As the Denver Broncos and the NFL, ramp up for the draft on May 8th, the overall picture is beginning to take shape. In most mock drafts, quarterbacks are plummeting. 3 months ago, we saw names like Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, and Johnny Manziel mentioned in the top 10. Now, many mocks have Bridgewater out of the 1st round altogether and Bortles maybe in the top 20. The only quarterback name that I see consistently getting mentioned in the top 10 now is Manziel. And that’s far from a given.
But who knows? Not one person who publishes a mock draft, whether they are considered “experts”, or not, will actually be pulling the trigger on draft day. Where an “expert” draftnik says Jadaveon Clowney might be selected could be very different from where he actually ends up. Mock drafts are predictions, after all. Only NFL teams truly can effectuate who gets drafted where.
Let’s face it, though. For those who religiously follow the NFL draft, most of the fun is in scouting a player and trying to predict where and when he’ll be drafted.
To that end, who are some of the Broncos’ potential targets in the 1st round? We know that from a need standpoint, the Broncos could use some help at middle linebacker, cornerback, safety, offensive line, wide receiver, and running back. They’ve lost some key contributors at those positions to free agency.
Drafting for need can be a polarizing subject. Common consensus says that the upper echelon teams do not draft based on need. They take the best player available (BPA), based on their big boards. That may be true to a point, but the reality is that in the NFL, every draft selection has need built into the decision at some level.
Fortunately, John Elway has done a tremendous job drafting throughout his tenor as Vice President of Football Operations. As the de facto GM, the underlying theme in his draft classes is value. Trading out of the 1st round and taking Derek Wolfe in the 2nd. Sly Williams, who was a consensus top 20 prospect in 2012, fell to them at 28. Finding Danny Trevathan in the 6th round and Malik Jackson in the 5th? That’s value.
So what type of value can the Broncos hope to mine out of this draft class at pick 31? There is a chance, albeit a small one, that C.J. Mosley could fall to the bottom of the first round. But that is contingent on teams going crazy on skill position players and offensive lineman early and often. Very possible, but Mosley is widely considered the best all around linebacker in this draft, and there are some needy teams picking before the Broncos who won’t likely let him slip past them. Teams like the Titans, Giants, Bears, Steelers, Ravens, Packers and Saints, to name a few.
To me, the player who will be considered the best linebacker from this draft class 5 years from now, is Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier. He has all the measurables and athletic talent that teams look for in a linebacker. And although most would say that he’s best suited on the edge, as a weakside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, I believe he could thrive and be a 3 down player, at the “Mike” position too.
At his Pro Day, his 4.38 40-time was mind boggling. That’s faster than most NFL receivers. At 6’1, 237lbs, he could stand to add 5lbs to his frame, but even at his current size, he threw up 25 reps on the bench press. He’s strong and fast.
Shazier would immediately upgrade the Broncos’ linebacker corps. The team could choose to put him inside at “Mike”. Or Jack Del Rio could choose to move Danny Trevathan to “Mike” and put Shazier at “Will”. I firmly believe that either combination would pay big dividends. How would you like the Broncos’ starting linebackers to look like this?
Will: Danny Trevathan
Mike: Ryan Shazier
Sam: Von Miller
That’s a fearsome threesome. Not to be miscast as a gym rat, or workout warrior, Shazier just makes plays. He’s the quintessential sideline to sideline, pursuing, tackle machine. In 2013, he was 3rd in the NCAA with 144 total tackles. Where his talent truly begins to show itself on paper is in this stat: 23.5 tackles for a loss (TFL) in 2013.
Like Mosley, it’s very possible that he could be gone by the time the Broncos pick at 31. But I like their chances of roping Shazier. If Mosley is off the board, and Shazier is still available in the 20s, it would not surprise me to see Elway trade up to take him. He’s that good.
If it’s simply not in the cards to rope Mosley, or Shazier, the Broncos could look at prospects such as Virgina Tech’s Kyle Fuller (CB), Ohio State’s Bradley Roby, or Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson, to name a few.
Check back later for potential round 2 targets.