Draftivus: Workhorses

It's time for me to stop screwing around and get down to business. First off, I admit I don't watch much college football, but my awareness is enough to know what's going on in college football and I do watch some film. Most of what I know comes from reading the opinions of many, many different people.

In fact, I spend lots of time reading websites dedicated to draft prospects, team needs, ect. Mile High Report is also dedicated to those things and my only goal here is to add to the information already being disseminated by the other excellent writers around here.

This post will not be an actual "mock". There are plenty of those to go around right now and I am sure that as we get closer I will be moved to share my own mock draft. Instead, I'd like to focus on certain players that may not be "first round talent", but could very well be targeted by McXanders come draft day. At least I hope they target one or two of these players.

I will start off by saying that I am starting to think that we reach with our first round pick and take Mike Iupati. I know many around here think we take Rolando McClain or Dez Bryant or whatever, but I honestly think that Iupati's rising stock after the Senior Bowl and our glaring need for an Interior lineman might cause us to reach a bit for him.

Reach is a bad word here, because Iupati will become a perennial all-pro. I have never liked the term "reach", because if you draft a perennial all-pro then your draft pick could not ever be considered a "reach". 

Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State

I'm not sure if I like this kid because he has everything I'm looking for in a corner or if I like him because he hails from Boise State.

Either way, I would be quite pleased to see him nabbed in the second round. We had serious issues with depth in the secondary last year and even brought in some forty year old retiree to help us out(Ty Law). As much as I like former all-pro's, I'd rather depend on building for the future. I was disappointed to see Jack "MF" Williams let go, but I must trust the coaches in that regard.

The following is some analysis from CBS Sports. I found their analysis to be concise and I really didn't want to relay too much outside information here. Just some basic analysis from people who watch more college football than me, followed by some of my Bronco-centric thoughts on each section afterwards.

Zone Coverage: Has a low, tight backpedal. Good speed to maintain cushion. Quick feet to change direction efficiently and locates the ball quickly with a closing burst.

I found this description to be adequate and revealing. I noticed that we ran quite a bit of zone coverage last year and his skills in this area could benefit our defensive system immediately. As much as I like Alphonso Smith, he just seemed lost at times in zone coverage. I wonder if he was better suited for man-to-man. I still think Alphonso has been coached up and will eventually get over this learning curve.

Closing/Recovery: Aggressive defender who will bait the quarterback in zone coverage and can break on the ball quickly to make the interception. Times leaps well and can snatch the pass outside of his frame. Can make the first defender miss as a returner and is an elusive runner with good vision. Sets up his blocks well and has the burst to squeeze through gaps and the breakaway speed to go the distance.

Not sure if I am a fan of this tendency. I suppose it depends on how often he tries to bait the quarterback. NFL quarterbacks are not as gullible as college quarterbacks. I just envision him trying to bait a QB and the QB actually baiting him into doing the baiting and a huge pass play would result. Something like this is totally intangible. Every CB tries to bait quarterbacks, the great ones do it well(Champ), the not so great ones get beat(Bly).

Run Support: Plays with a cover corner mentality and rarely involves himself in run support. Has only averaged seven solo tackles a season in three years as a starter, despite posting 117 total tackles through his junior season. Flashes physicality as a hitter, but is typically more of a duck-and-swipe tackler. Has taken advantage of unsuspecting and defenseless receivers catching passes over the middle.

Tackling: Duck-and-swipe tackler who prefers not to get involved in run support. Takes too long to get past the receiver's block and rarely attacks the line of scrimmage.

Hopefully, having a guy like Champ Bailey as his tutor, Wilson would become a more solid tackler. I have no doubt a young guy like Wilson would have his mentality changed about run support after watching Champ lay some wood. Every young cornerback wants to be like Champ, right?

Intangibles: Can be antagonistic on the field and has a tendency to play through the whistle. Reportedly had a spectacular offseason in the weight room and on the practice field prior to the 2009 season. Re-dedicated himself and was characterized by the coaching staff as developing into more of a leader. Surprised many when signing with Boise State after starring at powerhouse Piscataway High School in New Jersey. Led Piscataway to three consecutive state championships, earning MVP honors of the state championship game as a junior and senior.

Intangibles are like, ah, opinions - everyone's got them. I want a guy who has heart and I would not be upset over Kyle Wilson being a Bronco in 2010. 

Donald Butler, ILB, Washington

This guy was a one year wonder, however, my bias is working itself into my opinion once again. Donald Butler graduated from Del Campo High School, just a few minutes from my home here in Sacramento, so I can't help but root for a local. We need help inside and Butler has the size and speed to make a solid contribution on our starting defense. I thought about targeting someone like Sean Lee, but his injury history worries me too much. I'd rather take a risk on a one year wonder like Butler, than a guy who has injury concerns. Especially at a position that gets punished as much as ILB does.

Butler is projected to go in the fourth round, but I think his draft stock will continue to rise. Using our third rounder on him would be a bit of reach, even for me, as there is no guarantee he will succeed at the NFL level. Though, we will pick around #111 according to Jeremy's estimates and he is currently ranked 125-140 range. He could very well be gone by the time we pick, but I'd be happy if we landed him in the fourth.

Here is what my good friends over at CBS Sports had to say:

Read & React: Leans forward pre-snap, almost falling forward in anticipation of the run on early downs. Takes a tentative step forward at the snap and explodes out of his stance toward the line of scrimmage. At his best defending the stretch play, as he has the burst to break through the line when he sees a gap to make the tackle for loss. A bit over-aggressive stretching plays out wide. Can get ahead of himself and leave cut-back angles for the quick back to exploit. His false-step toward the line leaves him vulnerable to quick passes, but he's athletic enough to re-direct quickly.

A lot of this is concerning and I think he would benefit from backing up a guy like Andra Davis for a year, or some other veteran. I tribute much of these issues to being switched back and forth between OLB and ILB up until his Senior year. He had his break out year when he was left to play just ILB. Sound familiar, DJ Williams? I have to trust Don Martindale will coach this kid up.

Run defense: Reacts aggressively to the run. Quick to the hole and has the burst upfield to take advantage of gaps and close for impressive tackles for loss on outside runs. Takes on the fullback with a violent pop and uses strong hands to disengage quickly on the isolation. Isn't as effective against offensive linemen, as he has to pick a side as they arrive. Athletic enough to slip off as the back comes by to latch on for the drag-down tackle, but is too often engulfed by the blocker when the runner correctly reads the direction of the block. Good speed to the sideline. Is too fast, at times, coming in a bit out of control and leaving cutback lanes. Strong pursuit laterally and downfield. A reliable open-field tackler.

Run defense is this kids strong suit. He seems to enjoy going after the ball carrier. Much of his concerns in this area can be coached - if he is inclined to learn that is. The worst thing he could do, though, is become Nate Webster-like in his tendency to over pursue.

Pass defense: Takes a false step at the snap, but has good balance and quick feet to change directions and recover for quick passes. Good route-recognition and overall athleticism for an inside linebacker. Focuses on his assignment, rather than the quarterback and is athletic enough to react and maintain good coverage. Often forced the quarterback to look elsewhere due to his sticky coverage. Has a burst to close when the ball is thrown.

I really do not like this section. The level of quarterback play in the NFL is a huge cut above anything seen(except for a tiny handful of schools) at the college level. I hope his abilities against the pass will translate into good pass coverage abilities at the pro level. I just don't think I can say with any degree of certainty if it will.

Tackling: Not an explosive hitter, but is a generally an efficient wrap-up tackler that plays with good balance in the open field to make the secure stop. Can be a bit out of control when he crashes the line at full speed and is forced to lunge at the ballcarrier. Good strength for the grab on and drag-down tackle as he's fighting off blocks. Good hustle in pursuit.

As much as I love Steve Atwater and his wood laying abilities, I much prefer a sure tackler to a guy who just wants to "get the big hit". Many times, that "big hit" results in the runner just bouncing off them for another 10-15 yard gain. I like Butler's motor.

Pass Rush/Blitz: Shows good straight-line speed to close when he has an open lane. Good lateral agility and balance to avoid blocks. Dips his shoulder to get under the reach of the guard. Attacks the running back with a full head of steam and has enough strength and use of leverage to drive him into the pocket as a bull-rusher, but his overall lack of size and strength is exposed when taking on linemen, who typically are able to simply absorb his initial hit and engulf him. Doesn't show much in terms of pass rush technique. Good effort.

One thing our team lacked last year, was a good interior pass rush. Davis got in there a few times, but he always seemed a few second shy of getting to the quarterback. Butler appears to have the ability to get through defenders to make the play. We need that additional element on defense. Our pass rush cannot always come from Elvis Dumervil.

Intangibles: Voted a team captain in 2009. Earned Most Improved Defender honors in 2008 while switching between inside and outside linebacker due to injuries to teammates. Has a knack for making big plays in big games. Named national defensive player of the week by Walter Camp Foundation the Huskies' 16-13 win over No. 3 USC, when he had 12 tackles, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and an interception. Posted six tackles, a TFL and a sack against Cal; 3 tackles, including a TFL and an interception in the overtime loss to Notre Dame.

About the only thing in that quote that interests me is that he was voted a team Captain. I consider the ILB and S positions to be the most natural leadership positions on defense. I really think this kid has what it takes and a full year in a limited backup roll would go far to help him become a solid starter for our team.

Alex Carrington, DE, Arkansas State

I saved the best for last. If there is one guy I really want to see don the Orange and Blue in 2010, it would be Alex Carrington. Defensive End is the one position on our defense that I see as a major weakness. Most people think that defensive tackle is a weakness, but I must keep faith that McDaniels sees something special in Chris Baker.

Carrington has the size and versatility to play in our version of the 3-4 defense. He excelled in both the 4-3 and 3-4, so our team doesn't have to worry about his position when they switch up the formation as they frequently did during the 2009 season.

Currently, he grades out in the mid to late third round, but his stock is rising rapidly. Hopefully he is available when the Broncos pick in the third and hopefully McDaniels spends about three seconds deciding to draft the kid.

CBS Sports' take:

Pass rush: Only marginal initial quickness off the snap and lacks the speed to consistently pressure the tackle's outside shoulder as an edge rusher. Good strength and arm length for the bull rush, but relies on this technique too often. Incorporates a rip or spin into his repertoire, on occasion, but rarely. Can get upfield quickly due to his long stride. Closes quickly when he has a free lane. Doesn't use his hands and size to his advantage as a pass rusher, only batting down two passes over the past two years.

To be honest, pass rushing is all fine and dandy, but we already have Elvis Dumervil. I am, and I hope McXanders is as well, not looking for a pass rushing defensive end, though it looks like he can make plays in the passing game. It isn't his specialty, but it is in his repertoire.  That's all I can ask for, since it is the run defense that needs help.

Run defense: His best area. Has the length and strength to hold up at the point of attack. Locks-out with the tackle and has the lateral agility and balance to work his way toward the sideline, stringing out the sweep. Instinctive, physical run defender that rarely loses contain.

Anyone want to guess where the Broncos defense ranked against the run last year? I don't even want to look it up, because I know its really bad. This reason and this reason alone is why I want this guy on our team. Stopping the run is the single most important factor of a dominant defense. Our defense was great against the pass last year, but its easy to defend the pass when all you are doing is chasing running backs!

Explosion: Average quickness off the snap, rarely forcing the tackle onto his heels in pass protection. Flashes some pop with his initial punch to break free from the offensive tackle, but isn't consistent enough in this area.

This is an area that he can work on and with each snap he plays in the NFL he will get better at the point of attack.

Strength: Lacks the explosive strength to instantly disengage, but is "country strong" and thus can walk the pass blocker into the pocket on the bull rush, as well as hold up at the point of attack in the running game. Plays low to the ground despite his frame and flashes the ability to toss aside the blocker to make the play in the hole.

I like this quote here. Everything about Carrington screams, "blue collar". I like blue collar and I like "country strong". Our defense has been softever since Al Wilson went down. McXanders needs to change that culture and adding a guy like this will only help them change that culture a little bit faster.

Tackling: Good balance and strength to slide off blocks and latch onto runners as they go by for tackles near the line of scrimmage. Has a short burst to close when opportunities present themselves. Flashes some pop on arrival, but isn't an explosive hitter. Long arms are useful in tight quarters, as he's often able to trip up elusive runners even if he is forced to lunge at them due to moderate lateral agility and straight-line speed.

Again, I prefer sure tacklers to heavy hitters. A stop at the line of scrimmage is better than a massive hit that sends the ball carry three or four years down field. I like the way this kid moves on the line and though he had an up and down Senior Bowl, I also think college linemen get away with far too many holds.

 

Intangibles: Graduated with a 3.52 GPA in Psychology and plans to return to grad school and become a clinical psychologist after his football career. Recruited by the likes of LSU and Mississippi, among others, but elected to come to Arkansas State to remain closest to his son. Started the final 36 games of his career. Also plays on special teams, including as an in-line blocker on the field goal and PAT units.

I like the idea of a Psychologist playing on the defensive line. I also like that he has measurable intelligence. McDaniels likes tough, smart football players. Carrington appears to be both.

Team Needs

The way I see it, we have three glaring needs and two immediate needs. Glaring needs are positions where we are seriously deficient and immediate needs are positions in which we should upgrade soon.

Glaring Needs: Guard, Center, and Defensive End

Immediate Needs: Inside Linebacker and Cornerback

My hope is that we draft two Guards, ILB, two DE, and a CB. We can probably pick up a serviceable center through the CFA market.  Mix in a WR, TE, and possibly a QB and I would grade out the draft pretty well.

I will likely come out with a Mock Draft eventually, but for now you can probably put these three guys on my list. I might change my mind by then, but for now I like these three prospects more than most.  After all, I am just now starting to get into full-on draft mode.

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