Happy End of March to all of you involved in the Mile High Report community. For my final entry this month, I have concocted a full seven round mock draft for the Denver Broncos, which includes their finalized compensatory selections. Feel free to sound off in the comments regarding your thoughts on my draft and discuss who you would like to see the Broncos draft in 2015. Cheers!
FIRST ROUND (#28) — Malcom Brown, DT — Texas
The Broncos are thin on the interior part of their defense with Sylvester Williams and Marvin Austin as the sole defensive tackles on the roster. The former hasn't lived up to his potential and the latter is a free agent at the end of the season. I would expect the Broncos to do their best to address this earlier than later and have little they will use a top two selection on the defensive front.
Several reports have surfaced over the past month showing a significant interest in Malcom Brown from Texas. His junior season with the Longhorns was one of the most productive by a defensive lineman in college football. Racking up an astounding 71 tackles, 13 for loss and 6.5 sacks — Brown was a nightmare for offensive lineman to defend against and has the size (6’3 - 320 pounds) and athleticism to be a prototypical nose tackle in Wade Phillip’s defense.
I sincerely doubt that Brown is available at #28, but I am projecting this pick with the assumption that the Broncos would move up to get him he fell within range of doing so given their alleged interest in him as a player and the particular need for a stud on the interior of our defensive line for the future.
SECOND ROUND (#59) — Jake Fisher, OT — Oregon
A lot of mocks have Jake Fisher from Oregon sneaking into the late first round, but my gut tells me that isn’t going be the case. I feel he is a very good player, but not a player a team is going to overdraft. By the time the second round rolls around, there will likely be 5-7 offensive tackles off the boards, and guys who project best to right tackle don’t often get picked that high when the boards start to shuffle. Teams won’t feel the need to reach for players at the position with a wealth of other positions such as running back, wide receiver and pass rusher that will have top-tier names available in the early part of the round, which is why I think Fisher is a plausible option for the Broncos in the second round.
Fisher is a master technician with good execution and athleticism — all of which are traits crucial to being a successful piece in the zone blocking system, which he understands well given his experience with the Ducks. Discipline and a penchant for penalties are primary issues with Fisher that will need to be addressed, however is ability to finish blocks and pancake opponents will have him starting as a rookie, regardless of where he ends up being selected.
Furthermore, his addition to the Broncos would allow the team some options with 2014 third round pick Michael Schofield, who has the ability to play right tackle or left guard. With the team utilizing their first two selections on upgrading the trenches, they can begin to focus on other needs and options with their other eight selections in the draft.
THIRD ROUND (#92) — Eric Rowe, DB — Utah
With Rahim Moore’s exit in free agency to the Houston Texans, the Denver Broncos signed former Baltimore Raven’s safety Darian Stewart to a two-year deal this off-season. With T.J. Ward and David Bruton the only other safeties with quality NFL experience on the roster, the Broncos will indeed be selecting a defensive back in this years draft for future long-term concerns at the position.
Eric Rowe is one of the most versatile, yet overlooked defensive backs in this years class. He has experience at both corner and safety which will be an added value to his stock as the end of April approaches. He has great size, length and is a willing and physical defender in run support. Moreover, he has extensive experience on special teams which is essential for young defensive backs looking to make their way in this league.
A lot of scouts feel that his body of work translates best to a free safety role in the NFL,which is the spot I would project him to play in Wade Phillip’s defense. With the spread and multiple wide receiver sets being commonplace in today’s NFL, the old-breed of safeties have begun to die out, with more teams looking at defensive backs such as Rowe who have quality coverage skills and can battle the rigors of the aerial onslaught that is changing the landscape of the NFL.
Rowe certainly fits the mold of what GM’s, scouts and talent evaluators are looking at for the position and he will be selected on the second day of the draft due to that. He would be an exceptional value for the Broncos who are in dire need of a safety for the future at the position and could very well start in place of Stewart as a rookie.
FOURTH ROUND (#133) — Jarvis Harrison, OG — Texas A&M
Based on tape and undeniable upside, Jarvis Harrison is one of the most gifted offensive lineman prospects in the entire draft. Despite this, there are few scouting agencies and outlets that have him going in the early parts of the draft. The question is "Why?" — There are two reasons for this: teams questioning his dedication to the game and issues concerning his conditioning and if he can maintain proper shape to excel in the professional league.
At 6’4 and 330 pounds, he demonstrated his athletic ability at the combine posting eye-popping numbers for a man his size. He is extremely powerful, agile and gets to the second level and is very fundamental in his pass protecting and run blocking assignments. On a few occasions, he played spot duty at left tackle for the Aggies and played very well in those moments.
If you light a fire under his ass, he is a guy with Pro-Bowl talent and is an immediate plug-in-play starter at left guard from Day 1. The risk is what as outlined in the first paragraph, but in the fourth round it’s a risk you certainly can take when you need help on the offensive line. By selecting both Fisher and Harrison, the Broncos have long-term options on the offensive front who can come in and compete with those already on the roster and make the OTA’s, camps and preseason a very interesting situation to look after.
FIFTH ROUND (#143) — Nick O'Leary, TE — Florida State
Virgil Green and Owen Daniels will be the first and second string tight ends entering the 2015 season, but there is still room for another player to be added to compete alongside Dominique Jones and Joe Don Duncan as the third tight end on the roster.
Nick O’Leary isn’t the most athletic tight end in the draft and does come with limited upside. He isn’t in the mold of great vertical threats who can stretch defenses like Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham or Julius Thomas, but what he brings to the table in regard to his skill set is certainly something the Broncos could use moving froward.
He is a true football player that does all the little things right. Whether it is blocking in the run game, pass protection or being a nice safety valve as a move tight end when he gets to the NFL, he gets the job done and was widely regarded as one of the best tight ends in all of college football. His first impact in the league will likely be started on special teams as he gets accoladed to the demands of the NFL, but he has the ability to be a quality number two tight end in the league.
When I see him play, I cannot help but be reminded of long-time Indianapolis Colt Dallas Clark.
FIFTH ROUND (#164) — Darren Waller, WR/TE — Georgia Tech
Wide receiver isn’t a paramount need for the Broncos entering the 2015 NFL Draft, with a trio that features Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and second-year player Cody Latimer. Andre Caldwell is a serviceable depth option and number for target, but the Broncos need to keep their corps amassed and their interest in Waller has been discussed since the beginning of the prospect process several months back.
With Darren Waller, you are hoping that his size (6’6, 238 pounds) and speed (4.45 in the forty yard dash) can end up making a difference in the league. The production numbers aren’t there — as he only accumulated 51 catches for 971 yards and 9 touchdowns in his four years at Georgia Tech, but with some quality tutelage and coaching, he could be a terror to defend in the redzone and could help replace that threat which as lost from the Broncos when Julius Thomas packed his bags and headed to Jacksonville.
Another positive in regard to Walker is his run blocking abilities, which were used quite often with the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option attack. Whether you project him at wide receiver or tight end, Waller has a low-ceiling yet incredibly high floor which will make him a target of interest for a myriad of clubs on the third day of the draft.
The Broncos seemed to do pretty well with snagging Thomas in the first round all those years ago, so perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go back to the Wramblin’ Wreck well and hope lightning strikes once more.
SIXTH ROUND (#203) — Chris Bonner, QB— CSU-Pueblo
The quarterback class of 2015 is underwhelming to say the least, but it is a virtual lock the Broncos will use a selection on getting a quarterback to help prepare for the uncertainty that looms over the position beyond this season. I think it is a safe assumption to say the Broncos future signal caller for the long-term won’t be found in this years draft, but it does offer the potential for a back-up who can be developed over the next several seasons.
Bonner is a well-decorated collegiate player from the Division II ranks that has untapped potential and upside that few in this years group possess. He has the size, athleticism and arm strength teams covet at the position, but needs work with his accuracy and will need time to adjust to level of competition in the NFL and obtain a better grasp of reading defensive coverages. While it is likely he will never become a starting caliber quarterback in the NFL, there is nothing wrong with using a selection to get a prospect who can be developed, refined and hopefully be a player who can start in a pinch if necessary.
I feel much better with the Broncos selecting someone like Bonner on day three of the draft than using an early selection on Garrett Grayson or Bryce Petty in the second day of the draft. Here is a more in-depth review of Bonner’s play from Matt Waldman of Football Outsiders that gives a great breakdown of what he offers going forward.
SEVENTH ROUND (#250) — Terrance Plummer, ILB — Central Florida
I had originally mocked Plummer to the Broncos back in my initial mock in January and I still believe he is a quality option for the team at inside linebacker. He is a fiery defender who plays well downhill and would give the Broncos some competition on the inside, even though they have a variety of options available.
At this point in the draft, the Broncos likely won’t be finding any all-stars, but three consecutive selections at the tail end of the seventh round will allow them to get special teams contributors and players who would likely be highly sought after priority free agents.
SEVENTH ROUND (#251) — Martin Efedi, DE — Memphis
Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe are scheduled free agents at the end of the year, so it wouldn’t hurt for the Broncos to select a player who has experience at every position on the defensive front for the Tigers. He is the school’s all-time leader in sacks and plays with a high motor and has the size desired to excel in the NFL.
SEVENTH ROUND (#252) — Craig Mager, CB — Texas State
The team has an absolutely stacked roster at corner with Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., Bradley Roby, Kayvon Webster, Omar Bolden and Tony Carter, but it never hurts to add another player who can help contribute on special teams. Mayer is a hard-working player who doesn’t shy away from run defense and has good coverage skills. There are concerns with his length (less than 30" arms) and the level of competition he faced, but he gives it his all every snap.
High character prospect who took care of his sisters since he was a teenager due to his mother passing away and not having a father in his life. Will likely go above and beyond for a team willing to draft him to ensure his families stability and well-being. Definitely a prospect to root for wherever he ends up.