The Broncos' coaching search is well underway, and in my humble opinion, the Broncos are on their way to a move to the 4-3 defensive alignment. This is a very good thing, because the prospects available in the draft are far better suited to fit a 4-3 defense, and almost every candidate on the Broncos has coached or coached with a 4-3 scheme.
The Broncos should be making moves before the draft and I think they could get started right away. There might be some familiar faces on their way out of Denver this offseason, but this team needs a youth movement, and right now, this is how I would change the Broncos for the better.
**D.J. Williams traded to New Orleans for 3rd, 6th round picks**
I think the Broncos are looking to move to a 4-3. This mock could end up being a moot because they could choose to stick with a 3-4, but the guys they are interviewing all have ties to the 4-3 defensive alignment. I am very much in favor of this move.
With more ammunition now, I think we can afford to make the move.
Obviously, what the Broncos do will depend a whole heck of a lot on what the Carolina Panthers do. Right now, it appears as though the top player available in the draft is now Nick Fairley, and new Panthers head coach knows the importance of an elite defensive lineman in his 4-3 alignment, and Bowers would likely be an immediate impact starter for the Panthers.
I say what we do depends on what Carolina does, because they could take the guy we're targeting. Luckily, I think there are three or four (at the most) guys we will be targeting come time for the draft, and that provides us with solid flexibility.
Assuming the Panthers take Fairley, I think the Broncos will choose between Da'Quan Bowers, Patrick Peterson, and Marcell Dareus. These guys are great prospects, but it's unclear to me which fills a bigger need. Obviously the Broncos need some new blood on the front line, and Dareus or Bowers obviously provides that, but their defensive backfield is also aging and lacking playmakers, and the Broncos were one of the worst teams in terms of forcing turnovers in 2010.
I think there would be some motivation here for a team to trade up. His name? Cam Newton.
The Broncos need to do anything and everything they can to stockpile picks in this draft while still getting an elite, impact player. If they stick with this pick and have to choose between one of those two guys, I would be hard pressed not to take either. I know I'm straddling the fence here, but trading down and taking whichever one is left seems like the ideal scenario for the Broncos.
**Broncos trade 2nd pick to Arizona for 5th pick, 3rd round pick, 4th round pick**
This is a risky move for us, and for the Cardinals. We are moving down somewhat blindly, hoping that one of Patrick Peterson or Nick Fairley will fall to us. If Da'Quan Bowers is the first overall pick and Cam Newton goes 2nd overall to a team trading up with us, here's how I think the rest of the draft will follow at this point in time:
3. Buffalo Bills: Marcell Dareus, DL, Alabama
Bills had the 32nd ranked run defense, and Dareus excels at stopping the run. He's also already played in a 3-4 alignment throughout college, and would be a nice fit there.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
This is a case of the Bengals taking the best player on the board here, as well as fitting a position of need. The Bengals had one of the worst pass rushes in the league last year, and Bowers was one of the nation's top pass rush specialists.
This leaves us with a pretty obvious scenario. As you can see, two of my three targets went off the board, as I fully expected, and in the process of picking up some extra picks, we still get an impact player.
1. First round, 5th overall: Patrick Peterson, Cornerback/Safety, LSU
I know a lot of people want Nick Fairley after his performance in the national championship game, and honestly, I would absolutely love to add him. Unfortunately, I think that performance vaulted him to the top of everyone's draft board, and although he's not quite the prospect that Ndamukong Suh was, he had a similar season this year, and likely has cemented himself as the most dominant defensive prospect in the draft.
As for our pick, I could not be more excited. We move down three slots, pick up a couple of much needed extra picks, and still get the guy I really want out of this draft.
Peterson has great size, speed, and athleticism, and quite honestly, there isn't a more electrifying playmaker in this draft. I fully anticipate Peterson can play either safety or corner at the next level, which means this is not any indication that Champ Bailey is leaving.
I firmly believe we can get both and both of them on the field at the same time. Bailey could easily move to safety, or Peterson could do the same. He is the best defensive back in college right now, and he's also one of the youngest players in the draft. Peterson does not turn 21 until July.
Yes, the defensive line needs to have some priority in this year's draft, but the Broncos can ill afford to pass on the best player available. At this point in the draft, Peterson is a bargain, and will be a superstar someday. Need some proof?
2. 2nd round, 36th overall: Martez Wilson, Linebacker, Illinois
In my opinion, Wilson is one of the most underrated players in the draft. He is going to be overshadowed by teammates Mikel LeShoure and Corey Liuget, but he might have the highest ceiling of any linebacker in this draft.
He is a freakish athlete with great size and speed, and in his junior season at Illinois he had 112 tackles, 11.5 for a loss, 4 sacks, and 5 passes defensed. He has great range and can play either on the outside or inside. He could be an inside linebacker in either scheme, and in my opinion, that's where he will take over.
It worked out pretty well the last time the Broncos took a linebacker named Wilson, didn't it?
3. 2nd round, 46th overall (from Dolphins): Muhammad Wilkerson, Defensive Tackle, Temple
This is certainly not a sexy pick because Wilkerson is very raw, but he has the tools and size to develop into a dominant 3-technique. Temple's defense has gone under the radar this season, mainly because they are Temple. However, they put together a very nice season, and Wilkerson was a big reason why.
via the Washington Post
This lanky defensive tackle prospect is a bit more physically fit than Nick Fairley who is roughly the same size, though he's not nearly as dominant just yet. He is a guy who has a high ceiling and one who knows how to get to the quarterback. He might take a year to develop, but I feel confident he can be a good rotational guy in year one and a full time starter by year two.
4. Third Round, 67th overall: Mason Foster, Linebacker, Washington
First team All-American linebacker has completely lit up the college scene this year. He is currently projected to be a third round pick, and has been a bright spot on an otherwise dim Washington team (save for the ever-popular Jake Locker). This guy is a team captain and averaged almost 13 tackles per game for the Huskies.
I know some on this site are already high on Foster, and I think he could be there for us at the top of the draft. I think we were heavily scouting former Husky linebacker Donald Butler last season, and the Chargers jumped right in front of us to snag him. While it could be put up for debate that we were actually going to take Butler, I think we would settle for his teammate who had an even better senior season than Butler.
Between Butler and Wilson, the reformation of our linebacker group is almost complete. I wonder if we would keep a guy like Mario Haggan around to serve as the veteran leader, and perhaps we would, but I still think there's one more piece we could add to the puzzle here.
From the Washington Huskies official team site:
5. Third Round, 69th overall (from Arizona): Sam Acho, Defensive End, Texas
The Broncos need to add depth to their defensive front, and obviously Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers cannot be counted on to stay healthy for a full season, so adding extra pass rushers in this draft is a must. Sam Acho has consistently been a good pass rusher at Texas, and finished this season with 17 tackles for a loss and nine sacks, and won the William V. Campbell Award given to the nation's top student-athlete.
via Fanatic Network
Mainly, this move is to add depth to the defensive end position. I think you could have a solid rotation from this draft out of Dumervil, Ayers, Jason Hunter, Acho, Justin Bannan, Kevin Vickerson, Marcus Thomas, and Muhammad Wilkerson.
6. Third Round, 76th overall (from San Francisco): Ahmad Black, Safety/Cornerback, Florida
Black is a guy I'm really high on right now. He is a fiery playmaker who is a good tackler and plays much bigger than his size. His style of play reminds me a lot of Bob Sanders from Iowa, though he's a little bit bigger than Bob. An All-American and a consensus first team All-SEC performer, Black had a huge senior season and will take over the role that Nate Jones currently has for the Broncos. I think this kid can be an awesome nickel or dime defensive back to start his career, and he will find ways to get on the field.
via Draft Ace
This guy had 108 tackles this year, and had five interceptions to lead the Gators, including a pick six in Florida's bowl game victory over Penn State.
7. Third Round, 89th overall (from New Orleans): Casey Matthews, Linebacker, Oregon
This is my third linebacker, completing our corps for the future. You might not have to go for it all in one draft, but hey, it's my draft and this is what I would do were I in the shoes of Brian Xanders and company. Matthews is a high-intensity player that is going to give great effort on every single play. He is obviously the brother of Clay Matthews, but don't think you're getting that kind of player here. At least not for a while down the road. Matthews is still a good player, but he doesn't possess the size his brother does.
He's a great athlete and is rangy and good against the pass. He had 73 tackles, three sacks, and three interceptions in 2010 for the Ducks.
8. Fourth Round (from Cardinals): Kenrick Ellis, Defensive Tackle, Hampton
This is NOT a mis-print. His name is spelled K-E-N-R-I-C-K, not Kendrick. His name is NOT Kendrick. Anyway, this is a guy who started off his collegiate career with South Carolina but was dismissed from the team. Obviously, any team looking to take a flyer on Ellis is going to look into his past and his potential character concerns, but since going to Hampton, he's really gotten his act together and has been playing dominant football.
Ellis has a ton of upside, especially at this point in the draft. I personally see him as a better fit in the 4-3 defensive alignment, because he is a playmaker more than he is a guy who is going to occupy blocks, or that's at least what it sounds like. Either way, he's worth a flyer at this point in the draft as a guy who can come in, add some depth and competition, and he's a guy that has a high ceiling potentially.
9. Fourth Round (from 49ers): Jacquizz Rodgers, Running Back, Oregon State
One of the most electrifying playmakers in all of college football, Rodgers elected to leave school after his junior season despite reports that both he and his brother likely would be back. This is a high character kid that has been a consistent big play threat for the Beavers, and one that compares favorably to Dexter McCluster. McCluster has a bit more power than Rodgers, but Rodgers is every bit as fast and can provide the Broncos with the big play threat on offense they so desperately crave.
One potential reason Rodgers might have elected to leave school early for the draft was to support his new daughter Channing, who was born in September.
With the projected three later round picks, I think the Broncos should focus on adding the best player available. I don't think I'm going to project to the sixth round until we're much closer to the draft, but for right now, I think this draft satisfies the switch to a 4-3, and gives the Broncos a much needed infusion of talent.