Happy Mocktober! At least that’s what my friend Eric Edholm is having over at Yahoo! Sports.
Last week, Edholm (one of the best NFL draft analysts out there) released his first mock draft of the year. Yes, it’s ridiculously early, but it’s still a fun exercise to see who could be there and in what order teams may be picking in.
The Broncos are not having a great season after starting 1-4 in 2019. We’ll see if they can turn things around and approach the 8-8 record that I thought they would have, but if they don’t, they’re going to have a premium pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Edholm had the Broncos picking at No. 6 overall, and the player (and position) he had them taking is an interesting one. With the sixth pick in the first round of Edholm’s mock, the Broncos selected Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III.
With all of the holes on this roster, it’s a bit of a twist to project that this team would take a wide receiver – but how much of a twist is it really? Let’s take a look.
First and foremost, Ruggs is certainly a first-round talent. There is no question that he will be a top pick in the 2020 NFL draft, mainly due to his game-breaking speed that few possess. In fact, if Ruggs broke the 4.22-second 40-yard dash record of John Ross set at the Scouting Combine a couple of years ago, I would not be surprised.
However, Ruggs is not your normal “speed” wide receiver. He has elite speed, but his toughness is off the charts as well. Ruggs is not afraid of contact even though he’s listed at 6-feet tall and 190 pounds. He is fearless when going over the middle and can take big hits while holding onto the ball.
Just watch this highlight video of Ruggs and you can see how his speed kills and how he’s not afraid of contact.
The Broncos offense doesn’t have speed like that. They also don’t have a weapon who scores in bunches the way that Ruggs is doing this year. Ruggs is currently averaging one touchdown for every 3.6 touches he’s had in 2019. That’s simply an amazing rate and one the Broncos could use on an offense that struggles to find pay dirt at times.
Can’t Count on Hamilton
The need at wide receiver is there because this team should not count on DaeSean Hamilton to be the No. 2 opposite of Courtland Sutton in 2020. A second-year player from Penn State, Hamilton’s game has not developed the way some had hoped.
Instead of pushing Emmanuel Sanders for playing time, Hamilton has regularly dropped passes and looked out of sorts as a receiver. Hamilton is doing a great job blocking, but that’s not why the Broncos drafted him.
With Sanders a free agent in 2020 and likely moving on to another team, Hamilton was supposed to be the guy to step up and take his place. The Broncos shouldn’t trust that’s going to be the case because of the inconsistent play we’ve seen from Hamilton this year. Hamilton was one of the most-disappointing players in training camp and that has carried over to the regular season.
Even if Hamilton turns it around the rest of 2019, he’s not the weapon that a player like Ruggs could be. Hamilton was known as a sharp route-runner with good hands coming out of Penn State and that’s why he’s the Nittany Lions all-time leading receiver.
Instead, Hamilton has gotten banged up on more than one occasion and let the team down with his dropped passes at crucial moments (see the dropped touchdown against the Raiders in Week 1). I like Hamilton if he plays up to his potential, but that’s really just as a No. 3 wide receiver.
Why Not Laviska?
If you’re going to go with wide receiver in the first round, many Broncos fans would prefer University of Colorado prospect Laviska Shenault Jr. Like Ruggs, there is no question that Shenault is a first-round talent. The skill set that he has is incredibly rare and because of that it’s difficult to come up with any sort of pro comparison. I’ve often called Shenault a shorter version of Julio Jones, but even that comparison doesn’t really add up.
While Ruggs could be a top-10 pick, Shenault may fall just a bit to the middle portion of the first round. Injuries are the largest concern with Shenaul,t who has missed time during the last couple of seasons.
Shenault was unable to play against Arizona last Saturday due to an undisclosed injury sustained against Arizona State prior to the team’s end of September bye week. We’ll see if he can get back out there, stay out there and continue to show why his talent is going to translate into stardom in the NFL.
Broncos general manager John Elway doesn’t select Alabama players – especially in the first round. For whatever reason, Elway shies away from highly-touted Crimson Tide players when in the position to draft them.
With so many holes on this roster, it’s difficult to see the Broncos taking a wide receiver with a premium first-round pick. Ruggs is certainly worthy of that selection and the team will have a need at the position if/when they lose Sanders in free agency.
I just see the team going in a different direction if they are picking in the top 10 of the 2020 NFL Draft. It will certainly be fun to see more mock drafts from trusted analysts like Edholm, and I’m sure I’ll be writing my fair share of mock drafts once I jump into “draft season” next January.
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