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Scouting Combine Report: Broncos looking at WR, RB and OT

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The 2020 NFL Scouting Combine has begun! Each year, I cap off my “All-Star Road Trip” by journeying to Indianapolis, Ind. for the Combine.

After traveling to college all-star games, I get to reconnect with prospects I’ve talked to earlier in the year. I also get to meet underclassmen I have yet to talk to. I’ll catch up with friends in the scouting community, including team executives and head coaches. It’s a great time and an important (and often misunderstood) stop in the pre-draft process.

This is the 10th Combine for Broncos general manager John Elway. I’ve been here for every one of his Combines as an executive with the team and Elway has learned a lot on the journey. After a decade of coming to this event, Elway is clear on what he likes most about the Combine.

“I think it’s exciting for us too because we get to see actual numbers on all these guys. I think up to this point and time our scouts have done a good job with background and trying to figure out what the numbers are. We get the true numbers. Not only that, we get the medical side testing done and everything. It’s an exciting week because it kind of puts everything in process and the fact that we start building a team and looking to the next year. This is when we start building it,” Elway said.

Many things are in motion at the Combine. There is draft news, injury updates and even some trade talk or free-agent discussion. I’m all over it, and happy to report to you every day on The Fan.

Here is my day two recap from the Combine.

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Moving on Up?

It’s always interesting what kind of buzz you’ll hear about when attending the Combine. On Wednesday, I started hearing from league sources that there are teams who might want to leapfrog the Broncos for top-tier wide receiver talent in the 2020 NFL draft.

The Broncos are sitting at the No. 15 overall pick and there is likely to be one of the top-three receivers in this rich draft class who fall to that position. In most mock drafts, that players is Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III. We should see Ruggs push for the Combine record in the 40-yard dash and that is going to excite teams even more for his services. If that happens, Ruggs may become a hot commodity and one that won’t make it to the Broncos near the middle of the first round.

If the Broncos want one of the top receivers in this class, they had better be ready to move up just in case a team behind them wants to beat them to the punch. The Eagles seem to be the team most ready to pounce. They have a serious need for wide receivers with speed and Ruggs certainly fits the bill.

Speaking of bills, the Buffalo Bills want to get another speedy wideout to go with John Brown to utilize the arm strength from quarterback Josh Allen. The Saints need another weapon at the wide receiver position not named Michael Thomas, but they don’t have a second-round pick this year and that could dampen their efforts to move up in round one.

No matter what happens with the draft, the Broncos had better be ready to make a move if they want to land a top wideout. The draft is always fluid, and it seems like teams are dialed in to where they need to jump for elite-level wide receiver talent – and that is in front of the Broncos.

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Formal Interview Surprise

Believe it or not, the Broncos are in the running back market and they may look to the 2020 NFL Draft to fill a need that some think they don’t have. On Wednesday, it was revealed that the Broncos had a formal interview with Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins.

This move was a bit surprising to some as the Broncos have two-time, 1,000-yard rusher Phillip Lindsay as their starting running back, but this interest might have to do more with backup Royce Freeman. During the last two seasons, Freeman has disappointed as a runner while doing more as a receiver than most expected when he came out of Oregon as a third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Dobbins is not a big back, but he has good size at 209 pounds. He is known for grinding down opponents with his no-nonsense style as a runner. Dobbins had over 1,200 yards rushing for the Buckeyes last year – after contact. While not nuanced as a runner, Dobbins is an intent runner who could be a featured back in the NFL. Not only is he a good receiving option out of the backfield, Dobbins might be the best running back in this class when it comes to pass protection.

Dobbins is my No. 3 running back in this draft class and I have a late first-round grade on his talent. There is a chance he makes it to the second round, but the Broncos may not want to take that chance. With five picks in the first three rounds, there’s a possibility they could trade back into the end of the first round to get a playmaker like Dobbins.

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Top-15 Buzz

The Broncos are looking at offensive tackles in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Some of the formal interviews were discovered on Wednesday and five of those players revealed for Denver happened to be on the offensive line.

One of the most interesting players on the list was USC offensive tackle Austin Jackson. I have Jackson graded as a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft, but he might go much higher than that. In fact, some do not think it’s outlandish to place the Broncos among those interested in Jackson in the first round.

Jackson is a quality talent, but taking him at No. 15 overall might be a bit of a stretch. He’s considered talented but raw by most in the scouting community. Jackson is a fantastic athlete for a man weighing 322 pounds. That athleticism helps him on the second level when tasked with blocking at the linebacker level on pulls and cutoff blocks.

Perhaps the Broncos believe offensive line coach Mike Munchak can work with Jackson to clean up his mechanical flaws that he showed in college as a blocker. Munchak is one of the best in the league at what he does and there is no doubt he could get the best out of any player he’s tasked with coaching. The Broncos aren’t the only team that may be considering Jackson in the middle of the first round, so they need to think long and hard if they want to be the team to take him off the board.

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One Tag or Two?

The biggest news coming out of the Combine that doesn’t have to do with Joe Burrow’s tiny hands is the information we’re getting about the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. In fact, it might be what we’re not getting – resolution – that is creating the most confusion here in Indianapolis.

There are team executives who want to know what to do with the franchise and transition tags which can be placed on players as early as Thursday. This is the final league year in the old CBA, so that means teams can use two tags (one franchise, one transition) for players on their roster. For example, in this final year of the CBA, a team like the Cowboys could franchise tag quarterback Dak Prescott and then transition tag wide receiver Amari Cooper.

The franchise tag comes with compensation for a team if another squad actually signs the player away. The transition tag comes with no such compensation, but it does give the team right of refusal if another team makes that player an offer.

However, a new CBA has been sent to the player which could be ratified and passed in the next 10 days to two weeks. If that happens, it means it would immediately be the first year of a new CBA – and only one tag could be used.

Teams don’t know, even the league doesn’t know, how they’d handle that situation if that was the case. A team could use both tags now legally and then have to make a quick move if a new CBA is passed. There is optimism that a new deal will be reached, so NFL teams are a bit cautious in this situation – and for good reason.

Some teams have planned on using both tags, but if that’s not allowed or they have to rescind a tag then it would create a bit of chaos during the roster-building part of the offseason. The NFL has no official answer if that was the case, so teams are just kind of waiting to see how the players vote.

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