Only eight days left until the NFL Draft and the Denver Broncos appear to be preparing for certain players to fall in the first round. They are bringing in players like C.J. Mosley and Justin Gilbert for visits; two players who seem destined to be gone before the 20th selection, let alone the 31st selection. Maybe it’s because they couldn’t believe that Sylvester Williams fell to them at the 28th pick in the first round last year.
It is possible that they are planning to trade up into the 20’s to select a player they really like, but John Elway has not shown the propensity to move up in the first round. He seems to patiently wait for a first-round graded prospects to fall to him and if one doesn’t, he trades down.
If there is an early run on quarterbacks and offensive tackles, igniting a frenzy of teams reaching for second-round graded players at those positions in round one, it is possible that a cornerback, linebacker or guard could fall to the Broncos. It is hard to know for sure and I think Elway is just doing his due diligence on all possible scenarios.
I am of the opinion that Elway trades out of the first round since this draft is deep with talent. The Broncos would be wise to grab extra selections in rounds two, three, and four. In this scenario, no first round graded cornerbacks, middle linebackers or guards fall to #31 so the Broncos find a quarterback needy team as a trade partner and move out of round one for an early pick in round two. They pick up a fourth round selection in the process.
Round 2 (projected trade to the top of round 2)
Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
If the Broncos truly intend on moving Orlando Franklin to left guard (which I don’t agree with) then they need to fill the right tackle spot. Part of me believes all the talk about the move is a smoke screen from Elway in hopes other teams let a guard fall in round one.
Chris Clark and Winston Justice are not the answer at right tackle. Clark had a decent year last season at left tackle, but he is a career backup who is useful for depth and not built to be effective on the right side. Justice has been a bust so far and barely even suited up for the Broncos last year. The team likes Vinston Painter, but I don’t think the Broncos will wager their success on a player who was on the practice squad all season.
Moses is a good right tackle who is talented enough to eventually move to the left side. He is a good prospect at the top of round two and would be better by the end of the season than both Clark and Justice at the right tackle position. Moses is getting some buzz right now as a potential late first rounder.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Mississippi
I don’t like going offense with the first two picks when the Broncos need to address their defense, but they like Moncrief and will need to be prepared for the future. Moncrief will fill the #2 receiver role when Wes Welker leaves before the 2015 season and Emmanuel Sanders is then moved to the slot role.
Why draft a WR now? Because WRs typically take a year to learn before they are ready to contribute significantly. Moncrief could do just that in 2014 and if Welker misses time from another concussion, selecting a receiver like Moncrief would prove very valuable.
Round 3 (projected trade into the early portion of this round)
Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
I think I like Desir more than the Broncos like him. Desir is not overly physical and doesn’t like to attack the run leading me to think the Broncos may shy away from him. The reason why I think they would take him if he is there in round three: he is very similar to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The Broncos liked DRC and tried to bring him back, but a contract dispute made them look elsewhere. Desir doesn’t have the elite speed of DRC, but he is a better ball-hawk and the Broncos need to create more turnovers.
Yawin Smallwood, MLB, Connecticut
Smallwood was projected for a selection in round two, but a hamstring injury kept him from testing fully at the Combine or his Pro Day. Some draft outlets even have him falling to round six! I don’t think that will happen as anyone who watches his game tape knows he can play football and is athletic. His injury could be the Broncos salvation at the middle linebacker position if he falls this far.
The Broncos brought in Mosley for a visit and would love it if he was available at #31, but if he isn’t, Smallwood is a great consolation prize. He had more tackles, sacks, tackles for a loss, defended passes, forced fumbles, and interceptions than Mosley last year and has much less wear and tear on his body. Smallwood’s career stats are also better in most categories even though he played three years of college ball compared to Mosley’s four.
Being heavier than Mosley by 10 pounds gives him an advantage in the middle. He also has similar height and arm length. If Smallwood hadn’t pulled his hamstring, his forty time would have been near 4.6, putting him squarely in the speed range with Mosley. I am not saying he is a better prospect, but he compares well and would be a steal in round three. He would step right in and be the three down starter the Broncos have been missing.
Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty (analysis)
Aikens is the Broncos’ kind of player. He is big, physical and can play any style of coverage. He has potential to become a starter with the right coaching. The only reason they may stay away from him is some off-field issues. The Broncos need depth at cornerback especially since Aqib Talib hasn’t been able to stay on the field a full season.
No selection (potential trade of selections in round 4 & 5 to move into early round 3)
Deandre Coleman, DT, California (analysis)
Coleman fits what Jack Del Rio likes in a defensive tackle. He could provide good rotation depth and if he puts it all together mentally, maybe a starter down the road.
Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Coastal Carolina (analysis)
The Broncos need depth at running back and Taliaferro plays physical, something they need. He could be a good grinder to run out the clock at the end of the game and he has shown the ability to pass protect. With the kind of offensive line the Broncos could assemble, he would excel.
Look for my final mock draft the Tuesday before the NFL Draft.