- This "big board" is actually a small board that will include my top ten picks, in order, that I think the Broncos would consider. This is not a league-wide big board.
- Since we are not yet formally committed to a 3-4 or 4-3, I will include prospects for both.
#1 Nick Fairley DT 6'5" 305 lbs.
Pros: The most dominating player in college football this year when you combine performance AND level of competition. Fairley has the look of being "country strong" and does not appear to be a weight room warrior (though I'm sure he will impress there too). Fairley is more of a pass rusher than a run stopper but is still elite at both. I had doubts he would be able to chase down the small speedy players on Oregon's roster but he showed himself more than capable. More impressive than his sacks in the Championship game was his one-handed off-balanced horse collar tackle of LaMichael James, a Heisman finalist. Here is something interesting to consider:
Ndamukong Suh's Junior Year:
Solo: 39 Ast: 37 Tot: 76 TFL 19 Sacks: 7.5
Nick Fairley's Junior Year:
Solo: 36 Ast: 24 Tot: 60 TFL 24 Sacks:11.5
I think Fairley and Suh are different players but this is helpful to show how dominant Fairley has been. Fairley's production was done against SEC competition, the undisputed best conference in the nation. Fairley, in my mind, is also scheme diverse, which is something to take into account.
Cons: Some people will call Fairley a "one year wonder" and they are correct. However, I think that some of this is mitigated by the fact that his performance was against elite competition, was equally spread throughout the year, and did not just happen against poor teams. Another factor is his "dirty" reputation. I think some of this is deserved. It is funny, I tend to call his behavior "nasty" and detractors will call it "dirty." It's kind of like calling a fat kid "husky." Another consideration is his work ethic. Supposedly, this last Summer he came to Auburn weighing 320 pounds and had to lose weight to get into playing shape. These little things might not matter but when you are weighing him against a player who you deem equal, it might be the difference.
#2 Patrick Peterson CB 6'1" 220 lbs.
Pros: I am NOT a fan of taking CB's or WR's this early, generally. However, many have said Peterson is an elite, once in a decade type of prospect. So here is what I tell myself: FIVE YEARS FROM NOW, TAKING THE BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE WILL BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN FULFILLING IMMEDIATE NEED. The only way I take Peterson is if the answer to these two questions are "yes?"
1: Is Peterson an elite, once every decade or once every five years type of talent?
2. Can Peterson use his safety size to effectively be a punishing, ball hawking centerfielder?
If the answer to one of those questions is "No," then I am not interested.
Cons: The only argument I can think of is the issue of drafting a CB with the #2 pick and the whole "positional value" thing. Do we really want to spend the #2 pick on someone who isn't in the trenches or involved in many plays? One thing to consider is this: the NFL, in it's evolving nature, is often not a cookie cutter two CB's and two safeties type of league. Increasingly, the difference between CB's, Safeties, and some OLB's is becoming blurred.
#3 Marcell Dareus DT 6'4" 305 lbs.
Pros: I am tempted to equate Dareus to Fairley but I really can't. I would be happy with either but I think Fairley is a notch above. In defense of Dareus though, he has had two consistent years of production. Dareus is scheme diverse, like Fairley. Right or wrong, I view Dareus as more of a run stopper than a pass rusher. Dareus also has a quality that I love: he steps it up big time in big games. In the last two bowl games he has played, Dareus has looked like an all-world, elite, #1 overall type of talent. The drawback to that quality is not being spectacular for your average games. Here is his 2010 production:
Solo: 20 Ast: 14 Tot: 34 TFL: 11 Sack: 4.5
As you can see, his production is not nearly as good as Fairley's but he was playing in a 3-4 and that should be taken into account, statistically. If Sal Sunseri, Alabama's d-line coach, reunites with John Fox, look for Sunseri to possibly reunite with Dareus.
Cons: As I said, I think Dareus steps it up for the big games and can almost, but not quite, disappear for less important games. Another strike against Dareus is that he had to serve a two game suspension this year for improper contact with an agent. Not a big thing, but all things remaining equal, it might matter.
#4 Da'quan Bowers 6'4" 275lbs.
Pros: After the Combine, there will probably be no hotter name in the draft. Bowers certainly looks the part and other than possibly Patrick Peterson, might be the most impressive player, physically, in the draft. The production of Bowers is unmatched in college football. Here are his stats:
Solo: 41 Ast: 26 Tot: 67 TFL: 25 Sacks: 16
From what I have seen, Bowers is elite at both rushing the QB and stopping the run. His ability to read and react are amazing. I have seen him set the edge when necessary. I have also seen him sacrifice his body by flying all over the place to make routine tackles. His speed, for his size is excellent and enables him to chase down QB's (who are crapping their pants) or running backs from behind.
Cons: In my mind, there is one red flag with Bowers. Bowers came out of high school as the #1 prospect in the nation and really didn't do anything his freshman and sophomore year. In fact, he admitted that he didn't really commit himself to being good until his junior year. He played in the ACC, which is a pretty weak league. So, I think Bowers should also qualify as a "one year wonder" and that should be taken into account when evaluating him. Another concern is that Bowers is likely not scheme diverse and likely would be caught out of position in a 3-4 defense. Finally, there is the issue of position duplicity as it relates to Bowers and Robert Ayers.
#5 Robert Quinn OLB 6'5" 265lbs.
Pros: In the interest of full disclosure, I have only seen Robert Quinn play one game and it was over a year ago. Basically, all I am going off of is internet scouting reports and Youtube. From the very limited video that I have seen, I have not seen a more dominant player than Robert Quinn. It seems like he absolutely lives in the backfield and causes more disruption than Rosie O'donnell with gas. Seriously, just Youtube him and enjoy the ride. Before you watch anything though, consider that he was a defensive starter as an 18 year old and nearly won ACC defensive player of the year as a 19 year old! Yeah, Quinn nearly won defensive player of the year in his conference as a sophomore. We really have no idea what we are going to get when Quinn shows up at the Combine but don't be surprised if he becomes the talk of the draft. Also, don't be so quick to rule him out as a potential draft choice. Look at Robert Quinn's production as a sophomore:
Solo: 35 Ast: 17 Tot: 52 TFL: 19 Sacks: 11
Cons: Quinn's ability to be a 3-4 OLB is not in question, but his ability to be a 4-3 DE is. Watching him play makes me think that he is slightly undersized to play on a 4-3 line, but they said the same thing about Doom, among others. In the end, my final verdict is that he is not likely a scheme diverse type of player, but what do I know? Still, in a 3-4 type of system, Quinn must be considered. Robert Ayers has not done anything to show he can be a quality starter in a 3-4. I am excited to see Ayers possibly transition to his more natural position of 4-3 DE. I have read on MHR that the 3-4 defense we ran the last year intended to have one OLB rush the passer and the other OLB "set the edge." I think that is hogwash. I think both OLB's are supposed to read and react, bottom line.
#6 Prince Amukamara CB 6'1" 205lbs.
Pros: As I said, I am not big on early first round CB's, and this includes Amukamara. If we were to pick him with the #2 I would be enraged. With that said, he appears to be a quality CB. If you watch Nebraska play, you know that their CB's are very physical at the line of scrimmage. They jam, poke, prod, stuff, and deny. I love that. To Amukamara's credit, he did not have a bad senior year after losing the QB pressure that Ndamukong Suh provided almost every snap. Prince obviously has really good size and strength and would be a solid pick in the first half of the first round.
Cons: Prince's biggest question mark is his 40 time, which will probably, for better or worse, make the biggest impact on his draft slot. Some scouts say he is a 4.5 and others say he is a low 4.4. Another puzzling attribute of Amukamara's is his lack of interceptions. He has only had five interceptions his entire college career and they all came in one season, his junior season. You can make the argument that QB's didn't throw at him too much but I still think this is a head scratching number.
#7 A.J. Green WR 6'4" 215lbs.
Pros: Don't worry, not only do I not want to draft Green with the #2 overall but I also don't think he will make it out of the top five. However, I have to put him up here just in case he were to fall out of the top ten to fifteen. If he did, which it won't happen, I would trade up out of the second for him. I know I know, don't hate, it won't happen so don't worry about it. This is a big board, not a mock draft. Simply put, A.J. Green is one of the best college WR's I have ever seen. He easily could be a Charles Johnson type of talent and I am hoping he lights up the Combine so Carolina takes him #1 overall. I can't think of any weaknesses in his game. He even put a clinic on when facing Patrick Peterson.
Cons: Obviously the biggest con is that we don't appear to have a need at WR. The second con is that we have the worst defense in the league so why pick a WR? Before everyone gets their panties in a bunch please realize that I don't want him with the #2 pick. This is just a big board.
#8 Cameron Heyward DT 6'6" 295lbs.
Pros: Cameron has been at the top of most draft boards for several years. He is a consistent and proven talent. Looking at him, he appears to have the frame to put on more muscle and size and become more of an anchor. He is tough, like his dad, and competitive, like his dad. I see Cameron as a slightly better version of last year's first round pick Jared Odrick. Heyward also offers positional and scheme diversity. He can play inside or outside in a 4-3 or 3-4, and that is very appealing. Here is his production for his senior year:
Solo: 25 Ast: 23 Tot: 58 TFL:13 Sacks 2.5
Cons: For the last two years, Heyward has been mocked anywhere between a top five and top 35 talent. However, his production has been consistent. If you watched him play in his last bowl game you get the impression that this guy has top ten talent. However, though the production is consistent, on paper it is not nearly as impressive some of the other higher ranked prospects. I would love to trade up from the second and nab him in the mid to late first.
#9 Stephen Paea DT 6'1" 315lbs.
Pros: Most people already know a lot about Paea. He is perhaps the strongest player in the draft and has the on-field production to match his strength. Living in Oregon and watching the Pac10 all the time, I can tell that Paea can often be unblockable. He is hard to move around and knows how to use leverage and hands quite well. All that and the fact that he has only been playing football for a short amount of time probably means there is a lot of upside there. Here are his stats:
Sol: 21 Ast: 25 Tot: 46 TFL: 11 Sacks: 7
Cons: People will knock his height and his reach and that is definitely something to consider. I love his mentality and passion but you can't coach size. Watching the Beavers play a lot, I wouldn't say that Paea was an absolute run stopping stud. I saw several plays where he dove for the QB or RB and barely missed them. Maybe if he was taller that wouldn't happen? I tend to think his lack of height is overrated and the primary concern should be whether or not he is a good football player. Another factor is the question over his scheme versatility. I don't know the answer to that but I assume he could play the 4-3 and 3-4 both effectively.
#10 Cameron Jordan DE 6'4" 285lbs.
Pros: I think Cameron Jordan is one of the most underrated players in college football. I can tell you this, the Oregon Ducks were able to run the football on everyone besides Nick Fairley and Cameron Jordan this season. Cameron Jordan is a run stopping beast. Many people don't know that his Dad was Steve Jordan, the six-time Pro-Bowler TE. Cameron is super strong, has amazing technique, and plays violently. I don't know if he would have the size to play in our version of the 3-4 but I think he would be a really good 4-3 DE. Here is his production:
Sol: 33 Ast: 28 Tot: 61 TFL: 12.5 Sacks: 5.5
Cons: If Jordan were to play in a 3-4 defense, I don't know if he is heavy enough to anchor. In a 4-3, I think he would be great. So, I guess you can say he might not be scheme diverse. I know, many draft sites project him as a 3-4 guy but I just don't see it unless he adds more bulk. Another consideration in placing him in a 4-3 would again be positional duplicity with Robert Ayers.
*****It should be noted that barely missing the cut was 11. J.J. Watt 12. Adrian Clayborn 13. Mike Pouncey