I promised a seven round Broncos mock draft, and here it is! All scouting reports courtesy of NFL.com via NFLDraftScout.com.
Round One, Pick 12: Tyson Jackson; Defensive End, LSU 6′4″ 295
This is my third article promoting the Broncos’ drafting of Tyson Jackson. I feel like I sound like a broken record, but this pick makes sense. Unless the Broncos get lucky, they will not be able to get NT B.J. Raji with this pick. A player like Brian Cushing or Malcolm Jenkins could be tempting, but the Broncos would be wise to look toward the defensive line in the early portions of the draft, especially since they basically neglected that area in free agency.
Positives: Versatile defender who operates as an end in LSU’s base 4-3 alignment, but could also be moved inside as a 4-3 under (3-technique) tackle or as an end in the 3-4 alignment. … Good team defender. … Understands his containment responsibilities. … Excellent size and strength to stack at the point of attack. … Flashes the ability to shed blocks and make the play. … Good initial quickness off the snap. … Can pressure the tackle’s outside shoulder and has the strength to push the blocker into the pocket toward the quarterback or use his hands to rip off the block. … Gets his hands up in the passing lane. … Good lateral quickness and hand technique to disengage from blocks and make the play. … Hustles to chase ballcarriers downfield.
Negatives: Bit of a “tweener” for 4-3 teams. … Lacks a great burst upfield, closing speed and the repertoire of pass-rush moves to be a dynamic outside pass rusher. … Marginal speed to close. … Does not change direction quickly in the backfield to prevent quarterbacks stepping up or getting yards with their feet.
Round Two, Pick 48: Ron Brace; Defensive Tackle, Boston College 6′3″ 330
Quick–What was the worst part of the Denver Broncos’ defense in 2008? If you said everything, that’s pretty harsh, but you are not too far off. The answer I was looking for was run defense. While his teammate B.J. Raji gets a lot more attention, Brace is a two-time All-ACC selection in his own right.
He would likely start immediately along with Tyson Jackson, and those two would provide instant credibility to Denver’s rush defense.
Positives: Square-framed, naturally large man. … Surprising initial quickness off the snap to disrupt the play before it has a chance to begin. … Good lateral quickness to slide down the line. … Good use of hands to slap away the blockers’ attempts to control him. … Good overall strength, especially in his lower body, to hold up at the point. … Can anchor against the double-team and flashes the ability to split. … Able to close if given a free lane. … Recognizes the action quickly and can slide off the block onto the runner as he goes by. … Versatile defender capable of projecting as a zero-, one- or three-technique at the next level.
Negatives: Only “phone booth” quickness. … Requires a free lane to close on the quarterback and isn’t going to provide significant interior pass rush. … Marginal effort and ability in pursuit. … Flanked by a better prospect in Raji and often faces only one blocker. … Struggled with a recurring back injury in 2008. … Concern over back injury only heightened considering his heavy build and potential to allow his weight to get out of control.
Round Three, Pick 79: Bradley Fletcher; Defensive Back, Iowa 6′0″ 198
If I can’t have Shonn Greene, I may as well go for another Iowa prospect early in my mock draft. Bradley Fletcher only had one season of starting experience with the Hawkeyes, but he made great use of it. The senior has had an excellent off-season to this point, and has elevated his draft stock quite a bit.
There are some skeptics regarding what position he will play in the NFL, but Denver would love to have him at either cornerback or safety.
Positives: Prototypical size for the position. … Flashes a strong initial punch to disrupt the receiver’s timing with the quarterback. … At least adequate straight-line speed to remain at cornerback. … Flexible hips to turn and run with receivers. … Has the lateral agility and quickness to break on the ball. … Long arms and active hands, which he uses well in coverage to bat away passes. … At least adequate hands for the interception. … Uses his size to his advantage and responds to the physical challenge of bigger receivers. … Can highpoint the ball. … Breaks down well in space to make the secure open-field tackle. … Flashes some pop. … Has the size and instincts to lead some teams to project him as a free safety prospect. … Good week of practice at cornerback at the East-West Shrine Game has his stock on the rise.
Negatives: Viewed by some as a bit of a “tweener.” … Lacks great fluidity out of his breaks and must prove he has the deep speed to run with the NFL’s elite burners on the outside. … Only has one full season as a starter. … Tends to duck his head when fighting through blocks and can lose sight of the ball. … Not the physical hitter most teams prefer if he is to move to free safety.
Round Four, Pick 114: Jarrett Dillard; Wide Receiver, Rice 5′10″ 191
The Broncos already have an excellent core of receivers, but the team needs to begin developing their slot receiver of the future behind Brandon Stokley. Jarrett Dillard is arguably the best college receiver ever, but because of his small stature and lack of elite speed, he will be a gem in the mid-rounds.
Dillard has the best vertical leap of any receiver in the draft, and some of the surest hands. He is a great red-zone target, and could be a steal for any team that picks him up. Denver receiver Brandon Marshall is facing a suspension, and Dillard would be a nice security blanket to have around.
Positives: Productive receiver with long arms and adequate size. Very reliable hands, snatching the ball away from his body. Can free himself off press coverage using his hands and quick movements on the line. Excellent route-runner as he stays low in his cuts, sells the jerk route well and does not round off out-cuts. Good vision and a naturally elusive runner with the ball in his hands. Lulls defenders to sleep off the line, then takes off down the seam. Adjusts to throws to his outside shoulder.
Negatives: Lacks great athleticism and explosiveness off the line. Lacks the pure speed to separate from corners or safeties. Has trouble getting to corners and linebackers to block at the second level. Gets knocked off his routes too easily. Won’t win many battles for the ball in the air because of relatively weak hands and vertical, although he can shield the defender. Likely a slot receiver. Must adapt to a new quarterback after building a great relationship with Clement.
Round Five, Pick 140 (from Seattle): Jasper Brinkley; Middle Linebacker, South Carolina
I am a huge fan of Brinkley. He will get drafted about two or three rounds later than he should because statistically he struggled in 2008 after a severe knee injury in 2007. Going into this season, he is fully healthy, and quite honestly is a tackling machine. Denver could groom him as their starting MLB of the future behind Andra Davis.
Positives: Prototype size and strength for the inside linebacker position. … Immediate impact defender for South Carolina after transferring from Georgia Military College, and improved gradually. … Shows some burst as pass rusher on the blitz. … Good short-area quickness to elude blockers. … Reliable open-field tackler and can be a punisher inside. … Intimidating presence whose size and power project nicely as a 3-4 inside linebacker.
Negatives: Relies on his physical attributes and is still developing his instincts and technique. … Too often looks to slip blocks instead of using his size advantage. … Struggles with his hand placement and is slow to disengage. … Can be fooled by misdirection and lacks the explosiveness to recover. … Lacks the instincts and foot speed to be a factor in coverage. … Missed all but four games of the 2007 season after tearing his ACL. … Underwent surgery September 2007 and wasn’t the same player in 2008, when his athleticism was nowhere close to what it was pre-injury.
Round Five, Pick 149: Mitch King; Defensive End, Iowa 6′2″ 280
It’s not too often you are able to get a first team All-American defender in the fifth round of the draft, but I have seen crazier things. So maybe I am a bit biased being an Iowa fan, but Mitch King is a true gamer. He could line up at DT, DE, or OLB for the Broncos, and would immediately have an impact on special teams. King is willing and able to do anything and everything he can to help his team win, which is why I like him so much.
Positives: Short, squatty defender with a low center of gravity, making it tough to move him off the line of scrimmage. … Good strength, especially in his lower body, to anchor. … Good initial quickness off the snap. … Good hand placement and quickness. … Forceful hands to disengage from the blocker. … Good short-area vertical and lateral quickness to slip blocks and make plays in the hole. … Instinctive defender who sees the action and puts himself in position to make plays. … High-effort, high-intensity player who makes those around him better. … Four-year starter.
Negatives: Bit of a “tweener.” … Lacks the height, flexibility and speed off the edge teams prefer outside at defensive end and the bulk inside for defensive tackle. … Needs to be protected by a bigger defensive tackle next to him to handle playing inside in the NFL.
Round Six, Pick 185: Curtis Painter; Quarterback, Purdue 6′3″ 225
Here’s the thing. Jay Cutler has three years left on his rookie contract, and unless the Broncos can convince him to stay for the next eight years by giving him a $100 million plus contract, he will likely be gone after that contract expires. Josh McDaniels knows how to develop quarterbacks, and Curtis Painter was widely considered the top senior quarterback in the nation prior to the season. He would be a great late-round addition at quarterback for the Broncos.
Strengths: Good size and bulk for the position. Durable four-year starter from a system that produced starting NFL QBs Drew Brees (Saints) and Kyle Orton (Bears). Quick set up and delivery. Legitimate NFL arm strength and accuracy. Can make every NFL throw, showing the zip, touch and deep accuracy necessary to attack every level of the defense. When given time in the pocket, shows very good accuracy. Can hit the moving target, giving his receivers the opportunity to take advantage of their abilities to run after the catch. Not particularly athletic, but can roll out, square his shoulders and throw accurately on the move.
Weaknesses: Struggles with pressure. Fails to feel the pocket collapsing around him and too often either absorbs hits or forces the ball into coverage. Will stare down his primary target and trusts his arm strength to put the ball into extraordinarily tight windows. Simply hasn’t made the improvements throughout his career expected of a four-year starter. Has struggled in big-game situations. Missed time as a senior with a separated right shoulder that requires a medical check.
Round Seven, Pick 225: David Bruton; Safety, Notre Dame 6′2″ 219
The Broncos got a late-round steal last year in Josh Barrett at the safety position, and could get another one here in David Bruton. He showed at the combine that he has great straight line speed, although his coverage skills are still in question. Given time to develop, he could be a good backup and special teamer at the next level.
Positives: Centerfielder with good height and upper-body build. … Nice straight-line speed and overall athleticism for his size. … Usually able to track down ballcarriers from behind, although he will usually take the correct angle to prevent the catastrophic play. … Covers a lot of ground in the deep half, with the ability to high-point the ball on the sideline for the interception. … Good hands make to quarterbacks pay for overthrows. … Also moves inside-out well to get to ballcarriers on stretch plays, either behind the line of scrimmage or working through trash. … Breaks down well, getting low to make the tackle in the open field. … Long enough to wrap up in space and get a hand on the ball to force the turnover. … Major special teams contributor for the Irish as a gunner, winning hand-play at the line, beating the double team, showing good speed down the field and securing the tackle. … Good leader and hard worker.
Negatives: Stiff in the hips. … Has trouble flipping open in transition. … Adequate closing on underneath patterns and staying with tight ends, but struggles manning up against quicker receivers. … Needs to improve reading quarterback so he can be involved in more plays. … Not physical enough against the run or in coverage. … Often loses hand battles and fights for the ball with receivers. … Doesn’t explode into tackles, but is more of a catcher. … Running backs drive through his arm tackles. … Will whiff in the open field when ducking his head instead of seeing what he hits.
Round Seven, Pick 235 (from Atlanta): A.Q. Shipley; Center, Penn State
Say what you will about the length of Shipley’s arms, I’ll take him on my team any day. This is great late-round value for the Broncos, who sure as heck had better be getting a great player with this pick that they got in exchange for Domonique Foxworth. Shipley could eventually take over at either guard or center, whichever spot Kory Lichtensteiger doesn’t take over first.
Positives: Stout, tough and physical at the point, plays like the former nose guard he is. Strong anchor in pass protection, and does not get bull-rushed as he uses his wide base to maintain leverage. Battles everyone and anyone on the field, playing through the whistle. Good enough feet to combo (in either direction) then get to the linebacker or safety and angle him while engaged. Adept at shotgun. Gets hands up quickly after the snap. Gets off his man to pick up late blitzers using his feet and hands. Only adequate moving laterally on pulls, but is still able to wall off linebackers inside. Team leader. Makes accurate line adjustments.
Negatives: Lacks height, bulk and arm length. Projects to center only, probably in a zone-blocking system. Short arms prevent him from maintaining contact with tackles on the move, which lets his man shed or get past him. Initial punch is only adequate. Does not consistently sustain his blocks, especially against stronger tackles.