Inside linebacker, tight end should be team's top two selections

Inside linebacker, tight end should be team’s top two selections

Since our initial Broncos mock draft earlier this month, the team added a ninth pick to their cupboard as a result of an NFL clerical error, re-signed safety Kareem Jackson and shifted Baron Browning from inside to outside linebacker.

The latter two developments have impacted our final attempt at projecting the Broncos’ selections.

Second round (No. 64)

ILB Troy Andersen, Montana State

Montana State linebacker Troy Andersen (15) ...

Tommy Martino, The Associated Press

Montana State linebacker Troy Andersen (15) celebrates after a sack in the second half during an NCAA college football game in the semifinals of the FCS playoffs, Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, in Bozeman, Mont. Montana State won 31-17.

Why: Browning is learning the new defense with fellow edge rushers Bradley Chubb, Randy Gregory, Malik Reed, Jonathon Cooper, Andre Mintze and Aaron Patrick. For now, that removes him from starting alongside inside linebacker Josey Jewell.

Enter Andersen, who had 147 tackles and nine pass break-ups (two interceptions) last year, leading his team to the FCS title game and unanimous All-America honors.

Previous mock draft: S Lewis Cine, Georgia.


Third round (No. 75)

TE Greg Dulcich, UCLA

UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich runs...

Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press file

UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich runs the ball during the second half of the team’s NCAA college football game against Arizona State on Oct. 2, 2021, in Pasadena, Calif.

Why: The Broncos have only three true tight ends under contract—Albert Okwuegbunam, Eric Tomlinson and Shaun Beyer. Not only is another body required, but a player who can be an option for quarterback Russell Wilson and a run blocker.

Dulcich (6-foot-4, 243 pounds) had 68 catches and 10 touchdowns in his last two years for the Bruins. He has experience playing in a three-point stance and throughout the formation, so the NFL game should not be a difficult learning transition.

Previous mock draft: OLB Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma.


Third round (No. 96)

OT Braxton Jones, Southern Utah

Darron Cummings, The Associated Press

Southern Utah offensive lineman Braxton Jones runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine, Friday, March 4, 2022, in Indianapolis.

Why: The Broncos’ current right tackle competition includes Billy Turner (one-year deal), Calvin Anderson (one-year) and Tom Compton (two-year, but likely more useful as a reserve interior player).

Like Andersen, Jones (6-5, 310) played at the FCS level. And like Andersen, he dominated. Jones was twice named All-America and started 29 games at left tackle and one at right tackle.

Previous mock draft: OT Kellen Diesch, Arizona State.


Fourth round (No. 115)

DL Matthew Butler, Tennessee

Defensive lineman Matthew Butler improved every year with the Volunteers, culminating in his 2021 season, when he had 8 ½ tackles for loss and five sacks in 13 games (12 starts).

Why: The Broncos signed DJ Jones and retained DeShawn Williams, but need more run-stopping depth.

Butler (6-4, 297) played 53 games for the Volunteers and totaled 152 tackles (16 for lost yardage) and 9 1/2 sacks. Butler had five sacks last year, which suggests he can provide an interior pass rush on third down.

Previous mock draft: Butler.


Fourth round (No. 116)

RB Brian Robinson, Alabama

Alabama's Brian Robinson Jr. runs for ...

Darron Cummings, The Associated Press

Alabama’s Brian Robinson Jr. runs for a first down past Georgia’s Quay Walker during the second half of the College Football Playoff championship football game Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, in Indianapolis.

Why: The Broncos don’t have a backup running back to Javonte Williams under contract if they consider Mike Boone more of a core special teams player/emergency tailback option.

Robinson (6-2, 225) waited behind Damien Harris and Najee Harris, never carrying more than 96 times in his first four seasons. But as a senior, he rushed 272 times for 1,343 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Previous mock draft: Robinson.


Fifth round (No. 145)

WR Hairy Jones, Tennessee

Mark Humphrey, The Associated Press

Tennessee wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. plays against Purdue in the Music City Bowl NCAA college football game Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn.

Why: Even though the Broncos appear set with their top four (Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler) and maybe top five (Kendall Hinton) receivers, they have a gaping hole in the return game.

Jones (6-0, 204) ran the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds at the scouting combine. In 61 games for USC and Tennessee, he caught 120 passes (11 touchdowns), but he would be an instant return man for the Broncos. He had kick-return averages of 24.5, 23.0, 24.3, 22.1 and 27.3 yards in his college career.

Previous mock draft: TE Jelani Woods, Virginia


Sixth round (No. 206)

BC Josh Thompson, Texas

Texas defensive back Josh Thompson runs...

Darron Cummings, The Associated Press

Texas defensive back Josh Thompson runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine, Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Indianapolis.

Why: The Broncos are set with their top three cornerbacks (Pat Surtain II, Ronald Darby and K’Waun Williams), but need to add competition to the group of Michael Ojemudia and Essang Bassey.

Thompson (6-0, 194) was limited in nine games last year because of a broken leg, but recovered to play in the Senior Bowl and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds at the combine. He has experience playing outside and over the slot receiver and totaled 108 tackles and two interceptions in 45 games (22 starts).

Previous mock draft: Thompson.


Seventh round (No. 232)

S Tariq Carpenter, Georgia Tech

Wilfredo Lee, The Associated Press

Georgia Tech defensive back Tariq Carpenter is shown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Miami, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Why: The Broncos re-signed Jackson to a one-year contract to possibly give Caden Sterns another year to develop. But that doesn’t mean they can’t add a physical presence like Carpenter.

Carpenter (6-3, 230) played the box safety role at Georgia Tech and finished with 223 tackles and four interceptions in 52 games. He ran the 40 in 4.47 seconds at his pro day.

Previous mock draft: BC Jack Jones, Arizona State.


Seventh round (No. 234)

OLB Jeffrey Gunter, Coastal Carolina

Coastal Carolina linebacker Jeffrey Gunter (94) looks into the backfield past Georgia State offensive lineman Johnathan Bass (77) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, in Conway, SC

Why: The more rushers, the better, right?

Gunter (6-4, 253) produced 174 tackles (40 for lost yardage), 18 sacks and nine forced fumbles in 48 games. He was twice a first-team All-Sun Belt selection and could be an instant sub-package rush option.

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