ESPN's draft guru, Mel Kiper, has come out with his latest mock draft. This one was a three-round monster and his picks for the Denver Broncos were especially interesting as they addressed every position of need, except for the one everyone is talking about.
Let's review his Grade A mock of the Broncos.
Round 1 (31): Cody Whitehair, G/C, Kansas State
Round 2 (63): Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
Round 3 (94): Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona
Round 3 (98): Sean Davis, S, Maryland
Analysis: The need for stability at quarterback is a clear issue, but there isn't a likely Week 1 starter available at No. 31, and there's still time to make a trade to help the situation there. What I do have is an obvious need for another offensive lineman, and Whitehair is a potential starter at guard, where there is a clear need, with experience at tackle. Others have Billings rated higher than I do at defensive tackle, but he's a steal at the end of Round 2 at another position where added depth is a necessity. Wright fills a need at linebacker and Davis provides insurance and the ability to start early in his career if needed at safety.
This is the kind of draft that I could really get excited about. It would mean that John Elway didn't panic and it also means that Elway probably found a way to trade for Colin Kaepernick, which would give the Broncos two seasoned veterans with big-time playoff experience to battle it out in training camp.
Our own Christopher Hart has some solid analysis on each guy, so let's dig into each of these prospects a bit deeper.
Cody Whitehair, OL, Kansas State
The Denver Broncos have a handful of young prospects vying for position on the inside, but it’s safe to say that none of them possess the ability or potential that Cody Whitehair of Kansas State has.
One of the most athletic lineman in this class, Whitehair played an integral role for the Wildcats’ offensive line over the past four seasons, seeing time at right tackle, left guard and left tackle respectively over his collegiate career. Undoubtedly one of the most versatile and athletic prospects in this class, Whitehair would provide an immediate upgrade and be a day one starter for the Broncos on the offensive line.
While he may lack functional strength and not be an absolute mauler at the point of attack, he wins in the trenches with his sound technique and fundamentals which are head and shoulders above his peers in this class. Factor in that with his leadership capabilities, experience and overall fit for the zone blocking scheme — and you have a recipe for success long-term with his selection. Despite several additions (Okung and Stephenson), snagging Whitehair would be a major steal for a team still in need of longevity in their offensive trenches.
In my eyes, he has the look of a ten year starter with Pro-Bowl potential. Some feel he is comparable to Zack Martin of the Dallas Cowboys. High praise indeed, considering Martin is one of the best young lineman in the NFL. I like Whitehair best at left guard in the NFL. Place him there and you never have to worry about the position for a long time.
Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
Unless Andrew Billings does something absolutely heinous prior to the draft, there isn’t a snowflakes chance in heck that he lasts until the Broncos’ second round draft selection. However, in Kiper’s mock he does and Denver opts to go for another Big 12 standout, but this time on the opposite side of the trenches.
Widely regarded as one of the best nose tackles in this class, Billings in a very young prospect who is rough around the edges, but has the ability to become a top-tier defensive lineman in the NFL. The Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year has improved every year with the Bears and opted to declare for the draft early after a tremendous 2015 campaign where he recorded 31 tackles, 15 of them for loss and 5.5 sacks.
In one-on-one match-ups, Billings is virtually unstoppable and would be able to maximize his potential in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense as a one-gap shooting nose tackle. He is the complete package who plays with a relentless motor and never say die attitude. There is no doubt that his experience as an offensive lineman in high school has helped him outsmart and terrorize opposing lineman since his entry season at Baylor.
If the Broncos landed Billings in the draft, even if it were via trade up in the first-round, fans across the globe should be ecstatic. He is certainly a legitimate option for Denver when you factor in the lack of depth on their defensive line and the fact that the team has not exercised their fifth-year option on Sylvester Williams. Though Darius Kilgo did show promise as a rookie, Denver needs a contingency plan in place for the future at nose tackle. Billings would fit the "bill" quite nicely.
Scooby Wright III, LB, Arizona
Scooby Wright showed flashes of brilliance in his time with Arizona, especially in 2014 when he delivered a whopping 163 tackles that earned him the NCAA Defensive Triple Crown with the honors of the Bronco Nagurski, Chuck Badnarik and Rotary Lombardi Awards.
His production was off the charts that year, but unfortunately, his inability to stay healthy in 2015 (only played three games due to knee and foot issues) and overall lack of athleticism will move him down draft boards at the end of the month. However, there is no denying his intangibles — most notably his instincts for the position which may be second to none in comparison to his peers.
His fiery demeanor, leadership and lunch-pail mentality will have scouts banging on the table hard for him. Despite the lack of athleticism, his play anticipation and football IQ often get him in the right place at the right time and help make up for that deficiency.
At the end of the day, every team could use a player like him and he would be a tremendous fit at the TED linebacker position in Wade Phillips’ scheme. Several scouts and player personnel directors have likened him to long-time Miami Dolphin linebacker Zach Thomas. If he ended up being half the player Thomas ever was, he certainly would be worth the selection.
I prefer Mizzou’s Kentrell Brothers to Wright, but I wouldn’t be upset if the Broncos selected Wright. If he stays healthy, he has first-round talent. That’s a big if though, but most certainly worth it at the end of the third round. If he lived up to that potential, fans wouldn’t even remember that we lost Danny Trevathan to the Chicago Bears in free agency.
Sean Davis, DB, Maryland
Sean Davis is a player who I’ve touted for a long time over the draft process. He’s easily one of my favorite players in this draft due and a Top 100 prospect on my board due to his play-style and versatility.
As a defensive back, Davis accumulated nearly 300 tackles and a handful of interruptions and forced fumbles during his time at Maryland, but has become an afterthought because he was misused as a boundary corner in the Terrapins defense for the 2015 season.
He has tremendous size, great athleticism and compares very similar to former Utah defensive back Eric Rowe who was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second-round of last years draft.
I wouldn’t play him at corner in the NFL, but envision him as a single-high free safety who would be an enforcer on the defensive back end. Put him there and you have a player who could end up making numerous Pro Bowl’s.
Denver is in desperate need of safety help and have virtually nobody worth mentioning outside of starters Darian Stewart (free agent at the end of the 2016 season) and T.J. Ward, which is why Davis makes a great deal of sense with the teams third-round compensatory selection.
How would you grade the Broncos draft if the first three rounds fell exactly as Kiper predicts here?