Expert: Nate Davis (USA TODAY)
Prediction: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Nate Davis of USA Today is the lone expert chronicled on this list that is predicting the Broncos will go for an offensive, skilled position player in the first round. He is forecasting Denver will select tight end O.J. Howard out of Alabama.
Howard is a world-class athlete who would give either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch a potent weapon to target. He is explosive off the line, has massive hands and can jump out of the stadium. He is too fast for linebackers and at 6’6″, too big for defensive backs.
He has shown the ability to pull in bad passes and turn short passes into large gains with after catch yardage.
The four-year Alabama product caught 45 passes for 595 total yards as a senior under head coach Nick Saban. He produced three touchdowns and averaged 13.2 yards per completion.
Where Howard may struggle at the next level is in the blocking game. Scouts have assessed he will need to improve his hand strength and hit the gym in order to deal with defensive line men in the NFL.
The Broncos have relied heavily on Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in the passing game for a few years now. Adding Howard to the mix will take some of the pressure off of those guys, diversify the offense, and give the Broncos their first legitimate offensive tight end since Julius Thomas was in town.