Broncos have starting secondary set, but taking cornerback (or two), safety in NFL draft makes sense – The Denver Post
Because they don’t debut until the 64th pick in next week’s NFL draft, the Broncos know they won’t be able to fortify their secondary with players like safety Kyle Hamilton or cornerbacks Sauce Gardner, Derek Stingley, Jr., or Andrew Booth.
But they do realize a cornerback (or two) and a safety should be in the offing with 2-3 of their nine picks, which includes four selections in rounds 2-4.
The Broncos have only five cornerbacks under contract and a 34-year-old starting safety (Kareem Jackson) on a one-year deal.
Last month, general manager George Paton said the Broncos needed to “add a corner at some point — or two.”
First up was veteran nickel K’Waun Williams, who was signed away from San Francisco to replace Bryce Callahan.
Next up should be a cornerback who brings versatility (outside and the slot) and some characteristics of being around the football.
“The depth at cornerback is not that great,” ESPN analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., said. “You’re getting into hits and misses (later in the draft).”
Cornerback depth should currently be a concern.
The Broncos know what they have in second-year player Pat Surtain II, who could emerge as one of the NFL’s elite cover men.
“I just want to build on (my) consistency, technique (and) fundamentals,” Surtain said Tuesday. “(It’s about) slowing the game down a little bit in the second year.”
Surtain had all four of the Broncos’ interceptions last year by cornerbacks, a group that has combined for only eight interceptions over the last three seasons.
“He’s very, very difficult to go against,” coach Nathaniel Hackett said of Surtain earlier this offseason. “Whenever you have a corner who has that confidence and doesn’t freak out so he has the ability to recover, it’s pretty impressive.”
In the AFC West, though, Surtain can’t be the Broncos’ only impressive cornerback.
Ronald Darby, the other outside corner, missed six games last year because of injury and has a two-year interception drought. Inside, Williams has never played a full season (22 missed games in seven years) and Michael Ojemudia and Essang Bassey played one game apiece last year for the Broncos.
At the top of the rankings, Gardner (Cincinnati), Stingley (LSU), Booth (Clemson) and Trent McDuffie (Washington) will be long gone by the time the Broncos pick. The group of cornerbacks in Days 2-3 include Auburn’s Roger McCreary, Nebraska’s Cam Taylor-Britt and Texas-San Antonio’s Tariq Woolen.
“A guy like Taylor-Britt, he played safety early on and tackled well (late in his career) but his coverage was a little up and down,” Kiper said. “Woolen is very raw. Talented, but had some rough games in coverage.”
McCreary is listed at 5-foot-11, but was first-team All-America last year despite not intercepting a pass (16 break-ups). He is projected to go late in the second round and could back up Williams at the nickel spot.
At safety, Hamilton (Notre Dame) may not get past Washington at No. 11 and the second round has terrific value in Georgia’s Lewis Cine, Baylor’s Jalen Pitre and possibly Michigan’s Daxton Hill if he falls out of the first.
Had the Broncos not re-signed Jackson, they might have gone safety in the second round. But Jackson is back and the depth options are currently second-year players Caden Sterns (two interceptions last year in a dime package role) and Jamar Johnson.
Because of the Broncos’ defensive scheme, they require safeties to play the deep middle and closer to the line of scrimmage depending on the call. And if they can cover, all the better.
How new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero feels about Sterns to play a sub-package role is unknown, but the organization obviously felt Jackson was the best option for at least one more year.
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