This piece is dedicated to the defensive prospects for the upcoming 2009 draft. I want to make sure that everyone has a chance to see some of the guys that will be discussed frequently in the upcoming months. The clips are provided by "DraftParty" and show nice scouting footage and not just simple highlights. This post is focused on the defense talent available in the first and second rounds with a Knowshon Moreno cherry on top. I am sorry but the heart wants what the heart wants...I will not apologize! :)
The video clips were made by "DraftParty" and the scouting reports were found from a variety of writers at fftoolbox.com. To view the highlights simply click the player's name.
First, lets start with the Defensive Tackles. As Bill Parcells loves to say, "If you find a big man who moves fast, you draft him."
B.J. Raji - So far this year Raji has generated a buzz. Many think he is overrated, others say he is exactly what we need. Here is what the scouts say...
"During the 2006 campaign, B.J. Raji tallied 8.5 tackles-for-loss and three sacks. Off that success, he could have been an early second day selection in the 2008 Draft. Since he was academically ineligible during the 2007 season, it was certainly an option. But Raji spent that season on the sidelines and came back strong in 2008. Early in the 2008 season, the 6-1, 323 pound defensive tackle has been a dominating run stopper and a tough match-up for any Atlantic Coast Conference opponent. Despite his size, Raji is deceptively quick. His first step is very impressive and then he will use his strength to simply run over the opposing lineman. Raji does just about everything well that one would hope from a defensive tackle. His positioning and instincts are solid and combined with his athleticism and strength, Raji pretty much has it all.
2/11 Update: Raji had a superb showing at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. He often outworked, and was practically unblockable against, some of the best guard and center prospects in the draft. Raji has been doing that for about four years at Boston College, but showing his stuff at the Senior Bowl has made his draft stock sky rocket. Right now the worst case scenario for Raji looks like a top ten selection."
For the next DT we go across the nation...to USC. Fili Moala is a DT who plays with a non stop motor. Here is the scouting report on Moala.
"Fili Moala is yet another very good interior defensive line prospect from the University of Southern California. He has not been as productive this year as he was last year because he is seeing more double teams after Lawrence Jackson and Sedrick Ellis. Moala has played both the nose tackle and defensive tackle position while at Southern California. He is the second rated defensive tackle according to Mel Kiper Jr. He is a very active player with good quickness to beat offensive lineman off the snap. He lacks ideal lower body strength to anchor against the run, so he needs to add bulk and strength if he wants to be an every down lineman in the NFL. Moala needs to become stronger at the point of attack in order to help his run defense. Moala allows blockers to get inside too often and does not do a good enough job with his hands to keep them from pushing him around when they get into his pads. Moala is an ideal fit to play in an even front in the NFL. His quickness and upper body strength will allow him to excel if he is not facing constant double teams. If Moala can improve throughout the year he could be drafted in the middle of the first round, but will likely be an early second round pick"
Evander "Ziggy" Hood is an active DT who has made a quiet name for himself. He shouldn't make it past the second round.
"To many, Evander Hood came out of nowhere during Senior Week and emerged as a top defensive tackle prospect. His performance during the one-on-one drills quickly put him into the minds of NFL scouts and he is considered a possible first-round talent. Yet, his story started long ago for followers of Missouri and the Big 12 conference. Even as a freshman Hood was an impressive player who saw spot duty in 12 games. After struggling through much of the 2006 season with a broken foot, Hood emerged as a star in 2007 and 2008. During his senior campaign for the Tigers, Hood tallied 62 tackles, 7.0 tackles-for-loss and 5.0 sacks. Like the rest of the defense, he was overshadowed by Missouri's highflying, potent offense, but Hood has made a name for himself with his consistent play. If Hood impresses at the NFL Combine as much as he did during Senior Week, he could be a late first round selection. There are quite a few teams towards the bottom of the first round (like Atlanta, Indianapolis and Tennessee) that need some help at tackle and if Hood can separate himself from prospects like Fili Moala of USC and Sen'Derrick Marks of Auburn, he will sneak into the first round."
The final Defensive Tackle that I want to show you is Peria Jerry. Here is what the experts say.
"Jerry battled injuries (foot problem) throughout his freshman and sophomore campaigns, but he has remained healthy over the past one and a half seasons, and that has paid off. The defensive tackle was named Second-Team All-SEC by several media outlets as a junior in 2007, finishing sixth in the conference with 14 tackles for loss and second on the team in sacks and quarterback hurries. This season Jerry returned a fumble for a touchdown against Vanderbilt and he was credited with the crucial tackle when Mississippi stopped Tim Tebow on a critical fourth-and-one play that preserved an upset win over Florida. Jerry has made starts at defensive end, tackle, and nose guard during his collegiate career and NFL scouts will love such versatility. Durability, however, has to be at least a minor concern with him. He also has to get either bigger or faster (he is right around 4.9 in the 40-yard-dash on a great day) if he is interested in making a sizable impact at the next level. It would also help to establish himself as either a dominant pass-rusher or run-stuffer, whereas right now he is merely solid against both offensive sets. Jerry can cement himself as a second-rounder in April's draft if his stellar play continues."
Up next is the "hybrid" Defensive End/Linebackers. In the 3-4 defense an edge rusher is vital. I wouldn't be suprised for Denver to find a "hybrid" type of DE/LB with the 12th pick.
Brian Orakpo has some serious skills. It may be a stretch to hope he falls to the Broncos at 12. Here is the scouting report on Brian.
"Defensive end Brian Orakpo is a superb pass rusher. His numbers at Texas have been good so far, but are not that spectacular. He tallied four tackles-for-loss and a half a sack as a freshman and earned Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors. The following year he managed 4.5 sacks and six tackles-for-loss. As an upperclassman last season Orakpo improved those numbers and ended up with 5.5 sacks and nine tackles-for-loss, although his playing time was limited due to a knee injury. His numbers for 2008 through just a couple games are already impressive. But even without great numbers in 2008, Orakpo is an NFL ready defensive end. He is 6-4 and 258 pounds and a great athlete who can power or finesse his way into the backfield. He bench presses 515 pounds and squats 600. Those are some pretty impressive numbers, especially for a player who arrived in Austin undersized. If his knee stays healthy, Orakpo has the talent to be a first day selection in April. A strong showing in 2008 and at the Combine could easily move him into the first round. His versatility to play on the end or at linebacker is also a big plus.
Everette Brown is a young man that is vaulting up draft boards. The Florida State Seminole has talent off the edge.
"Even when Everette Brown was a freshman and played a limited role on the defense, the defensive end was very productive. He only started three games as a freshman in 2006, but he managed to tally 13.5 tackles-for-loss and three sacks. As a sophomore Brown started nine games, mostly at left end. On top of his 37 tackles, Brown ended the year with 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles-for-loss. The 2008 season has gone pretty well for Florida State. The Seminoles have started the season 6-1 and the defense and Brown deserve a lot of credit. In those seven games, Brown (who has started every game so far in the 2008 season) is leading the team with 11.0 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks. That production has warranted some looks from NFL scouts. Brown has good size at 6-4 and 252 pounds, but he could stand to add some more strength. His speed and quickness are great assets, but he can get pushed around on occasion. The good news is that Brown has room on his frame to add some more muscle and NFL teams should be willing to work with him since he has skills and instincts that cannot be taught. If Brown does declare early for the draft, and his junior year continues to go as well as it has so far, Brown could be a second round selection. "
Tyson Jackson from LSU is another Defensive End that could interest the Broncos.
"At one point during the 2007 season, Jackson was thought to become a first round pick in the NFL Draft if he declined to return to Baton Rouge for his senior year. A disappointing junior campaign, however, left Jackson with a diminished draft stock and convinced him to return to LSU. He recorded only 3.5 sacks (down from 8.5 in his sophomore season) and 4.5 tackles-for-loss. Jackson needs to pick up his numbers in his last go at it as a senior, but through three games it has been a struggle. The defensive end has just 0.5 sacks, but he does lead the team in quarterback hurries with five. The good news for Jackson is that the NFL will love his physical makeup regardless of his stats. He can carry his 6'5", 292-pound frame through a 40-yard-dash in about 4.8 seconds. Jackson seems even faster than that coming off the end. His long wing span also comes in handy for wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Inconsistency is an issue for Jackson, but part of that is due to seeing double-teams from offensive lines. That won't happen to him in the NFL, at least not right away. A strong finish to the 2008 season will put Jackson in the first round come April."
The Outside linebacker position has some talent as well. One name popping up in the second round of recent mocks is Clint Sintim.
"After redshirting as freshman in 2004, Clint Sintim started every game as a freshman in 2005 and never looked back. During that freshman campaign he ranked fifth on the team in tackles, third in sacks and fourth in tackles-for-loss. His numbers steadily improved over his career and he tallied 45 tackles, 12.0 tackles-for-loss and four sacks in 2006. By his junior year Sintim was a leader of the defense and recorded 77 tackles, ranking third on the team. By his senior campaign he totaled 70 tackles, 11.0 sacks and 13.0 tackles-for-loss. His 0.92 sacks per game average in 2008 was the best among linebackers in the entire nation and he was rewarded with second-team All-ACC honors. Despite all the sacks, Sintim is a well balanced outside linebacker. He can deliver the big hit, get to the quarterback and drop back into coverage. At 6-3 and 254 pounds, he has the size to be a dominating linebacker in the NFL. To many pundits, Sintim is the second best outside linebacker after Wake Forest's Aaron Curry. That would put him ahead of players like Brian Cushing and Marcus Freeman. Senior week and the combine will be the difference maker, but Sintim could end up being a first round selection. He may not have gotten much recognition during the season due to the relatively poor performance of the Cavaliers, but that will change now. "
Another OLB that I like is Brian Cushing. Cushing is part of the dynamic USC defense. One knock on Cushing has been his injury issues.
"Cushing is an excellent outside linebacker whose injury history has really cut his production down during his collegiate career. He possesses a very good combination of height, bulk, and overall speed. He is very productive when he is on the field. Cushing is a very instinctual player and seems to play a step ahead of most defenders. He does not take very many wasted steps on the field. Cushing does a great job of play recognition and gets to the ball very quickly once he has diagnosed the play. Playing sideline to sideline with excellent speed, he does a good job of avoiding blockers. Cushing struggles to shed blockers once they have gotten into his pads. He is best suited to play the strong side in the NFL as he does a good job of covering the tight end. Cushing is a solid tackler, he does a good job of breaking down and making open field tackles against running backs and receivers. He is a good blitzer, but will not make a name for himself as a sacking outside linebacker in the NFL. Cushing has the size and ability to play outside in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme. Cushing is Southern California's second leading tackler from his outside linebacker position with 33 tackles through 5 games, including 5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. If Cushing can stay healthy and productive, he could rise quickly in a weak outside linebacker class."
The cream of the OLB crop in many people's opinion is Aaron Curry from Wake Forest.
"Aaron Curry's name may not be recognizable to those outside of ACC country, but he has been the best player on one of the conference's best teams over the last few years. It sure did not take the 6-3 linebacker much time before he made his mark. In just the second game of his redshirt freshman year, Curry was inserted into the starting lineup and he has remained there ever since. As a freshman in 2005 he tallied 45 tackles. That number shot up to 83 during his sophomore campaign and 99 in 2007. It was also in 2007 when Curry returned three interceptions for touchdowns (which is really impressive for a linebacker). Curry is a big play linebacker and can deliver the big hit and cover a lot of ground. He is also extremely versatile and does a good job against both the run and the pass. The only negative to find with Curry is his awareness. There are times when he is out of position and makes mistakes. The hype might be low right now, but NFL scouts will not let Curry slip under the radar for too long. He has the tools and experience to be a first-round draft pick and that will not change between now and April. "
Rey Maualuga is a genuine thumper. Some people say he doesn't play disciplined enough and over runs his gaps. Here is what the scouts say...
"Maualuga reminds many of another former USC linebacker, Junior Seau. Maualuga has great size and power. He may lack sideline to sideline speed, but does have good short-area quickness. He is surprisingly smooth for such a big linebacker. Maualuga has improved his instincts as a blitzer. Maualuga is a great middle linebacker prospect and in the right system could emerge as an even better pro than college player. Maualuga finished the 2007 season as USC's leading tackler with 79 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for a loss and 6 sacks. Maualuga had a great game in the 2008 Rose Bowl, including 3 sacks and an interception. He was named the game's "Outstanding Defensive Player." Maualuga is the most instinctual linebacker college football has seen in the last 5 years. He has shown an incredible knack for finding the ball early in the 2008 season. Maualuga sprained his knee in the fourth quarter of Southern California's loss to Oregon State. If he recovers from the injury and can remain productive without losing a step, he will be a top five selection in the 2009 draft."
The other MLB that has been a steady performer throughout his collegiate career is James Laurinaitis. Often drawing comparisions to Barrett Ruud of the Tampa Bay Bucs, Laurinaitis has contributed since he walked on the field at Ohio State. Here is what the scouts think.
"James Laurinaitis is one of the best football players that will be available (regardless of position) in the 2009 NFL Draft. Laurinaitis is coming off back to back 100 plus tackle seasons, where he has won the Nagurski Award (2006), the Butkus Award (2007), and the Bedinark Trophy (2007). The senior inside linebacker is one of the most highly decorated defenders in the history of college football, and came back for his senior season to collect even more hardware. Laurinaitis is nothing short of a monster in the middle of the field. He possesses great sideline to sideline speed, so he always seems to be in on the tackle. Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote that he closes ground on tackles as well as any college linebacker you'll find. He played in 51 games during his career, and Laurinaitis has tallied 375 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, and 13 sacks. He registered a career high 19 tackles last season when the Buckeyes played Penn State. Laurinaitis is an excellent field general for his defense, equally adept against the run or the pass. He also intercepted 9 passes and broken up 7 in coverage, along with forcing 4 fumbles during his career, and added a fourth major award, the Lott Trophy, in 2008. The 6'3", 240 pound Laurinaitis' combination of size, speed, strength, and instincts will make him an ideal fit for any NFL defense. Teams looking for help on the outside may even consider Laurinaitis for the strong or weak side, to strengthen their team. He should be a top 15 to 20 pick depending on team needs, but will have stiff competition from USC's Rey Maualuga for the top linebacker spot in this draft."
Unfortunately for Denver, Taylor Mays decided to stay in school. Right now, Louis Delmas rates out as the top Safety. I don't think he is worth the 12 pick but he is a player to target perhaps in the second round. MHR member Donbok1 did a fantastic piece on Delmas. His video scouting tape can be seen here.
Another possible second round pick is Patrick Chung. He is a dynamic player who is plenty fast and is also a big hitter. Plus he can return punts, which is always nice!
The release of Dre Bly opens the door for the Broncos to look at cornerback. The best corner in the college game in 2008 was Malcolm Jenkins from Ohio State. Jenkins is believed by many to be able to start immediately for an NFL team.
"For the second year in a row, Malcolm Jenkins begins the season as the top cornerback prospect for the NFL Draft. Entering his fourth year as a starter for the Buckeyes, Jenkins possesses a rare blend of size, speed, and instinct at the position. Many teams needing secondary help will even consider him at the free safety position because of his outstanding open field tackling. He is an excellent cover man, but has the size to help out in run support like a safety. He played in 52 games at Ohio State, and registered 196 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and forced 4 fumbles. In coverage, Jenkins has tallied an impressive 11 interceptions and 17 passes broken up - including two interceptions he has taken back for touchdowns. Jenkins showed another facet of his game this year that will likely be important as an NFL rookie, when he blocked 2 kicks playing special teams for the Buckeyes. Because teams try their best to throw away from him, he gets fewer chances to make big plays each year. Jenkins has excellent instincts and positioning in coverage. He's far less likely to get his hips out of position like other young corners, and makes fantastic breaks on the ball while it's in the air. According to the Ohio State Athletics website, Malcolm Jenkins runs a 4.3 in the 40 yard dash, a time that will have scouts drooling on their stop watches if he can do it. That type of speed at his size would vault him to the top of draft boards without his impressive resume. He also plays some of the best press coverage you'll ever see out of a college cornerback. Jenkins' physical tools, good technique, and big game experience should see him taken in the top 5 or at worst, the top 10 of the 2009 NFL Draft. "
Another cornerback that may be worth the 12th pick is Vontae Davis. As you will see, freakish athleticism is a family affair.
"Vontae Davis is the younger brother of San Francisco tight end and former top ten pick, Vernon Davis. Athleticism obviously runs in this family, because both of the Davis brothers are freakishly strong and fast. Vontae is coming off an impressive sophomore campaign that saw him smother even the best receivers the Big Ten has to offer. Davis finished the season with 76 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 8 passes broken up, and he even blocked 2 kicks on special teams. Other than Malcolm Jenkins, Davis is the best defensive back available in this year's draft. Davis has the potential to put up an untouchable amount of reps on the bench press, and possibly run in the high 4.3 range in the 40. Davis had a down year by his standards, but Illinois' abysmal pass rush didn't make his job any easier. He recorded 78 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 10 passes broken up in coverage, and 3 forced fumbles during the 2008 campaign. During his time at Illinois, Davis has improved drastically. He has gotten to the point where opposing defenses have virtually stopped throwing in his direction; cutting the field in half for offenses. He would be a great fit for an aggressive team because he's an excellent blitzer. Davis is just as comfortable rushing the passer from the corner spot as he is in coverage. Davis is a sure fire first rounder this year, and shouldn't slide past the top 20 for any reason. "
Well, as you can see there are plenty of good options for adding some defensive talent in the draft. The Broncos new staff have their work cut out for them heading into this years draft.
On top of the all defensive talent of course there is Knowshon Part 1 and don't forget Moreno Part 2. I know how many of you feel about drafting a RB but after watching 15 mins of unforgettable footage, he is hard to ignore.
Whatever the Broncos decide to do in the NFL Draft, this year should be as exciting as ever, with a new direction, a new coach and a new attitude the Broncos are headed for exciting times.