With the 11th Pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos Select...Joe Haden?


The draft is less than a month away.

Let me repeat myself...The 2010 NFL Draft is less than a month away, and I find myself in a huge and odd predicament.  For the first time in a long time, I feel like I haven't got a single clue in the world what the Broncos are going to do atop April's draft. 

This might seem odd coming from the guy who is putting the finishing touches on his 25th Denver Broncos mock draft of the season, but I think the boat I'm in is overflowing with people. 

Sans projected trades, I have seen all of the following players "mocked" to the Broncos so far this offseason:

  • Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama
  • Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
  • Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
  • Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
  • Joe Haden, CB, Florida
  • Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
  • Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
  • Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho
  • Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
  • CJ Spiller, RB, Clemson
  • Dan Williams, DL, Tennessee
  • Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
  • Jason Pierre Paul, DE/OLB, South Florida
  • Sean Weatherspoon, ILB/OLB, Missouri
  • Taylor Mays, S, USC

For those keeping track at home, that's 15 different prospects, and those are NOT including some of the mocks I have previously done.  What does this indicate to me?  Well, it could mean one of three things.  It could mean that the Broncos have a significant need at every single position, it could mean that the Broncos have indicated some way or somewhere that they are undoubtedly going to be taking the best player available, or it could mean that Broncos fans and draft analysts have absolutely no idea what this team is doing.

Thanks to a recent breakthrough in my research (yet another mock draft), I revealed to myself the prospect I will be hoping and praying the Broncos target from the outset of the draft, and the prospect I believe can make a significant difference both this year and in the future. 

 In order to get a complete grasp on why I think the way I do, I feel it is important to see how I arrived at the decision based on the two mock drafts I narrowed it down to.

 

Mock Draft A

1.  St. Louis Rams:  Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

2.  Detroit Lions:  Ndamukong Suh, DL, Nebraska

3.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  Gerald McCoy, DL, Oklahoma

4.  Washington Redskins:  Russell Okung, OL, Oklahoma State

5.  Kansas City Chiefs:  Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama

6.  Seattle Seahawks:  Bryan Bulaga, OL, Iowa

7.  Cleveland Browns:  Joe Haden, CB, Florida

8.  Oakland Raiders:  Bruce Campbell, OL, Maryland

9.  Buffalo Bills:  Trent Williams, OL, Oklahoma

10.  Jacksonville Jaguars:  Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech

 

At this point, I was elated with myself.  I had found a way that the Broncos could wind up with my favorite prospect in this draft, Tennessee safety Eric Berry.  Berry has the versatility to step in as a starting cornerback OR safety immediately.  He is a ferocious hitter and a ballhawk, and has been compared to Baltimore's Ed Reed.

When I looked over this mock, I felt it was too good to be true, though it was plausible given the Jacksonville Jaguars pass on one of their greatest needs and one of the best prospects to come along in quite some time.

Needless to say, I was disappointed, but I came up with an alternative mock. 

Interestingly enough, the Broncos' pick is largely dependent on the selections of Cleveland and Jacksonville, and I'll explain why after this mock.

Mock Draft B

1.  St. Louis Rams:  Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

2.  Detroit Lions:  Ndamukong Suh, DL, Nebraska

3.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  Gerald McCoy, DL, Oklahoma

4.  Washington Redskins:  Russell Okung, OL, Oklahoma State

5.  Kansas City Chiefs:  Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama

6.  Seattle Seahawks:  Bryan Bulaga, OL, Iowa

7.  Cleveland Browns:  Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

8.  Oakland Raiders:  Bruce Campbell, OL, Maryland

9.  Buffalo Bills:  Trent Williams, OL, Oklahoma

10.  Jacksonville Jaguars:  Earl Thomas, CB/S, Texas

 

Again, I am jumping for joy here.  This mock draft, while most certainly not definite, provides the Broncos with a very rare opportunity. 

In a draft as deep as the class of 2010, the Broncos have to be elated with where they are sitting (though two picks might be a little beneficial here).  They have the opportunity to either take an elite level prospect or use this pick to trade down and acquire more picks.

In this particular case, they are in a position where they have the opportunity to select a player who can help them immensely not only in 2010 but in the future.  That statement might draw a reaction like, "DUH" from certain people, because that's what a first round draft pick is expected to do.

Just hear me out on this one. 

With the 11th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos select Joe Haden, Cornerback, Florida

 

The NFL has become a very pass happy league, and the growing need for elite cornerbacks has become extremely evident.  The Broncos have one of the game's best in Champ Bailey, whose only touchdown allowed in a game last season according to ESPN was during the Pro Bowl. 

Bailey has become the poster child in the NFL for shut down cornerbacks, and is a guy the Broncos have been very fortunate to have for the last six years. 

Unfortunately, Bailey's contract is up after 2010, and there is no guarantee the Broncos will get him back though the fans will hope and believe that the perennial Pro Bowler will return to the team that he has spent the best years of his career with.

Even if Champ returns to the Broncos in 2011 and beyond, he is approaching his mid-30's, and the same goes for Andre' Goodman, who will turn 32 this season. 

Adding Joe Haden for the Broncos would be very economical, and it would also make a ton of sense.  Denver is always looking for big time contributors on special teams, and Haden can provide that also as a gunner and a return man. 

Immediately, the return on Haden has a significant impact on this team.  The demand for a good nickel cornerback is very high right now, and while the Broncos invested highly last season in Alphonso Smith and signed Nate Jones, this is not a position they are anywhere near "set" at. 

For 2010, I foresee Haden as the Broncos' nickel cornerback, special teams gunner, and possibly a punt returner if the need arises.

For 2011 and beyond, depending on the status of Champ Bailey and Andre' Goodman, I firmly believe that Joe Haden can step in as this team's number one cornerback, and I still have faith despite his rookie season that Alphonso Smith can be the number two corner and as time progresses, Nate Jones can step in as the nickel corner. 

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.  I have not mocked Haden to the Broncos to the point (I don't believe...), but I think this is a scenario that I am really liking right now, and one I would love to see happen.  Here is a scouting report on Haden from CBS Sports:

 

 

The first true freshman cornerback to ever start in a season opener for the Gators, Haden started 40 games in three seasons, emerging as a consensus All-American and the top cornerback prospect in the 2010 NFL Draft.

A highly touted prep quarterback who could have signed with virtually any program in the country, Haden emerged as an immediate standout for the Gators by posting 63 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 12 passes broken up and an interception in earning a spot on the first-team All-SEC freshman team.

Haden's numbers (87 tackles, 12 PBU, three INTs) climbed and he was named second-team all-conference as a sophomore. Haden's production slipped slightly in 2009 with opposing teams electing to ignore his side of the field regularly. He still finished among team leaders with 68 tackles and 10 pass breakups and posted a career high and team-leading four interceptions.

With Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson and arguably the even more impactful Darrelle Revis proving just how effective cover corners remain in the NFL despite the rules so tilted in the favor of offenses, the value of the cornerback position is as high as ever. That Haden got to play behind an aggressive Florida pass rush throughout his career and the relative lack of success former Gators defensive backs have had in the NFL will force teams to do their due diligence. Haden's size and silky smooth coverage, however, is likely to result in his being selected among the top 15 of the 2010 NFL Draft.

 

Read & React: Typically plays in press or off-man coverage, reading the receiver to gain an advantage on the route. Good straight-line for the deep route. Reacts quickly in zone coverage and when he's facing the quarterback in man coverage. Little wasted motion in closing once he sees the ball in the air.

Man Coverage: Very strong in man coverage. Quick, active hands to provide an initial pop to the receiver in press coverage. Quick feet and loose hips for the transition to run downfield. Good balance and body control to mirror the receiver. Can plant his foot in the ground and explode out of cuts. Good use of hands downfield to prevent separation. Shows a legitimate late burst to close after the ball has been released. Good timing and hand-eye coordination to slap the ball away as it arrives.

Zone Coverage: Smooth, low backpedal out of his stance. Maintains cushion with his backpedal, keeping his eyes alert to receivers in his zone. Changes direction smoothly with no wasted motion. Plays even faster than he has been timed, a credit to his recognition and efficient change-of-direction ability.

Closing/Recovery: Among his best traits. Plants and drives back to the ball very well. Accelerates late and has the body control to contort in space and slap the ball away without drawing a flag. Good straight-line speed to run with any receiver and has a late burst to close if beaten initially. Locates the ball in the air. Good vertical and times his leaps to compete for the jump ball.

Run Support: Reads run and is quick to close toward the line of scrimmage. Evades blocks due to his lateral agility and anticipation and is willing to take on bigger ballcarriers. Understands his role on the edge and approaches it with a workmanlike mentality.

Tackling: Takes good tackle angles, going low against bigger ballcarriers. Isn't an explosive hitter. Grab-and-drag tackler more often than scouts would like, rather than wrapping up securely, but rarely has his tackles broken. Can be dragged a bit by bigger ballcarriers, but gets his man to the ground.

Intangibles: Signed with Florida as a standout prep quarterback and all-around athlete. Originally was expected to play slot receiver, but elected to compete for the starting cornerback position rather than back up Percy Harvin. Team-first player who is a standout special teams player despite his All-American status. Played in 2009 on the punt return, kickoff and punt teams.

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