It feels like the playoff loss to the Patriots was already ages ago, as the draft season is already in full swing with the All-Star games and Scouting Combine already in the rear-view mirror.
Last year, the Broncos had the second pick in the draft, and there were a ton of different options. Now, the Broncos are picking later in the first round at 25 overall, and it seems like the options are endless.
However, many agree that the Broncos have a strategy in place, and from what I'm hearing, the Broncos will be targeting defensive tackle, cornerback, and running back early in the draft. A lot of folks on this site have their favorite prospects, as do I, but I think those three positions are exceptionally deep in this draft class, and could provide the Broncos with amazing value.
Mock drafts are almost useless without free agency to go upon, but sometimes not even that matters. Last year, it was easy to make mock drafts because free agency didn't happen until four or five months after the draft had concluded. This year, it's back to normal, and the Broncos have some of the most cap space of any team out there. Like John pointed out in his article, it's not about how much cap space you have, but about how much you're willing to use. The Broncos surely will be active in free agency, as this team has 17 unrestricted free agents and quite a few holes to fill, but many still don't think the Broncos will be going after the big name guys like Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Carr, or Mario Williams, and they make great points.
In all likelihood, the Broncos will continue to build and develop key positions through the draft, and use free agency as a supplemental tool. It's a slight risk considering free agency occurs before, but that's the idea behind a lot of successful teams in this league, specifically our past two Super Bowl champions (Giants, Packers).
So, with that being said, and almost regardless of what happens in free agency, here is my post-scouting combine Denver Broncos mock draft:
1. First Round, 25th overall: Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle, Mississippi State
Cox was a huge riser at the combine and late in the season in 2011. He came out as a junior and when his name entered the pool, I was a little surprised because I hadn't seen or heard much of him. Obviously, you do a little research and you find that he is quickly becoming known as potentially one of the best defensive linemen from this class. Here is my report on Cox from earlier this season:
Emerging player really coming on as a junior. He has really good size and could play in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. Similar size to that of Nick Fairley the former Auburn defensive tackle who took the country by storm in 2010. I don’t think he is quite as good of a prospect, but he has been named the Defensive Lineman of the Week in the SEC four times this season, which is a pretty high honor. He has very good athletic ability and a lot of upside going to the next level. I would like to see him get better leverage on opposing offensive linemen and make more sacks or plays behind the line, even though he has excelled in that area this season. Still very raw in his overall abilities. Relies a lot on his athletic ability, which won’t fly in the NFL. He needs to have better technique to be able to handle NFL offensive linemen. Does a good job of using his upper body strength to move linemen. He can line up both inside and outside, though he is more effective collapsing the pocket from the inside, it appears.
PROS: Size potential, athletic ability, strength, upside, makes plays behind the line, pass rush upside
CONS: Raw, at times doesn’t get great leverage, will tend to over-run some plays
Obviously, Cox has the natural skill and can be a very effective player in the NFL if given the right coaching. I believe the Broncos have that. Here is a third party scouting report on Cox from NFL Draft Scout, which I reference every year for draft information:
Ten years ago the 4-3 defense was the scheme of choice in the NFL. A few years later, the continued success of teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots convinced a number of clubs to make the switch to the 3-4. Now, many of the NFL's trend-setters are incorporating more hybrid approaches of the two schemes, alternating the fronts depending on the next week's opponent.
As such, NFL teams are suddenly on the lookout for defensive linemen tall and athletic enough to provide some pressure from the outside, but strong enough to hold up in the middle. In Cox, a still-growing three-year starter out of the SEC, teams see a player capable of starring in both roles.
A highly-touted high school prospect who turned down the likes of LSU, Alabama and Auburn, Cox was an immediate standout for the Bulldogs, appearing in all 12 games as a true freshman and starting four games on his way toward earning Freshman all-conference accolades from the league coaches.
Cox matched the 29 tackles he posted in 2009 a year later, but showed improvement in making big plays, posting 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and two blocked kicks after posting 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one blocked kick as a freshman.
Though suspended for the season opening game of his junior season, the talented defensive lineman emerged as one of the SEC's best in 2011, earning SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors four times as well as Second-Team All-SEC accolades from coaches and First-Team All-SEC honors from the Associated Press.
Capable of lining up inside as a defensive tackle or outside as a strong-side defensive end, Cox has the size, strength and athleticism to fit in any NFL defense. Considering his youth and upside, don't be surprised if a team is forced to invest a first-round pick to acquire his services.
Pass rush: Good quickness off the snap. Attacks gaps, getting skinny to slip past interior linemen when lining up as a defensive tackle. Enough speed to challenge the shoulders of strong-side tackles when lining up as a defensive end. Does not possess the explosiveness and flexibility to turn the corner efficiently, however, limiting his pass rush potential on the outside. Developing pass rush technique, including a swim move, but does not use this often enough. Relies almost exclusively on his bull rush. Generates an explosive pop to knock his opponent back onto his heels. Possesses the lateral agility to take advantage of the unbalanced offensive lineman to run around him and collapse the pocket.
Run defense: Good size and power, though Cox struggles with leverage, at times. Can be blown off the ball when double-teamed as he currently lacks prototypical width and thickness in his lower body for an interior defender. Cox does appear to have the frame to add an additional 10-15 pounds. Good upper-body strength and quick hands to disengage from the one-on-one block. Penetrates gaps and locates the football quickly. Slides off of blocks to latch onto ballcarriers as they attempt to run by. Alert defender who recognizes the trap block and possesses enough quickness to beat his opponent to the spot. Lacks the sustained speed to chase down ballcarriers, but puts good effort into his lateral pursuit.
Explosion: Varies his burst off the snap, but does not possess true explosiveness in his get-off. Among his best assets, however, is his strong upper body. Attacks blockers with an explosive pop, which allows him to disengage quickly.
Strength: Naturally strong man who is still learning to use his power to his advantage. Good to very good upper-body strength and leg drive to push his opponent deep into the pocket. Good strength as a drag-down tackler, as well. Does negate his own strength, on occasion, due to a high pad level.
Tackling: High effort player who locates the football and pursues laterally and downfield. An effective drag-down tackler due to his upper-body strength. Surprisingly light on his feet showing an ability to adjust to elusive ballcarriers in close quarters. Closes quickly and wraps up well, but isn't an explosive hitter likely to knock the ball free. Has forced just two fumbles in three seasons of action.
Intangibles: Naturally large man with plenty of room for additional growth. Appears to be just scratching the surface of his physical potential, though he has three years of starting experience in the SEC. Blocked four kicks from 2009-11. Was suspended for the 2011 season-opener (Memphis), along with four other Bulldogs, for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
2. Second Round, 57th overall: LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
5'8" 194, 4.37
I realize this has become a cliche' pick around here, of sorts, but that's not going to stop me from making it. I think the Broncos are legitimately interested in James--from what I've heard--and he fits the description of the type of player we should be looking for. His listed size doesn't do justice to just how tough he is, and his speed is something you can't ignore. I don't see how, aside from being bulkier, he is less of a prospect than Chris Johnson was coming out. James simply had better production in college, and while he isn't 4.24 fast, he isn't shabby either. I think James is a tough, physical runner who would give the Broncos some much needed speed out of the backfield, and another weapon for the passing game as well. Here is my pre-season report, along with some analysis from my co-editor Jesse:
James has drawn comparisons to Warrick Dunn, and I see no reason why he can’t have that type of impact in the NFL. He isn’t a big runner, but he is definitely a ball of fire and can score from anywhere on the field. I expect him to be in the first round discussion all season long, provided he stays healthy.
PROS: Explosive speed…great burst…good vision…elite athlete…very good receiver out of backfield…elusive in the open field…has the ability to take over a game…shifty…can stop on a dime and change direction…underrated north/south runner…durable…very productive…
CONS: Slightly undersized at about 5’9″ or 5’10″, which comes with other flaws, potentially (always makes teams worry about durability)….Needs to be a complementary back in the NFL because he’s not a powerful in between the tackles kind of runner…though he’s a good receiver out of the backfield doesn’t run a lot of different routes out of the backfield…like most young players will to work a lot on blitz pickups…domestic abuse charge he’ll have to explain…not going to drag defenders.
And of course, the third party analysis from NFL Draft Scout:
James has fought the "too small" label his entire life, and will likely hear those words again after leaving Oregon with one year of eligibility remaining. The extensive resume he built in high school, along with excellent production at the college level, should allow scouts to overcome that train of thought judging his pro potential.
Coming off a 2,043-yard, 26-TD performance as a senior in high school, James redshirted the 2008 season while LeGarrette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson carried the mail for the Ducks. He instantly earned his own stripes in 2009, earning All-Pac-10 honors, as well as the conference's Freshman of the Year award, from league coaches by rushing for 1,546 yards and 14 touchdowns. James one-upped himself as a sophomore, winning the Doak Walker Award as the nation's best running back and several other honors after leading the nation with 1,732 yards and 21 rushing scores. He also caught 17 passes for 208 and three touchdowns.
He was one better in 2011 -- 247-1,805-18 rushing -- and finished the season on an absolute tear with five games of at least 142 rushing yards, including 159 on 25 carries in a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, his final game with the Ducks.
James continually comes up big in the biggest games, using his low center of gravity, quickness and acceleration to gash defenses for explosive plays. Comparisons to successful smaller backs like Warrick Dunn and Brian Westbrook are natural, and though possibility a bit of a reach, could lead to James being picked much higher than last year's fifth-round "mighty mite" backs, Jacquizz Rodgers and Dion Lewis.
Inside: Size will be a detriment between the tackles at the next level, but don't underestimate his toughness. Prefers to run north-south, though, feeling his way through traffic with quick cuts and nice vision. May be used in zone system, shows patience to wait for blocking on stretch plays, able to find and take advantage of cutback lanes. Gets skinny to find tight creases to rip through when around the goal line or needing to pick up the first down. Can avoid a penetrating lineman, jump-step to find an open lane and accelerate into the second level. Given the ball in crunch time due to his toughness and ball security. Lacks the strength to push the pile or break off NFL linebacker tackles inside.
Outside: Does not try to take every play outside, as you'd expect given his size and speed, but dangerous once on the sideline. Excellent speed and good vision in the open field, capable of breaking off large chunks of yardage, or score, even if safety gets a deep angle. Spins off a low tackle attempts in space and maintain his balance to continue on. Willing to cut inside for extra yards instead of heading to the sideline (but may need to do that more to avoid big hits from NFL defenders).
Breaking tackles: Generally better in avoiding tackles can breaking them against NFL-caliber talent. Willing to lower his shoulder in space to knock over an opponent and churns legs to drag tacklers when owning a head of steam, but comes down on first contact too often even when it is a glancing blow or lunging arm tackle. Flashes the ability to break a tackle in the backfield and reverse field for a big gain, but he will lose yardage a times and it's much tougher to accomplish that against NFL defenses.
Blocking: Does not shy away from contact in pass protection, and is a fairly effective cut blocker with good awareness of where the pressure is coming from. Offers help to tackles on the edge on designed rollouts. Lack of size will make it difficult for him to stand up to NFL linebackers (who will anticipate his cut blocks), though he will give nice effort when holding up blitzers coming up the middle. Flares out into the flat on most third downs.
Receiving: Not used extensively out of the backfield, but has flashes playmaking ability in the flat. Looks capable of adjusting to poor throws with heat coming his direction. Has speed to be a threat on wheel routes, though NFL defensive backs will win jump balls. Can sidestep the first man and accelerate, but is usually brought down quickly by strong arm tackles.
Intangibles: Quiet player who prefers to lead by example. Suspended for 2010 season opener after pleading guilty to misdemeanor harassment charge (four other charges were dropped) due to altercation with his girlfriend; sentenced to 10 days in jail (received electronic bracelet instead) and two years probation. Says he's learned and matured more from that incident than anything else in his life.
3. Third Round, 88th overall: Josh Robinson, Cornerback, Central Florida
5'10" 199, 4.33
Robinson was one of the fastest guys at the 2012 Combine and was a guy that really jumped out at me when I saw that he had declared for the draft as a potential sleeper at the cornerback position. He definitely has the physical and athletic tools you look for in an NFL cornerback. Here is my scouting report from the season:
Robinson has had a very solid three years at Central Florida, and he enters the 2012 NFL Draft as one of the lesser known guys but a kid that could really impress at the Combine and his pro day. He doesn’t have ideal size but he’s well-built and has incredible closing speed. His speed overall is excellent, and he can come out of nowhere to make a sure-fire completion look like a bad throw. He has good instincts and seems to be able to read the eyes of quarterbacks well. Can get beat deep on double moves but also has the recovery speed to be able to make up for it. Very solid ball skills and can make plays with the ball in his hands. Might have upside as a returner in the NFL. Might struggle in the NFL against bigger receivers.
Here is a third party analysis from NFLDraftScout.com:
Despite being recruited by the likes of Clemson, Michigan and Auburn, Robinson elected to stay close to home and signed with Central Florida. He quickly established himself as a star at this level, emerging as a starter early in his true freshman season (starting 11 games and playing in all 13 contests in 2009) and leading the team with six interceptions, earning Second Team All Conference USA accolades. Robinson piqued the interest of scouts immediately by enjoying some of his most impressive performances of the season against top competition, including a six tackle, one interception performance against Texas.
Robinson proved that his true freshman campaign was no fluke a year later, earning First Team honors despite seeing his interception total drop to just two. Robinson proved his all-around game by recording 59 tackles, breaking up 13 passes and returning a fumble 56 yards for a touchdowns against Alabama-Birmingham. Robinson again proved his ability to step up his level of play against out of conference foes, recording three tackles and three passes broken up against Kansas State and limiting Georgia's A.J. Green to 77 yards and no touchdowns in a stunning 10-6 upset victory in the Liberty Bowl.
Robinson again earned First Team All-CUSA honors following the 2011 season (48 tackles, a career high 15 passes broken up, two interceptions including one returned for a touchdown), prompting him to leave the Knights early for the NFL. Robinson's quick feet, fluidity in coverage and impressive ball skills made him a virtual man among boys in Conference USA. The jump to the NFL is a steep one but if Robinson can prove his speed, the skill set is there to warrant a top 75 pick.
POSITIVES: Possesses legitimate NFL cover skills. Has a quick, low backpedal with a fluid hip turn to cover receivers down the field. Has at least adequate straight-line speed and good balance, fluidity to change directions. Alert defender for zone coverage, showing good understanding of route progressions occuring behind him and a quick burst downhill to break on underneath passes in front of him. Very good hand-eye coordination and timing to knock passes away as the receiver attempts to secure the catch. Highly competitive. Raised his level of play against top competition. Emerged as a standout punt returner in 2010, earning honorable mention accolades by averaging 15.2 yards per return (ninth in the country) as a sophomore, though he did not return a punt for score over his career. Played in all 38 games of his UCF career and has had no known injuries.
NEGATIVES: Possesses only average height for the position. A bit high in his backpedal. Too often allows a free release to the receiver when in man-press coverage. Gets his hands on a lot of football but needs to do a better job of turning interception opportunities into actual interceptions, recording 10 despite breaking up 36 passes over his career. Struggled with fumbles as a punt returner, raising concerns about his ability to contribute in this role at the NFL level.
4. Fourth Round: Robert Turbin, Running Back, Utah State
5'10" 222, 4.50
Turbin, compared to LaMichael James, is a much more traditional player who combines both speed and power, but he's not quite as agile. Essentially, Turbin reminds me a bit of a young Willis McGahee, so I think that'd be a good player for him to learn from. This move would complete our stable of backs with McGahee, Moreno, James, Turbin, and presumably Mario Fannin if he turns out half as good as some of my fellow MHR members think he can. Here is my in-season analysis of Turbin:
The first thing I thought when I saw Turbin was, "Wow, this guy is huge." He’s really imposing physically and he translates that to the field. He’s been absolutely dominant for Utah State over his last two seasons, averaging 6.3 yards per carry in 2009 and nearly seven yards per carry in 2011. He is quick to the hole and is used out of a lot of different offensive looks (gun, pistol, single back, I-back). Runs low and has excellent balance and deceptive speed for a guy his size. Surprisingly great on third downs as a receiver out of the backfield. Really complete looking back with the whole package. Missed the entire 2010 season with a knee injury, so that has to be considered a concern, but he is really shooting up draft boards and for good reason. Foot injury in 2007 caused him to take a medical redshirt. Good quickness and a nose for the end zone. Really good at keeping a low center of gravity, making it tough for defenders to bring him down. I will be very interested to see how this guy does at offseason workouts, because on the field he is everything coaches look for. Should be a nice steal for a team in the 2nd or 3rd round.
PROS: Runs low, size, quickness, balance, nose for end zone, receiving/third down capabilities, elusive, hard to track down in the open field…good speed for his size as well…and showed off terrific athleticism at the combine
CONS: Injury history (foot, knee), competition level, sometimes goes down too easily on initial contact if play doesn’t develop…needs a lot of work as a pass blocker
Obviously, I have Turbin rated much higher than a third round pick, but backs seem to be undervalued in the draft, so I could see him falling. If not, oh well, it's just my second or third mock. Here is the analysis from NFLDraftScout.com:
A powerfully built back with much better acceleration and natural running skills than you'd expect given his size, Utah State's Robert Turbin exploded in 2011 for 1,517 yards and 19 touchdowns. His spectacular junior season earned him the 2011 Western Athletic Conference's Offensive Player of the Year award and helped lead the Aggies to their first bowl appearance since 1997.
Turbin is far from just a one year wonder, however. His 2011 season, in fact, is all the more impressive considering that he missed the entire 2010 season with a torn ACL. Turbin demonstrated future NFL-caliber talent early on, rushing for 499 yards and a team-leading eight touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2008 and catching the attention of NFL scouts a year later with an eye-popping 18 touchdowns and 1,296 rushing yards in just 11 starts a year later.
Though characterized throughout the year as a junior, Turbin had technically used up his eligibility once the 2011 season ended. Therefore he was not among the 65 underclassmen recognized by the NFL as having left college early for the NFL. His eligibility for the 2012 draft, however, is not in question nor is his talent. Though questions about his durability and level of competition could push him into the draft's third day, Turbin's surprising combination of power, burst and reliability as receiver and blocker could make him a candidate for early and significant playing time as a rookie.
Strengths: Possesses good burst to and through the hole. A patient runner with good vision and burst for the cutback. Squares his shoulders and can knock the defender back onto his heels. Good leg drive and forward lean to gain extra yardage after contact. Shows a surprising burst to beat linebackers to the edge. Can plant his foot in the ground and explode, showing better straight-line speed than you'd expect for a back of his size. Shows good hands and concentration as a receiver. Looks natural catching the ball. Cognizant and physical pass blocker who will square up the hard-charging linebacker in the hole to buy his quarterback time. Possesses a short, squatty frame conducive to tough inside running. Dedication to the weight room is obvious based on an upper body build as impressive as any running back in the country (with the possible exception of Alabama's Trent Richardson) …
Weaknesses: Possesses surprising burst for a back of his build but despite some long runs over his career has limited straight-line speed and can be caught from behind. Is much more explosive in his upfield burst than laterally, especially following the 2010 season in which he tore his ACL. Is a bit top-heavy. Possesses broad shoulders and a heavily muscled up upper-body but only average base. Durability concern. Missed the entire 2010 season with the torn ACL and redshirted in 2007 wih a foot injury, each of which will require a closer look by team doctors at the Combine. Questionable level of competition …
5. Fifth Round (from Rams): David Molk, Center, Michigan
Molk is the type of guy that could eventually develop into a starter, and at worst, the Broncos need a guy to groom behind J.D. Walton, because if he goes down, there's really no one to pick up the slack. Molk won the Rimington Trophy as the nation's most outstanding center, so you know he has the skills. He has really similar size to that of Ryan Kalil, the Pro Bowl center whom John Fox worked with in Carolina. He has great strength and should be great value at this point if he's still on the board. Here is NFLDraftScout's analysis:
A four-year starter, Molk was a highly-regarded recruit out of high school, choosing Michigan over Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin. After redshirting in 2007, he won the starting center job in 2008 as a redshirt freshman and started all 12 games. Molk battled injuries in 2009 as a sophomore and missed most of the season, starting just four games. He returned healthy in 2010 as a junior and started every game as a Rimington Award finalist, earning First Team All-Big Ten honors. Molk had his best season in 2011 as a senior captain (13 starts), earning First Team All-American and All-Big Ten honors and was the recipient of the Rimington Award (nation?s top center).
Molk doesn?t look like much, but he is very aggressive and plays bigger than he appears ? lacks elite physical tools, but you can?t measure heart and desire. He has 42 career starts under his belt and worked through several different offensive systems in Ann Arbor ? battle tested and smart, seasoned veteran. Molk has poor base strength and won?t be for everyone at the next level (scheme-specific), but he is quick, scrappy and competitive with pro intangibles and work ethic ? a third or early fourth round prospect who is ideally suited for a zone blocking scheme and does have NFL starting potential.
Strengths: A balanced, coordinated athlete who sets up quickly and gets in position with nice burst off the snap and good feet. Covers a lot of ground with good lateral shuffle and range to get to the second level easily ? natural movement skills with smooth footwork to block in space or pull. Built low to the ground and understands leverage, using his lack of height to his advantage. Smart with very good awareness and keeps his head on a swivel. Blocks with a wide base and does a nice job with blocking angles and body positioning. Physical at the point of attack and plays with a tough, intense temperament ? fights through the whistle and leaves it all on the field. A hard, tireless worker and gets the most out of his ability ? obvious passion for the game. Has a high football IQ with very good starting experience (42 career starts) in multiple offensive systems. A high character player and vocal team leader ? very good competitor and loves to finish. Has very good work ethic and is very coachable ? team-first guy who leads by example.
Weaknesses: Undersized with limited growth potential ? lacks elite measureables for the next level. Doesn?t have a stout anchor and can be driven backwards off the snap ? often overwhelmed at the point of attack because of his limited base strength. Needs to sustain blocks longer and can be tossed aside by defenders. Lacks the brute strength to redirect rushers and will never be a mauler in the run game ? needs to do a better job blocking moving targets and squaring up in space. Won?t fit in every NFL offense and won?t be on some team?s draft boards. Has suffered several injuries over his career, including missing most of his sophomore season with foot and knee injuries ? didn?t start in the 2012 Sugar Bowl because of a foot injury in pregame warm ups.
-- Dane Brugler
6. Fifth Round: Mike Daniels, Defensive Tackle, Iowa
Mike Daniels is a perfect fit for the Denver defense, simply because he struggles with double teams. With the Broncos, he won't have to face any, at least until the Broncos' fearsome pass rush tandem of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil is broken up. Daniels is a short defensive tackle, but he has long arms and is a very active pass rusher, and he dominates guards in one-on-one situations. Here is my scouting report on him:
Mike Daniels came out of nowhere last season to lead a star-studded Iowa defensive line (three NFL draft picks) in tackles for loss. Perhaps it was the company he was in that helped him along the way, or perhaps he has some skill of his own. My bet is on the latter, and Daniels could really break out in 2011 as a playmaker on the Iowa defensive line. He is a quick twitch lineman who plays with a low center of gravity and has a nose for the ball carrier. His performance will be huge this season for the Hawkeyes.
Daniels, AKA "the Beast" plays like his nickname. He is powerful up front and has the ability to fill gaps and stop the run, but also has the speed and athleticism to rush the passer and make key tackle for loss. Daniels is a second team all Big Ten selection by the coaches and a first team all Big Ten honorable mention by the media. I expect Daniels to be drafted in the middle to late rounds. He has the ability to make a significant impact at the next level but may be over looked if he doesn’t have a good pro day.
PROS: Speed, quickness, makes plays behind the line, tough kid, plays with solid leverage most of the time.
CONS: Not an elite run-stuffer, smaller than most DT prospects, can get pushed around by more powerful linemen
And from NFLDraftScout.com:
Daniels was lightly recruited out of high school, choosing Iowa over Temple.
After redshirting in 2007, he saw limited action as a reserve end/tackle in 2008, recording six tackles, one tackle for loss and a sack. He was a backup defensive tackle in 2009 as a sophomore, finishing with 10 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
Daniels earned a starting job in 2010 as a junior with eight starts, recording 40 tackles, 11.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks, earning All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors.
He had his most productive season in 2011 as a senior (13 starts), finishing with 67 tackles and a team-best 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks, earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors.
Daniels is an undersized interior player, but plays with the quickness and motor to be productive at the next level ? a lot to love about his first step burst and explosion. He was the spark plug of the defense at Iowa and was productive against both the pass and run, leading the team in both sacks and tackles for loss as a senior.
Daniels lacks the length, core strength and overall size that teams look for and he won?t be a great fit in every defensive front, but he?s a player who will fit in a rotation somewhere and has enough physical skill to contribute ? very similar prospect as Colts defensive tackle Drake Nevis and looks like a solid top-125 pick.
Strengths: A coordinated athlete with a lightning quick first step and natural explosion ? routinely the first defensive lineman off the ball. Built low to the ground and is most effective when he keeps his pad level low and battles. Has active hands to slip blocks and a high motor to never give up on the play ? plays hard and hungry on every snap. Agile and nimble footwork with smooth body control ? very light on his feet. Fights through the whistle and is always chirping and going at full-go ? love his effort and determination. Extremely tough, battling through an ankle sprain most of 2011. A leader and hard worker off the field, adding over 50-pounds since enrolling as a 230-pound freshman. Consistently productive over his career (27 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks).
Weaknesses: Undersized and lacks elite bulk and girth for an interior defensive lineman ? doesn?t have NFL measureables or length. Lacks a stout anchor and can be redirected off the snap with underwhelming base strength. Tends to play too upright at times and needs to be more consistent with his leverage to maximize his potential. Has short arms and has room to improve his pass rush technique. Struggles to disengage with inconsistent hand use and power ? too often gets lost in a crowd. Needs to wrap and finish, too often settling to just hit the ballcarrier. Battled a leg injury for most of the past season so his medical will be important. Will be scheme-specific at the next level because of his lack of size and strength ? won?t be a fit for everyone.
NFL Comparison: Drake Nevis
-- Dane Brugler
7. Seventh Round: Darron Thomas, Quarterback, Oregon
The Broncos are going to take a quarterback at some point, but unless they are getting Russell Wilson, I hope they aren't taking one very high in this crop. After Luck and Griffin, this class is pretty weak. However, I am intrigued by Darron Thomas, and I know that he and the Broncos have talked. Thomas was really productive at Oregon, and while he's not the athlete that a lot of people might assume he is, he is a pretty instinctive player and a solid quarterback, a guy who could sit on your bench and develop into a decent backup someday. Here is my scouting report:
Thomas is a good athlete with solid size, but he looks a little lanky for his listed measurables. He is slightly fragile because of that lack of overall muscle build, so it will be interesting to see if he decides to add 10-15 pounds of muscle in the offseason as his frame will allow it without him losing speed or quickness. Quick release on the ball and is pretty accurate, but that is certainly an area of his game he should look to develop as he is completing only about 61 percent of his passes over the last two years.
Strong arm and can make any throw, and obviously a dual-threat guy who can make plays with his legs when called upon. 42 touchdowns compared to only 14 interceptions over the last two seasons as of 11/19/11. Makes good decisions with the football, got a great personality and a lot of swagger/confidence. Leader of the offense and productive really early in his career.
PROS: Size potential, strong arm, can make all the throws, good decisions, protects the football, dual-threat, versatility, field general, good vision, like his potential as a developmental QB
CONS: Needs to add muscle to his frame, can he be a QB long term?, translating success in the spread option to the NFL, not playing in a QB friendly offense
And from NFL Draft scout:
Thomas posted eye-popping numbers for the University of Oregon and led the Ducks to a Rose Bowl championship in 2011. His decision to leave school with eligibility remaining was nonetheless a huge surprise because, frankly, he hasn't demonstrated the vision or accuracy to duplicate his collegiate success at the NFL level.
Thomas signed with Oregon as a highly touted prep prospect and saw action as a true freshman, nearly leading the Ducks back from a 24-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Boise State in 2008. He redshirted in 2009 before emerging as a Second Team All-Pac-10 choice in his first season as a starter, completing 61.5 percent of his passes for 2,881 yards and 30 touchdowns against just nine interceptions.
He was even better as redshirt junior in 2011, completing 62.2 percent of his passes for 2,761 yards and a sparkling 33-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio that ranked among the best in all of college football. However, Thomas' gaudy statistics are less a function of his own talents and more about his fit in a relatively simple spread option offense that took advantage of his athleticism and touch.
Thomas has enough unique traits to warrant draft consideration but is far from a finished product. A team willing to gamble on his upside may find him tempting on the third day of the draft.
Positives: Athletic build with plenty of room for another 10-15 pounds of muscle mass. Possesses an efficient set up and delivery of the football with a clean over the top release. Mobile quarterback who can buy time in the pocket and is a threat to gain yards with his feet. Flashes good accuracy and touch on intermediate routes, especially down the seam. Possesses at least adequate arm strength. Experienced in big games. May be just scratching the surface of his potential.
Negatives: Lanky, almost skinny build more suited to playing wide receiver than quarterback in the NFL. Produced in a relatively simple one-read offense that gave him wide passing lanes and receivers generally running free from defenders. Rarely asked to make NFL-caliber stick throws or take snaps from under center. Stares down his primary option and too often panics when it has been taken away, often resorting to simply tucking the ball and running. Surprised Oregon with his decision to leave with a season of eligibility remaining and was given just a tepid endorsement from head coach Chip Kelly in the school's press release announcing the decision.