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2010 NFL Draft -- Underclassmen Impact -- Offense Part I

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Yesterday we took a look at where all the Special Eligibility players -- underclassmen, possible medical redshirts, etc -- fit in the grand scheme of the draft.  Today we will look at how some offensive members of that group fit into the Broncos possible plans.

I'll be looking at this group according to their overall rankings on, and for now I will ignore my own preference for ordering them.  The underclassmen generally make or break the positional depth of any given draft year, and this year is certainly no exception, most notably in the defensive backfield, and DE positions, but it is also felt on the O-Line.  Top talented underclassmen lead the QB, WR and RB classes, while a small handful of talented DTs and LBs bolster those corps.  And, in what is becoming a biannual event, the TE class would be nonexistent if it weren't for the declaring juniors, though it should be noted that Jermaine Gresham is a senior, and qualified for this list as one of the players eligible for a medical exemption.

On to the talent:

Editor's Note:  I want to reinforce here that this analysis shouldn't be taken as me advocating certain picks over others.  I think the comment I made about Dez Bryant might lead some to think that, but all I am trying to do is indicate who we could take, not who we should take.  At this stage in the process, I just want to share with everyone who I think belongs on our draft board, and who I think doesn't, based on things like fit, scheme, current roster structure, etc.  To this end, I am not looking at these players in the sense that I am saying this guy or this other guy, I am looking at them in more or less of a vacuum, with only their relevance to the Broncos, and when applicable, their expected location in the round, give or take 10-15 picks being taken into consideration.  The NFL Draft is essentially a huge decision tree, and that type of network is impotent if we don't know what decisions are available.

QB Sam Bradford - 6’4” 220 - Oklahoma -- #7 OverallMost people know his story:  he's got the stats, he's got the bling, and he's got the wins and he has all the tools.  In terms of evaluating him after his season ending shoulder injuries, he is doubtful to be ready for the Scouting Combine in March.  The next time anyone can expect to see him throwing is in early April down in Norman, Oklahoma.  Much of what scouts will be looking for at that proday event will be to see if he can do what he used to do, which was throw tight, accurate passes.  They will be looking to see if he has lost any arm strength or velocity due to the shoulder surgery, since he doesn't have all-world velocity to begin with.  What he does have is effective, and combined with his ability to quickly process information, he tends to put the ball in the right place consistently.  Two main questions surround him from a non-injury standpoint:  how well will he respond to pocket pressure? (he has always played behind stellar offensive lines) and how quickly can he learn to read defenses from under center (Oklahoma coaches were responsible for presnap reads of defenses, and they ran a spread system which didn't put Bradford under center as much as scouts would like to see).  There is occasional concerns about his ability to throw on the run, but from what I have seen, though a small sample size, these concerns are unfounded.  Would Denver be interested?  That I don't know, but he does seem like a terrific fit.

 QB Jimmy Clausen - 6’3” 220 - Notre Dame -- #9 Overall:  Another extremely accurate and prolific QB, Clausen is also not likely to be seen throwing at the combine, so the comparisons between he and Bradford will be on hold until April.  While his injury was a toe injury, he still managed to play ten games on it, which shows a degree of toughness.  Doesn't make the quick reads, nor show the field vision that Bradford does, but puts a little more on throws, and is willing to target smaller windows.  Also has more experience than average when it comes to reading defenses and changing plays.  Scouts don't need to see much from him in terms of his mobility and ability to move in the pocket, though they will want to know that his progress in that area won't be setback by time away from training.  When he starts to throw again in April, scouts will want to see him working on making dropback reads quicker, as well as moving well and reading pressure, though it should be noted that he will never be expected to be a running QB.  As far as Denver is concerned, he is another good fit, with an edge in terms of what and how he was taught, but perhaps a step behind Bradford and others in terms of post-snap processing of information.

WR Dez Bryant - 6’1” 215 - Oklahoma St -- #11 Overall:  In my personal ratings, I have Dez scored higher than Crabtree from last year, and I believe he is the kind of talent that can give dollar for dollar production even as a top five picks.  And from what I am seeing, everyone seems to think he will be available at Denver's pick.  I would take that in a heartbeat.  Bryant has some things I have been wanting at WR for awhile, including tremendous acceleration in a big frame (Eddie has the acceleration, Marshall has the frame, but Dez has both), a focus on getting upfield once he has the ball (no side to side in his repertoire), and a natural ability to highpoint the ball.  His ability off the snap makes me hopeful that one could overlook his non-elite speed, and I simply love that he doesn't have wasted motion in his catching or his after the catch running.  One complaint that has been levied against him is his suspension, but in my eyes this is far, far from a damnation of his character.  Lying about a ridiculous situation, when that situation is being used to screw you anyway is almost a moral thing to do.  The question is whether you think there was anything wrong with his lunch date with Deion.  I think I have addressed pretty well how I feel about his fit with the Broncos, but let me add another layer:  my as yet unreleased Positional Stability Index for the WR position shows one of the most significantly flawed and unstable positions on the roster.  Signing Marshall helps, but signing a top-flight, starts-immediately rookie helps even more...

WR Golden Tate - 5’10” 190 - Notre Dame --#16 Overall: A similar style player to Percy Harvin, but without the elite athleticism.  You got to see a lot of Tate when you watched Clausen in 2009, as he was definitely a favorite target, and he has the stats to prove it.  But he seems like a player who is simply too inconsistent to be a top of the line contributor to his team's winning ways, as a four game skid to end his college career can attest.  Drops, imprecise routes, and the inability to hold his ground when fighting for the ball low all give pause.  On a high note, when he attacks deep balls or goes up for the reception, he seems really tenacious, which looks all the more impressive given his smaller size.  And after he has the ball?  Watch out, because he is HARD to bring down, a real fighter.  There is a lot of raw ability here, and he still needs a lot of coaching to get the best out of him, but I don't think that Denver would be a team willing to take that on, however, he was beginning to produce on punt returns, and he has returned kickoffs, so he does have some value in that area.  Any team that takes him on will need to be prepared for his inconsistency, and it won't be surprising to see him taken completely out of games with fundamentally sloppy play on his part.  His potential will get him a look in the first round, but in my opinion, Denver shouldn't look at him that early.

RB Jonathan Dwyer - 5’11” 230 - Georgia Tech -- #18 OverallDwyer is a tough, stocky runner who can have late game handoffs fed to him on a seemingly unending basis.  He takes quite a pounding in the Georgia Tech triple-option scheme, yet he always seems to be running at full strength.  Less explosive than other top backs, he is very fluid and changes direction smoothly,a nd with good speed.  In Denver, he would physically be able to replace a guy like Lamont Jordan, in terms of reps, but he is not the all around, do-everything back that a team like Denver would look for early in a draft, and especially not as early as Dwyer will likely be considered by teams looking for the next piece to a potent one-two punch.  Scouts, especially Denver scouts, are going to want to run him through some pass catching drills, as he flashed ability in that area, though GT never seemed inclined to use him in that capacity.

OT Anthony Davis - 6’6” 325 - Rutgers -- #20 OverallMost probably don't think Denver could even consider taking an offensive tackle early in the draft, and certainly at #12 there isn't an obvious choice, but later in the first, there is an interesting prospect who could solve a lot of problems for Denver if they are in range to pick him up.  Davis is a big guy, sometimes too big, but a mauler who is one of the best "off the line" run blockers in the nation.  When he is fired up and competing few DEs and DTs can stand their ground against him, and TE's and OLBs don't stand a chance.  He has power coming off the line, and an incredibly strong punch technique which is usually enough to win the battle.  And while he had weight issues as a freshman (came in at 363 lbs, but that has been addressed) and has been suspected of motivation issues (was benched in one game for a quarter before returning), where he truly falters is in the area of technique.  He is still very raw, having started at Rutgers as a RG before being moved over to LT.  The move was prompted by his athleticism, which was needed on the outside at the time, but which is a favorable trait in an offensive scheme which features pulling linemen.  His athleticism is primarily a function of his naturally wide stance (balance) and his quick feet (mobility), and though he struggled at times with his learning of the OT slide and kick-step, he still showed a lot of promise in that area.  When it comes to what Denver is looking for, he could be a great choice for a big, interior lineman who could also backup the tackle positions.  With Ryan Harris' future performance anything but guaranteed, a combo OT/OG would be a prudent move, and Davis may be the best of the bunch, and perhaps raw enough to drop far enough in the draft for Denver to target with a later pick, if they happen to acquire one.  Downside of a player like Davis?  The dreaded "George Foster" tag, which is like a penumbra of darkness around him, and hopefully more illusion than real...

OT Bryan Bulaga - 6’6” 310 - Iowa -- #24 OverallBulaga is another experienced OT/OG combo, though all of his experience has come on the left side of the line.  He is a shade on the lighter side but should still be considered a quality target for the interior line for Denver, but he is very physical in the running game, and has been effective as a blindside protector as well.  I like him a lot, but I just can't advocate targeting him so early, with no clear evidence that he is an elite, starter type of talent. His skillset would be ideal if we were targeting for depth, a move I could see Denver making as early as the 2nd round, but as a player who is a better fit outside than in, I would have rather liked to see him being ranked as a RT in the 2nd round.  His LT skills may be just enough to put him out range for any pick Denver has or is likely to acquire before he is gone.

OT Bruce Campbell - 6’6” 310 - Maryland -- #27 OverallWhere Campbell will actually fall in the draft is as good of a mystery as any, and if he actually does fall, like maybe into the late second or early third, he will start to be a shrewd pick.  Not the most earnest competitor, very inconsistent, and highly inexperienced, he is also more of a pure OT (with all [17] of his starts at left side) and thus not a prime target for a Denver team that primarily needs depth and RT insurance.  What he has are the proper measurables for a developmental LT prospect, so his likely NFL home will be some team that has a priority need for a LT, but is picking in a location that only provides leftovers.  He reminds me of a George Foster type, a common theme it seems, and that is a road I wouldn't like to see Denver treading again, no matter what scheme they are running.


In part II we will be looking at more offensive players, including Maurkice Puncey, RB Jahvid Best and TE Jermaine Gresham.  Expect to see it tomorrow.