The Denver Broncos find themselves in a hole ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft in the wake of their trade for Russell Wilson last March.
In order to bring the nine-time pro bowl quarterback to Denver, the Broncos had to part ways with their 2022 and 2023 first and second-round picks.
As a result, general manager George Paton and head coach Sean Payton won’t be on the clock until pick 67 in the third round of the draft on Friday night.
George Paton has shown that he has the capability to draft well in the middle rounds of the draft picking up players like Baron Browning, Caden Sterns, Jonathan Cooper, Damarri Mathis and Greg Dulcich in the third round or later in his two drafts in charge of the Broncos.
The Broncos also have a range of needs across their team which Paton will aim to try to fix in this draft, from offensive line needs to linebacker and cornerback depth.
The issue for the Broncos this year? They only have five picks in this draft, 67, 68, 108, 139 and 195. In response to this George Paton revealed late last month that the Broncos would be, “more inclined to move back, to get some more picks.”
So, whether they trade up, trade back or “stick and pick” let’s look at the top three areas of need for the Denver Broncos in the 2023 NFL Draft next week.
A position group that lacks a lot of standout elite end talent but one that could prove fruitful for Paton and the Broncos at the top of the third round is linebacker.
Last offseason the Broncos’ front office signed Josey Jewell to a two-year contract extension meaning he’s in the final year of his current deal in Denver, while Alex Singleton was signed to a three-year deal this past offseason.
Looking beyond the 2023 season the Broncos will want to add some insurance at the position and make sure they have someone to come in and fill Jewell’s void if he isn’t resigned.
The Broncos might have to trade up into the second round to get the top linebacker on their board, but a number of linebackers should still be available at the top of the third round where the Broncos pick at both 67th and 68th overall.
Potential prospect targets: Daiyan Henley (Washington State), Trenton Simpson (Clemson), DeMarvion Overshown (Texas), Dorian Williams (Tulane)
The defensive front for Denver has seen a lot of overhaul over the past year, edge rusher Bradley Chubb was traded to the Miami Dolphins, Shelby Harris was part of the Russell Wilson trade, Dre’mont Jones hit free agency and a number of role players have moved on.
Randy Gregory and DJ Jones were signed in free agency last offseason and Baron Browning was moved to a more prominent edge rushing role in the preseason, while Zach Allen was signed in free agency this offseason.
In last year’s draft, the Broncos added some rotational players to their defensive line with Oklahoma’s Nik Bonitto in the second round, Iowa State’s defensive tackle Eyioma Uwazurike in the fourth round and Wisconsin’s Matt Henningsen in the sixth round.
We could see Paton targeting a similar approach to bring more role players to Denver’s defensive line to help out a fairly thin area on their roster.
Potential prospect targets: Keeanu Benton (Wisconsin), Siaki Ika (Baylor), Kobie Turner (Wake Forest), Moro Ojomo (Texas), Zacch Pickens (South Carolina), Gervon Dexter Jr. (Florida)
Interior Offensive Line
The Broncos spent the majority of free agency overhauling their offensive line and run game personnel.
Tackle Mike McGlinchey signed a five-year deal worth $87.5 million, and Guard, Ben Powers signed a four-year deal worth $51.5 million to sure up their offensive line which underperformed a lot last year.
In 2021, the Broncos picked up guard/centre Quinn Meinerz from Wisconsin-Whitewater in the third round and he showed promise at both guard and centre across the last two seasons.
In last year’s draft, Denver selected centre Luke Wattenberg to push third-year starter, Lloyd Cushenberry III to bolster the interior of their offensive line.
Interior offensive line isn’t an area of strength in this draft class but Paton has found late-round value at the position in the past and will hope to have similar luck in this year’s draft.
Potential prospect targets: Chandler Zavala (NC State), Andrew Vorhees (USC), Luke Wypler (Ohio State), Joe Tippmann (Wisconsin)