Wednesday, May 25, 2011

KD's NFL Draft Grades - Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos, led by GM Brian Xanders and new Executive Vice President of Football Operations, former Broncos legend John Elway, the Broncos turned in a draft with 9 picks for new coach John Fox. Denver really tailed off in 2010 under Josh McDaniels, and they appear to be banking their immediate future on Tim Tebow. While that decision remains to be played out, they certainly needed to imrpove their defense and get Tebow some more weapons on offense. Here's how the Broncos picks shook out:

1st round, 2nd overall) Von Miller - LB - Texas A&M
The afternoon of the first round ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Broncos were going to eschew selecting Alabama's Marcel Dareus and take Texas A&M's Von Miller. What?!? That was my first reaction anyway. But, it's still a very solid pick, though I question whether it was the right decision in a division that has power rushing teams in Oakland and Kansas City. Miller's drawn comparisions to the late Derrick Thomas, and posted triangle numbers at the Combine that were similar to the NFL's 2010 sack leader, DeMarcus Ware.

How he fits in: A lot of people were concerned about Miller's ability to play in an even front (i.e. a 4-3 defense), but those were alleviated with his outstanding performance in the Senior Bowl. He'll most likely figure to start on the weakside where he can use his athleticism and speed in space. I think John Fox might be reminded of a younger, more athletic Na'il Diggs he had early on with the Panthers. Miller should also be able to play as a DE in nickel and dime packages where he can showcase his pass-rushing skills. Miller's a true 3-down player.

Outlook: For the Broncos, it's hard to make the wrong choice between Marcel Dareus and Von Miller. As I mentioned earlier, Dareus might've been better suited for the Broncos over the course of the long haul with his ability to stop the run in a division that features the likes of Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones, Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, and Ryan Mathews, but, Miller gives the Broncos an impact player at linebacker who can play defensive in passing situations. Overall, the Broncos got an outstanding player who they can use in creative ways. Hard not to like Von Miller.

2nd round, 45th overall) Rahim Moore - S - UCLA
Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill form a fine veteran duo for the Broncos, but they're getting pretty long in the tooth. Dawkins, despite being older than Hill, is probably going to be playing at a higher level for more seasons, so the Broncos needed a guy who can take the free safety reins over soon. Rahim Moore is that type of ball-hawking centerfielder who can step in early on next to Dawkins. Moore had an outstanding 2009 season with 10 interceptions, but he saw that dip to just 1 in 2010. A 3-year starter for the Bruins, Moore has plenty of experience, and while tends to shy away from sticking his nose into the action, his coverage skills make up for that aspect of his game.

2nd round, 46th overall) Orlando Franklin - G/T - Miami
John Fox should switch Denver to more a power-based running game than what Josh McDaniels had going on. With right tackle Ryan Harris slated for free agency and left guard Russ Hochstein's play tailing off as he gets older, the Broncos needed to upgrade their O-line. Franklin, a massive prospect at 6'6" 316lbs played left guard mostly in his career for the Hurricanes, but did play some left tackle, he could be a candidate for either spot that Denver needs to upgrade. Given Franklin's size, I think he might be more of a right tackle than left guard for the Broncos. He's got some injury concerns, but is simply just a big, mauling player who is extremely strong at the point of attack. Similar in many ways to former Hurricane Vernon Carey.

3rd round, 67th overall) Nate Irving - LB - North Carolina State
John Fox and his staff made outstanding use of undersized linebackers in Carolina with Jon Beason, Thomas Davis, and James Anderson. Nate Irving should be no different as he'll play between Von Miller and very underrated veteran D.J. Williams in Denver's new 4-3 defense. At 6'1" 240lbs, Irving can run decently well, and is an adept blitzer, registering 7 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in 2010. Joe Mays is the only thing standing between him and a starting role, so, I'd expect you'll hear Irving's name plenty at the NFL level.

4th round, 108th overall) Quinton Carter - S - Oklahoma
As I mentioned before, Brian Dawkins is also getting long in the tooth and the Broncos had to address that concern. Quinton Carter is one of the better pure strong safety prospects in the draft, and he'll have the chance to learn from a pro's pro in Dawkins. While not the biggest of strong safety prospects, Carter has a good football IQ and unlike Rahim Moore, he relishes the chance to stick his nose in the action. However, he's vulnerable in coverage and very susceptible to getting beat by double moves over the top. Sometimes he's too aggressive and it shows. However, at the very least, he should be a top quality backup for the immediate future as he learns the nuances from Brian Dawkins.

4th round, 129th overall) Julius Thomas - TE - Portland State
The Broncos definitely needed some help at the TE spot with Richard Quinn as their last option left from 2010. Thomas, a 4-year basketball player at Portland State went the Jimmy Graham route and played football in his last year of eligibility. Thomas certainly has the size at 6'4" 256lbs, and showcased his skills at the East-West Shrine Game this offseason. However, he wasn't asked to do much in-line blocking and only caught 29 passes. He's definitely a prospect for the future, but he should be a decent #2 option at TE for the short-term.

6th round, 189th overall) Mike Mohamed - LB - California
Several 3-4 teams had Mohamed on their radar, but the Broncos tabbed him first to provide depth to their linebacking corp and work on special teams. Mohamed, at 6'3" 239lbs was a productive player for the Cal Bears posting seasons of 87, 111, and 95 tackles the last three years. In addition, he totaled 20 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, and 7 interceptions. While he lacks sideline-to-sideline range, he's a serviceable in the box player who can fill in at all 3 linebacker positions. I expect he'll make the Broncos roster as a special teams contributor.

7th round, 204th overall) Virgil Green - TE - Nevada
Green could be a big steal here. He carried a 3rd to 4th round grade throughout most of the pre-draft process, but it was discovered he had microfracture surgery on his knee. However, Green played in 52 games, so it should have been a non-issue, but anything like that tends to scare NFL teams, and Green slid badly because of it. He's got decent size and good speed and caught 31 passes as a senior in the Nevada scheme. He'll have to adapt to an NFL playbook, but should his knee check out, he could have an even better career than Julius Thomas, whom the Broncos took 3 rounds earlier.

7th round, 247th overall) Jeremy Beal - DE - Oklahoma
With their last pick, the Broncos chose to add some depth on the defensive line. Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers should have the starting defensive end spots locked up, but there's little in the way of depth behind them. Beal had about as bad of a Senior Bowl week as you can have, then went and ran a 5.16 40 at the Combine despite not being that big at 6'2" 262lbs. However, Beal's been able to get to the quarterback on the field if anything else, notching at least 8.5 sacks the last 3 years, though, if you've seen him play, most of those are cleaning up after others have already flushed the quarterback or forced him to scramble. Beal might make the roster, but he's got some serious work to do to improve his game.

Overall Grade: B+
Like Carolina, with so many holes and picking this high in the Draft, it's kind of hard for Denver to screw it up. But, if you look at their roster, Denver's defensive tackles prospects are pretty weak. When you're going to rely on Kevin Vickerson and potentially Marcus Thomas you're in trouble. I think Denver passed on a few opportunities to sure up that spot, but, they were able to grab some impact players. Miller, Moore, Franklin, Irving, and maybe one of the two tight ends should all be day one starters. That said, Josh McDaniels left such a big mess, it's going to take multiple drafts and free agency periods to clean everything up. Denver, behind Xanders and Elway, appear to at least be on the right track. They just have to hope they've made the right call on Tim Tebow.

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