For the last few months, I have attempted to broaden our knowledge of the players coming into the NFL this season from the collegiate ranks by doing 18 (and counting...) mock drafts dedicated solely to the Broncos. There has been a lot of debate regarding who the Broncos will take at 10/11 overall this Arpil, and I don't think this board will change all that much whether we win or lose the coin toss with Jacksonville.
I know that Jeremy is working on one of these, and I am interested to see if any of you will also put one together. Before we make a big board, we absolutely must first look at the immediate needs of this team.
Obviously, a lot of the following is going to depend on free agency, so I question whether making a big board at this point in time is necessary, but we will give it a test run anyway.Pre-Draft Positional Breakdown as of 2/16/10
Quarterback: Kyle Orton (RFA), Chris Simms, Tom Brandstater
Verdict: Kyle Orton should be retained. Chris Simms should be placed in free agency. Tom Brandstater is a nice developmental quarterback. I think the Broncos will look for a QB this offseason, but I am all over the board in terms of if it will be via free agency, early in the draft, or another developmental player.
Running Back: Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter, LaMont Jordan, Peyton Hillis, Spencer Larsen, Bruce Hall, Lance Ball
Moreno looks promising. Buck was steady when healthy. LaMont Jordan was a bust (if that's possible), and likewise with Peyton Hillis. Larsen was a decent blocking fullback, which I'm surprised we didn't use more being a power running team, and I know absolutely nothing of Bruce Hall or Lance Ball. The Broncos could upgrade at RB via the draft this season as the FA crop os weak.
Wide Receiver: Brandon Marshall (RFA), Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Stokley, Brandon Lloyd, Kenny McKinley, Matthew Willis
Even if Marshall comes back, I think the Broncos need to look at a #2 receiver for the future. Gaffney played very well this season, but Eddie Royal went through a major sophomore slump. Brandon Stokley made big plays, but isn't getting any younger. Brandon Lloyd displayed playmaking ability. McKinley was not impressive, but he could develop. Willis is unproven. I would like to see at least one upgrade at WR this season.
Tight End: Daniel Graham, Tony Scheffler (RFA), Richard Quinn, Marquez Branson
Graham is probably the best blocking TE in the NFL. Scheffler's production dropped a bit in 2009, but he is still a threat in the passing game. Quinn rarely played, and Branson spent the year on the practice squad. I would like to see the Broncos get a versatile TE prospect in the draft, possibly a decent vet in free agency.
Offensive Tackle: Ryan Clady, Ryan Harris, Tyler Polumbus, Brandon Gorin, D'Anthony Batiste
Starters are phenomenal when healthy, but the depth is very questionable.
Offensive Guard: Chris Kuper, Ben Hamilton, Russ Hochstein, Seth Olsen, Matt McChesney, Mitch Erickson
Kuper is a good starting guard in this league, and Seth Olsen has promise. The others are either unproven or past their prime. The Broncos must find an upgrade at this position.
Center: Casey Wiegmann, Dustin Fry
Wiegmann struggled in the new system, and Fry has yet to play a down in this league. A potential starter at this position is needed, as well as depth.
Defensive Linemen: Kenny Peterson, Vonnie Holliday, Ryan McBean, Ronald Fields, Marcus Thomas, Carlton Powell, Le Kevin Smith, Chris Baker, J'Vonne Parker, Everette Pedescleaux
An underrated part of our team in terms of depth and quality youngsters. The Broncos will look to some more prospects in this year's draft, and could upgrade in free agency. This unit broke down against the run as the year wore on.
Hybrid Linebacker: Elvis Dumervil, Robert Ayers, Darrell Reid, Mario Haggan, Jarvis Moss, Baraka Atkins
Dumervil is a star. Ayers showed flashes of why we drafted him in the first. Haggan was solid, and Moss/Atkins are unproven. Reid was as solid spot player, but he suffered a serious injury. Pass rush upgrade needed.
Inside Linebacker: D.J. Williams, Andra Davis, Wesley Woodyard, Spencer Larsen, Nick Greisen, Braxton Kelley
Need an upgrade along D.J. Williams, but I like our overall depth. Davis played well his first year here, but we need to find a future starter there.
Cornerback: Champ Bailey, Andre' Goodman, Alphonso Smith, Ty Law, Tony Carter, Rashod Moulton
Good for the time being, but we need another future starter to go with Alphonso Smith, who struggled his rookie season.
Safety: Brian Dawkins, Renaldo Hill, Darcel McBath, David Bruton, Josh Barrett, Vernon Fox
Appears to be the most stable position on the roster.
Kicker: Matt Prater
Punter: Mitch Berger, Britton Colquitt, A.J. Trapasso
May the best man win. Don't expect anyone else to be added to compete.
Long Snapper: Lonie Paxton
Okay, so now that you've had the opportunity to gauge our needs, I think I'd rank (from top to bottom) our needs as follows:
First Round Big Board
Players We Do NOT Expect to be There, But Who We Likely Wouldn't Pass on if Available
1. Ndamukong Suh, DL, Nebraska
Suh is the unquestioned top defensive lineman in the draft (unless you ask Todd McShay or Mike Mayock). He would be a steal at 10/11 if he fell, and he could be a very good five technique for us.
2. Gerald McCoy, DL, Oklahoma
McCoy was considered to be the top DL prospect in the 2009 draft if he came out, so it's no surprise he's at the top of the 2010 boards. Seems best fit for a 4-3 line, but if he fell to the Broncos I'm sure they'd have a tough time passing on such an elite talent.
3. Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
Berry is probably the surest prospect in this draft, if you can call any prospect that. He is an elite safety, and has All Pro potential. I don't see him falling to us, but if he does, we would not be able to pass him up.
4. Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
Some are against a QB in round one, but Bradford is a great fit for this system with his short range accuracy and intelligence. I think if he fell to 10th overall, our pick would be very enticing trade bait at worst.
5. Joe Haden, CB, Florida
This is a guy I would love to add, but how could you not want to add a shut down cornerback? Haden would be a perfect compliment to Alphonso Smith for our hypothetical future duo.
6. Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
Okung doesn't appear to be the greatest choice for us, and he doesn't have the size to move to guard so his best value to us will be in trading down.
7. Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
Played a pro style offense at Notre Dame, and crazily enough, that offense is roughly the one that Josh McDaniels employs. Clausen is the most NFL ready of the quarterbacks in this draft, which is why he's a near lock to go in the top ten.
First Tier of Prospects Targeted
1. Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama
McClain is one of the fan favorites around here. He reminds me of Brian Urlacher as a prospect, though he may not be as fast. He is a natural leader who is instinctive and tough.
2. Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma
I hate around mock draft sites where people continuously say, "Well, it appears as though the Broncos are trading Brandon Marshall, so they will for sure take Dez Bryant here." I don't disagree with Bryant. In fact as you can see, he is my number two option to Rolando McClain. But if you're going to say the Broncos take him because they are trading Marshall, then you'd better include a Marshall trade in your mock. I would use the description, "Bryant is a great pick for the Broncos because he allows Eddie Royal to move into the slot and is a very nice deep threat compliment to Brandon Marshall."
3. Mike Iupati, OL, Idaho
Iupati was a huge loser at the Senior Bowl to me. He is a massive body who is a ferocious run blocker, but he was frequently caught holding and said he wants to play tackle in the NFL because that position makes more money. In the words of McDaniels, "We're trying to win a MF game," not worry about playing a certain position because of money. Still, he is the best guard prospect to come along in a very long time.
4. Dan Williams, DL, Tennessee
It's no question the Broncos' run defense collapsed in 2009. Dan Williams is considered a run stopping specialist with exceptional strength and good lateral quickness. I am slowly growing on him as a prospect, and I think he would be a nice addition to our front line.
5. Derrick Morgan, DE/OLB, Georgia Tech
Morgan has the strength and versatility to play any of the defensive line positions sans NT, and he can play rush linebacker as well. His versatility will be very attractive to NFL GM's this offseason, and I think the Broncos will take a hard look at him.
6. Bryan Bulaga, OL, Iowa
Another versatile performer. Bulaga has a great frame for the NFL. While some project him as a RT, I think he could potentially be a decade plus starter at left guard. His footwork is the only question I had about him, so why not put his size and athleticism inside as a bruiser in the running game? This pick intrigues me.
7. C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
The most versatile running back prospect in the draft, Spiller could fill plenty of needs for the Broncos. First and foremost, the need for a speed type back. Spiller is quite possibly the fastest back in the draft, and could bring a Chris Johnson type impact to the NFL. He is also an elite level return man. He has great vision and escape ability.
8. Get the heck out! Trade down
Obviously this is always a possibility, but if none of these players are available when we pick, we should strongly consider trading down . In fact, if options 4-7 are all that are available, I would promote strongly a trade down. The Broncos could use extra picks in this draft, though I think those extra picks could come from a trade of a player (Marshall or Dumervil?).
From here, any big board options for the second and third round are dependent on who you take with your first round pick, and who is still available. Here is a look at some more hypotheticals.
Second Round (45th overall) Big Board
Probably Will Not be There, But Would Jump for Joy if They Were
1. Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
Pouncey is an elite center prospect, but he will take time to develop. I wouldn't pass on him in this spot, but I think he will probably go sooner.
2. Brian Price, DL, UCLA
Price is a very strong, tough defensive lineman. He is a bit undersized, but his talent is undeniable. I think he will be a first round pick, but he could slip a bit and I think we would take advantage.
3. Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
Gresham suffered a severe injury this past year, but I still feel he is the top pass receiving tight end prospect in the draft. His talent is very enticing here, but I am not so sure he fits any major area of need here.
4. Jahvid Best, RB, Cal
Explosive RB/RS who has great vision and toughness. A supreme athlete with elite level speed.
5. Brandon Spikes, ILB, Florida
Very good linebacker prospect whose fall to the second round is not so unlikely based on recent history. Spikes is a good leader, and his talents as a run stuffer would be most welcome.
6. Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
Quick rising cornerback prospect whose performance at the Senior Bowl really caught the eye of scouts. He has ideal size and great hip movement. He could be a steal.
7. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
My favorite prospect in the draft by far, I think Tebow could be a very good prospect in our system. If we re-signed Orton and continued to also develop Brandstater, I see nothing wrong with adding Tebow to the fray to see if we can't make him a stud QB in the NFL.
Players available at 45 or later according to NFLDS
1. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida (#45)
According to NFLDS, Tebow is the best value pick here if still available.
2. Terrence Cody, DL, Alabama (#46)
Cody is a massive body in the middle and has experience in the 3-4 defense. I could see him as a viable option, but I am not high on his character.
3. Navorro Bowman, LB, Penn State (#50)
Great value at this point in the draft. Bowman can play inside or outside. He is a great pass rushing option, and is very instinctive.
4. Jerry Hughes, OLB, TCU (#53)
Hughes is an elite pass rushing option in this draft, but his game is fairly one dimensional and there are questions about whether he can adjust to the 3-4 defense.
5. Jordan Shipley, WR, Texas (#69)
This is who I really like in this slot. I think Shipley's value to this team would be three-fold. He could be our #2 receiver of the future, kick returner, and punt returner.
6. Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois (#57)
Elite measurables, below average hands.
7. Dexter McCluster, WR/RB, Ole MIss (#52)
McCluster's value is being driven higher than I ever imagined, and honestly I don't think his value to a team will be worthy of a second round pick. Like Darren Sproles, I think McCluster is a fourth round pick, but that doesn't mean he's not an option in the second.
I plan on making a full mock Broncos Big Board prior to the draft, and hopefully shortly after free agency starts. I hope you've enjoyed this, my first crack at a big board this offseason.