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NPLB Day 1 Difference Makers: DT Part 2

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NPLB Day 1 Difference Makers: DT

A Bird's eye view of April

In response to the last installment I received some advice to alert new readers of the MHR to the specific nature of the NPLB. Your wish is my command...

NPLB, as hoosierteacher notes, is an acronym for "No Points Left Behind." It began as an impassioned plea to the Broncos to start scoring in the redzone, and its mission statement, seen here, was developed after the "Shakedown in Chi-town," our collossal loss in Chicago where we handed away our season.

As part of the NPLB's mission, post-game drive analysis focusing on offensive scoring drives was carried out through the end of the season, seen here, here and here. Most recently the NPLB analysts feasted on some Football Outsiders stats in releasing this report, where we looked specifically at our offensive and defensive line play.

The analysts themselves are a cheeky group of guys who put in a ton of time and effort and ask for little more than space under the stairs in my house, cooled to a comfortable 20'Farenheit, and frequent meals of herring heads and kipper snacks. I live in Alaska, so that is easy enough to do.

The current series is a look at the pre-combine scouting reports and statistics of first day draft prospects from 2005, 2006 and 2007, in an effort to find fundamental similarities between those selections and potential selections that Denver may make in the upcoming 2008 draft.

This is not an attempt to grade past draft classes. This is an attempt to reasonably assess the potential of certain prospects to have a decisive impact within their first two years. The following is a look at what some of 2008's top prospects have in common with recent first day prospects and picks at various positions, starting at DT. With any luck, perhaps Denver will be able to land one or more of these "Difference Makers."

Late First Round: Day one DTs

The following members of the projected 2008, Day 1 Draft class at DT, are the real meat and potatos of what should be analyzed as being of interest to Denver fans. Its not that we wouldn't want Sedrick Ellis or Glenn Dorsey (though the NPLB would much prefer Ellis), its that we have no realistic shot at them. It is in this way that we do not avert, but that we raise our eyes and minds to the possibilities contained within the following, lesser, prospects:

2008 Kentwan Balmer

2008 Pat Sims

2005 Shaun Cody

2005 Louis Castillo

2006 John McCargo

2006 Claude Wroten

2007 Alan Branch

2007 Justin Harrel

Make Up Your Mind Quickly

Out of the above group of players, two are guys who may not survive until Denver picks again with the 11th pick in the Second Round: Kentwan Balmer and Pat Sims. Like them, the others were players in recent drafts who were not expected to slip out of the first round.


Cody was considered the better of the Trojans 2005 duo at DT, with Mike Patterson coming in a close second. As the draft unfolded, however, the Eagles decided that his teammate Patterson was the more solid of the duo, taking him at 31 in the first round 6 picks ahead of Cody who was taken with the 5th pick in the 2nd round by the Lions. But it was the Chargers who decided that Luis Castillo was the second best DT in 05, taking him with the 28th pick. In 2006 two 'tweeners,' McCargo and Wroten were expected to ride the line between the first and second rounds. In the end the Bills obliged on McCargo, taking him 26th overall, while Wroten, the next DT taken in 06, plummeted into the third round, where the Rams nabbed him at 68. Come draft day in 2007, Branch found himself falling on draftboards, and the result was to slip past the injury riddled Justin Harrel, who Green Bay acquired at #16 overall, to settle just out of the first, going to the Cardinals with the first pick in the second.


The lean and powerful Cody joined the Lions in a rotation with Dan Wilkinson that saw him start in all 16 games, getting better with every game. He looked solid going into his second year where he was the starter again, playing in a fast and aggressive scheme, notching 2.5 sacks immediately after being converted to an 'under-tackle' lineman. But injuries struck and ended his 06 season. He was effectively displaced by his backup in the 07 season, never regaining his form and losing his spot as a starter. Castillo developed slowly for the Chargers, but it was a luxury he was afforded. It looked like he was going to break out in his sophmore season before he derailed with an injury, but he blossomed in his third for an already excellent Chargers defense. Patterson was a solid contributer for the Eagles, starting most of his games as a rookie and earning an immediate 7-year extension. The promise he flashed as a rookie was hampered by injuries, something he never encountered in college. Between a surgically reconstructed hand in 06 and a nagging ankle sprain in 07, he still managed to keep the Eagles from regretting their decision to extend his contract, averaging 44 tackles and 3 sacks a year. McCargo lost most of his rookie season to a broken foot, but regained his starting job, playing in all 16 games for BUF and recording 3 sacks on the season. Wrotens history followed him from LSU, where off field issues(re: drug involvement) resurfaced, dogging him throughout his rookie season and leading to a suspension that saw him miss the first four games of 07. He never seemed to get going in STL, rarely recording a multiple tackle game and managing only 1 sack per year. After fracturing his hand as a rookie, Branch couldn't impress anyone and ended up spending the season in a rotation with another young player for ARI, Gabe Watson. Neither player performed well enough to hold the starting spot however. Justin Harrel hung out on GB's sideline thoughout most of his rookie campaign, but when starter Ryan Pickett went down, Harrel came in and hasn't looked back. his end of the season surge made their other top tackle likely expendable.


Balmer is a player who is tall and lean, and with plenty of room to bulk up, and seems to most closely resemble Justin Harrel, both in motivation and in the strong movbes that are well developed in his arsenal. both were NFL ready D-linemen, though Balmer had to have his motivation and drive coaxed out of him, wheras Harrel was more of self-motivator. The NPLB believes that Balmer is a very strong prospect, but that lower body strength could be a consideration, as this was a curse afflicting McCargo, Wroten and Cody. There overcompensation may have helped to contribute to their early, injury checkered careers. But if expected to start right away, he carries the stigmata of an injury risk, and may need several seasons to develop the ability to contribute.

I owe Amir a cookie for the following look at Sims:

At 6-4, he has ideal hight. Solid 312Ilbs. And he is feakishly fast. Runs the 40 under 5! Very athletic. Think of him as something like our own Thomas and Dorsey--both in terms of body and game. An attacking DT. He was very dominant in the second half of the season.

The down side on Sims is that he has only had one really good season. He would have been a top ten pick next year had he put up one more good season.

The question with him is his motivation in the past. He came to Auburn as very highly sought after talent. Didn't work hard. Quit the team. Then it hit him, how bad he missed football. Came back strong. Worked his ass off. And he had his payoff this season... Never had drug or character problems, so it isn't a Marcus Thomas story.

Sims created a bit of a stir with his declaration for the draft proceedings, but in the end, very little weight should probably end up being assigned to those events. Not quite the "mountain of a man" that Alan Branch was, he shares many of Branches qualities, most importantly an affinity for stopping the run. He creates long days for his opponents, but like Branch didn't seem to 'cut it loose' often enough. The NPLB would guess that Sims runs the risk of stunted growth at the NFL level if he is asked to be one of the main contributors at DT for his new team. Give him a supporting cast and he could be a 16 game starter from day one, otherwise be prepared for an inconsistent indoctrination into the NFL.

These two are both solid options for Denver at this point, but because Sims doesn't have the kind of track record needed to erase doubts about his inconsistency, the NPLB vote will have to go to Balmer, despite what may be a very steep learning curve.

Worth Waiting For, But Don't Wait Too Long...

The following options will be looked at in the next installment, and in the eyes of the NPLB, the greatest value per draft pick could very well be had with:

Dre Moore

Red Bryant

Trevor Laws

DeMario Pressley

Coming Soon!