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2011 Denver Broncos Draft Review: Broncos Stay True to Their Board

To say the draft did not go how I anticipated would be a vast understatement. In fact, I was so dead set on the Broncos picking 8 defensive linemen, that I was openly critical about second round picks, and was simply disgusted with the draft strategy. However, with some time to look over the class as a whole, I feel like the Broncos did a fantastic job of staying true to their board, and come hell or high water, they were sticking to their plan of taking the best players and not just taking the best defensive tackles on the board.

This strategy, as I've mentioned, didn't sit well at first, but unlike every other draft I have ever watched, we have to take into account that teams were planning for free agency after the process. It's easy to say that the Broncos failed in this draft because they didn't take a defensive tackle, but now they have the whole free agency period to go out and get their guys.

I also think this draft shows the Broncos' confidence in Kevin Vickerson and Marcus Thomas to be starting tackles if the need arises. Both guys are absolutely huge, with Big Vick standing at about 6'5" 330, and Thomas at roughly 6'3" 315. If the Broncos can add two starters in free agency, Vickerson and Thomas should be more than enough depth for the time being.

The Broncos significantly upgraded their pass rush and pass defense in this draft, and adding pass rush is something they have not even really attempted in a few years.

1. First Round, 2nd overall: Von Miller, Linebacker, Texas A&M

6'3" 250

At this point, my mock draft was looking great.

In all seriousness, when the Broncos picked Von Miller, they picked easily the best linebacker in the draft, and pound for pound arguably the best athlete in the draft. Kudos to John and all of you on the site who predicted this months ago. I have always been of the philosophy that we should build inside out, meaning defensive line first, but I also acknowledge that our number one need this offseason was upgrading the pass rush, and you can reference some of my oldest mock drafts for that.

Von Miller is bar none the best pass rusher in the draft, and the Broncos can use him in creative ways. They will be a 4-3 base defense, and Miller will likely start out as the SAM linebacker in that defense, but he doesn't have to always stay there. The Broncos can move him down to defensive end on third downs and slide Robert Ayers inside to rush the quarterback, they can disguise Miller at the line of scrimmage and drop him into coverage, and he is also athletic enough to hang with tight ends and running backs.

We're not talking about your average linebacker here--we're talking about a guy who ran a sub-4.5 second 40 yard dash, and put on one of the most impressive displays of athleticism you will see at the Scouting Combine. Many of the scouts I talked to, including Chris Steuber who said that Miller is a lock to be the defensive rookie of the year.

For those worried about Miller's coverage abilities, perhaps his comments after being selected will put them to rest. Miller says he is willing to cover the opposing team's number one receiver:

"I've always covered running backs and tight ends, and I've always dropped back into coverage. It was just my role on the Texas A&M team to get after the quarterback, where they needed me most, so on third downs I was always in a rush. If you put on the film, I think I was playing quite a bit, and I can drop back in coverage and cover a slot receiver, cover the No. 1 receiver and get on those running backs."

There were many scouts who said that Miller was probably a much better fit in the NFL for a 3-4 defense, but I whole-heartedly disagree. As I always say, great football players fit in any scheme, and Von Miller is exactly that--a great football player.

We can talk at length this offseason about how the Broncos are going to use him, but this was a pick where the Broncos could not go wrong picking between Miller, Patrick Peterson, Marcell Dareus, or Nick Fairley, and I think they picked a great one. As you have seen on Twitter and other news outlets, the Broncos are still glowing after picking Miller. The front office is already very pleased with this pick on paper, and so should Broncos fans. The possibilities of what Miller could do in this defense are incredible. He has been compared to Derrick Thomas, the late great linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs. That is a very lofty comparison, so Miller already has some big shoes to fill.

He has never lacked for production in college. For four straight years, he has been a top of the line producer. He was a Freshman All-American in 2007 when he had 22 tackles, four tackles for a loss, and two sacks to go along with his first career forced fumble.

As a sophomore, Miller started four of 12 games in 2008 and had 44 tackles while leading the team with 3.5 sacks. He also had 7.5 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. Miller also started to show his prowess on special teams in 2008.

As a junior in 2009, Miller absolutely exploded onto the scene, this time for good. He was a first-team All-American after leading the nation with 17 sacks while also having 20 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. He was a finalist for the Hendricks award and a semi-finalist for the Butkus award.

In 2010, Miller built off of his excellent junior season with another double-digit sack season, finishing with 10.5 in 13 games. He also had 17.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles along with an interception. He also had a career high 68 tackles on the season.

**Following analysis from my review on Friday night**

2. Second Round, 45th overall (from 49ers): Rahim Moore, Safety, UCLA

6'0" 202

I was very critical of this pick at first not because of the player, but because of his position. Still, this pick shows the Broncos placed a great value on creating turnovers with their first two picks. The first pick was used on the best pass rusher in the draft, and the second was used on a guy in Moore who has 11 interceptions the last two years.

Granted, he picked off 10 passes in his junior season, but teams really shied away from Moore in 2010, and he could really be a ball hawk for the Broncos' defensive backfield. Perhaps what sold me the most on Moore was his post-selection commentary:

"I knew I wasn't going to be a first-round draft pick, which is fine because I never planned to be one. I knew my range; I knew what I was going to be coming out of college. The overall experience has been spectacular. Today I feel like I went No. 1 overall. I'm so excited. I can't wait to get to work and get to Denver."

Moore also talked about the influence that Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins have had on him as a player, and he can't wait to get to Denver. So what does this guy bring to the table?

Well, Moore is a little undersized in terms of his muscle mass, but he has all of the skills necessary to be an elite safety in the NFL. He's not a Troy Polamalu type of tackler, but he has improved in this area, and is simply a playmaker. He's definitely not going to be an "in the box" type of safety in the NFL. John Elway described him best when he called him a center fielder. Moore is going to be the guy on the back end of the defense--similar to what Renaldo Hill does now-- that makes plays left by his teammates. With the Broncos significantly improved pass rush (at least on paper), it will free up guys like Moore to make plays on the back end.

Definitely an undercut tackler who is quicker than fast, and a guy who isn't a liability against the run, but will definitely benefit from having powerful players in front of him.

This is a guy who is really going to benefit from the additions of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, and we'll see what the Broncos are able to do tomorrow to continue to add to the front seven.

"Defense wins championships...Von Miller is a big-time talent. He has every little bit of a second (overall) pick you can think of. He's just that type of guy. I can't wait to make plays on the field with him."

3. Second Round, 46th overall (from Miami): Orlando Franklin, Offensive Lineman, Miami

6'6" 316

At this point in our draft, I was pretty mad, but further review shows that Franklin was a solid pick as a guard, and is a guy who will absolutely start for the Broncos from day one. He can play pretty much anywhere on the line, but here's what his role will be with the Broncos:

"They told me they see me playing right tackle."

The soft spoken Franklin doesn't lack for fire on the football field. He will be 24 at the start of the season, so he's a little older than most rookies, but that's not a problem because he can probably play in the NFL for a long time as long as he checks out medically.

Franklin was asked back to Indianapolis for the Combine medical re-check, and apparently that is of no worry to the Denver Broncos, who used a very top tier choice on him. Here is a medical report from ESPN, making this pick somewhat curious:

In 2007, suffered left wrist injury vs. FSU and underwent surgery to repair fracture and two torn ligaments. Sat out spring practice in 2008 while rehabbing from surgery. In 2009, tore meniscus in left knee. Did not have an MRI until three weeks before 2010 camp. Played 2010 season with the injury and then underwent surgery on left meniscus. Did not run second 40-yard dash at combine because of the surgery.

"I like to think of myself as the most physical offensive lineman that was in this draft, and I am looking forward to bringing that nature to the Denver Broncos."

Indeed the Broncos will need some of that physical nature. They are going to be moving to the zone blocking scheme, and the plan is that Franklin will start for them at right tackle or left guard in the process, which means it's bye-bye for Ryan Harris, who has had a solid run as a Bronco. This is the question I have--are the Broncos willing to open up the competition between Beadles and Franklin at right tackle? This is no longer a power offense where Franklin might be useful as a tackle, so we will see if he can be effective in that role early on, and if not, will Beadles kick outside to block Tebow's blind side?

This is definitely a tough guy who will help the Broncos' atrocious running game with his overall power and sheer size. If the Broncos can keep him in check physically and mentally, this could be an outstanding pick and a guy who can play for a long time. I like this scouting report:

Relentless player who wants to finish every block like its his last. Franklin has the physical gifts and on-field smarts to be selected early in the draft.

4. Third Round, 67th overall: Nate Irving, Linebacker, North Carolina State

6'1" 241

Fast linebacker who plays bigger than his listed size. He probably gives the best scouting report of himself:

"For those people who don't know me, I'm just a physical linebacker who likes to impose my will and punish the ball carrier or get a blocker out of my way to get to the ball carrier."

Not only that, but Irving brings some much needed intensity and leadership that the Broncos have lacked for a long, long time at the linebacker position. This selection really solidifies the Broncos' linebacker corps, at least on paper with D.J. Williams at the WILL, Von Miller as the SAM, and now Irving as the MIKE, and that's apparently where the Broncos told him he would be playing.

"I talked to the coaches, and they like me in the middle."

Quick, instinctive, hard hitting guy who finishes plays. He offers upside as a blitzer on passing downs and has a fantastic resume' from his time at North Carolina State. This is a guy who is constantly around the ball, constantly making plays, and he has overcome adversity to get where he is today. Irving missed the entire 2009 season due to being in a serious car accident, but came back in 2010 with a vengeance.

As a senior, Irving had 92 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, six pass breakups, three forced fumbles, and two fumbles recovered. Like I said, if this guy wasn't around the ball, it's because the NC State offense was on the field.

Very good range against the run, and has been big time proucer for the Wolfpack since he was a redshirt freshman in 2007. What Broncos fans should be most excited about are the intangibles Irving brings to the table. This could finally be the fiery leader the team has lacked at the MIKE linebacker position for so long.

Irving is a fast linebacker that makes plays all over the field. Well prepared player that reads keys quickly and has a nose for the football in run support. Drops smoothly in coverage, has terrific ball skills and the closing burst to get after the quarterback on blitzes. Vocal leader and fierce competitor.

"I was looking at the earlier pick, and I saw Von Miller, and I'm just looking forward to getting out there and playing alongside him. With me in the middle and him on the edge, we could wreak some havoc on every offensive team in the league."

We can only hope, Broncos fans.

5. Fourth Round, 108th overall: Quinton Carter, Safety, Oklahoma

6'1" 211

In the 2nd round, the Broncos picked up the top overall safety in the draft in Rahim Moore. In the fourth round, they got the consensus second best safety in the entire draft, and a first team All American in Oklahoma's Quinton Carter.

The former All-American and playmaker for the Sooners said he was a little surprised the Broncos picked him, but he is excited for the competition as well as the ability to learn from Brian Dawkins, one of the best safeties of all time.

"Honestly, yes, I am very surprised. I wasn't sure if they would pick me or him, but obviously they picked him, and now they picked me. Whatever situation I'm going into, I'm very excited for the opportunity to be a part of any team. I'm ready to go to work. I'm going to be a part of the Denver Broncos, and with Rahim and myself coming, I'm sure we're going to have a strong backfield and also learn from Brian Dawkins who is my favorite safety in the game."

Carter is a hard-hitter from Las Vegas, NV, who brings great upside to the Broncos' defensive backfield. He is known for his closing speed and "bone-jarring" mentality. He is not fast in a straight line, but he is rarely out of place, is very quick and instinctive, and has everything you would look for in an NFL safety. At 6'1" 211 pounds, he is a bigger guy who can cover in the slot, play in the box, or play a free safety look.

He will also help the Broncos initially as a special teams player. Here is a nice scouting report from NFL Draft Scout:

Carter is exactly the type of versatile defensive back NFL teams are looking for to slow down the pass-happy offenses in today's game. He has played strong and free safety in Bob Stoops' defense at Oklahoma because of his physicality and speed; his ability to make the big hit, support the run, play centerfielder, or even line up in man coverage is rare among college safeties. He should one of the top two or three safeties selected in April.

Exceptional leader on the field and in the locker room. Receiving degree in sociology with a non-profit organization studies, but already has started has own non-profit called SOUL (Serving Others with Unity and Leadership) to help kids in the Las Vegas area.

Carter does have some injuries in his past, which could have been one reason for his fall, but he started every game in 2010, and showed how impactful he can be on a game. This was a high value selection in the fourth round, and while not a pertinent need, the Broncos have solidified their depth at the safety position with guys who are very talented and have great intangibles and versatility.

6. Fourth Round, 129th overall: Julius Thomas, Tight End, Portland State

6'5" 250

Julius Thomas was a guy that many people on here thought we might take after we showed so much interest in him prior to the draft, and sure enough, Thomas is headed to Denver.

This guy was a popular player around MHR, and for good reason. After lighting up the East-West Shrine Game, Thomas grew a reputation as one of the most athletic and high-upside tight end prospects in the class, and he can thank his draft spot in part to San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates and Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, who really paved the way for basketball players at the tight end position.

Thomas played four years of round-ball at Portland State, and walked on to the football team as a senior. Not a bad hobby for the young man, who wound up as a fourth round draft pick in the NFL and really impressed one of the league's top tight end coaches in the process. Clancy Barone helped in the development of Gates in San Diego, and he was reportedly very impressed with Thomas "on the greaseboard". According to most reports, Thomas showed a very advanced knowledge of the game of football only having played one year.

His visits with the Broncos went very well, and Thomas says the Broncos showed more interest in him than any team, and the feeling was mutual:

"I probably talked to the Broncos more than I talked to any team. Coach Barone came and worked me out at Portland State. We had a great workout, a great meeting, and that was really my favorite meeting with any of the teams. I talked with Coach (Clancy) Barone several times after that and expressed to him how much I enjoyed that meeting and how I felt that if we happen to get together that it would be a great fit for myself. I think that he's a coach that the way he thinks (about) the game is exactly the way I think, and I feel like he is going to be great at helping me understand what is expected of me. That's all you can ask for."

So how does he fit in with the Broncos?

"I haven't really spoken with them about my role, but some things that I'm really going to have to focus one is to really just learn the different things that you are going to need to do in the NFL. It's a more complicated game coming from the scheme we played in college to the scheme in the NFL, so that's going to be my main focus early on, just learning and making sure I have everything down; and then, some of the technique things that I haven't had as much experience with as some of the other guys have because I've only been playing for a year. I'll get with (Tight Ends) Coach (Clancy) Barone, and we'll start working on the technique things we need to address immediately. I'm pretty sure we'll have a plan, and we'll go about it."

Thomas was the only player the Broncos traded up for in 2011, the second straight year they have traded up at one point or another in the draft to take a player with that name. He is a raw tight end prospect with huge upside as a pass receiver, and is a surprisingly sound blocker. He has better than average technique in terms of blocking, and has the frame to add 10-12 pounds without losing his quickness or speed, and that's how GM Brian Xanders envisions him, right at the 260 pound mark.

I think this was a phenomenal pick, and one that fans will absolutely love as time goes along. Is Thomas raw? Sure, but the upside is there, and the measurables are off the charts. The Broncos will now rely on their coaching staff to make him into the player we all hope he can be.

7. Sixth Round, 189th overall: Mike Mohamed, Linebacker, California

6'3" 239

The Broncos went with a guy here who is going to come to Denver with a chip on his shoulder and a blue-collar mentality. Mohamed played in a 3-4 in college, but is a very smart player who will be depth at linebacker right away and contribute as a rookie on special teams.

One of the better coverage linebackers in the back end of the draft, Mohamed can really help the Broncos as a MIKE or WILL linebacker lining up with tight ends or taking running backs out of the backfield.

Mohamed is a leader in every sense of the word, and was considered the "unquestioned" captain of the Cal Bears defense, and hopefully he can bring some of that intensity to the Denver Broncos. So, what does this guy really bring to the table?

"I think the first thing that stands out is that I'm a ball hawk. I'm relentless. I'll always try to get to the ball, obviously within the parameters of the defense. I'm never giving up on plays; my motto is, ‘All or nothing.'"

That's good news for the Broncos, who completed the revamping of their linebacker corps with the selection of Mohamed. He was a very productive player at Cal who was durable for the most part and simply made plays at all costs.

8. Seventh Round, 204th overall: Virgil Green, Tight End/H-Back, Nevada

6'3" 245

This was a very exciting pick in the seventh round. Virgil Green was one of the top performers at the NFL Scouting Combine, and people thought he could sneak into the second day of the draft after his display of elite athleticism. Adding another weapon to the passing game was essential for the Broncos, who are bringing on a young quarterback in Tim Tebow. Virgil Green can certainly help that, and he feels like he is much more than just a speed demon and receiver:

"I think I am a great in-line blocker. At Nevada, we ran the ball a lot. So in our offense, if you couldn't block, you couldn't play."

Fair enough.

Green will come along slowly with the Broncos, who likely chose him to play a Dallas Clark type of role. He is raw as a route runner, but he does have a lot of experience blocking and he can be a real asset in the passing game. The Broncos can use Green the same way they did with Tony Scheffler when he was in Denver.

9. Seventh Round, 247th overall: Jeremy Beal, Defensive End, Oklahoma

6'2" 265

Beal is a very cool story, and a very sound selection in the seventh round. After starting his career at Oklahoma as a walk-on (go figure, because he tested poorly athletically), he finished with 27 sacks in three seasons, including a couple of All American teams along the way.

This is not a speedy player by any means, but he has a quick initial burst as well as great instincts and closing ability. In order to succeed with his lack of speed, Beal will need to continue to improve his technique and quickness.

The Broncos can use him in pass rushing situations, and I think he will earn himself a spot on the roster in training camp. He is a long-armed player with a strong upper body who can make an impact as a rotational player. Again, the Broncos went with the value pick here, and Beal is great value if nothing else. Very productive college player, but an average athlete and an overachiever. He is a hard worker and will compete on every play.