In the new normal, the Broncos’ two most important pieces of equipment are not helmets and shoulder pads.
They are ethernet cords and land lines.
For the Broncos to finish off their 2020 roster rehabilitation project, there are three preliminary steps they should follow before embarking on their 10 selections in the NFL Draft.
*Hook up ethernet cords and land lines in the homes of general manager John Elway, his top deputy Matt Russell and head coach Vic Fangio.
The Broncos have the league’s undisputed top IT department, which is led by Russ Trainor, Chris Newman and Gil Bencomo. But if the wireless goes out in Elway’s neighborhood while the Broncos are on the 10-minute clock for pick No. 15 in the first round, it’s curtains for the tekkers.
And have you ever had a cell phone conversation with someone as they drive into their posh Denver-area neighborhoods?
Elway: Tell him, we’re trading our pick to the Bengals for A.J. (garble, dead air, garble) and Joe (garble, crackle, garble).
Roger Goodell: The Broncos with the No. 15 pick take A.J. Green, cornerback, Oklahoma State.
A.J. Green the cornerback may well wind up better than them all -- Richard Sherman, remember, was a fifth-round selection.
But for now, Oklahoma State's Green is considered a mid-round prospect. Even if it’s a rotary phone mounted on a kitchen wall, get Elway a clean, dependable line.
*Add a third pick between the Broncos’ No. 15 pick in the first round and No. 46 selection in the second round.
Trader John and Russell have become quite good at such maneuvers. They already have decent trade-into-second round ammunition with three picks in the third round.
The Broncos need to come away with three starters from this draft – receiver, cornerback and offensive lineman (either left tackle or center-guard).
A defensive lineman at No. 15 doesn’t make sense after the Broncos went heavy at the position in free agency and trade. There are simply too many other needs.
Edge rusher, maybe. Inside linebacker, maybe. But another defensive lineman for a front three unit that already has Jurrell Casey, Dre’Mont Jones, Shelby Harris and Mike Purcell is a luxury, not a necessity.
Third-round picks tend to be a year away from starting. Besides, Elway/Russell are in a two-year, second-round groove after nabbing Courtland Sutton, Dalton Risner and Drew Lock on Day 2 in 2018-19.
Prep work done, it’s time to zero in on the No. 15 pick. Unless the target is a quarterback, it’s too expensive to trade up. And the Broncos aren’t in the quarterback market. Drew Lock is the present and future franchise hope.
This is what Elway told 9News in a sit-down interview on December 30, the day after the 2019 season ended: “There’s no doubt we’ve got to do a better job on the offensive side. We’ve got to score points. …
“In order to score points we’ve got to get weapons. We’re going to be looking. Wide receiver is a spot we need.’’
9News took the bait. Here are 9 candidates, in no particular order (although maybe) for the Broncos’ No. 15 overall in the NFL Draft that will conduct its first round via respective home remotes in 16 days (note 8 of the 9 are either receivers or guys who cover receivers):
1. Henry Ruggs III, 5-11, 188, WR, Alabama
This is my No. 1 receiver because his electric, 4.27, 40 time makes Ruggs the one rookie receiver who has the potential to take double-teams away from Sutton.
The knock – and it’s a considerable one – is Ruggs was only the No. 3 receiver for Alabama last year. Jerry Jeudy had 77 catches for 1,163 yards; Devonta Smith had 68 catches for 1,256 yards and Ruggs was III with 40 catches for 746 yards.
Ruggs’ most impressive stats were 24 of his 98 career catches went for touchdowns and he averaged 17.5 yards per reception. He also has some return ability, which the Broncos need.
1. CeeDee Lamb, 6-1 ½, 198, WR, Oklahoma
Wait a minute. This is my No. 1 receiver, even if his 4.5-second, 40 time at the NFL Combine was slower than the other first- or second-round likes of Henry Ruggs III, Denzel Mims, Jerry Jeudy, Justin Jefferson and Jalen Raegor.
Lamb’s acrobatic catch skills has a way of catching your attention. He caught passes from Baker Mayfield (46 for 807 yards, 17.5 yards per catch), Kyler Murray (65 for 1,158, 17.8) and Jalen Hurts (62 for 1,327, 21.4) in his three years for the Sooners before surrendering his senior season of eligibility.
3. Jerry Jeudy, 6-1, 193, WR, Alabama
All the mocksters have Lamb and Jeudy going higher, but every year a projected top 10 prospect falls.
Jeudy ran a 4.45-second, 40 at the Combine or nearly a full tick faster than the 4.54-second, 40 Sutton ran two years ago.
Two weeks ago, Jeudy retweeted Vikings-turned-Bills receiver Stephon Diggs, who typed: “I think the ability to create separation is way more important than speed.”
Most impressive about Jeudy is his production – he averaged 72.5 catches, 1,239 yards and 12 touchdowns the past two seasons for the Crimson Tide.
4. Justin Jefferson, 6-1 1/4, 202, WR, LSU
You want production? He had 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns in the Joe Burrow-led, national championship Tigers offense last year.
Has nice size for a guy who ran a 4.43, 40 at the Combine. He is the best of the three LSU-playing Jefferson brothers, which is saying something as Jordan was a 2 ½-year starting quarterback and Rickey was a two-year starting safety. Jordan Jefferson was on Colorado State’s coaching staff last year as a grad assistant receivers coach.
5. C.J. Henderson, 6-0 ¾, 204, CB, Florida
Ran a 4.39, 40 that was almost a full tick faster than Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah’s 4.48. Long and fluid, some defensive scouts think Henderson is a better tackler than Okudah. What matters, of course, is what Fangio thinks.
The Broncos could use a cornerback starter because Bryce Callahan is no sure thing after undergoing another end-of-season surgery on a foot injury that caused him to miss all of 2019.
6. Jeff Okudah, 6-1, 205, CB, Ohio State
Elway went to see quarterbacks play in college regular-season games in 2017-18. Last year, he only went to one college game – to watch Okudah play for Ohio State against Penn State. (Chase Young dominated that game but the Buckeyes’ edge rusher isn’t slipping past the No. 2 overall pick).
The Broncos could strategize that there will be more quality receivers available in the second round than at any other position. And therefore they better get their corner in the first, knowing the good ones could be gone by No. 46.
Many mocksters have Okudah going as high as the No. 3 overall pick so he would have to fall precipitously for the Broncos to get him.
7. A.J. Terrell, 6-1, 195, CB, Clemson
Another tall corner who ran an impressive 4.42, 40 at the Combine. He had a nightmarish National Championship Game in a loss to LSU and receiver Ja’Marr Chase but a little Ed Donatell coaching could get the most out of his impressive skill set.
8. Andrew Thomas, 6-5, 320, LT, Georgia
It’s more likely the Broncos take an offensive tackle in the second or third rounds.
But with the No. 15 pick somewhat stuck between the true elite prospect and before the interchangeable mix where there isn’t much difference between players picked 20 through 40, the Broncos have to be prepared for all scenarios.
Even unlikely scenarios. Thomas most likely will be gone by No. 15. But if for some reason there’s a run on quarterbacks, receivers and corners in the top 14, and Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton and Jedrick Willis are the first three offensive tackles taken, the Broncos could do worse than nab their new left tackle at No. 15 and maneuver for both a receiver and cornerback in the second round.
9. Denzel Mims, 6-3, 207, WR, Baylor
Back to receiver. Mims is a three-year starter who ran a 4.38-second, 40 at the Combine – remarkable considering his size.
Had a nice senior season for Baylor-now-Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule with 66 catches for 1,020 yards and 12 touchdowns in 13 games.
The No. 15 spot may be a little rich for Mims but his size and strength combination won’t keep him around by the time the Broncos pick at No. 46 in the second round.
Note: If the Broncos don't go receiver in the first round, Jalen Reagor, KJ Hamler and Brandon Aiyuk would make sense in the second round as they all demonstrated return skills in college.