In the second round of the NFL Draft, the Broncos went for offensive line - a clear need for this team as it lost veteran Orlando Franklin in free agency and is still looking for the best combination of players on the line beside Pro Bowlers Louis Vasquez and Ryan Clady.
Choosing offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo, the Broncos went with a local guy known for his impressive speed and overall athleticism, something no doubt gained through his ski-racing days as a kid growing up in California.
But at 6-foot-6 and 311 pounds, Sambrailo has more than just speed to bring to the table, as Mauss notes in his Q&A. Sambrailo started 11 games as a senior, missing two early games from a minor knee sprain. Named All-Mountain West, Sambrailo protected the blindside of a highly sought-after quarterback in this year's draft class, Garrett Grayson.
With Sambrailo at left tackle, Grayson threw for a school record 4,006 yards. CSU's offense broke several single-season records, including yards per game (480.9), passing yards (4,181), passing yards per attempt (9.4) and passing touchdowns (33).
Not to be overlooked is the fact that four of the five starters on the Rams' offensive line in 2013 graduated, leaving Sambrailo as the lone veteran for the line. And though Sambrailo played mainly left tackle, he has played tackle and guard on both sides.
Those explain why Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak has pointed out Sambrailo's leadership as well as being a "quick study."
MHR - One of the things that impressed Elway and Kubiak was Sambrailo's athleticism, particularly speed. Do you agree that is more important than strength for an offensive lineman?
Jeremy Mauss - In the Broncos scheme, Sambrailo's athleticism is a great strength and will be beneficial in their offensive line scheme, especially if the Broncos make Sambrailo a pulling offensive lineman.
Also, speed is great at any position and can be useful. The one thing he can't change is that he is not broad in the shoulders but getting stronger is something he should be able to improve on in the NFL.
The nutrition, workout and conditioning are much better with the Broncos compared to college, so I'd be shocked if he doesn't get into even better shape.
MHR - The Broncos always say they look for Best Player Available in the Draft, and many fans have been screaming for O-line help. Why do you think the Broncos got BPA out of Ty Sambrailo in the second round?
Jeremy Mauss - Way back early in the draft process - around January - Sambrailo was expected to be a first-round pick, but that did slip some with his Senior Bowl performance. Though that may have been an overreaction to a small sample size of performance.
He was a staple at left tackle blocking for quarterback Garrett Grayson and was rarely - if ever - beat. Yes, some will say playing in the Mountain West is not elite competition, but the league does boast some very good defensive fronts from the likes of Boise State, Utah State and a few others. Sambrailo equipped himself fine against fellow future pros.
A knock on Sambrailo was his lack of brut strength off the line, but with Gary Kubiak likely bringing back his zone blocking scheme to the Broncos, it will not be necessary for Sambrailo to always have to overpower his defender.
MHR - In our scouting report we mentioned Sambrailo being good for pass protection but needing work in run blocking. How do you agree/disagree with that assessment?
Jeremy Mauss - I would say he needs work in the run blocking game just because he can't really push around a much larger defender when locked up and can get pushed back. However, he is quick enough to get the first push off the line and derail the defender, but he won't be a tackle who will just push a defensive lineman down field and completely out of the play.
Pass protection he is much better compared to run blocking and that is why he played the left side of the line for Colorado State as he was responsible for very few sacks.
MHR - Pro Football Focus did not think very highly of Sambrailo, noting he "lacks the power and pedigree to be that guy right now." But Elway and Kubiak have mentioned having Sambrailo compete for the right tackle spot this year. Can he do it?
Jeremy Mauss - While I am not familiar with the offensive line of the Broncos, there is a lack of strength off the line for Sambrailo and that is ultimately what dropped him down in the Draft.
He is a very experienced player with 43 career starts under his belt. I think Sambrailo can contribute in his rookie year as a backup and a rotational guy, but he will need a year in an NFL locker room to bulk up and then be ready to start in his second year.
Jeremy Mauss - Injuries have never been an issue as you can tell from him starting 43 games in his career. He is very athletic and quick off of the line of scrimmage, which gives him an advantage in blocking and pushing around the oncoming defensive lineman.
He also can get down field to help in run blocking and has quick lateral movement. He mostly played left tackle, but he was thrown in at right tackle and guard, so he is versatile on the line.
Weaknesses are that despite being 6-foot-6 and 311 pounds, Sambrailo is just not overly strong, has a gut and does not have broad shoulders. The former could be fixed in an NFL locker room. He also doesn't have great balance and can get knocked around. Sometimes he has a tough time stopping or locking up an oncoming pass rusher.
However, his athleticism plays right into the zone-blocking scheme, and I expect the Broncos to use that athleticism so that he avoids having to go one-one-one directly with oncoming pass rushers in passing situations when possible.
MHR - Several Mountain West players were drafted or taken as UDFAs. What does it say about the conference strength (or not) when teams like the Broncos are taking serious looks at local talent?
Jeremy Mauss - This year was actually down compared to the past few years with higher draft picks, but the conference overall is performing better at the college level with three teams winning 10 or more games this past year.
Look for a good portion of these UDFAs to stick around with teams, but there definitely is more talent overall. Players going in the first two rounds probably will be between one or two every year.
In short, the depth is better, but there the elite talent going high in the first round or three or more going in the top 64 picks is going to be rare.
Jeremy Mauss - I thought Matt Miller would have had a good chance to make a roster spot before he was waived a few days ago. He missed most of the 2014 season with an ankle injury where he suffered ligament damage and that has set him back and hurt his pro potential
Rains is still with the team after the rookie mini-camp, so he must have made a good impression. He was a 24-game starter with the Cowboys after attending junior college and was a key figure in the running game that performed well regardless of which running back was carrying the ball.