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DENVER, COLORADO - DECEMBER 01: Phillip Lindsay #30 of the Denver Broncos carries the ball against the Los Angeles Chargers in the third quarter at Empower Field at Mile High on December 01, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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Mile High Monday: “Draft season” continues for the Broncos

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

The Broncos watched as an AFC West rival, the Chiefs, won the conference title and are headed to the Super Bowl. Kansas City is no doubt the cream of the crop in the AFC, and the Broncos will have to contend with them and superstar Patrick Mahomes for the next decade.

It’s “draft season” and the Broncos are hard at work compiling data on players they could pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They’re trying to find players who can get them back to the Chiefs level.

I like this time of year – in fact, I love it. It’s my favorite time of year because I’m back on the road, this week writing “Mile High Monday” from Atlanta, Geo., on my way to Mobile, Ala. for the 2020 Reese’s Senior Bowl. There is some great talent at the Senior Bowl this year and I can’t wait to see what they do in practice this week.

I also like contemplating life and sports when driving around with the top down on my old Jeep TJ – even in December! The following is a result of those trips during the week.

Buckle up, let’s take a ride through my thoughts.

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Another Wrist Surgery

Last year at this time, Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay was recovering from wrist surgery. This year is no different. We learned last week that Lindsay had undergone a “clean up” procedure on his right wrist and is currently rehabbing at the Broncos facility.

This surgery is much less intensive than the surgery that kept him out of all offseason activity in 2019. In fact, the team believes that he will be ready for the start of the offseason program – likely near the end of April. Lindsay had discomfort in the wrist throughout the 2019 season and that’s why this procedure was done.

Lindsay is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and is set to be the lead back for the Broncos once again in 2020. As an undrafted free agent in 2018, Lindsay can actually renegotiate his contract after two seasons. After the two successful seasons he’s had in the pros, the Broncos may want to give him a new contract.

However, durability is still a major concern with a back who weighs roughly 190 pounds. Lindsay has a ton of heart and runs with plenty of passion, but the fact of the matter is that a person can only take so much punishment. The wrist problem might give the team a bit of pause when considering what kind of contract extension they’ll give the talented runner.

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Factory of Sadness

Former Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello is getting a little bit of interest now that he’s been fired by Denver. I was just at the 2020 East-West Shrine Bowl last week in Tampa, Fla., and nobody around the league was buzzing about Scangarello being available. In fact, no team source I talked to from the scouting community was even shocked the Broncos let the first-year OC go in order to get a huge upgrade in former Giants head coach Pat Shurmur.

Then at the end of the week, news came in that Scangarello is interviewing for a job with the Cleveland Browns.

If hired, Scangarello would have a ton of talent to work with on the offensive side of the ball – starting with franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield. Scangarello seemed hesitant to work with Drew Lock in Denver, so it would be interesting to see how much and how quickly he’d warm up to Mayfield.

The Browns must love former Broncos coordinators, as Adam Schefter of ESPN reported on Sunday that they are interested in 49ers defensive backs coach Joe Woods. We could see the former Broncos defensive coordinator in charge of the Browns defense and the former Broncos offensive coordinator running the Browns offense. Good luck with that.

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Burrow Not at the Top?

The flurry of mock drafts is about to begin. We are in “draft season” and that means everyone and their mother – and the family dog! – is going to publish a mock draft at some point during the next three months. In every one of those mock drafts, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is going to be the No.1 overall pick to the Cincinatti Bengals.

All those mocks could actually be wrong.

Some of the most-shocking news I learned last week talking to my friends in the scouting community is that the Bengals may be considering Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert with that top pick. Herbert is no doubt a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but Burrow is pegged as one of two “can’t miss” prospects (the other is Ohio State’s Chase Young) in this class.

I was told by multiple NFL sources that Herbert is not out of the running for that spot. So, what in the world could be the Bengals reasoning for still considering Herbert over Burrow? I was told that Bengals head coach Zac Taylor is trying to find a “Jared Goff-like” prospect and that Herbert fits the bill because of his size and arm strength. Everyone loves Burrow – for good reason – but scouts know that he gets by on guile and intelligence and lacks the physical tools that a quarterback like Herbert has (especially arm strength).

Taylor was the quarterbacks coach for Goff during the 2018 season and the Los Angeles Rams success that year got him the Bengals head coaching gig in 2019. He is keeping the door open for all prospects, not just quarterbacks too.

The Bengals are coaching in the 2020 Reese’s Senior Bowl this year and guess who is there to perform during the week? While Burrow is skipping the Senior Bowl (I think he should), Herbert is going to be there all week, practicing for the entire NFL to see.

The Bengals are going to get up close and personal with the Ducks passer. If Herbert impresses them on the field and behind the scenes, then everyone may have to redo their mock drafts leading up to the end of April.

I still believe that Burrow will be the No. 1 overall pick, but the door is open for Herbert!

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Called It!

The first time I saw Dalton Keene play football, I felt he could have a future in the NFL. Keene was in the same class as my son Liam and both were quarterbacks for the freshmen team at Chatfield High School in Littleton. While Liam played the “wildcat” quarterback (they called it “bull”), Dalton was the regular starter – and he was damn good.

In fact, Keene was so good that Chatfield transitioned him to running back and built their offense around him through his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. Keene’s father was an assistant coach on the team – and a damn good one. When Keene graduated, he went to Virginia Tech to play for Frank Beamer like his father did at Murray State in the 1980s. Beamer was no longer the football coach for the Hokies, but he does work as special assistant to the athletic director.

It didn’t take long for Keene to impress in college and work his way into the starting lineup. He played tight end for the Hokies, but he showed his trademark toughness as a blocker, runner and receiver out of the backfield (or from the slot or the in-line position). In fact, Keene had some big games for the Hokies, like his three-touchdown performance against Miami in the 2019 season.

Now, Keene is taking his skill to the NFL, as he declared for the 2020 NFL Draft on Sunday.

Last week at the Shrine Bowl, I was telling all of my buddies in the scouting community to keep an eye out for Keene and we were sharing stories about his upside as a pro prospect. No matter where he gets drafted in the NFL, I will be a big fan. He’s a great kid and comes from a great family. I look forward to seeing him continue his football career – this time at the highest level.