The regular season has ended, the draft order is close to being complete and the College season is two days away from finishing. With a quiet weekend for the Broncos and a few weeks until the Senior Bowl I wanted to share my initial thoughts on some of the players entering the draft particularly at two positions.
A few moments of looking through the numerous Mock Drafts on the internet and the Broncos are being linked with a host of different players. What intrigues me about these picks is that they rarely refer to how they would fit into the Broncos roster or if they do it is done poorly.
Defensive Tackle is a position which constantly comes up as the number one position which needs to be addressed early in the draft and I expect this to continue through to April especially given the number of Defensive Tackles with such high grades. However at present I have my doubts if some of the Defensive Tackles warrant such high positions from a Broncos perspective.
Sheldon Richardson and Sharrif Floyd seem to offer similar skill sets to Derrick Wolfe in that they would be strong side DEs in this defence moving inside in Nickel/ Dime packages. Do they really need to draft another similar player?
Jesse Williams and Johnathan Jenkins are two possible two gap NTs that they could use but they offer very little in terms of a pass rush. I think a 1st round pick on such a player is too much.
For now Johnathan Hankins and Kawann Short are the only players in this upper echelon of Defensive Tackles who I think fit the Broncos current defensive tackles needs. They can offer a pass rush out of the 3 Technique (although not quite with the burst others have) as well as be solid against the run before moving to the nose against the pass.
The Broncos best bet maybe to try and pick up a player later on, as I think players like Sylvester Williams, Akeem Spence and Cory Grissom with a 2nd and 3rd round picks represent better value and could contribute as Defensive Tackles in both the base package and the different sub packages.
(I have chosen to not discuss Star Lotulelei as I cant see him falling to Denver in the draft).
Middle Linebacker is the other position which dominates Broncos’ fans discussion when discussing the draft. I think there are potentially three players who have the ability to be that three down Mike which many fans crave, Manti Te’o (the best leader and best all round skillset), Kevin Minter (the best tackler) and Alex Ogletree (the most athletic). However, I think this is the position which is going to be determined by what happens to DJ Williams. His current contract is not sustainable but I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays on a renegotiated deal. If that is the case there is DJ, Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan who are superb Nickel Linebackers. Considering how often the Broncos use Nickel packages and the quality of Nickel linebackers a 1st round pick on a Middle Linebacker may just be a waste. If player like Shayne Skov who lacks the athletic and coverage abilities of the previously mentioned players drops to the 3rd round then he may represent the best value and fill a need as a base package Middle Linebacker. Also a player who has drawn my attention is Will Compton out of Nebraska, who although not the best athlete has the natural footballing instincts and leadership you want from a Mike, and could be a surprise early contributor in the league.
With the amount of two Tight End sets used in a Peyton Manning offense and the slow progress of Julius Thomas this could be an area the team will look to make an addition. Jake Stoneburner and Philip Lutzenkirchen could prove to be nice late round picks to back up Jacob Tamme.
At Guard Alvin Bailey seems a good potential prospect to give the Broncos a more physical edge and the ability to push the pile. Barrett Jones is another who seems a very good prospect as a pass protecting Center but not sure he offers the upgrade in the run game which the Broncos would need to justify selecting an interior Offensive Lineman that high.
Tavon Austin is an explosive playmaker who might be available when the Broncos pick late in the 1st. He would offer something completely different to this Offense but I have concerns over his size and his route running skills, although the latter could be developed. However this seems to be a draft which there are number of slot type receivers who could flourish although through posing a threat with their route running and catching ability with Ryan Swope and Stedman Bailey particularly catching my eye.
The next few weeks will give us an idea exactly where this team is and how many needs there really are but I seem confident those needs will be limited and with a pretty deep draft maybe this is the year they can start trading back and stockpiling some future picks which will allow them to have greater control in the draft in the proceeding years.