The 2011 NFL Draft is about a month away, and as usual, the Denver Broncos are in the news and fans are concerned. This has become a pattern over the last couple of years, but should us Broncos fans really be worried? If you asked me right now, I would say that the Broncos are simply posturing for a trade down, but that's just me.
John Elway and company have brought in some pretty interesting names for pre-draft visits and workouts, and probably the most notable absence from the list is Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, though I'm sure his name will surface eventually. Perhaps even more curious is the fact that the Broncos have scheduled private visits or workouts with five of the draft's top quarterbacks, and sent offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to the Arkansas pro day, where Ryan Mallett was putting on a show.
The Broncos have also been paying noticeable attention to Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller, a player who was considered a late first round pick prior to the Senior Bowl, and who since then has risen to a locked down top five selection according to draft pundits. Are the Broncos serious about taking Miller, or are they trying to bait a team into trading up to the second selection to take him?
Right now, even though the team is more transparent than ever, I think I am more confused at this point in the offseason than ever before. Thus, projecting who the Broncos will draft has become extremely difficult.
Here is the Broncos' freshly minted draft order:
1st Round - #2 Overall
2nd Round - #36 Overall
2nd Round - #46 Overall
3rd Round - #67 Overall
6th Round - #186 Overall
6th Round - #189 Overall
7th Round - #246 Overall
Without further adieu...
1. First Round, 2nd overall: Marcell Dareus, Defensive Tackle, Alabama
Why Dareus (DARR-ee-us)?
Mike Mayock, the NFL Network draft analyst and college football guru, said on NFL Network the other day that based on what he's heard around the league, it would be a "huge upset" if the Broncos did not take Marcell Dareus with the second pick. As of my latest full NFL mock draft, I agree, though I feel something still tugging me toward Patrick Peterson.
I think the Broncos and Dareus are an excellent match. Why? The Broncos have no defensive tackles, and Dareus is the best DT in the whole draft. He is absolutely huge--a space clogger who has excellent quickness and athletic ability, and the potential to be dominant. Dareus was asked on ESPN's First Take who he would compare himself both as a DT and a DE, and he used Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan.
If he can even be ONE of those guys, it's worth the risk. All the Broncos' flirting with QB's is totally bogus to me, but I think they are interested in at least drafting one in the 2nd round possibly if a good one were to fall. That fact alone could help them add some extra picks in the middle rounds, where they are rumored to want to get back into.
Last year, the logical pick for Denver was Maurkice Pouncey, the center from Florida. They passed on him twice (he made the Pro Bowl). This year, I think logic will finally win out for Denver. Brian Xanders has been part of two drafts with the Broncos, and looking back at their prospect visit lists--they are bringing the right guys into Dove Valley for workouts, but they are not getting it done on draft day.
Your thinking must be on the same level as your emotion on draft day. It seems like the last two Broncos drafts were emotion based drafts rather than logic based drafts (though we've gotten some great athletes), and that has really hurt us.
This year is the year that logic bucks the trend. Dareus will be a Bronco if one thing happens:
1. He is available when they are on the clock
2. Second Round, 36th overall: Stephen Paea, Defensive Tackle, Oregon State
Why Paea (PIE-uh)?
When you are one of the worst run defending teams in the NFL, you don't typically cut your best two defensive tackles with the intent of not replacing them with elite talent. Paea is a potential top 15 talent who falls to round two because of a knee injury he suffered this offseason.
The former Pac 10 defensive player of the year is the NFL Scouting Combine weight lifting champion, and his 49 reps at 225 pounds are the best at the event ever. In fact, that might be the best among all NFL players right now. Beside that fact, Paea is a fantastic football player, and he's still relatively new to the game.
He came to Oregon State from New Zealand, where he was a rugby player. Paea is extremely tough, has been a captain of the Oregon State defense, and the only thing holding him back right now is a minor knee injury. For a team that cannot stop the run whatsoever, getting two of the draft's best run stuffers with our first two picks would be fantastic.
I love the analogy used at NFL Draft Scout. They said that Paea is "built like a Coke machine and just as tough to move."
3. Second Round, 46th overall: Allen Bailey, Defensive End, Miami
There are a lot of people who don't like Bailey right now, and I can see why. When you watch some of the game footage on YouTube, it seems he's a little slow off the ball. But on the plays when he times the snap correctly, he is absolutely unblockable. The Broncos desperately need another pass rushing option, and Bailey can provide that.
Robert Ayers is a bit of a question mark right now, but I think he's played well enough to have earned the opportunity to start this year at strong-side defensive end.
Now, Bailey is extremely raw--there is no disputing this. Is he fast enough to play defensive end? Is he big enough to play defensive tackle?
There will undoubtedly be people that don't like this pick, and I may be one of them. I might be a little dis-pleased if we use this high of a pick on such a project player, but I think the Broncos have the coaching and scheme to make it a fit. Bailey could play the run on early downs at defensive end, and shift to tackle on passing downs.
4. Third Round, 67th overall: Quinton Carter, Safety, Oklahoma
Brian Dawkins will not be here forever, and Renaldo Hill is entering the third year of a four year contract and will likely be expendable by the end of the year. Darcel McBath is a good young prospect, but can he be relied upon to stay healthy? I like David Bruton as well, but more so in his special teams role and spot duty at safety.
Enter Quinton Carter, a hard hitting safety who can play multiple different roles for a defense. He is known for his elite intangibles, and in a weak safety class, he could be a real gem. I like his potential to possibly start early on in his career.
5. Sixth Round, 186th overall: Julius Thomas, Tight End, Portland State
The Broncos don't really want to spend a premium pick on a tight end (at least that's the way it seems) and Thomas is too good a value in the sixth round to pass up on. The former basketball player has got great potential to be a vertical threat in the passing game and a real nightmare in the red zone for opposing defenses.
Thomas is very new to the game of football, but he's extremely talented. If the Broncos can get him in the sixth round, he is excellent value and can really help them out in the passing game.
6. Sixth Round, 189th overall: Allen Bradford, Running Back, USC
Big, strong, fast, quick, powerful. What else could you ask for from a running back? Bradford has a similar build as Peyton Hillis, and is already a more refined runner. He has some durability concerns, which is why he falls to the sixth round. If he can crack the Broncos' rotation, it will be excellent value at this point in the draft. His scouting report says he has marginal top end speed, but his 4.53 from the Combine would beg to differ.
7. Seventh Round, 246th overall: Jeff Tarpinian, Linebacker, Iowa
At this point in the draft, you aren't looking for starters, you're looking for diamonds in the rough. Tarpinian is a very solid, blue-collar football player with fantastic athletic ability. At Iowa's pro day, Tarpinian reportedly ran a 4.48 40 yard dash, and had great numbers in all of the other drills. This is not surprising considering Tarpinian came to Iowa as a defensive back, and switched to linebacker when he put on some weight.
Those are the kinds of players you love to have, not to mention with his speed and athleticism, he has the potential to be a special teams ace, which is just as valuable as anything else. He also has some experience in a cover two defense at Iowa. I like his upside in the seventh.
1. Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
2. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
3. Allen Bailey, DE, Miami
4. Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma
5. Julius Thomas, TE, Portland State
6. Allen Bradford, RB, USC
7. Jeff Tarpinian, LB, Iowa
Biggest thing not covered here is LB, but I think you have to build the line first and foremost. We will have multiple drafts to get our LB corps in order, but this one is too deep at DL to use any high picks on an overrated LB prospect.