I made my original mock draft a few weeks ago, and for obvious reasons it has become obsolete. (Damn you Jay Cutler! Damn you!!) Like everyone else, I decided to revamp my mock to include our new picks and needs. I am completely excited for the opportunities that we now have with nine, count 'em, NINE picks in the first three rounds of the next two drafts. I think that we have a golden opportunity to ensure a very bright future for this football team, and I think that if we nail these two drafts we will become a perennial powerhouse for years to come. I'm talking multiple Super Bowls, all of that.
Before I got around to actually mocking, I thought it would be prudent to make a list of the Broncos' needs. Now, I could be lazy and just write DEFENSE under here, but I feel that some positions on D are of much more importance than others, and I think that we are actually more solid on D in some positions than we get credit for. So here's a quick rundown of my opinion of the Broncos' needs, in order:
1) DE34. Right now we have a bunch of guys at DE who have never played in a 3-4, ever. This is bad. With Marcus Thomas and Kenny Peterson slated to start, and with such guys in the wings as Carlton Powell (who I think would be a much better fit as a NT) and Nic Clemons, it is no wonder that we were a sieve when it came to run defense last year. We need guys at DE who have bulk and can stop the run. Guys who have experience in a 3-4.
2) NT. Sure, we have Ron Fields, but then again, all we have is Ron Fields. I think that Fields is just coming into his own and could be great, but we need someone there to complement him. I mean, can we really expect a 300+ pound guy to play 70 snaps in a game? He needs a complement, or, preferably, a rotation. Get another guy or two to take some reps and keep our defense the way it should be- a well-oiled machine.
3) S. The combined age of our starting safeties is 134. Brian Dawkins is the best safety ever and will go into the Hall of Fame, but the fact of the matter is that he is going to be 37 and he simply isn't an every-down player anymore. I think Josh Barrett can come in for him and is the future at FS, but at SS we have a similar issue. Renaldo Hill is a stop-gap player and an average starter at best (nothing wrong with thatm though- I'll take average over "2008 Bronco") and we need an understudy for him.
4) ILB. We have DJ Williams and Spencer Larsen. I love these guys, but I wonder if Larsen will ever be able to be anything more than a special teams beast (I know, I know, blasphemy). But he was drafted in the sixth round for a reason (he's slow) and I wonder if we can be a truly dominant defense with him as a starter. At any rate, if I'm totally wrong (and I really hope I am), we need some more depth there. Oh, and I am not a fan of Andra Davis. I hope to Hell that Larsen will be able to beat him out.
5) OG/C. We need an understudy for Casey Weigmann and Ben Hamilton to take the spot that isn't filled by Kory Lichtensteiger after those two guys move on. I want a smart, tough O-lineman to fill in, a Tom Nalen-type player.
6) CB. Champ Bailey and Andre' Goodman have seen better days, but they are still playing at an above-average level for NFL CB's. As such, I think we don't need to be drastic and take a CB very high (cough Malcolm Jenkins cough) as these guys likely have two or three good years in them yet. Josh Bell is a good understudy and will be a good future #2 CB, and Jack MF Williams will be a good future nickel. I want to draft someone that we can groom into a bona fide #1 CB.
7) RB. But only one type of RB: A Franchise RB. No more filler "running back by committee" share-the-carries-and-hope-someone's-hot-every-game. I want a Terrell Davis, Adrian Peterson, LaDanian Tonlinson, Emmit Smiff, Barry Sanders 2,000 yard stuff-it-down-your-throat-in-the-third-quarter-and-put-'em-away superstar. And I think that Peyton Hillis will make a very nice H-back, and can catch 10 touchdowns in a Dallas Clark role. I just don't see him, or anyone else on our roster for that matter, as a starting NFL RB.
8) OLB. We have very good OLB's already in Wesley Woodyard and Boss Bailey, and I think that Elvis Dumerville is looking at future 15-sack seasons in the elephant role. What I think we need is a guy who can play strongside OLB, a tackling machine who can cover tight ends and bring the occasional blitz. We need a future starter here.
9) WR. We need a deep threat, but we don't need one as much as we did considering that we no longer have a QB capable of throwing it from one end zone to the other on a line. I'd like a guy that can consistently get open deep and he would be good to have if we need a quick strike, but I like the possession guys we have just fine, and I don't think there's anything wrong with Chad Jackson either.
10) QB, but only if Spleen and Neckbeard don't pan out. I don't like ANY of the QB's in this class, but I think there are a few that we could develop next year should McDaniels wish to take that route.
So now that I have covered these needs, I will take a look at what is in my opinion the best way for the Broncos to go about filling them, mock-draft style. Included are pictures of their future Broncos jerseys to help you imagine them in future Bronco war regalia. I used the nflshop.com jersey-customizer-thingamajigger to get the pics.
Rd1 P12, 12 overall: Tyson Jackson, DE34, LSU.
I am not 100% sure that Tyson Jackson is deserving of the 12th overall pick. However, I am 100% sure that there is no other defensive player worthy of taking here. Not BJ Raji, not Rey Maualuga, not Brian Cushing. No one. If we want to go NT, I think we can wait until next year when the class will be much deeper and pick up a guy like Terrance Cody.
That being said, DE is undoubtedly our biggest need and Jackson is undoubtedly the best 3-4 DE prospect in this class. He's big and strong, and he shows an excellent ability to stop the run.
The big knock on Jackson has been a lack of motivation and consistency. I think that is mostly people blowing smoke over a lack of statistics. When I look at Jackson on film I see a guy who can take on blockers, make plays in the backfield, and eat up ball carriers. He would instantly help out our defense and would make for a good building block for a solid future defense.
Here are some scouts' opinions on Jackson:
I gave Jackson number 93, which he wore in college. I stole it from Nic Clemons, whom I think Jackson will make expendable.
Rd1 P18, 18 overall: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia.
I mentioned earlier that I think we need a "franchise running back." I think that Moreno is one of the only sure-fire franchise prospects at any position in this draft. Honestly, I salivate when I watch Moreno on film. He's quick, powerful, explosive, elusive, an excellent and willing blocker, a good teammate and citizen, and a natural leader. In short, he is the epitome of the "Patriot Way," a versatile player who can do many, many things well and be a good role model as well.
I think that Moreno would be much more worthy of the #12 pick than Jackson. However, I think Moreno will last to 18, but Jackson won't. I have a feeling that New Orleans would snap up Jackson if we passed on him. With our selection of Jackson, I could see them taking Malcolm Jenkins or, if he is not available, Vontae Davis. I also think that San Diego will be in the market for Moreno, but my gut tells me that they have Beanie Wells higher, and I think that ultimately they will pass on a running back for Rey Maualuga/Brian Cushing. If I thought Moreno would be gone here, I would absolutely take him at 12 and get the best available USC defender or Jarron Gilbert at 18.
I had a very hard time finding scouts who didn't like Moreno. Here's a few opinions I did find:
I gave Moreno number 25. He's not touching Champ Bailey's 24, which he wore in college, and I don't really have any other preference for a RB number. I think 25 was last worn by Nick Ferguson, but I'm too lazy to look that up.
Rd2 P16, 48 overall: Ron Brace, DT, Boston College.
I'm taking another chance here in assuming that Brace will last to 48, but I think that if he does then we should be all over him. I like him much better than BJ Raji. I think that Brace is very good at fighting double teams, and I think he will be a great future compliment to Ron Fields. Imagine the fourth quarter, when the opposing O-line is tired, and our rotation of Fields and Brace is still fresh and going strong.
Here are some "expert" opinions on Brace:
Strengths: Brace is dominant against the run. He cannot be moved off of the line. Is extremely strong. Gets great push off the line and collapses the pocket. Is a powerful tackler. Gets a good jump off the snap. Has great size. Is strong at the point of attack. Is good at holding the double team. Has good awareness of the game and has experience. Smart player who rarely makes mistakes. Has improved as each year passes. He dominates smaller interior linemen and punishes backs. Forces backs to go outside. Cannot be driven off the line in the run game.
Weaknesses: Brace isn’t very quick and struggles in getting after the quarterback. Will take plays off. Sometimes struggles with his hand placement and technique. Durability and stamina appear to be issues. Needs to give more effort. May have a weight problem.
Overall:: Good player who dominates in the run game, but struggles pass rushing. Could be a dominant 3-4 nose tackle. Questions remain about how much he benefited from playing next to fellow defensive tackle, B.J. Raji.
Injury Concerns: Missed part of a game in 2008 with a toe injury and had a lingering back injury throughout the season.
Could be as good as: Casey Hampton – Pittsburgh Steelers
Strengths: Brace possesses the size of a two-gap plugger, but the quickness to of a one-gap tackle. He uses that size and quickness to stuff the run nicely. He has a powerful base and is hard to move around. Because of that, running backs have to adjust where they're going or run right into Brace. Strong against the double team. During the 2008 season, Brace would regularly take up two blockers so teammate B.J. Raji could burst into the backfield. Uses his power to collapse the interior of the pocket. Good agility, which allows him to slide down the line really well.
Weaknesses: Not especially productive. Had only 27 tackles as a senior, which is just over two a game. Really not a factor rushing the pass unless he can push a blocker back or gets an open lane. Some questions about his durability due to recurring back ailment in 2008. Pursuit and effort are lacking at times. Doesn't always fight hard to get through double teams. Inconsistent with his technique. Will get too upright at times negating his his strength.
Final word: Brace is a top run-stopping tackle who was often overshadowed by Raji. He may not be much of a pass rusher, but his ability against the run warrants such a high grade. A second-team All ACC member in 2008 and honorable mention in 2007. Has some versatility because he's a multi-technique tackle.
I gave Brace number 60 because that's what number I felt like giving him.
Rd3 P15, 79 overall: Chip Vaughn, SS, Wake Forest.
If we get Vaughn here, he could be the Eddie Royal of this draft. Vaughn is a tough, physical safety who brings a little attitude to the game. In the little film I have seen on him, he reminds me of Ed Reed with his punishing tackles and playmaking ability. He's not as physically gifted as, say, Taylor Mays, but he is fast and physical enough to play strong safety in the NFL.
Here are what the guys who get paid think about Vaughn:
Terrific size and bulk...Superb tackler...Real tough and physical...Will deliver the big hit...Very active and aggressive...Good range...Does a fantastic job against the run...Smart and instinctive...Very productive.
Just average speed...Doesn't have great hands or ball skills...Gets too high in his backpedal...Hips aren't real fluid...Will struggle to match up with wideouts in man coverage...Isn't very quick...A little inconsistent.
First name is "Clarence"...Actually arrived at Wake Forest as a wide receiver...Saw extensive action as a backup early in his career before taking over a starting job in 2007...Led the Demon Deacons in tackles as a junior...A blue-collar prospect who certainly isn't flashy but has adequate physical tools and even better intangibles...An in-the-box run supporter whose best fit at the next level will be as a strong safety.
Strengths: As far as safeties in this class go, few look as natural as Vaughn. He has good size and plays with a lot of strength. He can be an intimidating force deep and will really lay a hit on an opponent. As a senior, he supported against the run really well, making several key plays in the backfield. Uses his power in the pass game to break up passes and had 20 over his final two seasons at Wake Forest.
Weaknesses: Watching Vaughn, it's readily apparent that he needs to learn how to react quicker to plays. Struggles in man coverage mostly because he doesn't have the lateral agility to move around with ease. Doesn't play up to his timed speed (4.42 at the Combine). Had some issues with inconsistency during his senior year. For a former wide receiver, Vaughn has pretty bad hands and doesn't make a lot of interceptions.
Final word: Vaughn is a player with a lot of upside after arriving at Wake Forest as a wide receiver. He has transitioned himself into a solid in-the-box strong safety who is a factor against the run. He might need to be coached up a little better in pass coverage, but he has the tools of a starter at the next level.
I gave Vaughn 29, because I think it looks good with our number font.
Rd3 P20, 84 overall: Mike Mickens, CB, Cincinnati
With Champ and Goodman entering the twilight of their careers, I feel that the Broncos need to take a CB fairly early in the draft, and I think that Mike Mickens would be an excellent option for us. His size (6'0" 190 lbs) and problems with knee injuries- but nothing major- are causing him to slip into the third round. I love this, because I think he is a first round talent at CB.
Agressive and physical, he displays the perfect nature to play CB in a man-to-man scheme. A four year starter at Cincinnati, Mickens displayed toughness and confidence in his play, and possesses great ball skills with a penchant for making interceptions. His size should not be a big deal at cornerback, but some teams could look elsewhere in favor of a bigger player. But Mickens' cover abilities are among the best in the nation and he plays a lot stronger than he looks and that should be enough to make up for his size.
Here are some second and third opinions on Mickens:
Mike Mickens is only 6-0 and 190 pounds, but he is still a physical corner back who is not afraid to play tough against any wide receiver. It did not take long for Mickens to earn a starting job at Cincinnati. By the time his freshman campaign began, the Huber Heights, Ohio product was starting. Throughout his first three seasons with the Bearcats, Mickens was named to a multitude of all-conference teams and tallied ten interceptions.
His size should not be a big deal at cornerback, but some teams could look elsewhere in favor of a bigger player. But Mickens' cover abilities are among the best in the nation and he plays a lot strong than he looks and that should be enough to make up for his size.
Strengths: Good height with long arms...really aggressive...willing in run support and can deliver the big hit...exhibits good awareness...tracks the ball well in the area...great hands and ball skills...uses his hands well...productive college player with ton of experience...physical...fluid through the hips...
Weaknesses: Needs to add some bulk...too often goes for the big hit instead of the sure tackle...may be too aggressive at times and risks drawing flags...timed speed is just average...too confident in his skills at times and it causes him to get beat...durability questions after a series of 2008 knee injuries...struggles to shed tackles...
I gave Mickens 27, which probably won't happen anytime soon seeing as it was last worn by Darrent Williams, and before him Steve Atwater, but I like the number and I think Mickens could do it justice.
Rd4 P14, 114 overall: A.Q. Shipley, C, Penn State.
Shipley could last until later, but I think he is worthy of being taken in the fourth round. He's a tough, smart workaholic of a center, and he is absolutely brilliant at keeping his linemates on the same page. Physically, he has a nice center of gravity and delivers a devastating first punch. He is adept at both run and pass blocking, and his technique, while it can be improved, is certainly adequate for a future rookie.
So if he's so good, why is he supposed to go so late? He has short arms. Well, this guy's a football player, pure and simple. I don't care how short his arms are, I just want him to keep the line together and move some people. What do linemen need long arms for anyway? Holding? Anyway, I think this is a serious case of over-scouting a player, and I think Shipley will end up being a very good starter for us in the future.
Hey, I typed "AQ Shipley Scouting Report" into Google and it took me back to MHR. So here you go, Styg's analysis of AQ Shipley:
Pros: Stout, tough and physical at the point, plays like the former nose guard he is. Strong anchor in pass protection, and does not get bull-rushed as he uses his wide base to maintain leverage.
Cons: Lacks height, bulk and arm length. Projects to center only, probably in a zone-blocking system.
Styg's Broncos Fit: a former nose guard, Shipley is tough, physical, aggressive, and likes to get dirty. Understands his duties on the line, makes good calls and consistently gets off the line with adequate pop; he lacks a bit in the work-ethic category, and isn't a guaranteed "play to the whistle" type of player. Doesn't have ideal measurements to play at a consistently high level at guard, so may project best as a backup center.
(I don't know how Styg got that he's not a workaholic. I got that he's a blue-collar, hard-workin' guy. I thought it always looked like he gave 110% on every play.)
I gave Shipley number 65, because it was not taken.
Rd5 P13, 149 overall: Jasper Brinkley, MLB, South Carloina
Rd6 P12, 185 overall: Demetrius Byrd, WR, LSU.
Rd7 P16, 225 overall: McKenna "Bear" Pascoe, TE, Fresno State
You gotta remember Bear's article on Pascoe, so I won't go into detail here. I think he's an intimidating blue-collar player who could be a nice complement to Peyton Hillis in sheer redneckocity. He will be a special teams demon, and people will fear him.
Also, his freaking name is Bear.
Rd7 P26, 235 overall: Stryker Sulak, DE, Missouri.
I like Sulak as a situational pass rusher prospect. We may end up passing on him as we have a comparable player in Darrell Reid, but I like Sulak's size and ability to knife through offensive linemen. I think he will be a good rusher from a five technique in our 3-4.
Also, his freaking name is Stryker.
And, since I'm on a roll with the NFLShop Jersey Maker-Thing, I figured I'd make a statement to the wide receivers. Come on, guys: