Broncos: 5 first-round targets after big free agency period

The Pittsburgh Steelers select Najee Harris in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The Pittsburgh Steelers select Najee Harris in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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2021 NFL Draft, Justin Fields, Broncos
MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – JANUARY 11: Justin Fields #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes Denver Broncos 2021 NFL Draft prospect. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Denver Broncos have had a very productive week-plus to kick off the 2021 NFL Free Agency period.

New general manager George Paton has gotten to work rather quickly getting this Broncos’ roster to a point that they could already field a starting 22 before the 2021 NFL Draft even takes place.

Including players he has re-signed and brought back either on short- or long-term deals, Paton has:

  • Signed safety Justin Simmons to a four-year extension
  • Picked up Von Miller’s contract option
  • Re-signed Kareem Jackson for one year
  • Re-signed Shelby Harris to a three-year deal
  • Signed cornerback Ronald Darby
  • Signed cornerback Kyle Fuller

In combination with the Broncos’ talented and young offensive core, this team looks like it’s ready to make a leap, at least on paper.

How will George Paton approach the 2021 NFL Draft now that arguably the team’s biggest needs have been filled?

The Broncos’ top remaining needs at this point would have to be:

  • Quarterback
  • Running back
  • Linebacker
  • Right tackle

Again, with all of those position groups, the Broncos have all of their 2020 starters (or projected starters) returning for the 2021 season. In the case of the right tackle position, the team remains married to 2019 free agency acquisition Ja’Wuan James who has not yet played a full game with the Broncos since signing a four-year contract.

Because James opted out of the 2020 season, his contract tolled a full year and he’s essentially another big free agent pickup for this team in 2021 with the second-highest cap hit on the team ($13 million).

The key for the Broncos in the 2021 NFL Draft is going to be identifying the positions they can get better (upgrades) at with players who can contribute right away.

That’s not to say the Broncos would completely rule out a cornerback like Patrick Surtain or someone else if the value was right, but there are other scenarios now that make a lot more sense.

Which players could George Paton now be targeting in the first round? A number of these players would be targets in a trade-down scenario.

Let’s take a look.