The NFL Draft nerd in me never sleeps, and I'm always on the lookout for news regarding one of my favorite events of the year. According to Chris Steuber, an NFL Draft scout and correspondent for Mocking the Draft at times has reported that the Broncos were among the teams in attendance at some time or another scouting the practices of the Indiana Hoosiers and Virginia Tech Hokies.
In case you are interested in whom the Broncos might be looking at, I have already done scouting for both teams' potential NFL prospects for this season, at least the guys I think have the best shot right now of making it in the NFL.
88 Damarlo Belcher (Senior), WR, 6’5″ 214
Belcher is a big possession receiver who had a great season in 2010, leading the Hoosiers’ very balanced passing attack with 832 yards on 78 catches. He also added four touchdowns, and has vaulted himself into the Indiana football record books. Belcher is third in Indiana history with 164 career receptions, and sixth with 1,939 yards. As a true freshman, he played in 12 games and started two of them, and has been extremely productive for them ever since. Since 2008, Belcher has found the end zone 11 times, and is the leader of probably the best overall unit on the entire Indiana team. As a sophomore, Belcher caught 61 passes for 770 yards and five touchdowns, and really has shown over the last two years that he can be a big play guy for the Hoosiers. He is tall and has great overall length, and while he’s not exactly "fast" he is a long strider and he can make plays down the field, where he is a serious mismatch. His NFL potential is higher to me, though I don’t know if he will be drafted higher than Tandon Doss was this past year, though he certainly could be. Ben Chappel is no longer the quarterback at Indiana, so that will be an adjustment in and of itself. Chappel was very good at distributing the ball to all of the receivers, but without him, you have to wonder if the new, younger quarterback is going to lock in on the experienced Belcher to bail him out of situations.
28 Darius Willis (RS Junior), RB, 6’0″ 220
Indiana has been primarily a passing offense over the last few years, so Willis is a guy who has gone under the radar as it is. Factor in a left knee injury that prematurely ended his 2010 season, and virtually no one knows about this guy right now, but they should. Willis has ideal NFL size and speed, and despite his durability issues, he is a guy who could really turn some heads this year. As a RS Freshman in 2009, he ran for 607 yards and six touchdowns, and he was expected to break out as a sophomore. He was well on his way to doing that before the aforementioned knee injury derailed his season. In five games, he ran 64 times for 278 yards and four touchdowns. He also added 11 receptions for 102 yards and a score.
53 Jeff Thomas (RS Senior), LB, 6’1″ 244
Big, rangy linebacker who finished second on the team with 82 tackles last year after transferring from Foothill Community College in California. Enters his senior season as the leader of the Indiana defense, and definitely has some potential for the NFL if he can continue to hone his craft. In addition to his 82 tackles, he had 7.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, a sack, and a broken up pass. In 2009, he was the Nor-Cal Conference Defensive Player of the year with 104 tackles, 14.5 for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and six passes broken up. Solid instincts and good field awareness. Always around the ball. If he continues to improve, he might get drafted but he should definitely get a tryout next year. He definitely has the size, but does he have enough speed and athletic ability to play in the NFL?
Virginia Tech Hokies
2 Josh Oglesby – Running Back, r-Senior, 5’11, 210 lbs
Every NFL team needs a "thunder" back, and with the wear and tear that college backs have on them when they come into the league, perhaps the fact that this guy doesn’t have a ton of experience collegiately won’t hurt him in the NFL. He is going to need to prove that he can continue to be effective in that type of role, and right now, he’s probably poised for a reserve role in the NFL, possibly as camp fodder and special teams potential.
11 Dyrell Roberts – Wide Receiver, Senior, 6’2, 185bs
Definitely has the size/speed upside to succeed in the NFL, and he has the versatility to be a kick/punt returner in the NFL, and that will be huge. At Virginia Tech, the passing game might become more of a focal point this year with a change at quarterback, and this guy could be a big part of it. The injury is a bit of a concern, especially because it’s one on his leg. However, he has playmaking ability and should get a look in the NFL.
15 Eddie Whitley – Free Safety, Senior, 6’1, 187bs
Another player with solid upside because of his versatility. I like that Whitley played multiple positions in the secondary, and his tackling ability indicates to me that he can be a solid contributor on special teams and possibly eventually a spot starter or key reserve. If he shows he can be more of a playmaker in 2011, he has the size to be able to be picked possibly as a free safety or nickel corner in the NFL.
19 Danny Coale – Wide Reciver, r-Senior, 6’0, 196bs
Every white receiver is compared to Wes Welker (wink), but Coale could actually make somebody look good by making that comparison. The scouting report on Coale says he is an "extremely consistent receiver who is at his best in clutch situations." Combine that with great hands, the best route running skills on the team, and 4.4 speed? Sign me up, please. Averaging almost 20 yards per reception the last two years.
62 Blake DeChristopher – Offensive Tackle, r-Senior, 6’5, 312lbs
It sounds like DeChristopher will find himself playing guard in the NFL, and there is nothing wrong with that. Some offensive linemen are just better playing in what we call a "phone booth" setting, where they are one on one with the defensive lineman. If this scouting report holds true, you can expect DeChristopher to be selected by a power offense in the NFL.
68 Jayme Brooks – Offensive Guard, r-Senior, 6’2, 307lbs
Same holds true for this scouting report as does the previous. Guy is a power offensive lineman who is compactly built but solid. Ankle injuries are not good for offensive linemen, but if he can prove healthy he might be a late round or free agent option who can add depth and developmental potential.
81 Jarrett Boykin – Wide Receiver, Senior, 6’2, 219lbs
Big receiver with a lot of experience, and if his speed checks out (meaning less than 4.6) he will get a shot in the NFL. Interesting that he is the most NFL ready receiver on the team, and Coale is the best route-runner and has the best hands. That must mean that Boykin is supremely talented and athletic enough to step in right away. He has been very productive as the Hokies’ top receiver over the last two years, and is definitely their big play guy. His hands are huge, and they dwarf the football. High upside as a red zone threat as well. This is probably the top senior prospect on the team, in my opinion.
4 David Wilson – Running Back, Junior, 5’10, 201 lbs
This kid could be a breakout star in 2011, and it would not shock me to see him lead the conference in rushing. That often happens when a productive backup takes over for a very productive back like Ryan Williams. I have seen in countless times, over and over again. I love running backs who can split out wide and be every down backs. That gives an offense so much versatility. I think he will need a huge year to leave early, but he is a top of the line NFL prospect for the next couple of years. I mentioned he is a three down contributor earlier, but I think he is four down. He is also a fantastic return man. Simply put–he is a playmaker and could be the best overall player on Virginia Tech’s roster.
20 Jayron Hosley – Cornerback, Junior, 5’10, 170lbs
Would love to see Hosley add some weight this offseason and become a bump corner to complete his game. No question he has the ball skills to make it in the NFL, and could contribute right away as a nickel corner. I cannot wait to see the follow up to his nine interception season. I agree that it is going to be nearly impossible for him to repeat that kind of season, but if he does, I expect him to go high in the draft, probably in the top 50.