In previous articles, I have spotlighted players in a few areas of need for the Denver Broncos in this week’s upcoming NFL Entry Draft. Inside linebacker, defensive end, and offensive line have been the subject of past pieces. With less than 48 hours until Commissioner Roger Goodell proclaims, “the Kansas City Chiefs are on the clock” I will spotlight two positions of need in this piece in an effort to squeeze them in before Thursday evening…and I’ll try to be brief (I know, not likely).
As the Broncos head into rounds 4 thru 7, they, in all likelihood, will be looking at adding depth in key areas. In my humble estimation that will be at running back and defensive back. This draft provides plenty of late depth at both positions.
Let us take a peek at a late round option at running back. You may recall that in the 1995 draft, a guy named Davis was drafted in the 6th round out of the University of Georgia. From what I recall, he had a decent career. Well I am not going out on that limb of comparison to the great Terrell Davis, but I think Denver might find a very productive back in Marcus Lattimore out of South Carolina. Lattimore is projected to go in either the 4th or 5th round but that is only because he’s coming off of a devistating injury whereby he tore all three ligaments in his right knee, suffered October 27, 2012 against Tennessee. Lattimore also suffered a season ending left knee injury in 2011. Otherwise Lattimore would be early 2nd round talent at worst. So the 5’11″ 221 lb. back would be a high risk, high reward selection late in the 4th rd. Either way, there could be great value for a back that is not fast by RB standards. As we recall, that was the knock on T.D. as well so I’m not too concerned about this criticism. In his freshman season in 2010, Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards and a scored a school-record 19 touchdowns (17 rushing, two receiving) to earn First Team All-SEC honors. He was also earned consensus SEC Freshman of the Year and national Freshman of the Year. In his sophomore season, he was on his way to putting up even better numbers than in his freshman season. Lattimore amassed 818 yards, 10 TDs through seven games in 2011 before the aforementioned season-ending injury. There is a lot of upside to this Gamecock if he can stay healthy.
As for the need at defensive back, I continue to opine that a successful team builds from the inside out. On defense that would be the DTs, ILBs, and safeties. While I have come to grips with Raheem Moore‘s egregious mistakes on the final defensive play of regulation in the divisional playoff game back in January, I do believe that the safety spot is one at which you can never have enough quality depth. Also, I am not giving up on Moore as a more than serviceable safety on this roster for years to come. Through the years, safety tandems of Steve Atwater and Dennis Smith and Steve Foley and Bernard Jackson have punctuated the two greatest defensive eras in Broncos history. In the two Super Bowl years of the late 90′s it was Atwater and Tyrone Braxton who anchored the middle of the secondary. However in each of those eras, there was depth to support these stalwart safeties.
If John Elway feels so inclined to go with a safety in the 5th or 6th rounds, an option of value might be found in Robert Lester from Alabama. As a sophomore he lead the SEC in interceptions with 8. His INTs were reduced to two and four in his junior and senior years respectively. However much of that drop off can be attributed to the respect he earned in his sophomore season. SEC QBs simply did not throw in his direction as much. His perceived weaknesses are his size (6’1″, 220) and his relative lack of athleticism. According to some, his size has him labeled as kind of a tweener; somewhere between a safety and linebacker. However he is a ball-hawk and might be an ideal free safety in nickel and dime situations. Another plus is that he comes from Nick Saban‘s football factory in Tuscaloosa, AL better know as the Alabama Crimson Tide. So this could end up being one of the best values in the final three rounds.
In a February 28th interview on 104.3 The Fan’s Evans and Klatt morning show, Elway boldly stated that
“we don’t draft All-Pro’s, we make em!”
That said, these two guys could be the type of raw materials to which Elway was referring.