In addition to being fantastic scheme fits, the signings of Louis Vasquez, Terrance Knighton, Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie and Wes Welker have given the Broncos quality starting players at positions of need on cap friendly deals in regards to length and monetary value. The darkhorse signing of them all may have been Stewart Bradley at ILB, who helps provide depth and competition at a spot which will be wide-open for the taking come training camp this summer. If he can return to his 2008 form with the Philadelphia Eagles, he may give incumbent start Nate Irving a run for his money.
That being said, it is safe to say that the moves in that realm are now complete. Don’t be alarmed, Broncos faithful – the fun has just begun! Over the next month John Fox, John Elway, Matt Russell and Co. will be working diligently around the clock in preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft. The Broncos currently hold six selections in April’s draft, only absent a sixth rounder that was sent for the Eagles as the final piece of the Broderick Bunkley trade from several years back. The only question is who should the Broncos target? My first piece on Mile High Report will be a mock draft which addresses the Broncos current needs moving forward.
Without further adieu. . .
First Round Selection: Tank Carradine, DE – Florida State University
Elvis Dumervil’s departure has left a big gap for the Broncos at right defensive end. While it is likely that they will sign either Freeney or Abraham, those potential moves are only band-aids on a roster need that needs a long-term solution. Outside of Derek Wolfe at LDE, the Broncos have veteran Robert Ayers who saw a good portion of playing time as last season stretched on and former Tennessee Volunteer Malik Jackson, who has the versatility to play inside our out in Denver’s defensive scheme. I’m hopeful that Jackson can shed some weight and become a disruptive force at end for the Broncos, but wishful projects won’t help us hoist the Lombardi. The Broncos need an impact pass rusher from the right side that will allow All-Pro linebacker Von Miller to continue at a high level. Let me introduce you to Cornellius "Tank" Carradine.
As a Florida State Seminoles diehard, Carradine was one of my most scouted players through the 2012 college season. Carradine entered the starting line-up opposite of Bjoern Werner after star defensive end Brandon Jenkins season came to an early end after suffering a foot injury against Murray State in their home opener. The JUCO transfer went on to post spectacular numbers: 80 tackles, 13 for loss and 11 sacks only to tear his right ACL in the final quarter in the last game of the season against Florida.
Had he not injured his knee, Carradine would likely be a Top 15 selection in this year’s draft. For only two years experience in the ACC, Carradine has a wide repertoire of pass rush moves and uses his arms and hands incredibly well. His technique setting the edge and pursuing the run game is second to none in this entire draft. When asked to drop into coverage, he looks extremely fluid in his 6’4 – 265 pound frame. He hustles hard until the final whistle and makes his presence known on most every play. Not to mention, he is one of the best athletes in the entire draft regardless of positions.
The major concerns surrounding "Tank" are his limited experience as a starter (one year) and his recent ACL tear which may inhibit his explosiveness off the snap going forward. He is set to do his own personal workout for team scouts and evaluators in April to prove that he is ready to play ball in 2013. If he perform well at his pro audition, Carradine may earn himself a spot in the Top 25 selections in April’s draft. He is that good and the Broncos would be fortunate to have him for the coming season and down the road as an impact pass rushing defensive end.
Second Round Selection: LeVeon Bell, RB – Michigan State University
Many thought the Broncos would go after free agents Shonn Greene, Rashard Mendenhall and Steven Jackson, but those ideas never came to fruition. The Broncos stable of backs remains Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno, Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball. All of these backs have potential, but several also carry age and durability concerns and the Broncos lack a back with big size to get the tough yards when needed. It’s obvious that the team was looking for an upgrade in free agency, but were unable to snag one. There is no doubt in my mind that they will look to address that need in the draft. Which is why I feel Le’Veon Bell would be a fantastic selection for the Broncos in round two.
In his three years with the Spartans, the 6’2 – 235 pound Bell racked up over 3,300 yards and 33 touchdowns. His production as a pass catcher was also excellent, bringing in 78 catches for over 500 yards and a score. He saved his best for last, rushing for almost 1,800 yards as a junior and 12 scores on the ground. Not many other college backs can equal his production on the field, and few run with his authority, demeanor and have the ability to get yards after contact like he consistently displayed at Michigan State.
Bell brings a presence that is currently not in the Broncos backfield and would make a great duo for the future with second-year player Ronnie Hillman. He has fantastic instincts and an aggressive running style. He uses his size to his advantage and routinely lowers his shoulder to bulldoze through defenders. He is surprisingly fluid and agile for his sizes and time after time makes defenders miss in open the open field. The biggest concerns to me about Bell’s game is that he does not have the second gear elite backs like Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson posses and undoubtedly needs to refine his pass protection skills in order to be a three down back in the NFL. All things considered, John Fox has a history of using early selections on running backs (DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart) so don’t be surprised if you hear Bell’s name called by Denver.
Third Round Selection: D.J. Swearinger, S – University of South Carolina
The Broncos are currently four deep at safety with Rahim Moore, Quinton Carter, David Bruton and Mike Adams. On paper this looks like a solid group, but there is nothing spectacular about them either. Bruton is one of the best special teams players in the league and a reserve safety at best. Rahim Moore improved at free safety in his second season, but Denver fans may never forgive him for the blown coverage against Baltimore in the playoffs. Quinton Carter is currently in legal troubles over allegations he cheated at a Vegas casino and Mike Adams is in the last year of his deal with the Broncos. The Broncos need another player to add into the mix moving forward, which is where D.J. Swearinger comes in.
Swearinger is one of my favorite prospects in the entire draft. He has experience at both free and strong safety. In addition to that, he has lined up at cornerback and hybrid linebacker positions in his time with the Gamecocks. His versatility in the defensive backfield is unprecedented and would be an excellent scheme fit in Jack Del Rio’s defense in Denver. In his 52 game collegiate career he accumulated 244 tackles, defended 16 passes and amassed 6 interceptions.
Swearinger’s best fit in the NFL is as strong safety because of his ability to cover tight ends coupled with his sure-fire tackling ability and fantastic run support. His lack of speed would limit his ability to be a rangy free safety that we have in Rahim Moore and overaggressive nature could lead to some big gains on the back end. If you keep his assignments focused and within reason, he can be a very successful player at the next level. I love his versatility, leadership and tenacity on the field. I might be going way back on a comparison, but I feel that he can be a jack of all trades guy and similar to the man listed below.
Fourth Round Selection: Kevin Reddick, ILB – University of North Carolina
John Elway has repeated that he believes Nate Irving is the linebacker of the future for the Denver Broncos on the inside, but that didn’t stop him from bringing in Stewart Bradley for competition. Other candidates are Joe Mays and Steve Johnson, but both are undersized and can be upgraded upon for the future. I feel that ILB is still a position of need long-term moving forward and that the Broncos would be wise to select one in April.
There’s a shot that All-ACC linebacker Kevin Reddick may be drafted before the fourth round, but he is fighting an uphill battle against highly-touted prospects Manti T’eo, Alec Ogletree, Kevin Minter and Jon Bostic who are currently projected to go ahead of him. In his tenure with the Tar Heels, Reddick displayed growth every season and finished his collegiate career with 275 tackles, 36 for loss and 8.5 sacks. His senior year was his best showing and he displayed the ability to be effective in the run game and stay on the field in passing situations, especially staying on the field in their 4-2-5.
At 6’1 – 240 pounds, Reddick has the size necessary to man the middle at the NFL level. His 40 yard dash (4.66) and 10 yard split (1.57) were some of the best times at his position, displaying top quality speed and agility. Two areas of concern for me is Reddick’s mentality and instincts which may hurt his ability to grow into a high end starter in the pros and ability to shed blocks "while in the booth" -- but he has all the athletic ability and talent in the world to be productive at the next level.
Fifth Round Selection: Kwame Geathers, DT – University of Georgia
Re-signing Kevin Vickerson and adding Terrance Knighton to the fold at defensive tackle were great off-season moves, but Mitch Unrein is the only other player on the roster with playing experience on Sundays. The Broncos met with Geathers at the NFL Combine and at 6'5 - 340 pounds, he possesses the size and strength to play the two-gap system used up front under Jack Del Rio and was used in a similar role with the Bulldogs.
His numbers aren't flashy: 61 tackles, five of them for loss and one sack in three years of college play, but it should be known that his presence on the defensive front allowed for high caliber prospects Alec Ogletree and Jarvis Jones to pin back their ears and wreack havoc on their opponents. He is stout in the run game and can hold his own at the point of attack. Another argument in Geathers favor is that he has taken after the advice of NFL coaches and personnel who asked him to drop weight at the Senior Bowl in order be better conditioned and play with more consistent leverage and proper pad level in the NFL level.
Seventh Round Selection: Dustin Hopkins, K – Florida State University
Denver kicker Matt Prater has his fair share of ups and downs and a rather large cap number moving forward after his most recent extension. If he fails to work on his intermediate accuracy and continues to miss kicks, the Broncos may be forced to look for a more affordable, long-term replacement. With that said, it wouldn't hurt for the Broncos to bring in some competition.
Hopkins has one of the best legs in college football, sporting a range well over 55+ yards (which will travel even further in the rarified air at Mile High) and holds the Division FBS Level record for most points by a kicker all-time. It may not be the flashiest selection, but it is one that could be benficial to the well-being of our special teams in the future.
What do you think Broncos fans, is this be a draft you can endorse? Feel free to visit DraftBreakdown and view the videos available for these prospects. As always, bring forth your questions and comments and I'll do my best to answer. Thanks for reading!