After the Denver Broncos finished at the bottom of the AFC West with a 5-11 record, the 2021 offseason could determine the team's fate over the next several seasons. This year's first-round pick will be absolutely pivotal to the team's future success.
To be fair, coach Vic Fangio didn't exactly have much luck on the injury front last year, as key players like Jurrell Casey, Von Miller, and Courtland Sutton missed the entire season. But as the saying goes in the NFL, "next man up!"
Injuries, lamentable as they might be, cannot be used as an excuse for poor play, so an expectant Broncos fanbase will be gearing up for a much better performance from the team in 2021. That hopeful improvement must begin with this crucial offseason.
Which picks do the Denver Broncos have in the 2021 NFL Draft?
As of this writing, the Denver Broncos has the following picks in the 2021 NFL Draft:
Round 1- Pick 9.
Round 2 - Pick 40.
Round 3 - Pick 71.
Round four - Pick 105.
Later rounds - Picks 136, 167, 201, 203, 218.
Which player should the Denver Broncos select with their first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft?
It's difficult to predict the Broncos first-round pick. There are undoubtedly several areas that the team must address. But until free agency unfolds, it's unclear what start coach Fangio has planned for the 2021 season. Right now, everything is conditional because the offseason is in its infancy. With that being said, the Broncos' weaknesses are fairly evident.
First, the team must figure out who will be their signal-caller next season. Denver chose QB Drew Lock in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and the Missouri product had a decent rookie season. But he regressed in 2020, to the Broncos can't feel too confident in his long-term prospects.
Lock was injured against the Steelers in Week 2 and he missed three more games. His sub-3,000-yards passing shouldn't be taken as an indictment of his talent. But Lock needs to cut down on interceptions. The Missouri product threw up almost as many picks (15) as he did touchdowns (16) last season, leading some Broncos fans to question his ability.
Lock closed out the year with a fine performance against the Las Vegas Raiders, and he is developing some chemistry with rookie wideout Jerry Jeudy. At this point, it seems unlikely that the Broncos will move on from Lock ahead of the 2021 season. Denver might hope to see what Lock can do with a healthy offense around him.
Plus, the premier quarterbacks in this year's draft (Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Justin Fields) probably won't be on the board by the time the Broncos make their selection. But if one of these gifted prospects falls into Denver's lap, anything can happen.
Otherwise, Denver has a few glaring issues on the defensive side of the ball that need to be addressed. Notably, Von Miller, who has some off-field issues to tend to, will likely be asked to restructure his current $17.5 million contract after he missed the 2020 season with an ankle injury.
There's also also star safety Justin Simmons, who spent last year on the franchise tag, and he's waiting for a new, lucrative deal during the offseason.
Coach Fangio is looking to strengthen the team, not weaken it, and the Broncos have the required maneuverability with their salary cap to keep everyone happy. Denver should be able to keep these three players and focus on the team's needs elsewhere.
After this analysis, it's still fair to wonder which player the Broncos will select with their ninth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
At this point, versatile Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons looks like a good answer.
Parsons has the speed, athleticism, and power needed to make an impact in any of the linebacker slots. Pairing him with the excellent Bradley Chubb and the returning Von Miller is just too tempting an option for the Broncos to pass up. Drafting Parsons would give coach Fangio one of the most fearsome pass rush units in the NFL.
On the other hand, if Miller is unable to regain his top form, the Broncos would have a ready-made replacement in the Penn State graduate. As a result, drafting Parsons is a win-win scenario for Denver.
Who do you think the Broncos will select with their first-round pick? Sound off in the comments section below.