The Denver Broncos are gearing up for another run at a Super Bowl, but they will have to now do so without defensive end and star pass rusher Elvis Dumervil. Through a series of very unfortunate events–and a tragic misuse of a fax machine–the Broncos lost 11 sacks and six forced fumbles of production last season to AFC rival Baltimore.
It was expected the Broncos would be quiet this offseason, but that wasn’t the case as Denver pounced on some of the top free agents on the market, including guard Louis Vasquez and wide receiver Wes Welker. The Broncos also fortified their defense by adding defensive tackle Terrance Knighton and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, both of whom will be starters in Jack Del Rio’s defense.
Still, the Broncos are a little unsettled at a couple of positions. As of right now, the plan is to insert former first round pick Robert Ayers into Elvis Dumervil’s old spot, but those are some big shoes to fill for a guy who hasn’t proven to be more than a rotational player to this point in his career.
All of that being said, here is a mock draft that I think can help get the Broncos over the top in 2013.
1. First Round, 28th overall: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
I think if Te’o falls to this point in the first round, the Broncos wouldn’t pass on him. I know they’ve had interest in him dating all the way back to the Combine, and they had a contingent at the Notre Dame pro day to watch him work out. I anticipate the Broncos will privately work out Te’o, in addition to bringing him to Dove Valley for further inspection. The team has former third round pick Nate Irving slated to start in 2013, but he’s unproven to this point in his career. The Broncos did sign Stewart Bradley, but I don’t think he’s going to be a long-term solution at the ILB position.
Enter Te’o, who is one of the most controversial players in this year’s draft. What Te’o brings is what the Broncos have lacked since Al Wilson left a few years back at the ILB position–effort play in and play out. Not only effort, but Te’o is constantly in the right place at the right time. That’s not by the luck of the Irish, either. Te’o is one of the most instinctive players in this draft regardless of position, and inside linebackers have a tendency to fall in the first round of the draft because they aren’t pure pass rushing linebackers.
I see no reason why if Te’o is still on the board, the Broncos would pass on him. You could argue he is just a two-down linebacker, but I don’t think the Broncos would view him that way. I think they would view him as a 100 plus tackle per season type of guy who can make plays sideline to sideline, and become the vocal leader of a defense desperately in need of one.
2. Second Round, 58th overall: Jamie Collins, DE/OLB, Southern Mississippi
Jamie Collins is a freakishly athletic pass rush prospect who would immensely help the Broncos in the wake of the Elvis Dumervil loss. Denver is obviously going to move forward with Robert Ayers and Derek Wolfe as the starting bookends at DE, but on passing downs and nickel situations, you need more speed up front. Jamie Collins is a versatile player that you can line up all over the defense with excellent athletic ability and pass rush skills. He’s constantly improved over his years at Southern Miss, and finished last season with a whopping 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. I think this is a rapidly improving player that could bookend with Von Miller on passing downs to give the Broncos an explosive young couple of pass rushers.
This is easily one of my favorite prospects in the draft, and I think if the Broncos could add him, that would be an excellent fit to replace Elvis Dumervil.
3. Third Round, 90th overall: Shawn Williams, S, Georgia
The Broncos have been sniffing around a LOT of safeties this offseason, and in addition to getting bigger and faster at the CB position (see Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) they want to get bigger and faster at safety. Mike Adams was signed last offseason as a stop-gap veteran starter while Quinton Carter was rehabbing a knee injury. I think the Broncos really like Carter, but he got himself into a bit of trouble this offseason. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Denver go defense with their first three picks, especially after the debacle defensively against the Ravens in the playoffs.
For the most part, this defense for the Broncos was dominant last year, among the top 5 in most major statistical categories. That being said, they need some players in the backfield who can make plays on the ball, and Williams fits that bill. He also fits what John Elway and John Fox look for in terms of character. He was a team captain for the Bulldogs and was given the coaches leadership and toughness award. That’s the type of dude they want roaming in the defensive backfield with Rahim Moore and rotating in Carter.
4. Fourth Round, 125th overall: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
I have seen so many different reports about Lattimore’s stock. Some are as optimistic as a Willis McGahee situation, while I see it more in the middle rounds. I think Lattimore has a chance to be the draft’s best back if he can stay healthy, but he hasn’t been able to do that over the last two seasons. With Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno providing the power for one more year at least, the Broncos can afford to take a risk on Lattimore and let him rest for a while until he can prove he’s healthy.
If he can manage to keep himself on the field, I think there is potential for a Terrell Davis type of impact with this mid-round pick. The Broncos are not weak at many positions, so the luxury of Lattimore in the fourth round is more than affordable. This team needs to continue to add playmakers offensively.
5. Fifth Round, 161st overall: Kwame Geathers, DT, Georgia
The Broncos double-dip on Georgia Bulldogs in this mock draft, getting the massive (6’6″ 345 pounds) Geathers, who can be a mountain in the middle if developed correctly. The Broncos have a pretty open DT situation after Kevin Vickerson and Terrance Knighton, who figure to nail down the two starting jobs on the interior. Jack Del Rio and John Fox LOVE to build in the trenches with massive defensive tackles like this, and certainly Geathers fits that description. He would be a really nice fit for the Broncos at this point, the same round where they picked up Malik Jackson last year.
6. Seventh Round, 234th overall: Aaron Hester, CB, UCLA
The 6’2″ 200 pound Hester is exactly what the Broncos are looking for at the CB position. He’s big and speedy (ran a 4.47 at the Scouting Combine) and has started a lot of games in his collegiate career. The Broncos are hoping to strike gold on a potential Richard Sherman clone, and this guy fits the bill in terms of his measurables. I think he has the potential to also be a big time contributor on special teams with that size and speed, and possibly play a tweener role on the defense as a CB/S.