The 4th round of the NFL Draft. As one of the ”middle rounds”, the 4th can be very influential on the destinies of a NFL franchise.
John Elway’s 4th round selections since 2011 are Quinton Carter, Julius Thomas, Omar Bolden and Phillip Blake. Ouch. Thomas makes up for what would otherwise be a poor 4th round draft history. With this draft class being so deep, there’s no reason why Elway can’t find a true diamond in the rough here.
Although the Broncos filled a major hole, and need, when they signed T.J. Ward, there is still uncertainty on the back end of the defense. Rahim Moore’s recovery from lateral compartment syndrome is reportedly going well, but with very little experience with this particular injury to draw from, there is no guarantee he’ll be able to return to form.
One player that the Broncos could target in response to this, is Wisconsin’s Dezman Southward. At 6’0, 211lbs, he has good size. He’s fast. At his Pro Day, he ran a 4.38 40-time. That’s very legit. Compared to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, who each ran a 4.58 40-time at the combine, it’s very telling. Those two safeties are considered the top players at their positions.
Some of Southward’s strengths include the fact that he played in 54 games at Wisconsin, which is a school record. He’s experienced. He plays with tremendous tenacity and toughness and closes on the ball carrier, or route, very quickly.
Southward isn’t the best technician. He doesn’t have the smoothest hips, nor the most fluid backpedal. These are shortcomings that can improve under the direction of NFL coaching.
With his speed, he can cover a lot of ground quickly. He’s not necessarily a “plug and play” prospect, but he would immediately provide depth at a position of relative weakness for the Broncos.
The team could also choose to look at South Carolina’s Kelcy Quarles. At 6’4, 297lbs, he isn’t the biggest defensive tackle in the draft, but he makes up for that with his initial burst and first step. Guess who led the Gamecocks in sacks in 2013? If your answer was Jadeveon Clowney, you’d be wrong. It was Quarles, with 9.5.
Or maybe the Broncos target Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz. At 6’6, 265lbs, he is a formidable blocking, in-line tight end. The Broncos have a young blocking tight end in Virgil Green, but Fiedorowicz is far superior as a duel threat. He has very soft hands, but he was grossly underutilized at Iowa in this regard. For his size, he ran a respectable 4.73 40 at the combine.
Drafting this kid would likely doom Joel Dreessen, but he’s been on the roster bubble since day 1 of the new league year. Of all the tight ends in this draft class, I see Fiedorowicz as having the most value, compared to where he’ll likely be drafted.