The dog and pony show known as the NFL Draft, in this case the 2014 version, is now in our rear-view mirrors. As is the tradition, pundits and “experts” go on any media outlet that will have them and give each team a grade for how well they did or didn’t do. It’s kind of like when your teachers in grammar school broke out the gold stars and red pens (unless you’re being graded per common-core standards, then they all did well, get a gold star, and what really matters is how the team executives set up their boards to arrive at the pick…but I digress). I believe grading out these picks is fruitless since none of these players have ever stepped on the field against NFL competition. The bottom line is, we just don’t know how these guys will pan out. However, what we can grade is how, in this case, the Denver Broncos addressed positions of need and the perceived value of where they were selected. Here is a run-down of the picks and some of the free agent signings from the weekend.
The grading system is as such: It’s based on a 1-4 scale. Terrell Davis will identify a positive grade and Ted Gregory a negative grade (Sorry Coach Reeve’s). To be honest, there weren’t any Ted Gregorys in this draft from what I can tell.
Bradley Roby: The Cornerback out of Ohio St. had good size at 5’11” and 194 lbs, He has good speed and likes to hit. Some draft prognosticators had Roby going somewhere between picks 15 and 20 or so. However, his stock began to drop because of some off the field indiscretions. In a nutshell, he was in a bar fight. It’s not exactly what you want to see in a guy’s past, but if that is the worst thing he has to overcome in relation to his character, I think it’s manageable. So if Roby was, in fact, projected to go in the middle of the first round, it stands to reason that this has a real opportunity to be one of the best values of the first round. Once Roby acclimates to the speed and routine of the NFL, Executive Vice President of Football Operations, John Elway, thinks that he could be a guy who sees significant time in the nickel and dime packages in 2014 and could be a long time starter for the Broncos starting in 2015. Grade: 3 TD’s
Cody Latimer: Another former basketball player (Julius Thomas), Latimer has great size and speed to give Peyton Manning yet another weapon. At 6’2″ and 215 lbs, he will be a nice compliment to Demaryius Thomas. And depending how Demaryius’ contract extension negotiations proceed, Latimer may end up being groomed for the number 1 receiver spot after 2014. He’ll also give the Broncos some options in the event Wes Welker experiences another injury-plagued season. Cody can line up outside and move newly acquired, Emmanual Sanders to the slot, where he is more effective. Latimer is seen as being a little bit of a project, but his ceiling is very high and his athleticism is off the charts. There are many, myself included, who wanted Denver to take an inside linebacker. When we picked Latimer at # 56 overall, Roby’s teammate at Ohio St, linebacker, Chris Borland was on the board. Borland fell to San Francisco at #77 in the third round. And for that, CBSSports.com only graded the pick as a B- for the Niners. However they graded Latimer as an A. So based on these opinions, and the fact that Elway and the Broncos’ brass actually traded up to get Latimr, that tells me they really love his upside: The did what they said they would do: take the best player available. Grade: 4 TD’s
Michael Schofield: The Broncos really had to shuffle the deck on the offensive line last year when all-world left tackle, Ryan Clady went down with a season-ending foot injury in week 2. Chris Clark slid over to left tackle, Orlando Franklin at right tackle, and Manny Ramirez twerked in front of PFM all year at center. All things considered, they all performed admirably. However, against the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl they were beaten up and down the line. In particular, Franklin and former Broncos offensive lineman, Zane Beadles, each had a rough game. Consequently, Denver realized that there was a need to add depth and grit to the line. Schofield was the guy on the board at # 95 in the third round that met that exact criteria. He probably didn’t get the attention that he may have deserved since he played opposite one of the best tackles in the draft, Taylor Lewan. However, Schofield not only played tackle but of the 26 starts he made at Michigan, 10 were at left guard. At 6′ 7″ and 301 lbs, he possesses long arms and good footwork to handle the outside rush off the right end. Maybe the most important thing is that he brings some nasty to the line that it might have been missing. He was certainly another best player available at a position of need. Grade: 3 TD’s
The Broncos remaining three picks in the draft addressed the needs at linebacker and offensive line. In the fifth round (#156) Denver went out and grabbed LSU inside linebacker, Lamin Barrow. Barrow is very athletic but needs improvement in relation to his instincts and technique. This pick fills a big need at LB and since Barrow played at an elite SEC school, I like the pick. In the sixth round, the Broncos added even more depth to the offensive line by taking former walk-on at Boise St, Matt Paradis. Paradis converted from DL to OL and settled in at center for one of the most explosive offensive programs in the nation. The talk of the 6’3″, 306 lb Paradis is that he, like Schofield brings some nasty to the line that already has two All-Pros: Clady and right guard, Louis Vasquez. In the seventh round (#242), Denver again went linebacker but on the outside this time. They took Corey Nelson out of Oklahoma. At 6′ and 231 lbs, Nelson is kind of a tweener backer. He is described as athletic and smart. His last season at OU was cut short do to a pectoral tear, which may be the reason he dropped as far as he did. Playing in Bob Stoops’ defensive system at Norman, Nelson certainly has the pedigree to make the jump to the next level. For where the Broncos grabbed these three guys, I like the picks. Grade 2.g TD’s.
In addition to 6 draft picks in the NFL’s annual extravaganza, the Broncos signed 15 undrafted free agents:
Kenny Anunike, DE, Duke; Shaquil Barrett, LB, Colorado State; Kapri Bibbs, RB, Colorado State; Isaiah Burse, WR, Fresno State; Steven Clark , P, Auburn; Brennan Clay, RB, Oklahoma; Mister Cobble, DT, Kentucky; Bennie Fowler, WR, Michigan State; Greg Hardin, WR, North Dakota; Greg Latta, DE, Purdue; Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina; Aslam Sterling, OL, Kansas; Jordan Sullen, CB, Tulane; Juwan Thompson, RB, Duke; and Louis Young, CB, Georgia Tech.
Nine years running, at least one CFA has made the Broncos’ roster; last season it was C.J. Anderson. A few of these guys are very intriguing to me. I’ll start with the QB out of North Carolina, Bryn Renner. Renner is a big kid at 6’3″ and 228 lbs. He did not put up eye-popping numbers at Chapel Hill so obviously there is something that Elway and Co. like about him. What I want to know is what this means for Zac Dysert and Elway favorite, Brock Osweiler. Maybe nothing but clearly John is thinking about “Plan B'; which is code for life after Manning.
I am a big Colorado State fan so I love the fact that the Broncos signed RB Kapri Bibbs and LB, Shaquille Barrett. Bibbs took the MWC by storm last season when he rushed for 1741 yards and 31 TDs. I really expected him to be a late round pick but I am glad that he was there for the Broncos to sign. My only concern is that we only have one season from which to gauge Bibbs. He was a JuCo transfer and only played one season in Division 1. Also, it is reported that he came out after his sophomore year because he didn’t want to go to class anymore. Additionally, he is only 21 years old so there is some maturing that might need to take place. That said, Bibbs gave the Rams an explosive back they haven’t seen since Gartrell Johnson. As for Shaq Barrett, we have a much larger resume’ from which to work. Barrett amassed 246 tackles (32.5 for loss) and 18 sacks in 38 career games for the Rams. It seems that with every CSU game I watched, Shaq was the guy about whom opposing defenses had to game plan. He was not a stranger to making big plays as the aforementioned stats would indicate. And at 6’2″ and 250 lbs, he could be exactly for which we Broncos’ fans have been asking: an ILB for years to come. The bottom line is that I was so happy that these two guys were signed, it was almost as if I was drafted myself. To celebrate, I kissed my wife but left the cake out of it.
Finally, and if for nothing else but this guys name, I would like to see the defensive tackle from Kentucky, Mister Cobble make the team. If he did, that would give us Mister Cobble and Pot Roast on our defensive line; which sounds like a name of an ABC After School Special. And if one wants to greet him formally, he would be Mr. Mister Cobble. And if you are of a certain age, you might remember Mr. Mister as a pop band from the 1980’s.
Well, I have gotten all of my Mister Cobble jokes out of my system…for now. As for this whole class of 2014, only time will tell which of these prospects will make the team and which will have to take their broken wings and learn to fly away.
Sorry, but I couldn’t resist.