The Denver Broncos have been stripped of talent at several different positions through the first week of free agency in the NFL’s new league year. It’s been a rough week in “Broncos Country” as players who could have played significant roles with the team in 2016 bolted for greener pastures elsewhere.
One of the most talented players the Broncos lost in free agency is defensive end Malik Jackson.
Originally a fifth-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft, Jackson worked his way up the depth chart to become an impact player for the league’s best defense in 2015. His play in Super Bowl 50—including recovering a Cam Newton fumble for a touchdown—helped the Broncos secure the team’s third championship. Jackson clearly rode that momentum into the open market where he was able to snare a six-year, $85.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
With limited funds available for the remaining free agents on the open market, the Broncos should instead turn to the 2016 NFL draft to find Jackson’s replacement. This is an incredibly talented defensive line class, and there’s a chance they could find a player as deep as the third round to fill the spot Jackson vacated. Looking at defensive linemen who can play both end and tackle in the Wade Phillips’ defense (just like Jackson did) is likely to be a priority for general manager John Elway and the scouting department.
Here are five draft prospects who could possibly replace Jackson in 2016.