One of the best parts of draft season is getting familiar with a lot of future studs in the league. It’s sort of similar to growing up and finding a band that you’re into before they’re all over the radio.
So this list won’t have the guys I’ve done full GIF Horse pieces on. My plan here is to shine a little light on some other guys that really won me over the last couple of months. Then there are a couple I just don’t get the hype on. If Elway drafts one, I’ll hope for the best, but I didn’t see it when I watched their tape.
One Linebacker I love: Blake Cashman
It’s been trendy to fall for Cashman since he blew up the Combine, but when you turn on the tape it’s hard to ignore how good he looks. I had this to say two weeks ago:
Studying prospects at this time of year you hear that every guy is a hard worker, but there aren’t many who choose to walk on at their hometown school and grind their way to where Cashman’s gotten. He’d be an exceptional locker room guy from day 1 and fits the Fangio scheme to a T. He makes reads quickly, can anticipate where the ball is going and works to get through trash. He has short arms and is just 237 lbs, but is willing at the point of attack and capable of chasing down ball carriers on wide runs. He’ll be a massive upgrade over Josey Jewell in coverage, comes fundamentally sound, and if he can stay healthy, the sky’s the limit.
One thing this draft is short on is linebackers who play as well as they test, but that won’t be a concern with the Golden Gopher.
Spying the QB, and then the athleticism to disrupt the pass. 6'1"/237lbs and tested at 4.50 flat today with 37.5" vert and 10'4" broad. pic.twitter.com/ZpXmXzYW6Y— Jared Stanger (@JaredStanger) March 3, 2019
The Z Receiver I love: N’Keal Harry
So long as he falls to the right staff, I think Harry will be the best receiver from this class. I wrote about him at length here, but let me elaborate. If the Broncos trade down from 10 to, say, 20? Harry’s probably the guy I’m hoping for. If Elway wants him, that may well be where they have to get him. I don’t think he’ll be there at 41 with teams like Green Bay, Baltimore, and Arizona ahead of them.
The Tight End I love: Kahale Warring
If you’re looking for the closest thing to T.J. Hockenson after the first round, Warring’s your prospect. He’s unrefined and will need coaching to reach his potential, but the tools are there for the San Diego State product to come in and solve the Broncos tight end conundrum for the next decade. There’s a reason he’s been my tight end the last two Mock drafts I’ve done.
Another Linebacker I love: Ben Burr-Kirven
He’s the kind of guy that wins despite the negatives. One of the biggest strengths of his game is playing in space as he’s a natural coverage player and brings the kind of twitchy athleticism that Todd Davis and Josey Jewell don’t. While he’s definitely undersized he’s slippery, so blockers need to work to keep their hands on his jersey. He’s incredibly instinctive and active, both things that coaches love and could hone to turn him into a heat seeking missile at the professional level.
The Washington Husky is a guy you can’t root against. He has a clear weakness in his game, but also shows enough flashes that I think he can overcome it in the right system. When you stop and consider that the Broncos will use nickel personnel more than 50% of the time next year, he makes even more sense. He’d be the space player Denver currently lacks with Josey Jewell on the field.
Ben Burr-Kirven from Washington is a nice sleeper according to my LB model. Really productive, an NFL-caliber athlete, and he's young. Being undersized is a concern but that's not as big of a deal with offenses spreading the field. Ended up as an 83rd percentile LB. pic.twitter.com/X7hxUqLTJR— Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) April 4, 2019
...and a linebacker I don’t: Khalil Hodge
The Quarterback I love: Brett Rypien
There are a number of factors that matter a great deal to me when evaluating quarterbacks. The biggest one is accuracy. By and large, it can’t be taught. The second one is mental capacity. It’s hard to quantify or even properly gauge on broadcast tape, but there are things you look for, such as using their eyes to manipulate defenders, the ability to stand tall with a pass rush bearing down, and reading through his progressions to find the open receiver.
Rypien displays all of these things in spades. He started 50 games at Boise State and completed 64% of his passes for 13,578 yards, 90 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. On film you routinely see him make multiple reads and hang in the saddle without dropping his eyes. He doesn’t have the biggest arm, he isn’t super mobile, and he’s a bit undersized, but he has as good a chance to hang around the league for a decade as anyone in this class.
Brett Rypien has silly good ball placement pic.twitter.com/e0v0l3yjPL— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) April 6, 2019
The Quarterback I don’t: Jarrett Stidham
In a lot of ways, the Auburn Tiger is like that bad relationship you can’t walk away from. The facts are indisputable, but you keep telling yourself “it’s not their fault.”
That’s Stidham. You read his bio, and from afar things look promising. He was a top 50 recruit coming out of high school. He won the 2017 Iron Bowl over Alabama. Scouts say he didn’t have much help last year.
Then you turn on the tape and the evidence is staring you in the fact. Stidham crumbles like a wafer under pressure. It isn’t just one thing, either. He doesn’t always see it coming, he drops his eyes, he’ll panic throw into traffic.
The first time I watched his 2018, I tried to buy into the narrative. Auburn’s system didn’t always do him favors and the supporting cast did fail him here and there. So I turned on the 2017 tape to see this incredible Iron Bowl that put him on the radar. Even there, you see the signs.
Some think Stidham can flourish with professional coaching. I heard on Matt Miller’s Stick to Football Podcast yesterday that he sees him as a possible heir to Tom Brady. The belief seems to be that he just needs to be brought in, sheltered, given a binky, a blanky, and perhaps a nightlight. Count me out. I might sign him as a camp arm, nothing more.
The guard I love: Dru Samia
You’ll start to notice a lot of these guys have shown up in my Monday Mock draft series. For good reason, I don’t like to take guys unless I believe in them. I believe in Samia. He isn’t a fit in every scheme which is why he’ll slide on draft day, but if Rich Scangarello is running an outside zone based offense? He’s a hand in glove fit, and a junkyard dog to boot.
The Corner I don’t: Greedy Williams
Andraez Williams looks like a very talented player, so don’t confuse this lack of affection as anything more than concerns. The LSU Tiger profiles as an exceptional press man cover corner at the next level and the kind of scheme transcendent talent a team would be lucky to have. If Denver picked him up late in the 1st or if he somehow slipped to 41? I’d be pretty excited, but I don’t think his skillset will be maximized at 10th overall and his reluctance to tackle would be an issue on a Fangio D.
I’m still working on my final adjusted big board, so look for it in an upcoming GIF Horse. Until then, let me know what you think in the comments Broncos Country.
Your Broncos Links
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6. Denver Broncos, $3.6 / $167.6 million Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker, Khalfani Muhammad If you find a Pro Bowler as an undrafted free agent, and supplement him with a bigger-bodied third-round pick capable of giving a breather and grinding time, you’re going to have flexibility in other spots.
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10. Denver: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri John Elway takes another shot at drafting Denver’s quarterback of the future in Lock, who will benefit from a year on the bench behind the newly acquired Joe Flacco. After Murray and Haskins, there’s a drop-off in QB talent in this draft, but that won’t stop a QB-desperate team from spending an early pick on a developmental player with great physical tools like Lock.
10. Denver: Devin White, LB, LSU. Vic Fangio froths at putting the best linebacker and a sure, physical tackler between Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Keep hearing Denver and a quarterback here, but it’s not what I’d do this year, this high.
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I seriously doubt it, but I’d reach out to them to make sure.
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