The 2014 NFL Draft is only seven weeks away, so players and teams are going to be connected more and more as the weeks progress.
For the Denver Broncos, one player that keeps coming up is Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland. Most people think Borland is a 2nd round pick, but the Broncos have proven in the past that they don’t really care about what round ‘experts’ project players to go in.
Borland was the 2013 Big Ten defensive player of the year, and has racked up 410 tackles and 50 tackles for loss throughout his collegiate career for the Badgers.
Somewhat limited athletically and physically, Borland checks in at 6’0″ 248 pounds and had the shortest arms (28.5 inches) at the Senior Bowl.
Those aren’t traits you normally see in a first round pick, but in terms of what the Broncos look for in their top prospects or just their draft picks in general, Borland fits the profile.
When you look at John Elway’s top picks as the lead decision maker for Denver, he picked Von Miller, Derek Wolfe, and Sylvester Williams. All three of those guys are extremely hard workers, were extremely productive in college, and have leadership qualities.
Obviously Miller has made some mistakes along the way, but for the most part, that was the profile coming in. The biggest thing to look at here too is that those top picks for Denver have all been very solid athletically. Von Miller was the 2nd overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft after his freakish performance at the Scouting Combine. Derek Wolfe and Sylvester Williams are both 300 pound defensive linemen who all ran a sub-5 second 40 yard dash with a lot of upper body strength.
In terms of pure speed and athleticism, Borland is pretty average for an NFL athlete. However, his instincts make up for any athletic limitations he might have. Some scouts have questions or concerns about his ability to shed blocks in the NFL, though that’s a bit of an overrated aspect to scouting college linebackers anymore as many of them struggle with it. Scouts are also concerned about his physical makeup, obviously.
Coaches will love having a guy like Borland because he has that ‘bring your lunch pail’ or ‘blue collar’ mentality and is willing to step up and be that leader for a defense. He is always around the ball making plays and showed consistent improvement over the course of his career at Wisconsin.
He’s the type of traditional inside linebacker the Broncos would love to have, and I don’t think he would necessarily have to come off the field on third downs either. He’s been compared to Zach Thomas because of size, but Mike Mayock also compared him to a ‘sawed-off’ version of Luke Kuechly.
I’d take any version of Luke Kuechly I could get for the Broncos.
The point of this post was not to simply prove to you that Borland would be worth a first round pick for the Broncos, but that so many prominent names have now placed him in that discussion.
First it was Mike Mayock, who in February had this to say about Borland being the Broncos’ first round pick:
“Most people would say that’s a little high, a little reach for Chris Borland, but I don’t believe that. I think Borland could step in and immediately stabilize that whole situation.”
The connection from Mayock came through the Denver Post Broncos beat reporter Mike Klis, another major name connecting the Broncos with Borland.
The next came from Andrew Mason, a guy close to the Broncos who thinks Borland can step in and be an immediate starter.
Most recently, ESPN NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. predicted the Broncos would pick Borland in the first round.
“Free agency rears its head. I actually had the Broncos taking a pass-rusher here initially, but the addition of DeMarcus Ware — and I hope he stays healthy — makes change an option. If you look at only the physical profile, you wouldn’t consider Borland a first-round pick, but the tape tells another story. Borland isn’t just a clean-up tackler, he’s an instinctive attacker of the backfield, and a relentlessly instinctive player who can get on the field right away and make plays. I know for a fact there are teams that have him with a Round 1 grade. We’ll see.”
So, I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin. The Broncos have been connected a significant amount to this guy as a first round pick, so as Kiper puts it — “We’ll see.”