John Elway loves his defense guys on draft day, and just like his first year, the Broncos' GM selected a safety on both day two and three of the NFL Draft.
That second safety was Will Parks of Arizona, chosen in part for instinctive route reading and penchant for hitting hard. Although Parks only had four interceptions in his college career and none last year, he had a team-high 72 tackles plus seven passes defensed in 2015.
Most of all, the native of the tough North Philly streets has a really strong work ethic that will go well with the Broncos' locker room culture. And as an interesting demonstration of his humility, Parks' twitter page features a picture of fellow Bronco safety T.J. Ward rather than himself.
Now Jason Bartel, managing editor of Arizona Desert Swarm, tells us why the Broncos are going to be really glad they added Parks as a second safety, who is already impressing his teammates and coaches.
Darian Stewart says he expects rookie safeties Will Parks & Justin Simmons to pick up the defense quickly. Impressed by their work ethic.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) May 18, 2016
MHR - Broncos drafted Will Parks in the sixth round, making it two safeties for the Broncos in this draft. Do you think Parks has what it takes to be an NFL starting safety?
Jason Bartel - I do. Right away? No. But eventually? Yes. He has the tools, he has the work ethic, and he's really changed his body even since the end of the 2015 regular season to better prepare himself for the next level. And there's no question that he has the inner fire to get himself to that point sometime in the next few years.
MHR - Your blog noted that Scooby Wright III and Cayleb Jones were the top two NFL prospects for Arizona yet perhaps the "hottest prospect on the board" for the Wildcats was Will Parks (which turned out to be true as Parks was the first Wildcat drafted). Why was Parks such a good pick even over his more celebrated teammates?
Jason Bartel - Scooby had injury questions, and Cayleb had character questions. Parks has neither, and probably fits the NFL mold for his position better than both of those guys. Make no mistake though, we were all surprised that Scooby almost ended up being undrafted, and that Parks was taken before him. Parks is a more stereotypical defensive back than Wright is a linebacker, though.
MHR - You called him a "hard-hitting" safety earlier this season, and his 76 tackles in 2015 certainly makes a case. Is his tackling a major strength for the pro level too? What other strengths will Parks bring to the footballfield?
Jason Bartel - Here is the ultimate proof of him being "hard-hitting." I think his tackling was good for the most part, but it could use some work in coverage situations. But if he's waiting for a guy coming over the middle, that poor receiver may be in trouble. I believe that Parks reads QB's eyes really well, but sometimes he still gets burned because his actual coverage skills are his biggest weakness. I would attribute that to Arizona's defensive coaching staff the past few years not being able to develop anyone's pass coverage skills. In the NFL, I think Parks will be much better off trying to keep up with receivers.
I'm watching the best DB core everyday. It's only right I take the time to up my game to reach that level. And more.— Parks Place (@PhillyWill11) May 12, 2016
MHR - Broncos play a lot of man coverage, yet Parks' coverage weakness is in man. Does the safety have what it takes to improve his technique enough to be a contributor in a man-heavy coverage scheme and do you see him being an eventual starter in the Broncos' secondary?
Jason Bartel - I kind of touched on this earlier, but I do believe he'll be able to hone his pass coverage skills surrounded by better coaching and players. When he sets his sights on improving a particular skill, he does it. Being on that team around those guys can only help him in the long run. Depending on how the Broncos' roster shakes out 3-4 years down the road maybe he could make his way in there as a starter. Again, I wouldn't expect him to be a starter right away or anything like that.
MHR - What is it about his zone coverage that makes him so threatening to offenses?
Jason Bartel - Reading the QB's eyes, no doubt. And he lives for delivering that big hit.
MHR - You have mentioned that Parks is versatile - able to play both free safety and nickel corner. Which do you think he is best suited for with the Broncos?
Jason Bartel - Free safety. Like we've discussed, his pass coverage skills need work before I would think of him as a reliable corner at the NFL level.
MHR - What is something we probably don't know about Parks?
Jason Bartel - He likes to play awkward games of tag with refs during OT coin tosses:
MHR - A feature on Parks in the Denver Post pointed out how the 219th draft pick came from a rough life in North Philly, and the rookie himself said of playing in the NFL, "I don't want it. I need it." How did his background spur his success at Arizona, and how will it motivate him in the NFL?
Jason Bartel - Oh I think that was at least 95 percent of the reason he had success at Arizona and consistently improved throughout his four years in Tucson.
I get the feeling from him that he wants to represent North Philly and show kids who are growing up in that situation that they can make it too. If he's able to go from where he grew up, to being a four-year contributor in the Pac-12, to possibly becoming a starter in the NFL, I think he'll be able to go home and inspire others. That drives him.
MHR - What is your favorite thing about this kid?
Jason Bartel - I wish I had his passion for life. Being around him for the last few years has been an honor really. He's super humble, but his drive to be the very best he can be is insane. And he's such a nice, funny guy with a great sense of humor. He's just a great guy all around, and Bronco fans should be excited to have him to root for.