There is maybe no more entertaining part of the NFL off-season than the NFL Draft. This year the Denver Broncos will be selecting with the second overall pick. This is the highest selection that the franchise has ever had, and maybe as crucial a pick as well. After completing a disappointing regular season, the Broncos will look to bounce back through the use of the Draft and free agency and there is no reason to think that they can’t do it.
This mock will continue to be a work in progress as the Draft approaches. Many different factors can effect a players draft status such as free agency, team interviews and combine results to name a few. The mock will change as players are evaluated, interviewed and dissected. This version is going to take a look at needs, and what players would best suit the team in its current situation.
It is important to look at the methodology used by the Broncos when trying to determine their drafting strategies. The Broncos are one of the few teams that use the Parcell’s personnel method for scouting and drafting. This means extremely detail oriented reports on not only the players but also the positions and responsibilities required of the head coach’s scheme. With that being said, it is important to note the Broncos recent switch in their defensive set.
Broncos Head Coach John Fox confirmed a switch back to a 4-3 during an interview with The Denver Post this week, saying, “We’re going to be a multiple-front defense, but I think we’ll make the commitment to the 4-3.” With this switch in mind, it is then important to try to figure out where the current Broncos will be playing in this scheme.
D.J. Williams will probably move over to weakside linebacker with Mario Haggan or Joe Mays as the middle linebacker and Haggan or Wesley Woodyard at the strongside linebacker. Justin Bannan will likely start at one of the tackle positions, with Jamal Williams, Kevin Vickerson, or Marcus Thomas at the other. Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers are likely locks as the defensive ends. While the front seven shows a need for upgrades, one could argue that the secondary is in need of an overhaul as well.
Currently the Broncos starting secondary consists of cornerbacks Champ Bailey (32) playing across from Andre’ Goodman (32). At the safety position, Brian Dawkins (37) is at free safety while Renaldo Hill (32) is at strong safety. I have highlighted the ages of the starting players and while there is obvious talent, the Broncos currently have the oldest secondary in the NFL. This, along with the possible departure of Champ Bailey to free agency and the personal issues surrounding Parish Cox, makes this unit a candidate to be rebuilt.
I decided to layout the basic personnel on the defensive side of the ball to make it easier to see where our greatest areas of need may be. There are still some concerns on the offensive side of the ball, but the Broncos brass has made it clear that they will be focusing their attention on the defense this off-season. Due to this, I saw no reason to lie out the offensive personnel and in the event an offensive player is selected in the mock, I will outline why that specific selection would make sense.
According to my analysis, the Broncos largest needs are defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback, safety, offensive line, and running back/fullback. Six team needs, six draft picks! So without further adieu, I give you, the Ultimate Denver Broncos Pre-Combine Mock Draft. Enjoy!
1st Round #2 overall: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
When John Fox finally revealed that the Broncos were indeed going back to the 4-3 defense in 2011, he made the selection at the number two spot a little more clear. The switch will mean Elvis Dumervil will return to right defensive end and Robert Ayers, will play his old college position, left defensive end. Though there are some questions surrounding Ayers, he has shown flashes of being a solid player. While he lacks sack totals, he has become a force at setting the edge on run plays, and a sound tackler. The Broncos will hope that Ayers continues his good play against the run, and can start to generate more of a pass rush at his more natural position.
With the defensive end position seemingly taken care of, only three players make sense here. Patrick Peterson, Von Miller and Marcell Dareus (this is due to the fact that I believe that Nick Fairly will be off of the board with the number one pick to the Carolina Panthers).
Dareus is intriguing, and fills a need, but is not a dynamic player. He has shown consistency in college, racking up 66 tackles and 11 sacks over the last two years. This is despite the fact that he routinely drew the attention of double teams. While he does show talent, it is unknown what kind of impact he would make in the 4-3, as he played in a 3-4 style defense in college. Dareus will not make the highlight-reels, but will gut it out in the trenches. Though his skill set is important, it in not necessarily the kind of value you want out of the second pick in the draft.
Von Miller is the dark horse. He has recently shot up draft boards with an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl. There is no denying his production in college, tallying 28 sacks over the last two years, but if you look at it from a 4-3 perspective, Miller’s biggest talents would be lost in the Broncos scheme. Miller played in a 3-4 style of defense in college, and this is where his talents could be put to the most use in the NFL. Despite the buzz centered around him in the Senior Bowl, Miller did not record a single sack due to the fact that he was playing as a 4-3 outside linebacker and dropped into coverage regularly. This is what he would be doing most of the time for Denver, so spending your second overall pick on a sack artist only to use him to drop back into coverage makes little sense. That brings us to Patrick Peterson.
Peterson may be the best player in the entire draft, and with questions in the secondary, the Broncos should not pass on him. With recent news of Champ Bailey putting his house up for sale after contract negotiations stalled, one might speculate that Bailey has played his last game in a Broncos uniform. Andre’ Goodman is not getting any younger and rookies Perish Cox and Syd’quan Thompson are not elite corners. The only reason that cornerbacks are not historically drafted very high is because of the guaranteed money that high picks garner. With a new rookie salary cap as one of the things that both the players and the NFL agree on, we should look to one being put in place at the completion of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Due to this, it will not be a problem to draft Peterson this high. While there are recent rumors that the Broncos are starting to lean more toward defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, there have been conflicting reports that the Broncos are enamored with Peterson. Despite having needs in the front seven, the Broncos will be hard pressed to pass on as sure a bet as you will find in a draft and a possible shut down corner like Peterson.
2nd Round #36 overall: Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois
After getting an elite cornerback prospect in Patrick Peterson, the Broncos will need to address their front seven. With the switch to a 4-3 , there is an obvious hole at the middle linebacker position. With the shift of DJ Williams back to his old position at weakside linebacker, and Mario Haggan or Wesley Woodyard moving to strongside linebacker, that leaves Joe Mayes to fill in at the middle. Mays has shown he can be a thumper, but I don’t see him as having the ability to consistently cover in an effective manor. This would be a huge liability and would likely lead to teams exploiting the middle of the field. Martez Wilson’s abilities are a perfect fit for the middle linebacker position, but he is also very versatile which will be appealing. If the Broncos looked to bring in another linebacker via free agency, Wilson would have the abilities to slide over to strongside linebacker very easily. The middle linebacker in a 4-3 will rush the quarterback more often than not, and the Broncos will want a big, fast, athletic player who will be able to do that as well as play coverage and stop the run. Besides all of this, it would be nice to see another Wilson occupying the middle for the Denver Broncos. This will all depend on how confident the Broncos are with their current group, but Wilson could prove to be an upgrade at the position.
Other possibilities at this spot:
Rahim Moore, Safety, UCLA: With an aging secondary, the possibility of drafting the top rated safety in the draft at this spot may appeal to the Broncos.
Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor: During the Senior Bowl, Taylor showcased his immense abilities and was nearly unblockable. John Fox likes to have a big anchor in the middle of his 4-3 defenses, and if Taylor is still available, he might be too hard to pass up.
2nd Round #46 overall: Drake Nevis, DT, LSU
Some Broncos fans might argue that defensive tackle is the biggest area of need. Currently, the Broncos rely on Jamal Williams, Justin Bannan, Marcus Thomas and Kevin Vickerson to do a bulk of the work. Williams is aging and with poor knees is a situational player at this point in his career. Bannan was solid last year and could benefit from an upgrade along the defensive line. With Kevin Vickerson and Marcus Thomas being the prime candidates for increased playing time, the Broncos would be wise to add more talent at this position.
Although Nick Fairley and Marcell Dareus get most of the attention in this years defensive tackle class, Drake Nevis is no slouch. A unanimous First Team All-SEC selection, Nevis had 13 tackles for a loss and 6 sacks this past season. He wreaked havoc in the backfield all year long, and one could speculate that had Nick Fairly not had such an impressive year, that Nevis (or Patrick Peterson) would have been up for SEC defensive player of the year honors. Nevis did reduce his playing weight down to 285, which may be a little smaller than what the Broncos are looking for. Some scouts are saying that NFL officials will be turned off when they see how small Nevis is up close, but if he can show up at the combine with a little more size, he will get a long look from the Broncos. After dominating the SEC, Nevis should transition nicely to the NFL as a quality starter.
Other possibilities at this spot:
DeAndre McDaniels, Safety, Clemson: Though the name McDaniels still stings the ears of most Broncos fans, I find it hard to believe that they would not want this McDaniels in their secondary. If the Broncos pass on Rahim Moore, McDaniels is the next best prospect.
Greg Jones, ILB, Michigan State: If the Broncos decide to pass on a ILB at the first pick of the second round, Jones will be hard to pass on. There are some questions about the First Team All-American linebacker’s athleticism, but over the past three seasons all he has done is total almost 400 tackles, 12 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 2 INTs.
3rd Round #67 overall: Marvin Austin, DT, UNC
With the Broncos making a push to further solidify their defensive line, after selecting Nevis in the second round, they may look to ad even more depth at the position by drafting Marvin Austin. Austin missed all of last season due to a suspension steaming from illegal benefits. Before this mistake, he was touted as a first or second round pick. With the Broncos switching to a 4-3, they will need more than one guy to smoothly make the transition. Even though Austin’s colligate career has had a cloud cast upon it due to his suspension, passing on a defensive lineman with first round talent will be hard to do at this portion of the draft. Austin has the potential to be an immediate starter. Between Austin and Nevis, the Broncos could take one of their weakest positions and turn it into a strength for years to come.
Other possibilities at this spot:
John Moffitt, G, Wisconsin: The Broncos have been less than enthusiastic in including right tackle Ryan Harris in their future plans. They tried trading him before the deadline last season, and have not shown interest in resigning him for next season. With his departure, Zane Beadles will more than likely make the move to Harris’s old spot, opening up a position at guard. Moffitt is a mean, mauling lineman that would fit the bill. With a renewed emphasis on the run, he or another offensive lineman might get a look here.
Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee: One of the positions on offense the Broncos will need to address either in the draft or through free agency will be tight end. Daniel Graham is getting Older, and Richard Quinn has not shown signs of being the player McDaniel’s hoped he would be when he reached for him in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Stocker is a reliable pass catcher and a good blocker. He is the kind of player that can contribute to a team for years to come.
6th Round #184 overall: Weslye Saunders, TE, South Carolina
With great size and surprising overall athleticism, Weslye Saunders has the tools of an elite player. Saunders has been surrounded by controversy, but a team willing to take a gamble could be rewarded. At 6-5, 272 pounds, Saunders has the bulk and strength to dominate at the line. He also demonstrates speed to beat linebackers and soft hands. Saunders has unlimited upside but his immaturity and year long suspension will take him off some teams draft boards. Considering the emphasis that the Broncos will put on the run game next year coupled with the fact that Tim Tebow loves to utilizes his tight ends, Saunders could be a great fit with the Broncos scheme. They may be willing to take a gamble at this point in the draft.
Other possibilities at this spot:
Alex Green, RB, Hawaii: Green has great size and speed, and is a value at this point in the draft. If the Broncos do not peruse Deangleo Williams (as it has been speculated) or another running back in free agency, they could look for one late in the draft. Scouts have knocked Green for lacking vision and being a north south style runner, but with the re-implantation of the Zone blocking scheme, Green could be just the kind of one cut straight ahead back the Broncos are looking for.
Doug Hogue, OLB, Syracuse: Hogue has great speed and athleticism. Though he’s still raw as a linebacker, teams will likely see him as a worthwhile late-round pick who will fill a role on special teams and as a reserve while he tries to fulfill his potential.
7th Round, #194 overall: Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford
You can be assured that the Broncos are going to take a long hard look at a fullback in this draft, and a player like Owen Marecic is the kind of player that is going to make the Broncos pull the trigger. Marecic had a terrific career at Stanford, playing both fullback and linebacker. His versatility alone makes him more attractive, as he can play both offense and defense and will be able to contribute on the special teams from day one. He is a tough lead blocker who reads and reacts very well. He demonstrates a quick release out of the backfield and the ability to catch the ball. John Fox loves to use fullbacks in his running attack and Marecic would fill a need in the Broncos future game plans.
Other possibilities at this spot:
Charles Clay, FB/H-Back, Tulsa: Clay is another option as Fullback. He totaled 2,544 receiving yards and 911 rushing yards in 53 games. He completed his career ranked sixth on the school’s career receiving chart and totaled 38 career touchdowns to rank second on Tulsa’s all-time TD list. Though he is less polished as a Fullback, and would be a bit of a project at that position, his 6-3, 240 pound frame and potential could make him a more attractive pick than Marecic.
As the NFL Draft draws closer, these picks will surely change. This mock does not include players being traded for picks, because until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is made, trades will not be prohibited in the NFL. Trades in future mocks could be included once a new CBA is met, but I will continue to make these mocks based on the current conditions of both the Denver Broncos and the NFL. I welcome any feedback and analysis that will be productive in making this mock draft more accurate and realistic. So until Thursday, April 28, 2011 when we hear who the Broncos drafting with the 2nd overall pick, lets have some fun with this!
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Topics: 4-3, Alex Green, Andre Goodman, Brian Dawkins, Carolina Panthers, Champ Bailey, Charles Clay, Combine, D.j. Williams, Da'Quan Bowers, DeAndre McDaniels, Denver Broncos, Doug Houge, Drake Nevis, Elvis Dumervil, Greg Jones, Jamal Williams, Joe Mays, John Fox, John Moffitt, Justin Bannan, Kevin Vickerson, Luke Stocker, Marcell Dareus, Marcus Thomas, Mario Haggan, Martez Wilson, Marvin Austin, Mock Draft, NFL, Nfl Draft, Nick Fairley, Owen Marecic, Parish Cox, Patrick Peterson, Phil Taylor, Rahim Moore, Renaldo Hill, Robert Ayers, Syd'quan Thompson, Tim Tebow, Von Miller, Wesley Woodyard, Weslye Saunders