Free agency is set to start on Friday, and while there is not much to be expected on the open market, there could be a slew of trades happening in the NFL this year. The Broncos are rumored to be active in the trade market with the talent they have set to become restricted free agents.
Other than that, the Broncos are expected to be relatively quiet this year in free agency, which will make the anticipated "New Year" of the NFL a little more boring than usual. Still, there are some big names on the free agent market, and the Broncos could surprise some people and get more involved than expected.
Heading into the draft, I firmly believe the Broncos' top needs are at the C/G position depending on where they decide to stick Seth Olsen, and also along the defensive line, nose tackle in particular. It was apparent last year that the Broncos were a complete team when they could stop the run and run the ball effectively, as is evidenced in their early 6-0 run.
As the season wore on, the Broncos' size issues up front became apparent, and it turned into a huge liability. The run defense finished the season ranked 26th in the NFL, and the running offense went from top five to 18th.
Head coach Josh McDaniels has stated publicly his desire for the Broncos to get bigger along the offensive line, and this mock draft really reflects that. More after the jump...
***Projected Trade: Brandon Marshall traded to Seattle Seahawks for 1st round pick (14th overall), 4th round pick, and 5th round pick***
***Projected Trade: Tony Scheffler traded to Cincinnati Bengals for 3rd round pick (84th overall)***
These two trades give the Broncos a lot of flexibility in the draft, and while it takes away a couple of big playmakers, the Broncos rid themselves of two massive headaches.
This is not to say I don't believe Marshall, Scheffler, and the Broncos cannot co-exist, I just believe that both are gone after next year regardless. The smart business move would be for the Broncos to work out trades for both, rather than having two extremely annoying and unhappy campers for another year.
The trade also gives the Broncos back what is rightfully theirs in the first round of this draft, which is two top 14 picks. Not that Alphonso Smith will not turn out, but the Broncos need both of those first round picks this year.
With each pick, I have provided a scouting report courtesy of CBSSports.com, whose prospect list I reference on a regular basis.
1. First round, 11th overall: Dan Williams, DL, Tennessee
We think Dan will be a very nice addition to this defense. He more than holds his own in the running game, and as you all know we struggled in that area last year as the season wore on. We feel he gives us a fresh body and adds depth to an area of this team where we feel we have a number of young guys that can come in and contribute, and Dan is going to be a key part of this group.
In our aggressive defensive style we feel Dan fits the mold of what we're looking for in terms of his athleticism, power, and ability to find the ball carrier quickly.
Pass rush: Relies on good to very good power as a bull rusher to collapse the pocket. Uses a swim move effectively, but lacks the burst and lateral agility to be a consistent factor in the pass rush. Works hard, but has only phone booth quickness. Requires an open lane to close. Alert defender that gets his hands up in the passing lanes.
Run defense: Greatest asset to the defense due to his build, strength and ability to locate the football. Good burst off the snap to explode into the offensive lineman. Tough to move off the line of scrimmage, as he naturally sprawls his feet, keeps his pads low and has the upper-body strength to hold up even to double-teams. Strong hands and an effective swim move to disengage. Natural candidate to move to nose guard. Keeps his head up and finds the ball. Only phone booth quickness, but hustles laterally and even downfield in pursuit.
Explosion: Good initial burst off the snap. Good upper-body strength to shock his opponent and quickly separate. Needs a lane to gather momentum and provide a big hit, but can deliver a jarring blow when he gets one.
Strength: Arguably his best trait. Low center of gravity due to a thick, wide lower body which helps in the leverage battle up front. Good use of hands and good upper-body strength to stack and shed in the running game. Relies on his strength as a bull rusher to collapse the pocket from the interior. Slides off blocks to make the play at or near the line of scrimmage.
Tackling: Enough strength to slow and even pull down some runners with one arm as he remains engaged with the blocker. Brings his weight with him as a hitter, resulting in some big collisions. Provides enough pop that he doesn't have to wrap up to knock down most ballcarriers, but improved in doing so as a senior. Good vision to locate the ball and can redirect surprisingly well at his size. Hustles laterally and downfield to make the tackle from behind.
2. First round, 14th overall: Mike Iupati, G, Idaho
Mike is a guy we've had our eye on for a while now, and we couldn't be more ecstatic to add him to our front line. This offseason, we have set out to get bigger and nastier along the inside of our line, and we feel we have accomplished that with two moves. One being the drafting of Seth [Olsen] in 2009, and now this move with the drafting of Mike will really go a long way for the future of this team.
Pass blocking: Good initial quickness off the snap. Provides a significant jolt to the defender with his punch. Too high in his pass protection but has the strong hands to latch on to the defender and ride him throughout the play. Good balance and lateral agility to slide with the defender and remain square. Can get himself in trouble with leverage by playing too high. Long arms and great lower strength to lock out. Rarely takes a step back even against a powerful bull rush, but this could be an area of concern against NFL defensive linemen, especially when Iupati fails to move his feet. Has developed into a savvy blocker. Looks to help out his teammates when not covered. Wants to hit someone.
Run Blocking: Can dominate as a run blocker due to his mass and rare upper-body strength. Provides an explosive initial pop that often knocks the defender back. Has to do a better job of latching on, as he'll knock his opponent back only to see him regroup and get back into the play. Very good drive blocker when he plays with leverage and keeps his hands inside. Can physically remove the defender from the hole. Looks to eliminate more than one defender on the play and will release to the second level. Good effort downfield.
Pulling/trapping: Surprisingly agile in getting out and blocking at the second level. Good body control and straight-line speed for a player of his size. Can re-adjust in space to hit the linebacker. Fails to lock onto the defender, at times, preferring to violently shove his target to the ground and look for others.
Initial Quickness: Good initial quickness off the snap in pass protection. Even on the rare occasions when beaten off the snap, his long arms and wide-body make it difficult for defenders (including blitzing linebackers) to sneak through his gap. When beaten by quicker defensive tackles in the running game, has the agility and long arms to catch them as they slide by, typically knocking them down and pancaking them.
Downfield: Intimidating presence on the move. Good athleticism and balance for a man his size and can redirect to make the effective block when he gets close. Will misjudge angles at times, and miss his intended target. When he does so, rather than turn to stand helplessly around the pile, he moves on to the next target. Good effort to block downfield.
Intangibles: Made significant progress over the past two seasons and appears to be just scratching the surface of his potential. Size and athleticism combination enough that some will view him as a better offensive tackle or even defensive tackle prospect. Born in American Samoa and moved to the United States at 14. Began learning English (and football) at that time. Has only played football since high school. Signed with Idaho after bigger programs had concerns about his ability to qualify academically. Voted team captain by his peers for 2009.
3. Second round, 45th overall: Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
After addressing needs at nose tackle and guard in the first round, we were ecstatic to have the ability to take Tim here with our second round pick. He is one of the most athletic quarterbacks in this class. He is going to come in this year and compete with Tom [Brandstater] for the backup position, and he will also be the leader of our "Wild Horses" alignment offensively. We feel he has great potential as a leader of this team.
Accuracy: Flashes accuracy to all levels. A bit inconsistent on intermediate throws that require zip. Throws some beautiful passes in tight windows, but also has a tendency for "wobbly" throws, making his passes a tougher catch than pure spirals. Typically leads his receivers, but still too often forces them to alter their routes. May struggle with the tighter windows at the next level.
Arm Strength: Prototypical arm strength. Can make every NFL throw. Can zip short and intermediate passes and flashes touch and trajectory on deeper throws. Only occasionally asked to throw true deep balls in this offense, but has the arm strength to do so.
Setup/Release: Some real concerns in this area. Takes snaps in the shotgun, meaning he'll need significant refinement in his drop-back at the next level. Quick, active feet necessary to eventually excel in this area. Has an elongated wind-up, in which he drops the ball to his hip before winding up to release the pass. Has struggled with pass rushers knocking the ball out of his hands, as well as tipping off defensive backs who can read where he's going with the long wind-up. Regressed as a senior with his fundamentals in passing on the run. Showed a greater tendency to throw across his body and off his back foot.
Reading Defenses: Only asked to make a few reads in this offense before having the green light to run. Seems to be a cerebral player who understands defenses and will scan the field to locate the open receiver. Protects the ball well as a ballcarrier, though the elongated release has led to fumbles.
On the Move: At his best as a runner and has rare vision with the ball in his hands from the quarterback position. Can anticipate holes in the defense and shows the burst to get past the initial wave of defenders to gain yards in chunks. Powerful runner who runs with good forward lean and doesn't shy away from contact.
Intangibles: Perfectly suited to Urban Meyer's system, but there are some questions as to how Tebow's skills translate to the NFL. Good size and strength for the position. Rare toughness. Natural and charismatic leader. Voted team captain in 2008 and Academic All-American in 2007.
NFL Comparison: Donovan McNabb, Eagles
4. Third round, 80th overall: Carlton Mitchell, WR, South Florida
We're really excited to be able to add Mitchell at this point in the draft. He is a tall, speedy receiver who gives us a legitimate deep threat on the outside. We feel he can learn a lot from the veterans already on this team, and we're excited about what he can bring to the vertical game as a rookie. The departure of Brandon Marshall has certainly opened up a spot for playing time at the receiver position, and Mitchell is a nice value here.
Release: Gets to top speed much faster than expected for his height, eating up cushion and blowing by corners without great speed. Can hesitate to lull defender to sleep, then accelerate to get separation. Is not pressed much because of his size and speed, but seems comfortable giving a shake and using his hands to free himself from the jam.
Hands: Inconsistent hands and traps the ball against his chest more often than not on short to intermediate throws. Tracks balls over his shoulder, able to secure the catch when stretched out on deep balls or throws to the sideline. Excellent red-zone threat. Better adjusting to high throws than low ones, but can get down to make the grab if given room to do so. Loses concentration on easier passes at times.
Route running: Will round off routes at times, but sinks his hips coming in and out of routes pretty well for a 6-4 receiver. Stop and comeback routes are sudden, a dangerous combination with his potential as a deep threat. Uses a head fake to sell routes. Willing to find holes in zones over the middle.
After the catch: Not many tall receivers are used on quick screens, but his surprising quickness and length allows him to succeed. Turns on the jets after the catch, with his long strides making it difficult for defenders to catch him. Can be elusive on screens but fails to avoid defenders when on a dead run. Height makes him a target to be chopped down in the open field by better corners.
Blocking: Has the desire and length to take defenders out of the play when he knows the run is coming, but a failure to break down and mirror his man allows them to avoid his grasp. Runs hard and extends his arms to keep safeties at bay while blocking for fellow receivers downfield. Resorts to ineffective cut blocks at times despite have the size advantage on the edge.
Intangibles: Tough player who bounces up after the big hit. Confident, well-liked in the locker room who has worked hard to be more than a track star playing football.
5. Third round, 84th overall: Jacoby Ford, WR, Clemson
5'9" 186 4.27
Jacoby is a very versatile player. We feel he can make an immediate impact as a rookie in the kick and punt return game, and eventually as a "Steve Smith" type wide receiver with grit, toughness, and absolutely blazing speed.
Release: Good lateral quickness and underrated upper-body strength to escape the jam. Few defenders attempt to jam Ford due to his elite timed speed, explosiveness off the snap and smooth acceleration.
Hands: Generally looks the ball into his hands to make the secure reception. Has a tendency to allow the ball to get into his chest and will drop a catchable passes on occasion. Can snatch the ball outside of his frame and has improved adjusting to poorly-thrown passes. Good toughness to maintain control despite taking a big hit. Good hand-eye coordination and balance to track the ball over either shoulder.
Route running: Used predominately as a deep threat early in his career and still learning the nuances of running routes. Developing as a route-runner but has good foot quickness and balance to ultimately excel in this area. Rarely asked to go across the middle but has made strides when he's asked to do so.
After the catch: Faster in a straight line than he is quick. Doesn't dazzle with his lateral agility to elude in tight quarters, but if given space can be quite elusive and make defenders miss in the open field. Good vision to find the lane and has an explosive burst to squirt through the hole and into the open. Lacks the strength and size to run through tackles and too often goes down with initial contact.
Blocking: Only a pesky blocker despite good overall strength and competitiveness. Provides a pop to the cornerback and looks to help downfield.
Intangibles: Has the physical tools to develop into a better pro than collegiate receiver. Well-built athlete with a football player's physique -- as opposed to that of a track star -- who shows the willingness to run through traffic. Experienced return specialist with two career kickoff return touchdowns. The 2009 national champion in the 60-meter dash. History of injuries teams will more closely investigate. Missed the final five games of the 2007 season with a broken ankle; suffered a pulled hamstring during the NCAA Track and Field Championships that slowed his progress during this '09 preseason.
NFL Comparison: Ted Ginn, Jr., Dolphins
***Projected Trade: Broncos trade 4th round picks (104, 114 overall) to Cleveland Browns for 3rd round pick (92nd overall) and 5th round pick***
6. Third round, 92nd overall: Amari Spievey, CB, Iowa
Amari is a player who will help us immediately on special teams, and we think his skill set compares very favorably to that of Champ Bailey, though he will need to learn to be more aggressive in the tackling facet of the game.
Read & React: Adequate diagnosing routes in zones and man. Can be a step slow to see rushing plays or double-moves coming. Best reacting to plays in front of him as a zone corner.
Man Coverage: Usually played off in Iowa's defensive scheme and was able to transition to face receivers and stay on their hip down the sideline. Could be an effective press corner, but needs to get his hands on the receiver more consistently. Strong enough to ride his man out of bounds if getting the jam. Loses track of his man when turning to look for the ball downfield. Plays tall, has a high, choppy backpedal and only average lateral movement. Allows receivers to eat up cushion too quickly.
Zone Coverage: Very experienced zone corner. Shows good awareness of receivers and closes on throws in either direction. Uses his length and height to knock the ball away. Flashes great hands, adjusting to high, low or wide throws, but could be more consistent going for and making the interception.
Closing/Recovery: Accelerates to the ball in his zone, takes the proper angle to prevent long runs after the catch. Able to knock passes away using his left and right hand without interfering, even when out of position. Recovery speed is lacking -- will struggle against double moves.
Run Support: Willing to attack blocks in run support to turn plays inside, but doesn't shed quickly enough to make plays. Cut-tackles and wraps in space. Crashes down and chases effectively when no receiver lines up on his side of the field.
Tackling: Flashes explosive tackling ability on the edge, will plant running backs into the turf. Effective cut tackler who keeps his head up, but should be wrapping up smaller ballcarriers instead of diving for their legs. Gunner on special teams, has good speed and strength to break through double teams but doesn't always get off blocks. Can wrap up return man before he makes his first move.
Intangibles: Has matured and improved his work ethic since blowing off his academic responsibilities. Humble off the field but doesn't shy from contact between the lines. Comes to the aid of his teammates in piles if needed.
7. Fifth round (from Seattle): Ciron Black, OT, LSU
Ciron adds much needed depth up front for us, and brings one of the more veteran collegiate presences to the NFL having started every game over the last four years for one of the top teams in the country in the Southeastern Conference, which does not lack NFL talent.
Pass blocking: An efficient blind-side protector despite less than ideal foot quickness. Lacks the depth on his kick-slide to remain at left tackle for some NFL offenses. Tough for pass rushers to beat outside due to his long arms and width. Good balance in protecting the edge and can slow even the speediest pass rushers simply by getting his hands on them.
Run blocking: Massive man with very good upper-body strength. Latches onto the defender and can overpower him quickly to eliminate his opponent from the play. Often gets under the pads of his opponent and can drive him off the line of scrimmage, but at the least is generally able to turn the defender and seal him from the ballcarrier.
Pulling/trapping: Rarely asked to pull in this offense and shows only marginal agility and straight-line speed when operating at the second level. Only marginal flexibility as a cut-blocker, though he was asked to do this often in LSU's scheme.
Initial Quickness: Only adequate initial quickness off the snap. Lumbers a bit off the snap and has to rely on the wide path pass rushers have to take around him to recover.
Downfield: Intimidating presence for smaller defenders at the second level of the defense, but has only marginal straight-line speed to get there and struggles when having to adjust to smaller, more athletic opponents.
Intangibles: Broke former teammate Andrew Whitworth's record for most starts by an LSU player with 53. Only played left tackle for LSU. Both parents are preachers.
8. Fifth Round (from Cleveland): Brandon Carter, OL, Texas Tech
Brandon comes from a very prolific collegiate offensive attack, and we are really excited about the versatility he brings to our offensive line.
Pass blocking: Strong pass protector who sets quickly, delivers a strong punch, and plays with a wide base. Excellent anchor, rarely gets pushed into the pocket. Will reach to chip both the nose and defensive end if no one lines up against him. Tech employs very wide splits, should be even more effective in pass pro in tight spaces because his recovery speed and lateral footwork is limited. Adept at picking up twists. Quick throws in the offense mask his inability to handle secondary rushes after initial contact.
Run blocking: Latches onto his man on run blocks and does not let go. Able to turn his man out of the hole and use a defender's momentum to take him out of the play. Knows his angles to create holes inside. Rarely loses ground when run blocking, but is a bit underwhelming as a drive blocker -- partially because of his lack of experience in a three-point stance. Does not move his feet well enough to effectively zone block. Lunges too often to reach his man from his deep stance, bending at the waist and losing his balance. Slow to cut block, but gets good contact and is tough to get around.
Pulling/trapping: Lumbers a bit when trapping but usually hits a target using his long arms. Can adjust to defenders coming from inside. Usually lined up well off the line, however, giving him an extra step (which he needs) when on the move. Lacks the foot quickness to be effective blocking outside of the tackles.
Initial Quickness: Fair quickness off the snap in pass set. In the rare situations where he lines up with a hand on the ground, Carter's get off is only adequate. Better than expected getting to the linebackers when called upon.
Downfield: Surprisingly flexible for his size. Takes good angles and is able to adjust quickly enough to incoming defenders to get a hand on them, which is often enough because of his length and strength, but lacks the footwork to mirror and sustain. Usually hits only one target in space, doesn't often hustle downfield to get the extra block.
Intangibles: Team captain who is very competitive on and off the field. Plays through the whistle, comes to the aid of his teammates and cleans up piles, if needed. Suspended and stripped of his team captaincy for one game in 2009 for violating team rules.
9. Sixth Round: E.J. Wilson, DL, North Carolina
E.J. has a motor that never stops, and we think he has a lot of versatility to play almost any position on the defensive line.
Pass rush: Gets strong push in pass-rush situations and has better quickness to turn the corner than expected at his size. Easily disengages to come underneath if quarterback steps up into the pocket. Keeps working toward the quarterback even when held by blockers. Effective rushing inside on twists and has a good swim move when he has the space to use it. Not elite change-of-direction agility on the outside at his size, but manages to pressure quarterbacks on bootlegs.
Run defense: Strong enough to hold the edge, move laterally with the tackle to cover cutback lanes, or rip off inside to plug up the hole. Discards most tight end blocks with strong, violent hands. Could be more consistent getting off blocks when staunch opponents match his intensity and low stance.
Explosion: Good quickness off the snap for his size, but it may not be enough to beat tackles at the next level. Delivers blow to the numbers of his man to push him back in pass rush or to hold up against the run.
Strength: Uses his low center of gravity and excellent upper and lower body strength to push taller tackles into the pocket. If the tackle can reset after the initial blow, however, Wilson will get pushed back. May be seen as a tackle/end 'tweener by some teams because he does not play with elite strength inside.
Tackling: Strong, explosive tackler who can burst to the ball. Stays low, changes directions inside to keep himself in the play. Gets his hand on the ball by wrapping the body or sticking his hand in if other players are making the stop. Willing to hustle to sideline on quick screens or even throws ten yards downfield.
Intangibles: Durable, trusted player with good hustle and work ethic. Leader of a defensive line full of talent.
10. Seventh Round: Dace Richardson, OL, Iowa
We continue to add youth and depth to our offensive line by adding a guy who has had experience playing nearly every position up front. Played right guard for the Hawkeyes last year, and had the best year of his career.
Pass blocking: Has a tackle build, tall and carrying his weight well. Possesses a tough anchor, though, and has a strong punch and longer reach than most defensive tackles so he can maintain distance. Handles inside lane and spin moves well because of his length. Overmatches college players inside, but could bend his knees a bit more and play with a slightly wider base to hold up against stronger NFL tackles.
Run blocking: Good punch off the snap. Can latch on and move his feet to sustain, difficult to rip off. Will deliver multiple blows to the defender's chest. Always seems to control his man moving on zone plays. Must prove he can get low to drive block and win the leverage battle despite his height. Gets down quickly to cut block, getting into the thigh, using his height and bulk to full advantage, and even rolling a bit to hinder the defender from recovering.
Pulling/trapping: Iowa's zone-blocking scheme does not ask its lineman to pull or trap often. His foot speed is adequate to work in tight spaces when trapping and his long arms and strength will be difficult for interior defenders and linemen to avoid. Has shown the ability to get out in front of runs, meaning a team could ask him to pull or be a personal protector on the edge.
Initial Quickness: Excellent movement off the snap when coming downhill to run block, gets his hands up and extends to make a strong punch at initial contact. Also fair quickness setting up for pass protection, doesn't get beat off the snap.
Downfield: Athletic player with the foot speed to engage and sustain against linebackers a few yards downfield. Gets out in front of screens and negates at least one defender every time. Runs tall, though, must prove he can drop his hips to engage and adjust to inside defenders at the next level. Will hit multiple targets if they are in his sight; doesn't necessarily seek them out in space.
Intangibles: Showed excellent resiliency and work ethic returning from knee and ankle injuries, despite media reports and doctors telling him his career might be over. Good genes, both father (Dace, played at Western Illinois and one season for the New York Giants) and uncle (Tim, drafted in the sixth round by the Giants in 1987) played in NFL training camps as running backs.