The first waves of free agency have passed and the Denver Broncos have once again come out victorious by adding a trio of Pro-Bowlers in Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward. Glaring needs at cornerback, defensive end and strong safety were filled, as well as shoring up the receiving corps by mention by signing dual threat wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Despite such efforts, the Broncos still have several needs to address and will get a shot at making more bold moves in a few short weeks.
Less than 47 days separates the Broncos and 31 other NFL franchises from one of the pinnacle events in all of sports — the NFL Draft. The following weeks for John Elway and the Broncos Brass will be long and tiresome. Scouts will watch tape to the point they have dreams of prospect’s highlight reels. Area scouts will be able to recite drill performance numbers about a prospect just as easily as they can rehearse the alphabet. No stone will be left unturned and I can guarantee you we are all in for a heck of a ride. Without further adieu, here is my post Free Agency Denver Broncos mock draft.
(1) C.J. Mosley, ILB — University of Alabama
If you flashed back several months ago, NFL scouts and general managers league-wide would be operating under the assumption that there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in Hell that CJ Mosley is available when the Broncos are on the clock with the 31st pick. However, this prediction takes into the account recent rumors that have surfaced in various reports that Mosley’s stock is falling due to underwhelming combine numbers and questions surrounding his health and medical evaluations in Indianapolis. No prospect is a sure bet, but the draft by virtue is a gamble — and I know that John Elway isn’t afraid to make moves and shake up a room. I can’t assure you that Mosley will be there when Denver selections, but I can assure you this:
John Elway wants to win now. There is no doubting this. He will not be satisfied until the sour taste of defeat in Super Bowl 48 is vanquished. Indeed — Elway has the Broncos on the right path, but he also wants to ensure stability in the future. He has mastered the art of recruiting by obtaining some of the largest free agent acquisitions in history. This past off-season, he added General Manager to the checklist of accomplishments as a Denver Bronco. Of all things, he was the guiding force in the rebuilding of a franchise left smoldering in ruin after Josh McDaniel’s year and a half tirade as coach.
The fire that burned inside him as a player still roars on as he conducts his business off the field as the leading personnel member of the Broncos. He knows what it takes to win because he has been there before. When you breakdown the Broncos roster, there are few glaring holes that come out on paper. The offense, with the exception of some offensive line and running back depth looks fantastic. The pass rush has been upgraded and the secondary endured some big time changes in both youth and quality. But there is something missing — and that is something that has been truly missing since Al Wilson retired after the nixed trade with the New York Giants (which would have sent Justin Tuck to the Broncos).
That need is a MIKE linebacker who can stay on the field and make an impact on all three downs, which is something that CJ Mosley brings to the table. I sincerely feel that if Mosley is within striking distance of the Broncos in the first round, Elway and Co. will do what it takes to get him. This is a position the Broncos have neglected to adequately address for quite some time.
Let's face it Broncos Country: Nate Irving isn’t the guy. Joe Mays hit like a truck, but couldn't cover himself with a blanket, so he had to go. Niko Koutivides. . . what did he ever do? Squat. Remember Nate Webster? I do -- but not for his play on the field; just the annoyance of his helmet flying off every twelve snaps. Enough is enough. Denver needs a realistic, long-term solution to the perpetual problem at the middle and that answer is CJ Mosley. He is the kind of team leader and player this defense needs to get to the next level and can play all three downs. Can you imagine a linebacking corps of Trevathan, Mosley and Miller? Could bring some of the more seasoned fans memories of the Orange Crush defense back in the day -- but Mosley isn't all the Broncos need -- they are going to need some more help and they can get that by using their second round selection on. . .
(2) DeMarcus Lawrence, DE — Boise State University
The Broncos have a lot of potential with their pass rush, but it would be hard to argue that it isn’t an area they can address further. There is no doubt that a healthy Von Miller coupled with former All-Pro DeMarcus Ware will be a pass rushing nightmare for opposing offenses, but the Broncos only have Malik Jackson (who showed tremendous growth in his second season) and Quanterus Smith (who has potential, but is still unknown) and could use depth at the defensive end position.
DeMarcus Lawrence has the ability to be a future starter and impact player in the NFL. In the Boise State Bronco defense, he played virtually every position on the defensive line — and has the schematic versatility to contribute immediately as a rookie as a 4-3 rush end or 3-4 outside linebacker. In this scenario, Jackson would compete and split time with Derek Wolfe at LDE, while Lawrence and Smith would rotate in waves to spell DeMarcus Ware, who will likely be capped in snap percentage for effectiveness.
As you witnessed in the Super Bowl, a team who is superior in the trenches can rattle even the most prolific of offenses. Adding a player of Lawrence’s caliber has not only immediate impacts in 2014, but long-term benefits for the future. You can never have enough pass rushers and it would be apt for the Broncos to go to the draft well again to obtain one.
(3) Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB — University of Nebraska
The Broncos were able to sign ex-Patriots CB Aqib Talib to a lucrative six year contract this off-season and also retained veteran defensive backs Chris Harris and Tony Carter on one year deals. Kayvon Webster will be entering his second year with the squad and flashed some skills as a rookie in 2013. Despite that, don't be surprised to se the Broncos booster their secondary early in the 2014 draft.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste is a quality prospect whose size (6’2", 210) and athleticism (4.45 speed) will be appealing to teams looking to get bigger at the position. Has two years of quality starting experience for the Cornhuskers and really came into his own as a redshirt senior, picking off four passes and accumulating over 40 tackles. Additionally, he has extensive experience playing in press man coverage and would be a great fit for the coverage scheme's in Jack Del Rio's defense. At the end of the third round, this is a good value selection for the Broncos who snag a prospect that rounds out there defensive secondary.
(4) Billy Turner, OL - North Dakota State University
A position you could see get prioritized a lot higher on draft day than illustrated in this initial MHR mock is offensive line. Zane Beadles left in free agency to Jacksonville, Chris Kuper retired and the Broncos are all of a sudden down two offensive guards. Reports in the media have suggested that the Broncos will kick Orlando Franklin inside to guard and move Chris Clark, who performed well in place of Ryan Clady, to right tackle for the 2014 season. Manny Ramirez is expected to stay at center and Louis Vasquez at RG. The Broncos are very high on 2013 draft selection Vinston Painter, who was recently promoted from the Broncos practice squad and signed to the active roster -- but they definitely could use help at the position.
Very few people know of Billy Turner outside of North Dakota, but don’t be surprised when his name is called fairly early on Draft Day 2014. Turner was a four year starter and three time National Champion at left tackle for the Bison, who played so well at the D-I AA level, he was invited to participate in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Turner was able to hold his own against top senior prospects from big time schools and his stock is reportedly on the rise.
It has been emphasized that Turner is likely to make the switch inside to left guard as a pro, which is where he feels he can make the most impact in the NFL. If the Broncos don't opt for one of the top guard prospects such as David Yankey or Gabe Jackson earlier in the draft, expect them to use a selection in the middle rounds to get a guy who can compete for a starting job.
(5) Brian Stork, C — Florida State University
Brian Stork is one of the most underrated offensive line prospects in the entire draft. This is a guy who started 40 games for the Florida State Seminoles over the course of his career and played every snap on offense in the National Championship victory over Auburn. By all accounts he has great character and leadership qualities. What team wouldn't want to pick the 2013 Remington Trophy Winner, All-ACC and All-American center prospect to bolster their offensive line?
Stork has experience playing all three interior line positions and even saw looks at tackle in spring camps when was the only player post-2012 that had more than one start for the Seminoles. Center might not be the biggest need for the Broncos, but they do need more interior depth on their offensive line and the selection of Stork gives them flexibility on the interior and allows Orlando Franklin and Chris Clark to stick at tackle. The selection of Stork and the prior one of Turner solidifies the Broncos needs in the offensive trenches for years to come.
(6) Jeff Janis, WR — Saginaw Valley State University
With the addition of Emmanuel Sanders at wide receiver, it is unlikely that the Broncos will spend a premium draft selection on the position, but it is certainly an area that can be improved thanks to the tremendous depth this class brings. Jeff Janis is a small school prospect who is unknown to most, but impressed with a strong performance at the combine and during the East-West Shrine activities.
His combination of size and speed make him an attractive option for teams looking for a versatile player with the ability to stretch the field vertically. For a small school prospect, Janis runs good routes and should have the ability to make an impact in the NFL if he can master the nuances of the position and adjust to the significant level of competition the league brings in comparison to his humble collegiate background.
(7) Zack Kerr, DT — University of Delaware
Small school prospect who is making his way up draft boards due to his tremendous size and performance at the combine. He was a 2013 ALL-CAA First Team selection who accumulated 57 tackles, including 5.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles as a senior for the Delaware Blue Hens. Kerr is a prospect the Broncos have scouted and interviewed through the off-season process, and could work his way into a reserve role and eventual replacement for Kevin Vickerson.
So Broncos Country, how do you feel about this mock draft? What does your mock draft for the Broncos look like? Sound off in the comments section and let your voice be heard!