 with the Niners, who are eyeing a move back, and land Henry Ruggs III. No receiver is faster, and he doesn't get enough credit for his route running. Ruggs would provide an instant vertical threat, while profiling as a weapon on reverses and on special teams. Ruggs admitted he's heard the most from the Broncos, Raiders and Niners in the pre-draft process. If he could become a reasonable copy of Tyreek Hill, it would open up the field instantly for Pro Bowl receiver Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant, who set a franchise rookie record for receptions (40) and yards (562) by a tight end.

Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb is a playmaker, pure and simple. He competes. And his yards after the catch are stunning. Multiple NFL cornerbacks told me Lamb would be their choice if making the pick.

The Broncos could move back, say to No. 22 where Minnesota sits, and still land an intriguing threat: Baylor's Denzel Mims. He is a bit raw, but his speed and size give him eye-opening upside.

LSU's Justin Jefferson has caught Denver's attention, too. He excelled in the slot and showed aplomb in exploiting the middle of the field. He has the speed to go deep, but wasn't used that way as much in college. At 15, Jefferson is a little bit of a reach, but not out of the question. TCU's Jalen Reagor, a burner who changes directions well, looked like a sure-fire first-rounder after the 2018 season, but struggled last year, in part, because of poor quarterback play.