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Our position previews for the fast approaching 2018 NFL Draft continue. After having analyzed some of our favorite options at quarterback, running back, and inside linebacker for the Denver Broncos, it was time to preview the tight ends and receivers.
Whether it be another tight end as a second option to Jake Butt, or a slot receiver to compete with Carlos Henderson—after all, neither Butt nor Henderson are sure things—the Broncos need to add more high-end depth to their receiving core.
In a weaker class for both positions, there aren’t necessarily blue-chip prospects who’d warrant a high pick. However, beyond the first round, there’s some decent depth and some intriguing talents who could help the Broncos sooner rather than later.
Here are some names to know as the 2018 NFL Draft is around the corner.
Options at 40
D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
Moore was the Big Ten’s most productive receiver despite a limited offense and poor quarterback play. He has great athletic skill and is a YAC machine. The Terps star has decent size and is deceptively talented in making plays on contested grabs. He can play inside and shows some intriguing skills as a route runner. He also has the long speed to play outside.
He does have a few too many drops and comes from a spread offense which means, for now, his route tree is limited. Moore also feels like a bit of a Henderson clone, albeit an upgraded one.
Receivers like him usually get over-drafted, but if he’s around at 40, he’d be a nice pick in Denver.
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
Washington is smaller than advertised and not as fast. He also comes from a spread offense and is really limited in the route tree he ran in college.
That didn’t matter with the Cowboys, where he regularly burned the best cornerbacks he faced. He was masterful making spectacular grabs all week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, as well. Washington’s tape is that of a first-round talent, but his question marks will force him to drop, maybe even past pick 40. He wouldn’t be the top candidate with the Broncos second-round selection, but he’d be a nice addition if his route running can develop quickly enough.
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Kirk burst onto the scene as a star freshman, looking like a future top-10 pick down the road. With A&M’s passing offense struggling, though, his numbers were down last year, which has caused his stock to drop.
He didn’t disappoint in his Combine performance but didn’t necessarily blow teams away either. Kirk is another YAC machine, but he’s on the smaller side and isn’t the route technician you’d like as an immediate contributor in the slot. He can, however, blow past defensive backs and create separation with ease.
He’d be a gamble on upside in the first two rounds, but that’s likely where someone will pull the plug on him. Could it be Denver?
D.J. Chark, WR/KR, LSU
Chark has absolutely killed the draft process, which he needed to do after never truly shining in LSU’s run-first attack.
At 6-foot-3, he’s tall and has blazing speed. He was stellar when we saw him at the Senior Bowl, and can be a weapon on reverses as well. Put the ball in his hand, and he’ll be a dynamic playmaker, simple as that.
The thing is, as of now, he doesn’t use his size, and his route running is a real work in progress. He’s mostly a weapon with the ball in his hands and in the return game.
The Broncos have already brought him in for a private visit. A few months ago, he would’ve been a reasonable selection in round three, now Denver might be lucky if he drops to pick 40.
Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
The top tight end in the class, Goedert is a small-school prospect whose stock is all over the board as an injury’s prevented him from taking advantage of the draft process.
On tape, albeit against FCS-quality opponents, he shows some intriguing talents as a blocker, added to some serious skills as a receiving tight end. He’d be a really nice second tight end with Butt, making the two basically interchangeable. Goedert’s complete skill set makes him very intriguing, and he’d be a nice pick for the Broncos at 40.
Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
Paxton Lynch’s favorite receiver two years ago at Memphis became a national darling after a few spectacularly productive seasons with the Tigers.
Miller is a true slot, with dynamic agility to shake defenders out of their cleats in the open field. He shows a knack for getting open underneath and creating space for himself as well.
A bit of a forgotten man due to an injury that prevented him to participate at the Combine, Miller is good enough to warrant second-round consideration. He’d add immediate playmaking ability in the slot, who’d present some interesting mismatches when moved around the formation.
Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
Hurst is a former MLB prospect who fizzled out and then went the college football route. Because of his unusual path, at 25 years of age, he’s older than anyone else on this list. However, he’s got a nice combination of size and athleticism. He’s also a decent blocker when put on the move, and was used all over the Gamecocks formation.
As a receiver, he has an intriguing skill-set and reminds me of Hunter Henry. Like Henry, Hurst has good-not-great speed, though he can create separation on linebackers and dominate smaller defensive backs physically. He’d be an intriguing pick with some room to grow, especially as a blocker, despite his age.
Mark Andrews, WR/TE, Oklahoma
Andrews was a stud at OU as a receiving dynamo for the Sooners. He’s big, though not much of a blocker and he’s had a few too many drops for my liking. However, as a receiving tight end, he’s got some real skills as he moves smoothly and can be a nightmare to matchup with in the passing game. Andrews is more of a big slot than a true tight end, but can really be a dominant receiver.
Due to his combine numbers, that were good, but not as good as expected, he’ll likely drop a bit further than would’ve been prognosticated a few months back. He’d make a great pairing with Butt, who’s a better blocker, giving the Broncos two big tight ends who could really give opposing defensive coordinators headaches.
Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
The local product isn’t a candidate at 40, but he’d be in play in the early third round, assuming he lasts that long.
Gallup seemed to receive some slight favoritism from the Broncos coaching staff in drills at the Senior Bowl, but it’s important not to read too much into that. He’s sure-handed, has nice size, and ran well at the combine—and even better at his pro day. Gallup would fit in nicely in Denver, as he’s a safe pick, even though his upside might not be as high as others on this list.
He’s a pure outside receiver, which would mean Emmanuel Sanders would have to slip inside on three-receiver sets, though he’d be an intriguing WR of the future as Sanders and Demaryius Thomas get up there in years.
Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA
Josh Rosen’s favorite target was a big-time deep threat for the Bruins this past season. Getting him in the third round would make him a nice value pick in Denver. He has a nice combination of size and speed and is fairly sure-handed.
He’s coming off a really productive season and could be a great sleeper in this draft as his best football’s in front of him.
Dante Pettis, WR/PR, Washington
Pettis is the NCAA record holder for touchdowns scored on punt returns—breaking Wes Welker’s record. That alone brings value to him as a potential selection in Denver. He’s also physical as a receiver and has shown some nice contested ball skills.
As his returning ability would suggest, Pettis also shows blazing speed. He’d be another outside receiver candidate and is coming off a down year. His stock has stalled a bit as he’s been unable to show off his athleticism this draft process while dealing with an ankle injury.
I’m admittedly not the highest on him, but in the early rounds of day three, he’d be a great selection for the Broncos.
Ian Thomas, TE, Indiana
Thomas isn’t talked about much, but he has got good size and is a nice red-zone target. He showed nicely at the Senior Bowl as well and had a very nice combine, to boot. He’s a bit of a one-year wonder but has intriguing upside.
The Broncos have had a weakness for Big Ten tight ends in the recent past, Thomas certainly fits that mold.
Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State
Lazard had a tremendous season with the Cyclones and is a big-bodied receiver who showed quite nicely for his 6-foot-5 and 227-pound size. He checks off a lot of boxes and would instantly be a great red zone option with his 38-inch vert. He’s similar to the Detroit Lions standout rookie Kenny Golladay who had a really nice first season.
If he’s around by early day three, Denver would have to strongly consider this Senior Bowl standout.
Tre’Quan Smith, WR, UCF
Smith played in UCF’s odd offense, but he really impressed at the combine, running in the 4.4s. He’d need to work on his route running and doesn’t look like the most sudden athlete in person or on film. However, he showed well in agility testing in Indy, so there might be something more to him than meets the eye.
At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, he could bring size and speed to the receiver room with some intriguing potential.