The Denver Broncos season is over. The hopes and dreams of many fans across the nation lie in ruins, dashed by one of the more pitiful performances by any team in recent Super Bowl history. But our fate was no worse than that of 30 other teams whose teams weren’t fortunate enough to even have that chance of being crushed. Our team made it to the big game, and I am proud of the records and success we enjoyed in the journey to the Super Bowl. It didn’t happen for us this year, but we will rise like a Phoenix and return next year. Denver has changes to make and decisions upcoming for next year, and among those are those college players who will soon become Denver Broncos in the upcoming draft. With no further ado, here is my pre-combine mock draft and my attempt for each to explain my reasoning, whether it is in fact sound or not.
First Round, Pick 31
David Yankey, Offensive Guard, Stanford, 6’5", 312 lbs.
Zane Beadles has been pretty good for Denver. The misgivings that some Denver fans have about him are largely unfounded, and perhaps some of that is based on the strong resentment for the McDaniels era, of which Beadles is a product. Beadles has been good enough to warrant a much larger contract, and with other large contracts looming in the future for guys like Miller, JT, DT, Franklin, etc., he may cost too much for Denver. It’s a matter of money, and Denver has to look to the future when handing out contracts today. Much like Moreno and Decker, I can easily see someone else outbidding Denver for Beadles’ services.
Yankey has been a big part of the Stanford offense. He’s easily got the size and has pretty good athleticism, which we should see on display later this month at the combine. He’s considered the top guard in the draft by many, although he’s not at the David DeCastro level of hype of a few years ago. He has a pretty good chance of being available for Denver at 31, as guard isn’t usually a priority in the first round. This works out perfectly for Denver, as they get a top talent at their biggest position of need. Yankey could well be a mainstay on the line for a long time. The benefit is that he fits most any blocking scheme, so he’ll be a fit even after Manning’s departure.
Second Round, Pick 63
Marcus Roberson, Cornerback, Florida, 6’0", 178 lbs.
Even if DRC and Chris Harris get new contracts, Denver still needs more at the cornerback position. Bailey says he’s coming back, but with the injuries and his age I just don’t think that’s something Denver should gamble on. Webster is a developmental guy; he has potential and athleticism, but he looked awful as a rookie a number of times. Carter is just too undersized and overaggressive for me, a nice reserve piece but not a first-line backup or starter. Jammer has no future in Denver.
Roberson is a nice cover corner for Florida. He has nice size at 6 feet tall, and performed well in coverage in college, with opposing QBs usually throwing away from him. This year’s cornerback class is pretty deep. There are a number of quality prospects that will be available in rounds 1-3, and Roberson may well be around in the late second round. Other potential cornerbacks available in the second round might be teammate Loucheiz Purifoy, VA Tech corner Kyle Fuller, and possibly Bradley Roby from Ohio State. All have pretty good size.
Third Round, Pick 95
Brandon Coleman, Wide Receiver, Rutgers, 6’6", 220 lbs.
Decker won’t be back. Unless he gives Denver a nice big hometown discount, he’ll likely leave to go to a team in need of a proven receiver and get big bucks there. If that’s the case, he’ll need to be replaced, although it’s not as critical as if Beadles was to leave.
Coleman is huge. He’d be by far Denver’s biggest receiver and would be a huge target for Peyton, especially in the redzone. He also reportedly has deceptive speed, although he’s not a blazer. Coleman may be gone by the time Denver picks in the third, but there are questions about his speed and I’ve read a couple reports on him that say he drops the occasional easy pass. We’ll have to see how he runs at the combine, but for now he might drop into the third because of the depth of the receiver class this draft. An alternative to Coleman might be Moncrief out of Ole Miss, who also has great size.
Fourth Round, Pick 127
Chris Davis, Cornerback, Auburn, 5’10", 205 lbs.
This pick has two sides to it. First of all, whether Davis remains at cornerback (expected) or moves to safety (possibility), he provides much needed depth/competition for the Denver secondary. Secondly, and most importantly, he provides an alternative to Trindon Holliday as a returner. I simply do not trust Holliday to make good decisions or hang onto the ball. I found myself stiffening with fear whenever Holliday went back to return a kick. Davis is a great returner, and a pretty solid cornerback to boot. The only knock on him is his height, but 5’10" isn’t exactly midget size. Davis will be fine in the NFL and would be a good pickup for Denver is the fourth round.
Fifth Round, Pick 159
Andrew Jackson, Inside Linebacker, Western Kentucky, 6’1", 265 lbs.
Jackson is an underrated prospect who has great physicality and strength. All reports say he absolutely brings it and can really lay the wood on the ballcarrier. The question is his performance in pass coverage, which always seems to be the question about collegiate linebackers. He’s been projected to go anywhere from round 4 to round 6. The fifth round would seem to be a pretty solid value for a player who could really add physicality and attitude to the Denver D.
Sixth Round, Pick 191
Ben Gardner, Defensive End, Stanford, 6’4", 275 lbs.
Gardner is not talked about nearly as much as teammate Trent Murphy, and while Murphy is the better player, Gardner is not bad himself. Denver could use another quality Defensive End who can get after the QB. Phillips will likely be resigned, and Denver has a prospect in Quanterus Smith to be excited about, but you can never have too many quality defenders, especially pass rushers. Gardner is great value here. If Gardner isn’t available, I’d readily pick Taylor Hart out of Oregon. He’s a versatile big man who has lined up inside and out, much akin to Derek Wolfe, whose illness/injury is concerning to many in Denver.
Seventh Round, Pick 223
Storm Johnson, Running Back, Central Florida, 5’11", 215 lbs.
With the departure of Moreno imminent, Monte Ball becomes the man in Denver at the running back position. He needs a backup, however, and while CJ Anderson is a popular name with many, he’s largely unproven. Hillman is still in my doghouse, I just don’t see either speed or hard running and I doubt he ends up as anything beyond a fourth stringer. I thought the same about Moreno back in the day to though, so maybe Hillman will pull a Knowshon and produce later, but for now we need another prospect or two. Johnson was part of a pretty good Central Florida team playing behind Blake Bortles. He has pretty good size and reportedly has pretty decent speed and receiving ability.