DENVER – In his pre-draft Zoom press conference Monday, Broncos general manager John Elway told the truth.
“We need a receiver,” Elway said.
Even before the admission, the statistics articulated the issue. Denver ranked 27th in completions and touchdowns of 20-plus yard yards last season, part of the reason they averaged only 17 points per game. The Broncos require a more dynamic threat to complement Pro Bowler Courtland Sutton and open the middle of the field for tight end Noah Fant.
What does that mean for the Broncos in the draft, which begins Thursday at 6 p.m. on Denver7? The Broncos must be prepared to act quickly, while pursuing their goals on parallel tracks. And yes, a receiver is one of the targets.
“It's kind of what flavor you like because it's a very deep draft when it comes (that position)," Elway said.
There are numerous avenues available. But if they can land one of the top three wideouts – Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb or the Crimson Tide’s Henry Ruggs III – it could be worth moving up. Elway is keeping an open mind. He did tell me that trading on the clock could be more difficult because of the social distancing that requires the top decision makers to be spread out at different locations.
“If anything I think it makes us a prepare a little bit harder to have an idea at each position of where we are right now and whether we go up or back,” Elway said. “And not only in the first round, but the second, third and fourth to have an idea of what the compensation may be at each one of those. Because being virtual makes it tougher. There’s going to be more of a time crunch.”
In order to move up to, say, Cleveland’s pick at No. 10, it would likely require a swap of firsts, with Denver throwing in a second rounder and possibly a fifth rounder. Trading with San Francisco to get the 13th pick cannot be ruled out either, given Elway's trading history with general manager John Lynch. That would leave Denver in position to take the receiver it wants. The landscape changed slightly Monday when Jacksonville released veteran Marqise Lee. The Jaguars own the ninth selection, and now could target a receiver.
Elway said he’s considering all “combinations.” Moving back is not out of the realm of possibility if the top three receivers and four tackles are gone. The Broncos could move back into the 20s, and take a receiver like Baylor’s Denzel Mims or LSU’s Justin Jefferson – he could be in play if they stay at 15 – while adding a second-round selection to give them more ways to select a left tackle and cornerback.
“We are looking at all those options,” Elway said.
One thing is clear: the Broncos are not eyeing a pocket change. As I wrote Sunday, the Broncos are all in on Drew Lock, who went 4-1 as a starter and impressed teammates with his confidence and leadership.
“We are going to build around Drew and give him the opportunity to take the job,” Elway said. “We like what we saw from him. By no means has he made it, but he has the potential to do it.”
In other news, Elway said the team remains in active contract talks with Justin Simmons, having submitted an offer to his agent recently. The Broncos placed the franchise tag on the safety, but have long said it is their goal to keep him long-term. Every player Elway has used the tag on has eventually agreed to a multi-year contract, including Von Miller.
Cornerback is a position of need because of the health questions surrounding Bryce Callahan. Elway indicated that Callahan is making progress in his recovery from a second foot surgery – he had a new screw inserted after the first one didn’t take last year, causing him to miss the entire season.
“We are hoping he’s going to be healthy and ready for training camp,” Elway said, admitting the Broncos won’t know the extent of Callahan’s recovery until seeing him on the field.
Elway also added that the team is looking to add seven-to-nine undrafted free agents following the selection process. That is less than usual given previous depth added.
Perhaps the Broncos will unearth another gem like Phillip Lindsay. But whether the team returns to the playoffs hinges largely on finding a few starters in the first three rounds. Make sure the bandwith is good. And have an ethernet cable ready.