It's been nearly one week since Roger Goodell stepped to the podium and said the words football fans had been waiting to hear: "the Carolina Panthers are now on the clock." Over the next three days, Denver's draft took a number of unexpected turns, most conspicuously its decision to forgo drafting a defensive tackle. Nevertheless, the Broncos have received mostly positive reviews for their selections, with some even listing them among the NFL's big draftivus winners.
In the past few days, I've spent a fair amount of time reading scouting reports, watching highlights and evaluating our selections. Now that the dust has settled, here's my view of Denver's performance, pick by pick.1. Von Miller: I've seen the YouTube clips and am well aware of his workout numbers. And while I believe Miller will eventually be a fine player, count me among those he see him as a better fit in the 3-4. His ability to rush the passer will pay dividends for Denver immediately, but he's going to be asked to do so much more than that as a 4-3 SAM. That's a far different role than Miller is accustomed to playing, and there are going to be growing pains. Like I said, I think he'll be a good player for Denver, but he may never reach his full potential. Drafting at no. 2 overall, that's not what you want to see, which is why I'll give this pick a B.
2. Rahim Moore: I can't sugarcoat it: I hate hate hated this pick. It just seems like a classic case of reaching for the best player at a need position in a very weak class. In a normal draft year, I think Moore would've been rightly evaluated as a third or swing-type safety and drafted early in the third round. I know Elway has praised his instincts and potential as a center fielder, but did you realize Moore ran in the 4.6 range at the Combine? No matter how you slice it, that's not fast enough to play a ball-hawking role. Add to that the fact that he's barely 200 pounds and struggles defending the run, and you can see why I didn't like this choice. Last time I checked, the Broncos already had a smallish safety with marginal speed drafted in the second round in Darcel McBath. Why not give him this season to prove his worth and fill a different need with this selection? This pick gets a C-.
3. Orlando Franklin: First, let me say that I'm a big supporter of Ryan Harris and believe the Broncos should bring him back. That's obviously not happening now, but it's possible that it's swaying my opinion here. I'm of two minds on Franklin. If he can step in and lock down the right tackle position for the next five years, then this was a solid pick. Problem is, I have my doubts. He's never played that position before, and a good half of the scouting reports I've seen list him as a guard prospect due to his lack of fluidity. He also seems a beat slow off the snap sometimes. All of that makes him a bit of a project at the position, even if Denver intends to start him right away. I do like the fact that he' a mauler and will bring some serious nasty to our offensive line. Like I said, if he sticks at RT, this pick makes sense. But if we have to move him inside, and I think we will, this was a miss. It gets a C+.
4. Nate Irving: I was as surprised as anyone with this choice. I knew very little about Irving, and the first thing I read was that he has a steel rod in one of his legs. Wow. I've also seen his 40 time listed as anywhere between 4.65 and 4.79. Let's hope for our sake that it's sub-4.70, because he'll need to be that fast if he's going to cover the ground asked of a MIKE in the 4-3. The good news is that Irving plays faster than his timed speed, has great instincts and plays with a mean streak. I think it's far to assume that further out he gets from the accident, the better and faster he'll play. And by now we all know that Parcells had him as a first-round pick, and that counts for something. So although I wasn't excited about it at the time, I have a sneaking suspicion that Denver fans are going to enjoy watching this guy play in the middle for a long time. EFX get a B+ here, with the only demerit coming because of Irving's injury concerns.
5. Quintin Carter: Although initially flummoxed, I'm coming around on this pick. Evaluated on its own (that is, without taking into account the Moore pick), taking Carter here actually represents great value. Carter will come in and compete for playing time right away while contributing on special teams. After a year under Dawkins' wing, I can see him stepping into and owning the strong safety role. For value and fit, this one gets an A-.
6. Julius Thomas: I think we were all excited when we made this pick. I didn't love the fact that we traded up to get him, but no one can deny that Thomas' potential is off the charts. Every team is looking for the next Antonio Gates; the difference is that the Broncos have his former position coach. Advantage: Denver. That said, Thomas has played only one year of college football, and small-time ball at that. Did you realize that he has all of 29 catches in his career? He may indeed be a diamond, but if so, right now he's buried in U.S. Open-size rough. The learning curve will likely be steep, so I'll go with a B+ here.
7. Mike Mohamed: I try not to look at who else is available and evaluate each pick on its own merits, but at this point, I feel like there were better d-line prospects available. I hope to have a separate post coming on undrafted free agent targets for the Broncos, but Mohamed probably should've been one of them. He's a try-hard, team-first guy who will provide depth and contribute on special teams, which isn't all that bad for a sixth-rounder. But with limited upside, this pick earns a B-.
8. Virgil Green: This was a very, very interesting selection. A lot of sites had Green as a third-round pick, and we all know how he tore the roof off of the Combine. Injury concerns and lack of agility dropped him to the seventh round, and I think Denver was wise to pounce. I like that Fox has said he'll be Denver's "move" tight end, meaning he'll be in motion and possible lined up in the slot. He's a mismatch waiting to happen down the seam, and I can see him and Thomas as a force in the red zone. While D. Thomas recovers, Green will have some opportunities to use his speed if he can hold up as a blocker. Big-time upside here in the seventh round gets an A.
9. Jeremy Beal: This was a smart pick. Beal's production at a Big 12 school speaks for itself. He doesn't test well, but he makes things happen on the field. I'd be surprised if he didn't make the squad as a backup DE, which is about all you can ask for this late in the draft. Another A grade here.
So there you have it: nine picks, wildly varying reviews. Really, only the Moore pick bothered me, but I can see the rationale in pairing him with Carter as a our safeties of the future (and maybe present). If Miller and Franklin develop into the players they were drafted to be, this draft will go a long way toward rebuilding the Broncos (that, and a strong free agency period). But for now, I might as well be from Missouri: I'm waiting for these guys to show me before I believe.