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Breaking down the Broncos’ options at offensive tackle in the 2020 NFL Draft

Andre Simone Avatar
April 15, 2020

With the NFL draft fast approaching, it’s time to take a look at the Denver Broncos’ biggest positions of need in the 2020 class.

Few spots have been more problematic in the Mile High City in recent years than the offensive tackle position, where high-draft picks like Ty Sambrailo and Garett Bolles have busted on the blindside and throwing money in free agency to fix the right side has led to even fewer positive results.

In the modern NFL, having bookends who can hold up in pass protection is critical, which is why even passable starters are regularly overpaid every offseason.

All that makes this phenomenal 2020 group of tackles incredibly valuable, as the deepest and most talented crop of offensive tackles we’ve seen in a long time. 2020 has it all; rare measurables, freakish athletes and an abundance of suitable candidates that project as future left tackles.

With Denver seeking at least one future starter this offseason, here are 13 prospects who project to be starter-level pros within the next three years and how they’d fit in the Broncos long-term plans.

Dream Scenarios & trade-up targets

Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

A 33-game starter, primarily at right tackle, coming from one of the best offensive line factories in the country, Tristan Wirfs is what offensive line coaches dream of.

Versatile, with the required size and blessed with truly rare athleticism, Wirfs is a unique talent with incredible upside—watch No. 74 below at right tackle, moving with ease as a pass protector and run blocker on back-to-back plays.

Nimble in pass protection with a strong wide base which gives him an edge creating push for the run game, Wirfs is seamless in the way he moves in space or on reach blocks.

Despite still being raw, his play is already at a very high level and his upside is that much more intriguing given how good he looked when asked to transition to left tackle early in the season at Iowa.

Wirfs still needs work on some of the finer points, he can struggle with power and must learn to be more efficient in finishing second-level blocks. He still isn’t consistent but his immediate versatility and upside as a pure left tackle should make him one of the top-two lineman in the 2020 class.

Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Becton is a rare specimen standing at a mammoth 6-foot-7, 364-pounds with long arms over 35 inches.

Amazingly enough, the 21-year old’s size isn’t the story, rather, it’s Becton’s size combined with unthinkable athleticism that allows him to move like a 290-pound lineman, a huge reason why he’s unique. Whether getting out in space, moving laterally on reach or wide zone blocks or climbing up to the second level, the three-year starter excels.

When everything’s clicking, Becton can simply lean on defenders and create push in the run game, while his feet and length make him impossible to get by in pass protection.

He can still be a bit sloppy, playing too upright and losing his balance when his lower half isn’t engaged but when it is, the sky is the limit.

Becton presents enough value combined with massive upside to be worth a top-15 selection despite some of the risks his unique size and raw skill-set present.

Andrew Thomas, LT, Georgia

The most NFL-ready left tackle of the bunch, Thomas is a hard-nosed run blocker with length for days on his 6-foot-5 frame with Inspector Gadget-like 36-inch arms. As if that wasn’t enough, Thomas, who has 41 career starts under his belt, tested off-the-charts for his lateral agility, which bodes well for his future in pass protection.

As a tone-setting run blocker, he’s NFL ready and has enough mobility with that length to survive on the blindside but to reach his full potential he’ll need to stay balanced and not reach or overextend himself.

Some have questioned Thomas’ ultimate potential but a player of his profile isn’t bound to last for long. 

Jedrick Wills Jr., RT, Alabama

One of three players on this list who won’t, legally, be able to celebrate his draft selection with an adult beverage, the nasty former Alabama right tackle plays with an edge and a refined approach in pass protection. 

Outside of a rough bowl game, Wills’ 2019 tape is as clean as anyone. His athleticism moving downhill is terrifying when he reaches the second level as he’ll try to finish anything into the ground. His feet are also nimble despite his brutish playing style and his hands are violent, making him a really tough assignment in a phone booth—watch No. 74 below at right tackle, in pass protection and as a run blocker.

In space, Wills can get exposed and his lateral mobility isn’t great, which could become a greater concern at the next level. For now, he’s a reliable right tackle option with massive potential at guard and most, if not all, the requisite tools to play on the left side, though he isn’t a seamless fit in a zone-blocking scheme.

Two non-Power Five stars

Josh Jones, OT, Houston

Jones might not be the household name that the four above mentioned prospects are but he’s coming off a career in which he was a four-year starter with 45 starts to his name, almost all at left tackle.

While Jones might lack great size, raw athleticism, or overwhelming power he has the most coveted trait of all for an offensive tackle in the NFL; smooth feet and a balanced approach that allows him to be efficient in pass protection.

He’s also quelled any questions regarding the level of competition he faced at Houston with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl and when he faced power-five competition—here he is in one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl annihilating Bradlee Anae, one of the best pass rushers in the country last season (13 sacks).

As a fairly clean prospect at a premier position, Jones should have carved out a spot for himself in round one as he’ll be extremely appealing for teams looking to plug an immediate hole at left tackle.

In Denver, with a little coaching under Mike Munchak he could be turned into a very smart, reliable starter.

Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State

One of the big risers in the draft process, the redshirt junior with 40-career starts is a very intriguing prospect that checks off just about every box. Not only is Cleveland a freakish athlete who blew up the Combine he also plays with a bit of a nasty streak and is smooth as butter in pass protection.

If his stellar play against power-five opponents is any indication of future success, Cleveland could be one of the steals of the draft if selected in the second half of round one or beyond.

Still raw, the 6-foot-6 tackle needs to add a bit more strength and refine his hands, with some development, he could become a long-term solution at left tackle with as much upside as anyone in the class. 

A deep second tier

Austin Jackson, LT, USC

Speaking of upside, Austin Jackson is a raw, 6-foot-5, 322-pound ball of clay. With 25-career starts, Jackson, who blew up the Combine himself, is just scratching the surface of his potential.

Still just 20-years old, the USC left tackle has one of the most interesting background stories of the 2020 draft, as he helped his sister by undergoing a bone marrow transfusion last offseason which may have affected his up-and-down play in 2019. In stretches to start and end the year, the former four-star recruit looked terrific and showed more of an edge run blocking in 2018 prior to the transfusion. If he can combine the raw strength he showed in 2018 and some of the more refined pass pro sets from 2019 he could be a star. 

Jackson’s a stellar athlete with great size and the tools to excel in all areas. If Denver can’t get one of the top-four prospects, someone with his upside as a blindside protector would make a ton of sense.

Lucas Niang, RT, TCU

Niang is a big, NFL-ready right tackle who plays even bigger than the 6-foot-6, 315 pounds he measured in at the Combine.

He uses his length beautifully and has some of Mekhi Becton’s game in that he’s a big man who can get to the second level with ease and create push by just leaning into defenders.

He’s rough around the edges, can struggle in space and doesn’t always get his lower-half involved but his upside is nice on the right side with a lot of the traits to fit on the left side as well.

Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn

Auburn’s athletic left tackle is a fun watch with smooth movement skills, hip flexibility, knee bend and light feet in pass protection.

Auburn moved Tega Wanogho around a decent amount to run behind him and leaned on the 22-year old quite a bit last season, where he proved to possess a lot of key traits.

What he’s lacking is prototypical reach with just 33 and 1/2 inch arms. This can get him in trouble if he’s too passive and isn’t initiating contact, as longer defensive ends can get into his pads and put him on skates but he moves well enough to avoid such a fate most of the time. Shorter, stocky defensive tackle-types don’t give him trouble nor do speedy edge rushers who he can mirror with ease, it’s longer defenders that’ll be the challenge.

With the right coaching, he’d be a worthwhile pick for more zone concepts and could always be turned into a super athletic guard if need be.

Saahdiq Charles, OT, LSU

The LSU left tackle has shown flashes of greatness in his career with similar smooth movements skills to PTW and a violent base that allows him to really do damage on the second level or when blocking on the move.

Tested at times by SEC competition, Charles is more of a project but certainly an enticing one. Still only 20, he’ll have had to answer questions regarding a six-game suspension in 2019 for an unspecified violation of team rules—rumored to be drug-related.

If the Broncos can stomach that character concern—not a given considering their recent emphasis on character—Charles’ tape in a really tough 2019 slate added to his age, and ultimate upside make him one of the more intriguing day-two possibilities on this list.

Isaiah Wilson, RT, Georgia

Georgia’s other offensive tackle was actually ranked higher than Thomas coming out of high school, as the former five-star stud out of Brooklyn, New York was already seen as a future NFLer at 17.

Only a 25-game starter with two years of eligibility remaining, what made Wilson a highly touted recruit is still what’s carrying him. His game is all about his ability to create push and his raw power at 6-foot-6, 350 pounds with over 35-inch arms.

Despite the rawest profile of the bunch, there’s some round-one buzz surrounding Wilson at this time. His feet and balance in pass protection will need lots of development, a big gamble in a class with so many other worthy options early in the draft but he’s in the mix and has one of the higher ceilings of the group.

Small-school intrigue

Ben Bartch, OT, St. John’s

Bartch is the rare Division II prospect who was so dominant to receive a Senior Bowl invite and looked anything but out of place in Mobile. A smooth mover in pass protection with great feet and a strong anchor, Bartch has some real appeal protecting the quarterback with a competitive edge that’ll get him through as a run blocker.

At 6-foot-6 he has the height but doesn’t have the arm length measuring in under 33-inches. He’s succeeded at every stop so far and could be a Graham Glasgow-type guard if moved inside. His value from round three on is very interesting for teams in need of more reliable pass protectors. 

Matthew Peart, RT, Connecticut

Peart is another Senior Bowl standout who managed to look like he belonged even if he wasn’t dominant.

The Jamaican native has made a quick impression with his 6-foot-7 frame with 36 and 5/8 arms, which stand out due to his smooth, natural feet that Peart developed playing soccer as a kid. Most comfortable on the right side, Peart is a high-upside option at tackle who, with some development, could prove to be a very effective starter.


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