The Denver Broncos are in the midst of a pivotal offseason.
With the 2023 NFL Draft only two weeks away, let’s look at the potential picks the team may make in order to fortify their roster.
Denver Broncos: 2023 NFL Mock Draft
No. 67 overall – C Joe Tippman, Wisconsin
With the Broncos allowing the most sacks in the 2022 season with 63, the offensive line was always going to be a priority.
Denver addressed two of their primary positional needs on the offensive front with the signings of right tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Ben Powers. However, center Lloyd Cushenberry still remains the weak link on the offensive front, a position that the Broncos literally need to get stronger at.
With that in mind, Wisconsin Badgers center Joe Tippman is the best option for Denver.
Tippman stands tall at 6-foot-6 but is a beastly blocker with plenty of strength and the athleticism to pull outside as well. Whether it’s the pass game or the run game, he routinely clears space for his teammates to make plays.
That said, Wilson’s height at 5-foot-11 does create a bit of concern so far as whether Tippman’s height will obstruct his vision in the pocket. Nonetheless, the 22-year-old routinely gets low for blocks and his size could also serve as an impediment for the defense, with them having difficulty locking onto Wilson’s location due to the size difference.
No. 68 overall – DE YaYa Diaby, Louisville
The defense could use some help on its frontline too, despite the Broncos signing 25-year-old edge rusher Zach Allen.
Allen, a third-round pick in 2019, tallied 47 tackles (23 solo), 5.5 sacks, 11 stuffs, and eight pass deflections.
However, across from Allen is Jonathan Harris. Harris is a mostly unproven player after three seasons, playing 360 total defensive snaps and recording 38 tackles (24 solo), two tackles for loss, and two quarterback hits in that time.
Which leads the Broncos to Louisville Cardinals defensive end YaYa Diaby.
Diaby has a breakout junior season in 2022, amassing 37 tackles (22 solo), 14.0 tackles for loss, 9.0 sacks, two pass deflections, and two fumble recoveries. Clearly a player with a high motor, Diaby will likely begin his career as a pass-rush specialist at 6-foot-3 and 263 pounds.
Not that it should bother the Broncos, considering that they share the division with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, and now Oakland Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garrapolo.
Getting to the quarterback is as important as ever.
No. 108 overall – WR Rashee Rice, SMU
The questions about the Broncos receiving corps is rarely about talent, and primarily about durability.
23-year-old Jerry Jeudy is a great all-around talent, although he had to many drops last season. Courtland Sutton is another all-around talent, although he may not be quite elite enough to be considered a true no. 1 receiver.
KJ Hamler is a speed demon at 23-years-old but the most injury prone receiver on the roster. Tim Patrick is productive but at 29-years-old, he’s quickly approaching the wrong side of 30.
So, the Broncos draft SMU wideout Rashee Rice, a player with the physical tools and potential needed to excel but whose intangibles — namely his worth ethic and commitment — are a bit questionable.
Perhaps playing for and with household names like Sean Payton and Russell Wilson will bring the best out of him though. After all, there are plenty of 22-year-olds who need to take their craft more seriously.
This is a low-risk, high-reward selection by Denver.
No. 139 overall – RB Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State
With starting running back Javonte Williams limited by injury, the Broncos signed veteran running backs Samaje Perin and Tony Jones Jr. to help Denver navigate through the stretch of games that they might not have the 2021 second-round pick in pads.
However, there’s a running back in the draft who might be as good as Jones, Perin, and Williams: Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn.
A coach’s son, Vaughn had an impressive collegiate career at Kansas State, recording at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns every season. In fact, in the final two seasons of his three-year career, Vaughn ran for 2,962 total yards while adding 619 yards through the air and recording 34 total touchdowns.
An intelligent, fearless, and balanced runner, the only question about Vaughn is his size at 5-foot-5 and 179 pounds. Although durable in college, he may not be a three-down back in the NFL. Furthermore, he doesn’t project to do well in blitz coverage.
No. 195 overall – QB Malik Cunningham, Louisville
The quarterback responsible for breaking Lamar Jackson’s record for career touchdowns at Louisville with 120, former Cardinals signal-caller Malik Cunningham ran a 4.53 at the NFL Combine.
With his dual-threat ability, he not only looks like he could fit the mold of today’s mobile quarterbacks but he also looks like a player that could learn a lot as an understudy under Wilson.
At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, he isn’t very tall. Furthermore, only 31 percent of his deep throws connected in 2022. That said, prior to an underwhelming 2022 season as a fifth-year senior, Cunningham had thrown for at least 2,000 yards (and on at least a 62 percent completion rate) in each of the prior three seasons.
For his career, he has 70 passing touchdowns and 29 interceptions.
While he’s quick and elusive as a runner in the open field, he also can zip passes to receivers with a high velocity and make improvisational plays when forced out of the pocket.
In an offense tailored to Wilson, Cunningham could be the best backup of all for Wilson, at least as far as the Broncos roster goes.