ESPN's NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. held a conference call today to give some insight into what he believes will happen during next month's NFL Draft. During the conference call, he touched on what he expects the Broncos on draft day.
Kiper believes the Broncos first round needs have remained unchanged after free agency, and lists one surprising position as an option for the Broncos in the first round.
"I think when you look at what they need right now, and I think it’s still the same thing going in," Kiper said on Thursday in a conference call with NFL media. "You think about the offensive line, you think about an inside linebacker, another receiving entity, so I would say offensive line or linebacker at that particular point for the Broncos would make a lot of sense."
We all know we need offensive line in the draft. A right tackle in the first round is the easy choice right now. Names like T.J Clemmings, Jake Fisher, Ereck Flowers and others are among the names being mocked to the Broncos. However, Kipers includes Inside Linebacker as an option which surprises me some.
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Many of us believe the Broncos are good at inside linebacker with Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan starting inside, but could the Broncos be looking at someone else? Some names that Kiper says the Broncos might consider are UCLA's Eric Kendricks, Mississippi States Benardrick McKinney, Clemson's Stephone Anthony, and possibly even TCU's Paul Dawson.
Kiper touched on the Broncos right tackle need later in the conference. He noted that he doesn't believe that LSU's La'el Collins, or Miami's Ereck Flowers will be there, but that Pittsburgh's T.J. Clemmings could be an option for the Broncos at 28.
"If you look at T.J. Clemmings from Pitt, played right tackle, [a] late-developing football player — former D-lineman didn’t play football until late in his high school career," Kiper said. "He was a right tackle at Pitt, struggled at left tackle at the Senior Bowl practices. He’s the kind of guy at that point, he would make sense. He’s a developmental tackle prospect who, as I said, played very well at that spot. Left tackle may be asking too much. Clemmings may be the guy that’s there. I think Flowers or Collins would be a bit more highly rated if they slid down that far."
I'd like the addition of Clemmings. He would step in as a day one starter for the Broncos. He has the athleticism to do well in Kubiak's offense and is still a rather raw prospect.
With Gary Kubiak coming back to Denver, the fullback position will be returning to the Broncos offense. The Broncos currently do not have a fullback of the roster. Some believe running back Juwan Thompson could make that transition(I believe he will be the Broncos #2 back), and tight end Virgil Green has filled that role in the past. Recently signed tight end/fullback Joe Don Duncan expects to get a look at fullback as well.
Kiper notes that the fullback position is being "phased out" of the NFL, but that there is a handful of prospects who could be drafted as a fullback in this year's draft.
"But the pure fullback — a versatile guy like Jalston Fowler out of Alabama, Lee Ward at Stanford, Aaron Ripkowski at Oklahoma, Michael Burton [of] Rutgers, Connor Neighbors out of LSU," he continued, "There’s a few like that but then there’s the projected guys that maybe if they can at least be adequate blocking then maybe you can live with it. But a lot of these teams want the dominant blocker that can actually catch it adequately—forget about running, they’re not going to run the ball."
Fowler is a favorite of mine. He's believed to be the top fullback prospect in this year's draft class, and he can do it all. He can block, he can run, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. The other ones mentioned are more of your traditional fullbacks. They line up in the backfield and look to hit someone.
Kiper believes only one or two of these guys will be drafted. Alabama's Fowler and possibly guys like Tyler Varga of Yale or South Dakota State's Zach Zenner. At the end of the day, it depends on what you're looking for in the fullback says Kiper.
"It depends on what you’re looking for," Kiper said. "If you want a guy who can run, catch and maybe not help you as much as a lead blocker, there are several of those. You want the versatile guy, it’s Fowler. If you want the lead blocker, there’s a couple. It just depends what you’re looking for."
It will be interesting to see what kind of fullback the Broncos are looking for. A versatile guy like Fowler, Varga, and Zenner? Or a more traditional guy like Connor Neighbors or Aaron Ripkowski.
I think the Broncos will spend a late draft pick on the fullback. A guy like Fowler might go in the 5th or 6th rounds, but if they decide to pass on him they could use one of their 7th rounders on the guy they want. I'd also expect the Broncos to sign one or two undrafted free agent fullbacks after the draft.