The Denver Broncos' new front office was all eyes and ears at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, and the process has only magnified a belief I had previously: The Broncos have a ton of options with the second overall pick. There are some fantastic athletes on the defensive side of the ball, which is undoubtedly the strength of this draft (good for the Broncos).
Over the last week or so, I have gotten to see most if not all of the top prospects in this year's draft compete at the Combine, and I have to say, I don't know that there was all that much separation at the top of the Broncos' draft board. I try not to put a lot of stock into the Scouting Combine as probably about 60 percent deals with what these guys have done on the field, 35 percent with what they have done off of it and how they measure out physically, and then I put the last five percent into offseason all-star games and the Scouting Combine.
For instance, LeGarrette Blount ran barely a sub-4.8 second 40 yard dash, went undrafted, was cut in mini-camp, and led all rookies in rushing. That's just the way it goes sometimes. I'm looking for football players for the Broncos, not the best vertical leap.
That being said, there are some useful things at the Combine that help you confirm what you already knew about some guys, and I think there were some pretty revealing things to take away from this whole process.
Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Man, Peterson looks impressive. He has a great frame at 6'0" 219, ran a 4.32 second 40 yard dash, and has freakishly long arms. Combine that with his collegiate production, and he has the makings of an elite cornerback for years to come.
What we already knew about Peterson is that he has fantastic ball skills, but what we maybe had never seen before was his personality in motion. Peterson is energetic, and he is quietly cocky. He has a spring to his step, and is absolutely one of the most explosive athletes in this entire draft disregarding position.
I have always been a fan of Peterson, but it's extremely hard not to love him after seeing him in person and watching just what kind of athlete he can be.
Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Fairley showed some explosive athleticism, and the reports of him being 6'3" were overblown. He's technically much closer to 6'4", and with cleats on, he's easily a legitimate 6'5". He checked in at 291 pounds, so he's either lost weight since his Auburn days or simply didn't weigh that much when he was there.
Two things I noticed the most about Fairley.
1. His shoulder injury is a bit of a concern
2. His extremely thin lower body.
Fairley seems to have the build of a former Broncos defensive lineman in Neil Smith. He also has impressive athleticism, but his short area burst was not elite in my opinion.
Stock: Slightly DOWN
Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
I might not have been more impressed by any player at the Combine than Marcell Dareus, at least I would have if his teammate Julio Jones hadn't blown up the workouts with a broken foot.
Dareus showed exceptional short-area quickness in his 10 yard split, ran a 4.93 at 319 pounds, and he dominated every drill. I also really enjoyed listening to him speak, and I think he has the chance to succeed for a long, long time in the NFL.
Question now becomes whether or not Dareus is worthy of the same pick as Ndamukong Suh was taken with last offseason. Dareus has shown the ability to be dominant at times at Alabama, but he also disappeared at times in more meaningless games. Will Dareus be motivated to dominate on every play?
Mike Mayock ranks him as the top defensive tackle in the draft, and so do I. I think he is much more scheme versatile than Nick Fairley, and Dareus could honestly play any position in a three man front or either tackle position in our four man front.
Immediate starter, possibly a Pro Bowler from year one.
Stock: Way UP
Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Absolutely blown away by Von Miller. This is a guy who was absolutely ferocious rushing the passer for the Aggies, and he has sky-rocketed up draft boards this offseason. He's bulked up to 246 from 237, ran an unprecedented 4.53 second 40 yard dash for a college defensive end, and showed exceptional agility, quickness, and burst at the Combine.
Yes, he was out of control at times, but he looked smooth in coverage and could do virtually no wrong throughout his workout. This is a guy who you simply have to find a spot for on the field. He could play outside in a 4-3 and convert to DE on passing downs in nickel formations.
He is a defensive coordinator's dream. I read on the Denver Post that the Broncos are considering Von Miller in the draft, and that they would potentially want to trade down in order to get him. I think he will fall no further than 9th to the Dallas Cowboys.
He could be a building block for a defense.
Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
This is the name I continually hear in regards to the Broncos. One scout said "If he [Bowers] isn't going first overall, he's going second."
I've also heard from another scout that his meniscus injury is not a concern to NFL GM's, and I don't know that it should be. Bowers led the nation in sacks with a torn meniscus all year. Obviously he has great toughness.
He checked into the Combine at 6'3" 280, and he just has the look of a football player. "Only" 22 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds, he has 33 1/8 inch arms, and has great big bear claw hands. He's the more complete prospect of the top two ends at the Combine, as he is equally capable against the run as against the pass, but he might not have the pass rushing potential of Robert Quinn.
Bowers might not be a can't miss prospect, is my only problem. He really only has one year of great film to go off of, but it's some really good stuff, especially considering he played with injury.
Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
I expected Carolina DE Robert Quinn to dominate the Combine, and he really didn't. He looked solid, and ran solid times for a long DE, but he measured out at 6'5" 265.
What I love about Quinn is that he is going to be able to fit into multiple roles at the NFL level. He easily has the frame to add 15, maybe even 20 pounds without losing any quickness, and he has so much potential. He is only 20 years old right now, and has a long future ahead of him, theoretically.
Quinn dominated as an 18 and 19 year old at UNC, and has a freakish build. He should be a top ten pick, possibly even top five, but he might not be because he missed a whole year.
Stock: Slightly UP
2nd/3rd Round Possibilities and Quick Hits
- Marvin Austin, DT from UNC continues to have a beastly offseason. He dominated at the East-West Shrine game and practices, and he continued to look fantastic at the Combine. 6'2" 310 pounds, and great quickness. He also put up 38 bench press reps. This guy was considered a top five pick before the season. He is my top target at 36 regardless who we pick at #2 overall.
- This is the best DL class I have ever seen. We could get two first round talents in the second round, and I'm not even exaggerating about that. Theoretically, we could get three guys on the defensive line with first round grades with our first three picks. That possibility gets me very, very excited.
- The cornerbacks also looked very solid. If Brandon Harris were to slip to pick number 36, we should think long about taking him. He looked very fluid, and we already know about his great ball skills.
- I am extremely intrigued by the possibility of adding Bowers, Marvin Austin, and Cameron Heyward in the same draft. I can't overstate that. At one point or another, those guys were all considered top ten, possibly even top five picks.
- The safeties are not good. The best safety right now is cornerback Aaron Williams, who has the potential to have a Michael Griffin like impact. Great speed, great ball skills.
- Rahim Moore is interesting as a safety prospect, but Mike Mayock said he is only a "cut" taclker. That doesn't entice me all that much.
- The linebackers aren't all that special athletically either, save for a few guys at the top end.
- The Broncos could be in the market for a running back in the second or third round. I love Ryan Williams from Virginia Tech and Mikel LeShoure as fits for a one-cut system. This is a very deep class of backs. In the later rounds, my favorite guys are Alex Green of Hawaii (6'0" 225, 4.53, averaged almost 9 yards per carry last year) and Roy Helu Jr. (6'0" 220, 4.48 range, nearly 7 yard per carry average).