One of the Broncos’ biggest needs heading into the offseason is fixing the offensive line. But those five spots might not be the positions the Broncos will target in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Other than Georgia left tackle and projected top offensive lineman Andrew Thomas, the offensive tackle class might not be as deep as most people think. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. mentioned on his podcast this past week that Alabama tackle Jedrick Wills and Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs are both right tackles in his opinion.
It wouldn’t make sense for the Broncos to draft a right tackle in the first round since they are linked to Ja’Wuan James after he signed a record breaking deal in the offseason for four years. James missed almost the entire season for the Broncos, but if he is able to comeback healthy, Vic Fangio and newly hired offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will want him to be the starting right tackle for the 2020 season.
In NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah’s first mock draft of the season, he has Tristan Wirfs listed as a guard instead of a tackle, as well. Denver doesn’t have time to use their first round pick on an offensive guard with plenty of possible talent left on the board, as well. Jeremiah also has four offensive lineman going before the Broncos will be picking at 15.
Another reason why Denver could pass on the offensive line in the first round is because of the way the offensive line played with Drew Lock behind center. Lock was able to understand when pressure was coming and was able to escape the pocket to help this offense drive down the field. The rookie quarterback was also getting rid of the ball quickly due to his awareness in an offense that was built more to his style of play.
Before Drew Lock was the starting quarterback, Denver’s offensive line was giving up an average of 3.27 sacks per game. When Lock was behind center, the offensive line only gave up one sack per game.
In the final five games in which Lock started, the Broncos gave up only five sacks, which ranked second in all of the NFL in sacks allowed. Of the 32 teams, only 11 gave up less than 10 sacks in the final five games of the season. Seven of those 11 teams made the playoffs.
The offense of the Broncos even played better when Lock was behind center in the passing game.
With Lock: 64.3 completion percentage, 89.1 quarterback rating, 1.4 TDs per game, 200 passing yards per game and only 1.0 sacks per game
Before Lock: 60.8 completion percentage, 78.4 quarterback rating, 0.8 TDs per game, 192.3 passing yards per game and 3.3 sacks per game
The Broncos must find a way to help keep Lock upright, but that also means he needs to help them as well with quick passes and quick reads. If Lock can get the ball into the hands of his playmakers in 2020, the Broncos offense can explode.
Don’t be surprised if Denver gives their new franchise quarterback some new weapons on offense in the first round of the NFL Draft.