In the draft, the Broncos should be able to continue retooling their offense

Mar 16, 2023, 7:05 AM

Deuce Vaughn...

(Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The NFL Draft is right around the corner. No, it really is. I know it’s at the end of April, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 17 years of professionally covering the draft is that time flies by over these next couple of months.

With the trade for head coach Sean Payton, the Denver Broncos no longer have a first-round pick. That means I must dig more than ever to unearth mid-round talent they should be considering.

With the NFL Combine in the rearview mirror, teams are now traveling across the country to attend Pro Days on college campuses. If a player had a bad performance at the combine – or it he skipped the drills there – a pro day is one last chance to impress as teams put together their draft boards.

Here is some of the latest news from around the league and the NFL Draft.


Tell Me “Y”

Let me start by saying I like tight end Greg Dulcich. That being said, the Broncos are going to add more talent to the tight end room this offseason. They still have Albert Okwuegbunam on the final year of his rookie contract, and they did add Chris Manhertz in free agency this week. Dulcich and Okwuegbunam are “F” tight ends, while Manhertz is primarily a blocking tight end.

The Broncos need to find a “Y” tight end.

The “F” position is basically a super-sized receiver who lines up in the slot or sometimes even out wide. They’ll line up on the line too, but nobody is fooled because they’re not known as great blockers. A “Y” position is your all-around tight end who can thrive as a blocker and a receiver. That’s the type of tight end the Broncos need to find as the guys they currently have on the roster are one-dimensional.

Enter Purdue’s Payne Durham, a player the Broncos had a formal interview with at the Scouting Combine. He’s the perfect prospect for the Broncos, and he should be available on day three (rounds 4-7) of the draft. Durham is a former lacrosse player, and he’s got the toughness needed to thrive as a blocker. He’s one of the better sleeper prospects in this incredibly talented tight end class who only got better during his time at Purdue – and he’s only been playing football for five years. He’s still developing as a tight end, and the upside is there for Durham to be an effective starter in this league.

The Broncos are going to add talent to the tight end room this offseason, and it makes sense to do that via the draft. I would be over the moon if the Broncos announced Durham as one of their picks.


Lightning Needed

With the addition of free agent RB Samaje Perine, the Broncos may have the most power-packed backfield in the entire league. When Javonte Williams is healthy, the Broncos are going to have a “Thunder and Thunder” combination at the running back position. They clearly are going to run the heck out of the ball this season, and both Perine and Williams thrive on their power game.

So, how about some speed to go with that power? With the New Orleans Saints, Payton worked with a great 1-2 punch of Mark Ingram (power) and Alvin Kamara (speed). I think he could find a similar combination in Denver, but he’s going to have to add speed through the draft. I think the best Kamara-type weapon for the Broncos is Tyjae Spears from Tulane, but he could be off the board by the time the Broncos pick in the third round.

For day-three running backs with lightning speed, I like Deuce Vaughn from Kansas State. He’s small, measuring in at 5-foot-5 and 179 pounds, but man alive is he explosive. Vaughn will be a receiving threat out of the backfield in the NFL, and he’s quite effective in that role. He can make defenders look silly in the open field, and Vaughn does a good job of setting up his routes like a receiver. He’s not just an outlet for his quarterback, Vaughn is a threat who needs plays designed for his unique skill set.

There are going to be quite a few options at running back for the Broncos in this draft. I prefer adding more power (Tavion Thomas please), but I totally understand if they are looking for some “lightning” in their backfield.


The Next Tim Patrick?

It’s draft season, and that means it’s “pro comparison” season for draft prospects entering the league. Some don’t like the comparison game, and I get it. There are some players who should never have rookies compared to them, yet that’s too often a mistake from analysts as they look excitedly to promote the rookie class (or standout with a bold comparison).

I’m not about that. I’m about making correct comparisons and using history as my guide. I’ve got data going back to the high school days of every prospect entering the league since the early 2000s, so finding comparisons for me is an art form. Before the month of April, I don’t look at other draft guides as I’m writing up prospects myself. However, I did take a look at the Footballguys guide (a company I’ve worked for since 2005) just to see what kind of product we put out there, and one comparison really stood out.

A.T. Perry, wide receiver from Wake Forest, drew a comparison to Broncos WR Tim Patrick. I could not agree more with that opinion. Like Patrick, Perry is a big-bodied receiver who knows how to use his frame to box out smaller defenders. Perry was a favorite during the week of practice for the East-West Shrine Bowl earlier this year, and both Andrew Mason and I came away impressed. Perry has a good size/strength combination, and he could become a favorite for whatever quarterback gets to throw him the ball in the pros. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but as Patrick has proven you need more than speed to produce at the pro level.

The Broncos are going to look for wide receivers in the draft, and I think Perry would be an excellent pick. If they don’t trade away one of the receivers on the roster, Perry would get to learn as a reserve as a rookie. However, I think he could play a larger-than-expected role in his debut season if needed.



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In the draft, the Broncos should be able to continue retooling their offense