ESPN's NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. released the second version of 2016 NFL Mock draft earlier today and he has the Denver Broncos addressing the offensive line in the first round of the draft. I
In his first mock draft of the year, he had the Broncos selecting Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott in the first round. In his second version, he has the Broncos picking a different Ohio State player. This time, Kiper has the Broncos selecting Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker.
Here is explanation for why
The Broncos should be better along the offensive line in Year 2 of Gary Kubiak's tenure, and Decker is the kind of athlete and run-blocker who can thrive in Kubiak's system. The Broncos aren't going to be able to shop for starting tackles in free agency, given the type of talent they'll be attempting to retain, and Decker offers good value here.
Here is a scouting report for Decker from NFL.com.
STRENGTHS: Good height and overall frame. Endowed with very good core strength and an ability to match power at the point of attack. Tough guy who scouts believe has the locker room presence and field demeanor to be an instant leader along an offensive line. Can be a brute in double teams and on downblocks. Fires into his target and drives his feet through contact, blowing open creases into lanes. Doesn’t give lip service to second level blocks and looks to strike a memorable lick on linebackers and safeties. At his best in vertical pass sets where he is smooth and natural. Gains good ground with his first two kick slides. Flat-backed pass sets with ready hands, a hearty punch and good hand placement. Has hand strength to snatch and control a centered block. Three-year starter with a winner’s pedigree. Played basketball in high school which helped with his body control.
WEAKNESSES: Has a tendency to pop straight up and play with high pads when moving laterally or in space. Shows surprisingly limited knee bend for being a former basketball player. Struggles to redirect his weight quickly and changing directions to hit moving targets is a chore. Stiff strider in space. Shows tendency to overset when attempting to set out on speed rushers. Upright style will cause problems for him against edge trimming pass rushers who can get under him. Average reactive athleticism limits effectiveness against counter moves back inside. Mirrors well precontact, but ability to mirror diminishes once first contact has been made. Short arms for his height. Too reliant on hand strength and upper body power over footwork and balance. Has issues consistently redirecting defenders who get to his edge.
The Broncos spent a second round pick on tackle Ty Sambrailo last year, and he is expected to man the Broncos right tackle position next season.
The big question is who will be the Broncos starting left tackle? Ryan Clady has said he is willing to restructure his contract to free up cap space. This also increases his chances of staying with the team. That is great and all, but one has to question if he can still be an effective left tackle in this league? He has dealt with plenty of injuries lately, and when he was healthy, he played average at best in 2014. So that will be an interesting decision by the Broncos front office.
If the Broncos do move on from Clady, I think they will explore options on the free agent market, but they may end up being too pricey. This would mean the Broncos would look at prospects like Taylor Decker in the first round of the NFL Draft.
If they keep Clady, I do not see the Broncos addressing the offensive tackle position until probably day three of April's NFL Draft.