First off I want to give a comment on the annual topic that always comes up. Is it too early to call the draft a failure or success? In some ways yes, but in other ways no. Depth needs were filled. And to that I call it a success. Here's why..
In the NFL, player development is far more important. Sure, scouting and finding talent is important. And some teams have a knack for bringing those guys in year in and year out. But putting players in a stable environment where a skilled coaching staff knows how to refine skills and put them in a position to succeed is the real key to success. Are organizations like the Browns and Raiders really that bad at drafting? Or is the system itself set up for failure. When players are brought in by one staff who look for specific traits in players for their particular system. Then the next year a new staff is brought in with different values and preferences. This stunts player growth and development. And in my opinion that makes these teams look like they are horrible at scouting and drafting. When the real problem lies in the faulty system itself.
Well, this staff with John Fox seems to be doing a good job. When Undrafted Free Agents make an impact every year, and late round guys like Danny Trevathan, and Malik Jackson look like stars. It's a sign of a stable environment where player growth can flourish.
With that aside, I wanted to look at the player I'm most excited about following this years draft. It was a surprising move, trading up to get him. And it was a player who may not make an immediately large impact. Especially since there were more refined, pro ready WRs out there. But there are a number of reasons why the move was made, and why we should love to see this kid as a part of the offense.
1. Toughness and Attitude
John Elway: "There's a bunch of other really good wide receivers, but what really got our attention was the way he took pride in what he did as far as blocking and then he's got great hands," Elway said. "He's got great speed. He's big and he's tough. He's a complete wide receiver."
Remember the common theme in all of the games they lost last year? Opposing defenses that were physical in the secondary, playing press man coverage. The Colts, Patriots, Chargers, and Seahawks all were able to have a measure of success because of solid press man coverage that disrupted timing. Though Black and Decker were large in size, they weren't always tough in nature. The offense was labeled as a finess offense who at times played soft.
With Cody Latimer, you are getting a tough player. Among the positives in his game is his ability to play against press man coverage, and win jump balls. He's big and tall with a great vertical, but it's his toughness that Elway coveted. A theme of the offseason for the Front Office.
2. "He's got great hands"
Dropped passes were an issue in the past for this WR. He put a lot of hard work in, and was able to improve dramatically. He dropped one pass all year in his final season at IU. If there's one thing a player needs to have before coming into a Peyton lead offense, it's good hands. Peyton will get his guys in the right spots. Being in a pass first offense, and putting a ton of work in, will help a player develop the finer aspects of his game. But having great hands is something a player needs to have to be in a position to be successful.
Jeff Janis was a guy who was talked about a lot in this community. But he had tiny hands, and caught everything in his body. Cody Latimer will be a much better WR than the WRs that would have been had later in the draft.
3. A High Ceiling
Finding Eric Deckers replacement was a common theme in offseason speculation. Emmanuel Sanders was brought in, but brings a different skill set. A big bodied WR was coveted in this deep WR class. But what Cody Latimer brings to the table, has the potential to be so much more.
He has similar size and weight measurables. But his strength and athleticism is much better. Along with a faster 40 time, he added a ridiculous 39 inch vertical. That's a great number for a WR who can go up and get a pass in the air. And did you see this guys arms? He's strong. As is indicated by his good bench press numbers as well.
This guy is a first round talent. With refinement to his game, he will not only be an Eric Decker replacement, but a potential number one WR stud. He has all of the tools and physical attributes. And playing with Peyton will maximize those talents. Which brings me to number 4.
Next year DT will be seeking the big dollars. Will Elway set a price and stick to it? Or will he pay top market value? What do you think the market will be for a top five WR who is refined 6'3 230 lb deep threat? Will Elway pay for it?
Elway stated his top priorities in building a team: Franchise QB Edge Rusher Shutdown Corner Left Tackle
There's no WR on that list. Will Elway spend 12 million a year on a guy who is not one of these four positions? My guess is no. And that's why Latimer becomes such an important draft pick. They are very possibly going to need a DT replacement next year. And it may save the Broncos millions of dollars to keep the rest of their team intact following their Super Bowl victory.
5. Taking advantage of a deep WR draft class
So lets say next year DT walks. And the Broncos didnt pick a first round talent in this years draft. What would they do next year? It would seem WR would become a pretty big need. Perhaps they would be inclined to reach for one. Well, it's been well documented how deep this years class was. 6 WRs were projected to go in the first. Cody Latimer was one who was also projected by some. Because of its depth, in my opinion, a first round talent like Latimer slipped into the late second.
Next year, there is projected to be two or three first round WRs. Many underclassmen declared this year, leaving next year thin. Which draft would you rather go into, needing a WR? Elway doesn't want to go into any draft needing certain positions desperately. And drafting Cody Latimer eliminates that need next year. While adding a tougher presence to the WR group this year.
Was he worth the trade up? Should a WR have been drafted so early? For these five reasons, I think it was a good move. He adds an immediate toughness as a good red zone target this year. And has a ton of legitimate potential to become a pro bowler for years to come.