Brandon Spano has reported that an inside source with the Broncos is claiming they are looking to move ahead in the draft and grab Stephon Gilmore, elite cornerback out of South Carolina. With the draft mere days away, there is no doubt a lot of positioning being done by teams in an attempt to increase and decrease the value of certain players so many of these rumors are just that, rumors.
However, with cornerback being a proverbial black hole in the Broncos defense opposite Champ Bailey it is not outside the realm of imagination to think the Broncos would very much like to get an elite prospect at a position of serious need before he moves off the board, assuming of course he falls within their range.
So with that in mind I'd like to look at the prospect that is Stephon Gilmore and what exactly it would take for the Broncos to conceivably move into a position to get him.
Stephon Gilmore has played in all 40 games for the Gamecocks over the past three years. In those games Gilmore has recorded eight interceptions, four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. Some of his strengths include good speed, his playmaking ability, great run defender, and durable. On the other hand he's knocked for being a boom or bust player, sometimes giving up the big plays.
Scouting Reports: (full articles linked for your convenience)
Man Coverage: Plays mostly in press-bail or off-coverage. Flashes a tough, aggressive punch after the snap in rare press coverage occasions, but may not have the strength to knock NFL receivers off their routes. Not elite transitioning forward from backpedal, will take an extra step or loop a bit when closing on slants. Lacks elite recovery and straight-line speed to stay with faster wideouts down the field if beaten on a double move or losing a step off the line.
Zone Coverage: Fits best in a zone system like he currently plays. Knows his, and others', assignments on every play. Comes out initial read quickly to stop the underneath route dead. Quick feet in off coverage to adjust to inside routes, even when playing outside technique. Explodes to plays in front of him, cutting down his target or wrapping up if able to line up the receiver. Forces turnovers and dropped passes with his ability to arrive strong at the receiver with the ball.
Ball Skills: Makes quarterbacks pay for poor throws with centerfielder-like instincts and hands. Uses his height in full advantage on jump balls, make difficult catches with his hands extended away from his frame. Excellent elusiveness after the catch that shows as a punt returner. Has solid hands and typically makes the right decision to fair catch, but does not have breakaway speed and will dance or move east-west instead of heading straight upfield.
Run Support: Takes run support very seriously, seeking out contact. Chops down runs to his side when able, evades most receivers blocks with quickness and quick hands -- though NFL receivers will have regular success holding him up on the outside because of his slight build.
Tackling: Aggressive hitter in the secondary who plays without regard to his own safety. Best when coming downhill and cutting down ballcarriers with a low shoulder. Constantly looking to strip the football from ballcarriers while other defenders are making the tackle. Man-up tackling is a challenge for him, however, when facing a strong runner who lowers his pads or larger receivers with the length to stiff-arm him. Plays on coverage units. Brought on edge blitzes regularly when front four isn't getting there, uses quickness and big hits to create turnovers from the blind side.
Intangibles: Left after junior season with 40 career starts. Quiet, hard-working player who consistently gets praise from coaches and teammates for his work ethic and attitude. Puts in time in the film room, knows his opponents and defensive scheme inside and out. No worries about on-field effort, brings tenacious attitude on every play.
Gilmore was a highly recruited player who showed moments of brilliance in his career at South Carolina. He broke out in 2010 with 79 tackles, three interceptions, three sacks and six tackles for a loss. Gilmore is a playmaker who showed a nice mix of speed and physicality.
In his final collegiate season in 2011, Gilmore was inconsistent. He made some great plays, followed by some gaffes. There were good games and bad games for Gilmore even though he played on a talented defense with a great front four.
Gilmore has an ideal skill set with his size and speed. He will be better off in a zone-based system that gives him some help. He may not have the agility to be a bump-and-run corner in a man-based scheme.
There are definitely tools for an NFL coaching staff to work with. Gilmore has a lot of upside, and if he lands with the correct team with the right coaching he could be a special player. Because of his inconsistency, he looks like an early second-round pick, but he could sneak into the end of the first round if performs well at the scouting combine.
Gilmore has impressive footwork for his size, which he uses well in a shuffle-shuffle-bail technique at the line of scrimmage. Although this isn't considered the most efficient technique, Gilmore makes it work, allowing him to use his huge frame to mirror and cut off receivers early in their routes. He is a natural cover man who can jam at the line and stay with a receiver in his hip and use his strength and length to make plays on the ball and finish plays.
Gilmore loses a lot of his fluidity when working in zone or off-man, and his eyes slow his feet in that he doesn't diagnose routes as quickly and will get his feet stuck in the ground prior to breaking. Gilmore was able to rely on size, strength and athleticism to cover in college, but he will be exposed by the technically sound veteran receivers in the league. He will struggle when forced to work within specific schemes that don't allow him to play freely.
It's generally agreed by most draft experts that Gilmore is the 3rd best cornerback in the 2012 draft behind Morris Claiborne and Dre Kirkpatrick. Gilmore, initially considered an early 2nd or late round 1st pick, has found his value rising thanks to a great combine performance and now is slated in many mocks to go as early as #7 to the Jaguars (Peter King), #9 to the Panthers (nflmocks.com), #10 to the Bills (walterfootball.com) and #20 to the Titans (nfl.com); in many cases far ahead of Dre Kirkpatrick.
The Broncos own 7 picks in the 2012 draft at this moment (1.25, 2.25, 3.24, 4.13, 4.25, 5.2, 6.18). Total charted value for all of those picks is 1,390. So, unless the Broncos are willing to trade future picks it looks like we'd need Gilmore to drop out of the top 12 (the idea being players valued at 1250 or higher would simply cost the Broncos too much).
If Spano's report is believed to be accurate, we can safely assume that the Broncos will only consider Gilmore if he slides out of the top 10. If Gilmore makes it past the Bills at 10 it is entirely likely that he will sail safely all the way to 14, putting him in definite reaching distance for a Denver trade. The 14th overall selection is owned by the Cowboys and is worth 1,100 points. A swap of our firsts leaves Dallas in need of 480 points, quite possibly ensuring that we'd need to also give up our second and third to move up the required number of slots. For my tastes, this is still too much.
I would think that if Gilmore slides past ten a gambling mentality could test the teams all the way to #20 to see if he falls. The Titans would no doubt be thrilled if Gilmore was still on their big board when #20 came up. If the Broncos could get to #19 they could conceivably make a trade with the Bears with their 1st and 3rd, a much more palpable trade in my opinion.
Rumors or reality, it seems pretty clear the Broncos are especially looking to fill in a long needed hole at CB and whether that guy is Gilmore, Kirkpatrick or another prospect it the Broncos may be primed to make moves sooner rather than later.