The NFL season is over and the offseason is ramping up. Speculation about free agent movement and who teams will draft is a favorite topic this time of year. Mock drafts are everywhere. Taking a stab at the draft before the NFL Combine is over is always fun, but keep in mind the first couple rounds of a mock draft can change drastically after the Combine. Depending on how prospects perform in Indianapolis they could either fly up draft boards or plummet down them. Regardless, here is a look at what the Denver Broncos’ draft could look like in May.
2014 is a good year for the Denver Broncos to have a pick at the end of the first round as this is a very deep draft. They also need to find players in the middle rounds to fill depth needs and grab development players for the future, making this year a good year to have full range of middle round picks.
Note: There will be no trade predictions in this mock draft.
Round #1 – Bradley Roby, Cornerback, Ohio State
I have stated in a previous post that every first round graded cornerback may be selected before the 31st pick, but there is a solid chance the Roby will still be on the board. If so, then the Broncos need to grab him. Cornerback is their greatest offseason need and Roby has the potential to be very good. The problem is he also has bust potential due to concentration lapses and some off-field issues. The Broncos need to take the best defensive player available; an impact player with a first round grade and Roby fits that philosophy.
Positives: Extremely fast and athletic. Fluid in coverage and flips his hips well to turn and run with receivers. Doesn’t shy away from contact and will support the run. He has all the physical tools to match up with NFL receivers. Roby possesses more than enough athletic ability to be a playmaker with the ball in his hands.
Negatives: His size is a concern as he may be shorter than 5-foot-11. Roby is good in run support, but his body lacks the bulk to hold up long-term and could have injury issues at the pro level. He has concentration lapses and off-field issues. He was better in 2012 than in 2013. With only eight interceptions in his three year collegiate career he has not displayed ball-hawking potential.
The Broncos need playmakers at cornerback and Roby has the athletic ability and potential to make a difference in the secondary. He is saying the right things concerning his attitude, work ethic and off-field issues since he declared for the draft. If Roby comes to the NFL with focus and a chip on his shoulder, ready to prove the naysayers wrong, he could be outstanding. However, if he loses focus or doesn’t work hard he could wind up a bust.
Round #2 – Yawin Smallwood, Middle Linebacker, Connecticut
The Broncos have needed a solid middle linebacker since Al Wilson retired. Drafting a middle linebacker this high in today’s game would seem a bit of a reach, but Smallwood has the traits to stay on the field for all three downs in the pass happy NFL.
Positives: He is long-armed, tall and has room on his frame to add bulk. Smallwood is very athletic, fast and can play sideline to sideline. He was productive in his time at Connecticut. He reads pass plays quickly and drops into coverage showing solid coverage skills. He is frequently around the ball after it is thrown. He fills his gap on run plays well, disengages from blocks and is comfortable working through traffic.
Negatives: Although he made a lot of tackles, he misses some as well because he doesn’t always break down and square-up. Sometimes he falls for juke moves from the ball carrier causing him to attempt an arm tackle or miss completely. He needs to learn to take better angles to the ball carrier to improve his sideline to sideline movement, pursuit and tackling. At times Smallwood appears to guess on run plays and when he does he is often out of position. He needs to read and react to run plays more quickly without guessing.
Smallwood’s pursuit angles and tackling weaknesses can be fixed with good coaching. More film room preparation will help his run diagnosis enabling him to play more instinctive. He has the potential to be a day one starter and a future impact player if he responds well to NFL coaching.
Round #3 – Peirre Desir, Cornerback, Lindenwood
Taking two cornerbacks in the first 3 rounds may be a Mike Shanahan type move, but the Broncos could be in dire need at the position by the time free agency is over and this is a deep cornerback draft. Also, planning for the future at the position is required. If Desir displays enough speed at the Combine to run with NFL receivers he can develop into something special with the proper coaching.
Positives: He is tall, has long arms and an athletic build. Desir is fluid with good hip turn to run with receivers. He has a good back pedal and body control. He possesses ball-hawking ability as evident by his 13 interceptions at Lindenwood and 25 total in college. He showed at the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game he can handle receivers from Division I.
Negatives: He may not possess elite speed to cover fast NFL receivers. Desir relies on his athletic ability more than great technique and he doesn’t support the run well. He needs to improve his physicality. Playing at Lindenwood, Desir did not compete against top tier level competition.
If Desir runs below a 4.5 forty at the Combine he will be gone this late in the draft. With good coaching and an improved desire for tackling and jamming at the line of scrimmage, Desir will end up being a very good starter in the NFL. The Broncos could use the depth that he would provide early on and his ball-hawking nature. He would give the Broncos’ secondary a future starter.
Round #4 – Donte Moncrief, Wide Receiver, Ole Miss
With Eric Decker likely out the door, wide receiver becomes a position of need for the Broncos. Moncrief is similar to Decker in size, but may not have the top end speed. Even without the timed speed desired in the NFL, Moncrief could replace some of Decker’s production and be a fixture at wide receiver down the road. This is a deep draft at wide receiver and Moncrief could easily be available in round four.
Positives: Good hands, good size and adequate speed to be a possession receiver. He was productive in college. He is a willing blocker and a good route runner.
Negatives: He doesn’t possess fast timed speed and is not as athletic as some of the upper-tier receivers in this draft. He could use more routes in his repertoire.
Round #5 – Daniel McCullers, Defensive Tackle, Tennessee
McCullers has a 3rd to 4th round grade, but I think he falls in the draft in a similar fashion to John Jenkins last year. NFL general managers may shy away from him due to his weight control issues and that he may only contribute on 1st and 2nd downs. There is not a lot of room on an NFL roster. If scouts think McCullers can only contribute on two downs and not contribute much on special teams early in his career, he will fall in the draft.
Positives: McCullers is massive and naturally strong. He is a space-eater in the middle of the line and solid versus the run. He possesses a good bull-rush and a solid rip move. He was very dominate versus one-on-one in college and required double teams. He has experience in both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses.
Negatives: He still looks raw and will need coaching. He has had past weight issues, but showed up at the Senior Bowl in good shape. McCullers can get too upright and be pushed around by good technical centers and guards. He relies on his size and strength rather than technique. He lacks good lateral movement, is not fast nor a pass rusher. He may only be a two down player in the NFL.
The Broncos like their defensive tackles big and McCullers certainly is that. With good coaching and dedication McCullers could blossom into a very good run stuffer and space-eater in the NFL. He has not hit his ceiling and could wind up being a steal in round 5. He could provide rotational depth against the run as the Broncos have some good interior pass rushers already on the roster. Defensive tackle is not a huge need, but if McCullers is available, the Broncos can add depth and future potential. Plus, controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball wins football games.
Round #6 – Russell Bodine, Center/Guard, North Carolina
Zane Beadles is the weakest link on the Broncos’ offensive line and a free agent. Even if he is retained, grooming his replacement is in order. Bodine can play guard or center, both areas of need for the future.
Positives: He has shown his versatility playing both center and guard in college. He has good size and strength with a very good initial arm punch. He is quick and light on his feet for his size. Bodine has good knee bend and likes to hit.
Negatives: He has short arms and is not overly fast or athletic. He can be over powered and has been beaten by swim moves.
Bodine could provide solid depth along the offensive line and groomed for the future.
Round #7 – Jordon Najvar, Tight End, Baylor
This pick may seem odd as the Broncos have four good tight ends on the roster. However, Joel Dreessen will not be with the team next year as his salary has not matched his production and two younger options have emerged. Jacob Tamme may be gone as well because Julius Thomas is better, faster, younger and cheaper. Cutting Dreessen and Tamme will clear cap space, but will also leave a void at TE. Najvar is a very good blocking tight end and has capable hands. He can fill the blocking role of Dreessen and grow as a receiver. The Broncos could benefit from more physical play from the receiver and tight end positions.
Positives: Najvar is a bruising blocker and a capable receiver with soft hands. He has potential to become more involved as a receiver. He is a tall end zone target who is smart and possesses adequate speed for the tight end position.
Negatives: He only had 33 receptions over three years and is not as athletic as the NFL would like at tight end. He has very little experience as a receiver.
Selecting Najvar would give the Broncos three young tight ends without a large cost in cap space.