A month from now, collegiate prospects from all over the country will have their childhood dreams come true. For those who don't get that momentous phone call during the three days of the NFL Draft, some will find solace in the minutes after the drafts' completion when teams will be burning up the phone lines to prioritize obtaining their top players remaining on their board as college free agents.
The Denver Broncos will enter the 2016 NFL Draft with an arsenal of draft selections, ten to be exact. Those ten selections ties them for the third most among all NFL teams with Cleveland and Detroit, with only New England (11) and San Francisco (12) having more.
Though the Broncos weren't overly active in free agency, expect the exact opposite for the team at the end of April.
Whether it's a significant move up the board in the first round to acquire a top tier talent on their board who falls further than expected, or a trade back to acquire more picks to bolster the teams depth and youth for the future, have no doubts that John Elway and his staff will do what is necessary to make the franchise competitive not only for the 2016 season, but for many years to come.
First Round (#31) - Robert Nkemdiche, DL - Ole Miss
Back in October, Nkemdiche was ranked as my top college football prospect entering the 2015 season. Though various concerns exist regarding his character, very few come up for me when analyzing his tape.
Many will point to his lack of production, especially sacks, to justify passing him up in the draft. Unfortunately, formulating an opinion on a defensive lineman, strictly stat based, without regard to scheme or responsibilities is troublesome. The tape doesn't lie, and there is no questioning that Nkemdiche was accounted for and game-planned against by opposing offenses, who often employed double-teams to keep the ferocious prospect at bay.
And yet, that still didn't stop him from playing an integral role to the success of the Rebels' defense and overall season.
No prospect is perfect, but his fit for the Denver Broncos at defensive end and as an interior rusher on passing downs is undeniable. Not many players flash the intensity and prowess Nkemdiche does when he is allowed to do what he does best — shoot the gap, get up-field and attack. That's exactly what he would get to do in Denver under the tutelage of Wade Phillips and Bill Kollar.
On most plays, he is easily the quickest and most explosive player off the snap on the defensive side of the ball hands down and it is not even close. Case in point: His performance against Alabama this past season. Furthermore, Nkemdiche's athleticism is incredible for a man his size, and he offers positional versatility and is capable against both the run and the pass due to his low-pad level, tremendous strength and leverage.
As mentioned earlier, his character is a genuine cause for concern and justifiably so. It has led some scouts to deem him as strange and question whether or not he has the desire to truly be great and dedicate his life to football.
Is he a Top 10 talent ready to ascend to stardom in the NFL or is he just another troubled prospect who will bust out of the NFL due to not keeping his head on straight? This late in the first round, I'm willing to take my bet on the former and allow the veteran leadership in the locker room help straighten him out and keep him in line. If that happens, Broncos fans might soon forget Malik Jackson ever sought greener pastures in Jacksonville.
Second Round (#63) - Joshua Garnett, OG - Stanford
The Denver Broncos brought in Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson to fortify their line in free agency, but adding a top-tier left guard prospect in Joshua Garnett to the mix would be a tremendous option for the Broncos at the end of round two.
As of now, Ty Sambrailo and Max Garcia are slated in as starters at the guard positions, but neither are proven players at this point in their young careers. In the spirit of competition, adding one of the best offensive lineman would only be beneficial for Denver moving forward and give their offensive line flexibility in the present and future.
Coming out of a pro-style system, Garnett is familiar with many concepts the team engages in on the offensive front. His power and technique are incredible for such a young prospect and when he gets to the second level, it's game over for any defender who is in his path.
He also has good pass protection skills, an underrated aspect of his game that few appreciate. It's not a stretch of the imagination to state that he and Kyle Murphy were the best tackle/guard duo in the entire country and a primary reason for Christian McCaffrey's incredible Heisman-worthy season.
All and all, Garnett may not be as athletic as some of the other lineman in this draft, but his high football IQ, tenacious play on the field and leadership qualities will make him a highly sought commodity come draft time. He's an immediate plug-and-play starter and a lineman who has Pro-Bowl and All-Pro potential. What's not to like?
Third Round (#94) - Kentrell Brothers, LB - Missouri
With the departure of Danny Trevathan to the Chicago Bears in free agency, the Broncos have a big hole at inside linebacker. The team likes Todd Davis, Corey Nelson and Zaire Nelson — but those aren't household NFL names and it is unlikely neither of them will ever ascend to that level.
Kentrell Brothers isn't the most athletic linebacker in this years class, but he possesses top notch intangibles, leadership qualities and boasts a tremendous football IQ that seemingly has him in the right place at the right time. He's proficient in run support and holds his own in coverage due to his mental aptitude, despite having athletic limitations.
Brothers was one of the SEC's leading tacklers the past two seasons and looks the part as a three-down linebacker at the NFL level. It's quite possible that he gets selected earlier, but linebacker prospects who don't time well in position drills always tend to be overlooked on draft day. Lucky for the Broncos, unfortunate for everyone else. Brothers can replace Trevathan as a rookie and in my humble opinion, the defense doesn't miss much of a beat, if any at all. That's how highly I think of him.
Third Round (#98) - Sean Davis, DB - Maryland
One position that lacks depth for the Broncos is the safety position. T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart and quality starting players returning for the 2016 season, but there is virtually nobody of note behind them and if injury were to happen, would put the team in a predicament on the back-end of the defense.
Some may consider this a reach if you are grading Sean Davis solely off his 2015 tape when he was forced to play cornerback, but if you press rewind and take a look at what he did prior hen he was primarily played at safety you will like what you see.
At 6'1 and 205, with sub 4.5 speed, Davis has the ability to cover a lot of ground and has the athleticism teams covet in the defensive backfield. His leaping ability and coverage skills will allow him to be a key tool for defenses who look to man-up against premier tight ends. Additionally, Davis makes a ton of plays on the field and has a penchant for creating turnovers. In three years as a starter, he amassed almost 300 tackles which is extraordinary for a hybrid player.
I happen to like Davis a lot more than where the mainstream outlets are ranking him and believe he is someone who will get selected on the second day of the draft. He might not start as a rookie, but he certainly offers starting potential down the road for a team in need of a versatile defensive back who can make plays in both the pass and run game.
Fourth Round (#136) - Kevin Hogan, QB - Stanford
It's not a question of "if", but one of "when" in regard to the Broncos drafting a quarterback in 2016. On the outside looking in, it's an underwhelming crop of prospects. I have little faith that the team would have a shot at Carson Wentz, Jared Goff or Paxton Lynch in the first-round, unless they are willing to sacrifice tons of draft picks and resources to acquire them.
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But the Broncos might have an out and find a player on day three of the draft who might be good enough to start somewhere down the road, perhaps even as early as his rookie season. Lets just call that out 'The Stanford Connection' and by that I mean Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan.
Command of a pro-style offense, solid production, a strong arm, top notch intangibles and undeniable leadership qualities make Hogan an interesting prospect for a team in search of a quarterback. I'll take those positives over the negatives of the occasional accuracy issue, elongated delivery and lack of mobility often observed when strolling through his game tape.
I firmly believe Hogan will end up as a starter in the NFL. He might never be great, but with a defense like the Broncos has he doesn't have to be. All he has to do is be efficient and capable, and he demonstrated that ability quite well in his time at Stanford.
Worst case scenario, you get a player who ends up like Byron Leftwich. Best case scenario, you get a quarterback with a heated passion for the game whose play sometimes resembles Philip Rivers. That's my low-end to high-end comparisons for him.
Fifth Round (#144) - Tyler Ervin, RB - San Jose State
C.J. Anderson is back in orange and blue, but Ronnie Hillman's career with the team is likely over. If you are interested in a player who has a similar skill set to Hillman that offers intrigue as a runner, receiver and returner look no further than Tyler Ervin.
The versatile Spartans running back has the ability to do it all and flashes ability comparable to Darren Sproles out of the backfield and as a returner. The team has already scouted Ervin and met with him through the pre-draft process and is a plausible candidate to be added to their running back stable for 2016.
Sixth Round (#219) - Dan Vitale, FB - Northwestern
Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak is known for his double tight end sets, but his best rushing teams always had a versatile player in the backfield at the fullback position who could assume multiple roles if asked upon.
Dan Vitale is that type of player and would give Denver a competent prospect who can block, run and catch the ball and open up dimensions in the offensive game plan that was lacking last year.
Seventh Round (#228) - Geronimo Allison, WR - Illinois
A two-year standout for Illinois after transferring from community college, Allison is a tall, lanky framed wide receiver who has good speed, change of direction skills and sure hands for the position. He has the ability to make big plays down the field and be a vertical threat who can stretch defenses down the seam. Allison finished his career with the Illini with 106 catches, 1480 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Scouts question his mental aptitude and ability to digest an NFL offense, but he has pro-quality traits that will earn him a spot on an NFL roster. If he is coached up a bit, he offers starting potential with the proliferation of spread offenses in the NFL and could come in early on in his career and give the team a fourth option at receiver
Seventh Round (#235) - Avery Young, OT - Auburn
One of the most sought after recruits in Southern Florida upon entering his collegiate career, Avery Young never lived up to the press clippings of being a top tackle in his recruiting class.
He is an early entrant in this years' draft and likely should have stayed in college one more year to work on his technique and improve his pass blocking skills. That being said, he was a versatile offensive lineman who has experience at guard and right tackle for Auburn. Nevertheless, he has the ability to compete at tackle or guard and showed promise, especially in the zone blocking scheme with the Tigers with plus potential as a run blocker.
Seventh Round (#253) - Sean Price - TE - South Florida
For the first time in team history, the Broncos will have the opportunity to select 'Mr. Irrelevant' in this years draft. The franchise is banking on Virgil Green and second-year player Jeff Heuerman to pay big dividends for them at the tight end position in 2016, but should consider adding another player at the position via the draft.
Price is an under the radar prospect at the position, but saved his best for last in his final year at South Florida and hauled in 20 catches for 306 yards and five touchdowns. He's fully recovered from his PCL tear he suffered in December and had a quality workout in front of NFL personnel at his Pro Day several days ago.
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