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Final list: 9 candidates for Broncos' first-round draft pick

Receivers Jeudy, Lamb, Ruggs remain the favorites with the Broncos' 15th pick, but cornerbacks, offensive tackles and inside linebackers also possible.

DENVER — Hours before the start of the 2020 NFL Draft, John Elway, his Broncos and other receiver-needy teams are confronting a dilemma.

Take the best receiver with their slotted first-round pick -- No. 15 in the Broncos case? Or because wideouts are the deepest position in the draft, take another player at another position of need where there isn't as much depth and wait to take a receiver in the second round?  

Other positions of need for the Broncos: Cornerback, inside linebacker and offensive linemen (center and maybe tackle).

Broncos Country has passionately discussed the No. 15 overall draft pick for the past three months and three weeks with receiver always the position to beat.

And then come Thursday night/Friday morning, the second-round pick will get its single day of thought. Which is about all that’s needed when talking about the qualities of the top centers available.

9NEWS believes the Broncos’ first-round draft pick will come from one of the following nine players. The composition of this list is simply derived from the Broncos’ most pressing positions of need: Wide receiver, cornerback, inside linebacker and offensive linemen (tackle from the first, second or third rounds; center starting in the second round).

We look at the top two candidates of each of their four most pressing positions – with the most likely pick at receiver getting a third candidate.

(Note: Each of these 9 top prospects will be 21 years old at the start of the 2020 season).

> Join Mike Klis for a Facebook discussion about the NFL draft and have him answer your your Broncos questions, live at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy

Jerry Jeudy
21, WR, 6-1, 193, Alabama

More than his 4.45-second/40 speed is his ability to separate from coverage. Think about all that offensive talent in Alabama and Jeudy was its go-to with 68 and 77 catches for 1,315 and 1,163 yards and 14 and 10 touchdowns in his sophomore and junior seasons. Turns 21 on Friday.

Credit: AP
Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III

Henry Ruggs III
21, WR, 5-11, 188, Alabama

He would be the Broncos’ speed answer to the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill. Ruggs’ 4.27/40 time makes him the fastest rookie in this draft class. All the mocksters say he’s a good route runner, too. Most impressive stat is he had 24 touchdowns among his 98 catches in his three seasons for the Crimson Tide.

Credit: AP
Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb

CeeDee Lamb
21, WR, 6-1 ½, 198, Oklahoma

Bigger than Jeudy and Ruggs but not quite as fast. Besides great receiving production in his three seasons with the Sooners – he averaged of 57.7 catches, 1,097 yards and 10.7 touchdowns per year – he was also a decent punt returner.

Credit: AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah plays against Michigan in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019.

Jeff Okudah
21, CB, 6-1, 205, Ohio State

Just about every mock draft has him going No. 3 overall to Detroit, which must replace Darius Slay. Great combination of size, speed and physicality. Should be long gone by No. 15 and it would be expensive for the Broncos to trade up past the No. 10 slot but you never know.

Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
Florida defensive back CJ Henderson, right, covers Missouri wide receiver Jonathan Nance during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Columbia, Mo. Florida won 23-6.

C.J. Henderson
21, CB, 6-0 ½, 204, Florida

The Broncos have to pay cornerback Bryce Callahan at least $4.75 million this year, but they shouldn’t count on him to play at a full-time starter level after missing all of last season with a foot injury. A foot injury coming off a second surgery in 12 months.

Henderson is faster and more fluid than Akudah but while some say he tackles better than his reputation, he may not tackle to Vic Fangio’s liking.

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2019, file photo, Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons (11) celebrates a stop against South Carolina during an NCAA college football game, in Columbia, S.C. Simmons was selected to The Associated Press All-America team, Monday, Dec. 16, 2019.(AP Photo/Sean Rayford, File)

Isaiah Simmons
21, ILB-OLB, 6-3 ½, 238, Clemson

Off-the-chart ability who might be best used in a monster back-type role. Converted from safety to linebacker in his redshirt freshman season. Had 104 tackles, 7.0 sacks and 3 interceptions last year as a redshirt junior. Wowed NFL Combine followers by running his 40 in 4.39 seconds.

Fangio tried to move rookie Justin Hollins in and out at linebacker last year so working with Simmons’ unique versatility wouldn’t be a problem. The problem is Simmons will likely be well out of the Broncos’ reach.

Credit: AP
Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray

Kenneth Murray
21, ILB, 6-2 ½, 241, Oklahoma

A true inside linebacker who is plenty fast enough with a 4.5/40. A film junkie so he already has an NFL work ethic.

Georgia offensive lineman Andrew Thomas

Andrew Thomas
21, LT, 6-5, 315, Georgia

The mocksters say he’s smart and mature. Played drums in the high school band and for his church. Quick in the pass game, physical in the run game. His wingspan – a key characteristic for left tackles -- is larger than that of Tristan Wirfs and Mekhi Becton.

Credit: AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Iowa offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs (74) blocks against Michigan during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019.

Tristan Wirfs
21, OT, 6-5, 320, Iowa

 Born on the same day – January 24, 1999 – as Ruggs. Had a remarkable vertical jump of 36.5 inches, a standing broad jump of 10-feet-1 inch and ran the 40 in 4.85 seconds – tops among all offensive linemen in all three events – at the NFL Combine. So he’s a special athlete.

Although he’s primarily a right tackle – and some see him as an NFL guard as Dalton Risner became  as a Broncos rookie last year – Wirfs is expected to go anywhere from No. 4 to 10 in the draft.

Others if Broncos trade back

Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor; Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU; Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU; Patrick Queen, ILB, LSU; A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson; Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama; Zach Baun, OLB-ILB, Wisconsin

RELATED: John Elway on draft: 'We do need a wideout'

RELATED: Broncos at No. 15: Trade up, trade down or stay put?

RELATED: Round by round look at the good, and not so good, of Elway's 9 drafts


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