The Denver Broncos sent their full contingent to the Senior Bowl once again, and this time, I'm not so sure they found their first round pick but at least they found their defensive coordinator.
Draft analyst Michael Schottey initially reported that he saw Broncos head coach John Fox and former Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio talking at the Senior Bowl, and while that could have just been a casual chat, the two ex-Panthers coaches eventually wound up reuniting as Broncos coaches on Saturday.
I think it's safe to assume that coaching for Denver at least snuck into the conversation.
With Del Rio on board and Dennis Allen off to the Oakland Raiders, a lot of people around the web including guys I really respect are saying that the Broncos have upgraded at defensive coordinator and the Raiders actually downgraded at head coach by firing Hue Jackson.
I'm not so sure that in the long term, the Raiders downgraded, but I definitely think the Broncos upgraded at defensive coordinator. A Jaguars season ticket holder that I talked to said the resurgence of the defense in 2011 was more because of coordinator Mel Tucker than Del Rio, but there's no ignoring what Del Rio was able to do in the early stages of his Jags career with a young defense, even if it was built by Tom Coughlin's regime.
That being said, my last Broncos mock draft was very offensive oriented, and a lot of people didn't like it, which is understandable. I see the Broncos offense as lacking proven talent right now, though I do think there are pieces in place. The Broncos got a lot out of Willis McGahee, and who knows if the tight ends will develop as planned. I think those will be two positions the Broncos look to address either via free agency or the draft, but preferably I'd like to see a tight end added through free agency.
I also keep seeing a lot of inside linebackers drafted by Denver, guys like Vontaze Burfict, Dont'a Hightower, and Luke Kuechly. I have questions about all three guys, but if you want my honest opinion, I wouldn't take Burfict or Kuechly in the first round, and while Kuechly still shows up in my full first-round mock, Burfict has made his way out.
Hightower looks like a legit first round pick, and I wouldn't mind seeing him come to Denver, but I think that's being a bit too impatient with Nate Irving. Yes, I realize the guy couldn't sniff the field this past year, and that seriously concerns me, but I'd like to give him more than just one year. The guy was a beast at NC State and for whatever reason, it takes guys more time to adjust to the NFL level sometimes. Maybe he has a breakout camp.
Another thing I've been seeing pop up more and more is the Broncos trading D.J. Williams. Obviously it's not being reported by anyone, but a lot of fans and analysts think it could happen because Williams is sort of in the prime of his career and Wesley Woodyard is a "budding star" type of guy.
Personally, I think you have to sell high, even if D.J. did just have a great season. I think right now you could get maybe a third round pick for him.
I do think the Broncos need to address inside linebacker. You have to bring in a veteran guy or even against my personal preference, bring in another draft pick to help out, because while Joe Mays made some nice plays last year, he whiffed on too many tackles and just hurt us down the stretch at times.
Right now, I really don't know how I'd rank the Broncos' top needs. In no particular order, running back, safety, defensive tackle, inside linebacker, wide receiver, cornerback, and backup quarterback come to mind, as well as adding additional pass rushers and depth on the offensive line.
And we're talking about a team that ripped off six straight wins and won their division, made the playoffs, and beat the reigning AFC champions too.
Anyways, I'm rambling. Here is my second official Denver Broncos mock draft.
1. First Round, 25th overall: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Not sure if Brockers will fall this far, but someone on the board has to. If not Brockers, you could insert a few names here of guys that I really like, guys like Jerel Worthy (MSU), Fletcher Cox (Miss. St.), or Devon Still (Penn St.), and I would be fine with taking them here. Right now, the flavor of the day is defensive tackle in round one, and a guy who can collapse the pocket and put pressure on the quarterback. I think Brockers can be that guy, and the Broncos could get him because he only has one year of starting experience. I could see him as a guy who grows up to 320-325 and doesn't lose an ounce of athletic ability. He's pretty rocked out at 306-310 right now. Here is my scouting report on Brockers:
Get ready to read this a lot for future LSU defensive line scouting reports, but Michael Brockers is a freakish athlete for his position and should be able to make a significant impact in the NFL. He is the type of guy that could make a similar impact like an Aldon Smith, the kind of guy who rotates in and out of the game but puts up big numbers. Brockers is a long defensive tackle prospect who has great size at 6’6″ 306 pounds with room to grow even bigger and keep his athleticism. He has scheme versatility because of his athletic ability, and I think he has upside as both a pass rusher as well as a run stuffer. He gets off the ball with elite quickness, and has a relentless motor. He had 10 tackles behind the line of scrimmage this past season, and made a huge impact on arguably the best defense in the country on the inside. I would have liked to have seen him go back to LSU selfishly to see him back with that talented crew of players, but he is ready to make the jump to the NFL. He might have a slower development, but I think he can make a significant impact as a rookie and be one of the top defensive tackles in the game if he works hard.
2. Second Round: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
I think it would be a solid idea to keep Doug Martin wearing blue and orange. Better yet, let's not even change the name of his team going from college to the NFL. Martin is a guy who does everything really well, and he is the kind of team player and leader you love to have around on the team. He runs low, runs hard, and has pretty deceptively good speed. I have heard from numerous scouts that Martin has first round grades by some guys. If he can land in Denver in the second round, we should count ourselves pretty lucky. Here is my report on Martin from earlier this season:
Extremely productive running back and will be in his third year starting for the Broncos. Martin is the type of guy who will be an excellent value pick in the draft. He is not the biggest running back, but he is capable of breaking the game wide open with a big run. Powerful running back who is not afraid to stick his shoulder down and challenge anyone willing to take him on. Probably one of the most underrated running backs in the country because Boise State is not a running offense. As pass oriented as the BSU offense is, this guy has been extremely productive from the RB position, and is a solid receiver to boot. Shifty and speedy with a thick lower body, he will be the kind of guy who NFL teams hate to play against because he gives so much effort and can do so many things for your team. Has incredible potential as a zone runner, and could be a major steal on draft weekend. Over the last two years, he has carried the ball 330 times for 2,025 yards and 27 touchdowns, averaging over six yards per carry in the process. Also had 28 receptions for 338 yards and two more touchdowns last year as a junior. Will not go down without a fight, and seems to pride himself on getting yards after contact.
Third Round: Mike Martin, DT, Michigan
There are quite a few reasons why I'd go crazy for this pick, mainly because if the draft turned out like it did in the first two rounds, this would be a great way to supplement those first two picks. I think Martin is a guy who has gone underrated all season long because Michigan's defense was terrible two years ago and Brady Hoke got a majority of the credit for turning it around in their BCS season, but Martin was a cornerstone of that team and he showed me at Senior Bowl week that he is going to come to practice every day with a fire in his belly and give 100 percent effort on every single play. I think it's important that the Broncos start building depth on the defensive line so they can supplement their excellent outside pass rushers. Re-signing Broderick Bunkley, drafting a guy like Brockers, and then adding another player like Mike Martin would instantly take this defensive front to the next level.
Fourth Round: Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa
McNutt is a big receiver with long arms who can give you so much from his position. He is a pretty good blocker, coming from Iowa and is deadly on short slant routes and is a matchup nightmare in the red zone. He is a big target and a former quarterback who understands how to get open despite his lack of elite athletic ability, which is why he won't get drafted in the first two, maybe three or four rounds. He's got big hands and can snatch the ball out of the air with ease. Has a nose for the end zone and is a reliable target. Sometimes he will drop easy passes, but he catches far more than he drops and he can make difficult plays look routine.
Fifth Round (via St. Louis): Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin
I realize Wilson is not tall, but he is a great backup quarterback candidate. I think he has as much potential as any QB outside of Luck and RG3 in this entire draft. He's a great athlete who, when he gets on the run, is deadly accurate and he can make plays. Very strong arm and a great leader. He would be a guy I could easily see us using a later round pick on based on intangibles and potential alone. He has reminded a lot of people of a Doug Flutie, Seneca Wallace, or guy like that. I don't see him as a Drew Brees, but I definitely think if you needed him to start a few games in the NFL, he could be effective.
Fifth Round: Jerry Franklin, MLB, Arkansas
This is a guy who really impressed me by always being around the ball at the East-West Shrine game. I'm not sure if he'd be a starter for us, but he has good potential and hits like a ton of bricks. He had really good production at Arkansas, has good size and instincts, and I think in the fifth round, he's a pretty excellent value. Any time a guy in the SEC has production like he did (93 tackles, 10 tackles for loss last year), I tend to take notice. Not to mention, he is a pretty good athlete. If he has a great combine, I'm not sure he'll fall this far, but we will have to wait and see.