DENVER -- It is a warm Thursday, the squirrels and a wandering rabbit soaking in sun baths as they amble across the lawn. These are the days spring sprouts with optimism.
Everything seems possible, even in our new normal. Well, of course, nothing is as it was. The only thing not upended in sports has been the NFL’s offseason of free agency and the draft.
These activities can be conducted with cell phones, bandwidth and proper social distance. For Broncos fans, the last month has been a delightful diversion. The team has made several moves, most notably acquiring cornerback A.J. Bouye, defensive lineman Jurell Casey and signing running back Melvin Gordon and right guard Graham Glasgow. The first trio has combined for eight Pro Bowl berths.
The Broncos have labored through a four-year playoff drought with losing records in three straight seasons for the first time since the abyss of 1963-72. The Broncos missed the postseason five straight years from 2006-2010, but only posted losing records twice during that span. That’s why this stretch stings. Hope, however, exists. The roster suggests a return to the postseason, but landing three starters in the draft is a must.
Which brings us back to the first round. As I have written, the most logical selections with the 15th selection are receiver (Henry Ruggs III) or left tackle (Andrew Thomas, Mekhi Becton). What if those positions are picked over? I participated in a mock draft for a national radio station this week and that was the case. So where did I go next? Cornerback.
My look at some possible cornerback fits in the first three rounds:
C.J. Henderson, Florida, 6-1, 204
The Broncos’ draft figures to feature guys who can catch the ball and those who can cover them. Denver needs another cornerback who can challenge for a starting job and provide insurance if the new screw in Bryce Callahan’s foot doesn’t take. Henderson boasts speed, blazing a 4.39 40 at the combine. He shows patience in coverage, and isn’t afraid of getting beat deep. He brings elite athleticism, and has the size to match big receivers. He shows high football IQ on game film, which cannot be dismissed when trying to get a rookie to play immediately with possibly no mini-camps and an abbreviated preseason. His tackling is not superb, and it’s fair to wonder if coach Vic Fangio would find that a deal-breaker.
A.J. Terrell, Clemson, 6-1, 195
Terrell is versatile, tough and athletic. There’s a lot to like when looking at his body of work. However, it’s hard to forget his bad night in the title game against LSU. Was that just a tough day or a red flag of future inconsistency against NFL talent? Terrell makes sense in the second round with the 46th pick. Could he be a starter? Yes. But he has to make more big plays in order to be anything other than pedestrian.
Kristian Fulton, LSU, 6-0, 197
Fulton was regarded as one of the top prep players in the nation. He ran into off-field trouble in college, and didn’t become the elite corner some expected. The potential is there. He has size. He is aggressive and willing to make plays. But he might not fit for the Broncos. He’s not a top 15 prospect, but might not be available in the middle of the second round.
Bryce Hall, Virginia, 6-1, 202
Hall represents the type of player the Broncos have avoided this offseason. He has an injury history, having dealt with a broken ankle last season. But in the third round, he might be worth the risk as someone with size and sneaky skills in zone concepts. He is a willing tackler who could be a sleeper if healthy.