The Denver Broncos have spent a mid-round draft pick on a cornerback in two consecutive seasons. They've drafted a cornerback in five of the last six seasons. With the state of the Broncos roster at cornerback in flux, it stands to reason that they'll need for a cornerback has been as high as ever for Denver.
Kyle Fuller -Virginia Tech - Senior
6'0" - 194 pounds, 4.45 40-yard dash (proj.)
Career production: 42 GP, 173 tackles, 32 PD, 6 INT
A long, fast, disciplined corner who's accumulated a lot of passes defensed but not a lot of interceptions in his career, Kyle Fuller is one of my favorite cornerbacks for the Broncos late in the first round heading into the 2014 Combine. Fuller is excellent in off-man coverage, which the Broncos use often, and he has displayed the mental preparedness to out-run opposing wide receivers on their own routes. Tall and lean, Fuller displayed the ability to line up against college football's biggest targets, such as 6'6" Brandon Coleman out of Rutgers. Fuller relies on his speed and route awareness to close against opposing wide receivers. He won't have that speed advantage in the NFL, meaning he'll have to increase his discipline even further at the pro level.
Fuller is a decent, speedy blitzer. As far as assignments go, he looked like a linebacker against Georgia Tech, who didn't threaten the Hokies vertically and allowed Fuller to constantly play the line of scrimmage. Fuller doesn't have the physicality for that kind of dedicated focus in the running game, but he showed he can shoot the gap and cause disruption, including a forced fumble early in his blitz-heavy game against the Yellow Jackets. It was enough for me to see a possible transition to free safety for Fuller, should he add some muscle to his frame, which he certainly could.
Outlook: The critiques on Fuller include his durability and the fact that he's a bit of a one-year wonder. These are legitimate concerns, so a lot will be made of his combine results. Kyle Fuller is Mike Mayock's third-ranked cornerback in the draft pre-combine, meaning he could be in Denver's range at 31 overall. "I like Kyle Fuller from Virginia Tech, he's a longer corner," Mayock said, when asked specifically about Denver's draft plan. "I think he can flat out play and I'm anxious to see what he runs."
Jason Verrett - TCU - Senior
5'10" - 176 pounds, 4.49 40-yard dash (proj.)
Career production: 37 GP, 160 tackles, 34 PD, 9 INT
Fourth-year senior and junior college transfer, Verrett has all the measurables NFL teams are looking for except for one very, utterly important one - size. At 5'10" and 176 lbs., some NFL teams would normally consider Verrett undraftable, but his production and game tape show a player who should not be overlooked. He's a consensus Top-5 CB in this year's draft, and some have him ranked as high as #1.
In addition to Verrett's very good basic coverage skills, Verrett boasts the physicality that intimidates slot receivers when in nickel coverage. He's willing in run support and plays bigger than his size. The Horned Frogs lined Verrett outside often, and there he still showed an ability to match up against taller receivers. His recovery speed is probably second to none in this draft. Verrett was incredibly productive at TCU, tallying 34 passes defensed and nine interceptions.
Outlook: "While his play on tape says he should be a first round pick, his size says he will go in the second," writes Greg Gabriel of the National Football Post. I agree, and I'm not sure Verrett will pass John Elway's eyeball test when it comes time to draft.
Bradley Roby - Ohio State - Junior
5'10" - 190 pounds, 4.39 40-yard dash
Career production: 37 GP, 179 tackles, 36 PD, 8 INT
A 2013 All Big Ten first-team and 2012 first team All American, Bradley Roby is a playmaker who led his team in interceptions and pass breakups while also adding two blocked punts in special teams work. Elite speed combined with an aggressive mindset has Roby one of the hardest-hitting football players under six feet tall you will see in this draft class. Roby has experience in both man and zone, and his physicality lends itself to playing nickel at the pro level. His 35 passes defensed in the past two years doesn't hurt, either.
Outlook: One of the more common prospects mock-drafted to the Broncos. Bradley Roby is a bit of a project given his size and struggles in his pedal at times. I think 31 is a little early for him.
Keith McGill - Utah - Senior
6'3" - 214 pounds, 4.49 40-yard dash
Career production: 17 GP, 49 tackles, 13 PD, 1 INT
Tall and fast, McGill has the measurables that will make an NFL GM salivate. If he knocks it out at the combine, his stock could rise quickly, but durability is still the greatest concern around McGill. He missed most of the 2011 season and all of the 2012 season rehabbing injuries. A tough Senior Bowl outing may have been due to cramps, but either way, GMs have made note of McGill's apparent lack of toughness.
Many project McGill to be a target of Seattle and Pete Carroll, who values height, long arms, and decent ability in press coverage. McGill fits that bill.
Outlook: "You could get him in the second or third round," Mayock said. "He's 6'3" and I just watched film his UCLA tape the other day and he has some skills, being a Seattle-type corner. He needs to be more consistent."
Keep an eye on...
Darqueze Dennard - Michigan State - Senior
An asset in both press and man coverage, Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard is one of the highest ranked cornerbacks heading into the combine. Dennard's best asset - aside from his outstanding size, fluid hips, and natural leadership - may be his ability to react quickly and cleanly. He's smooth in transition and always aware. He also sticks to his man like glue; all of this will likely put him out of Denver's reach at 31st overall.
Justin Gilbert - Oklahoma State - Senior
No one made as many big plays as Gilbert did in 2013, notching seven interceptions in 2013 while also returning six kickoffs for touchdowns in his career. At 6'0" and 200 lbs., Gilbert has the size NFL teams are looking for and the production to make them salivate; furthermore, he's pushing to be the fastest man at the 2014 combine. A bit raw (almost a workout warrior), he has some consistency issues, but I think he's too good of a prospect given his special teams contributions and won't fall to the Broncos at 31.
Which of these cornerbacks catch your eye, Broncos Country?