Broncos Mailbag: What to make of Denver’s work in the NFL draft and its crowded wide receiver room

Denver Post Broncos writer Parker Gabriel posts his Broncos Mailbag periodically during the offseason. Click here to submit a question.

Hey Parker, what do you think of our picks this year? I’m really loving that we landed Drew Sanders. I watched him play last year and the kid looks like he’ll be a force at ILB for us. What do you think?

— Mark, Arvada

Let’s get it going this week with Mark’s question about the draft class overall. Denver, of course, entered the weekend with just five draft picks and ended up selecting five players — albeit while moving around the draft board quite a bit — in addition to trading for tight end Adam Trautman.

In fact, the only player taken with a pick that Denver entered the draft with was Sanders at No. 67. The Broncos traded up to No. 63 for receiver Marvin Mims Jr., up to No. 83 for cornerback Riley Moss, selected JL Skinner at No. 183 with one of the picks from the Mims trade and then nabbed offensive lineman Alex Forsyth at No. 257 with a pick from the Trautman trade.

The period after the draft is prime time for grandiose statements, which hopefully we can avoid here. Overall, general manager George Paton and coach Sean Payton say they got three players they had targeted on Day 2 in Mims, Sanders and Moss. They traded up for Mims and Moss, so that tracks. The Broncos parted with a valuable draft pick to get Moss in that 2024 third-rounder they dealt to Seattle (even if it ends up being near the end of the round).

Especially with the first three picks, you can see the emphasis on athletic traits and draw a pretty clear line with each as to what the Broncos are hoping to get early vs. what they hope the development arc looks like. Mims has speed the receiving corps needs (particularly with KJ Hamler’s injury situation) and might fill that role before, ideally, it expands in the future. Payton projected Sanders as “a pressure player” in addition to playing in the middle of the field. Maybe he gets rotational work and some blitzing early on before Denver has to make a decision about whether to offer Josey Jewell a new contract after 2023. Moss gets thrown into the competition opposite Pat Surtain II at corner and you see what happens.

At five picks (plus Trautman), Denver wasn’t going to fill all of its needs even if the value/need equation lined up at a few spots. Even still, it’s a little surprising they didn’t end up with more defensive line/offensive line help. I do think Forsyth has a nice opportunity in front of him. Let’s say Lloyd Cushenberry does win the starting center job. Forsyth would be battling with Luke Wattenberg and Jordan Fuller to perhaps be the first man in at any of the interior three spots.

With Marvin Mims Jr., where does that leave our receiver situation? Is Courtland Sutton going to be on the trading block? KJ Hamler is as good as gone when his contract is done, I’m sure.

— James, Highlands Ranch

Hey James, thanks for writing in and good questions. The simplest answer is it leaves Denver’s receiver situation crowded.

Most teams carry maybe six receivers on the 53-man roster. Here’s what the Broncos’ room looks like currently: Jerry Jeudy, Sutton, Mims, Tim Patrick, Hamler, Kendall Hinton, Marquez Callaway, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Brandon Johnson, Jalen Virgil and Montrell Washington.

Even if the Broncos carry seven receivers to open the season, that’s four names from this list who don’t make it. There’s still a lot of offseason left, obviously, so it’s no use trying to project the back part of the roster right now. What we do know is Hamler’s dealing with a torn pectoral muscle that could keep him out well into training camp and Patrick is tracking toward being cleared from an ACL injury suffered Aug. 2 at some point this summer.

On top of that, Sutton and Patrick have no guaranteed money left on their respective 2021 extensions after the 2023 season and it’s the final year of Hamler’s rookie contract.

The Broncos held firm on their asking price this offseason for Jeudy and Sutton and now head into the summer with both in the fold (and Jeudy under contract through 2024 after picking up his fifth-year option). Even if all of these guys are in orange and blue at the start of training camp, 2023 is shaping up to be a fascinating year at receiver and perhaps the beginning of a bigger shift for 2024 and beyond.

Any thoughts on the undrafted guys we picked up? Who has the best shot to make the roster come Week 1?

— Adam G., Aurora

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We reported 13 undrafted agreements for the Broncos on Saturday after the draft ended and there will be several more tryout players at next week’s minicamp. It’s always interesting to get eyes on not only the draft picks but also some of the undrafted guys in May — last year, Brandon Johnson impressed from the start — though the rookie minicamp this year here is not expected to be open to the media the way it has been previously.

The solid bet is that at least one undrafted guy will make the roster. Virgil did last year and Johnson might have if not for a high-ankle sprain in the preseason finale. That made 18 of the last 19 years that at least one undrafted player has made the initial 53-man roster.

Mostly looking at need, it’ll be interesting to see what denfensive linemen Thomas Incoom (Central Michigan) and PJ Mustipher (Penn State) have to offer. The Athletic had Incoom projected as a borderline fourth/fifth round talent. Even if others weren’t as high on him, it wouldn’t have shocked me if he’d been drafted on Day 3. He’s not real big at 6-foot-2 and 265 pounds, but he ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash at the Combine and has long arms. Mustipher is an interior player at 6-4 and 320. Similar thinking need-wise on the offensive line, where Henry Byrd out of Princeton is a good athlete at 6-5 and 310 and Illinois tackle Alex Palczewski (6-6, 303) started a Big Ten record 65 games over six years. Houston corner Art Green is big (6-1, 200) and fast (4.36 in the 40 at his pro day).

No prognosticating yet on somebody making the roster, but those are a few names where maybe the roster fit is easier to see.

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