It feels like the longest build up ever. Seriously, ever.
The NFL Draft is almost—finally—upon us.
And despite countless articles and blog posts, sports radio posturing, and endless mock drafts, it seems we can only agree on one thing: We really have no clue what the Denver Broncos will do with the 28th overall pick.
- With all due respect to this year’s prospects, 2013 isn’t a particularly notable NFL Draft class—especially at the top. I’ll be completely honest; I haven’t had much desire to even think about this year’s NFL Draft, let alone write about it.
- The Broncos don’t have any glaring “must draft” needs unlike previous years. (Yes, all NFL teams have needs and wants, but I’ll get into that later. Keep reading…)
Think back two years ago. The Denver Broncos held the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. The general consensus, which proved to be correct, was the Carolina Panthers would take Auburn quarterback Cam Newton first overall. That move wouldn’t concern the Broncos too much; Denver’s defense ranked dead last in the league in 2010, and with so many talented defensive prospects available, we knew—even without the team saying as much—that the Broncos would go defense at No. 2. (Hooray for Von Miller!)
Though the Broncos traded out of the first round last year, Denver still opted for defense with its first pick at No. 36 (DT/DE Derek Wolfe). The name may have been surprising, but the position selected was well forecast.
Jump ahead to 2013, however, and it’s unclear which direction the team is leaning. It seems the top contenders are once again on defense, but should the Broncos opt for adding depth and bulk to the front seven or speed in the secondary? Why not go offense and draft a running back?
Remember when ESPN’s Chris Berman predicted a Buffalo Bills – San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl matchup for something like 18 straight years? (Not that long? Felt like it.) Here I go again with the following: I believe the Broncos should draft a defensive lineman in the first round.
Did I just go there again? Yep, three drafts and counting.
The Denver Broncos lost DE Elvis Dumervil to the Baltimore Ravens, and plans to sign free agent Dwight Freeney have seemingly stalled, or at least been delayed for now. Looking at Denver’s current roster, Robert Ayers is the most likely replacement for Dumveril, but Ayers is more of a situational pass-rusher. Does Denver fill Dumveril’s absence by a committee of veterans or should the Broncos address this position first in the NFL Draft?
If the Broncos are looking for a young talent to both rush the passer and plug the ground game, 2013 is the year to jump. This is a deep class at defensive end, so even if Denver passes on a DE in Round 1, there should be plenty of talent still on the board in Rounds 2 and 3.
Deep class? Yes. A lot of question marks? You bet’cha. This class is poised to produce more than its share of NFL busts…or maybe just the opposite. The top talents are either relatively new to football, coming off significant injuries, have limited yet impressive game film, or some combination therein.
- Tank Carradine, Florida State: He’s been hammered by many Broncos fans on Twitter as a “one-year wonder,” but Carradine also has his supporters, including possibly the Denver Broncos. Carradine had surgery to repair a torn ACL in December, but had a strong showing at his recent personal workout, all but erasing worries about his knee. (The Broncos did attend this workout.) Carradine should be available when Denver drafts at No. 28.
- Margus Hunt, SMU: The former decathlete excelled in the throwing events when he moved from his native Estonia to the United States to train. Hunt stumbled into football, but quickly drew attention because of his freakish athleticism. Hunt will be 26-years-old when he plays his first NFL game, old for a rookie. He’s also still developing as a football player.
- Bjoern Werner, Florida State: Carradine’s teammate is a popular choice in NFL Network’s mock draft for Denver at No. 28. Werner’s stock has fallen recently; at one time, he was projected to be a top-five pick. Some insiders worry the NFL is too big and too fast for Werner’s skill set. Even so, he’ll be tough to pass up if he lingers into the late first round.
Other names: UCLA’s Datone Jones and Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore
This is another deep class, but unlike defensive end, the Broncos have a solid DT corps already in place. Simply put, there are fewer questions for Denver to address at this position than defensive end. That said, the key word for Denver’s interior defensive line is ‘solid’ not ‘stellar.’ I could still see the Broncos drafting a defensive tackle if the best player available at No. 28 is a huge, run-stuffing talent. An impact player in the middle of the trench would absolutely take the Broncos’ defense to a new level.
- Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
- John Jenkins, Georgia
- Kawann Short, Purdue
- Jesse Williams, Alabama
- Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
I admit; I’m less sold on Denver drafting a cornerback in Round 1 than many of you. But I also admit I’m often wrong when it comes to prognosticating. If the Broncos are tempted to bolster the secondary—something that’s been a hot topic of discussion this offseason—there are a few dandies likely available as the first round wraps up.
- D.J. Hayden, Houston: Hayden underwent life-saving heart surgery in November for what’s been described as a fluke hit during a football game. It’s an injury that hasn’t deterred most NFL teams, according to NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, who lists Hayden as his top cornerback prospect. ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. recently projected Denver taking Hayden at No. 28, describing the cornerback as a “good cover guy,” but “not a great tackler.”
- Xavier Rhodes, Florida State: Rhodes is a bit of conundrum. He’s big for a cornerback, yet some teams are underwhelmed by his on-field abilities. Is Rhodes a first round player? Depends on who you ask, but as they say, “You can’t teach size.”
- Desmond Trufant, Washington: Trufant lacks Rhodes’ size, but he’s widely regarded as a better prospect. Trufant is already a nearly complete player, and hasn’t hit his ceiling. A few years learning with Champ Bailey would certainly do Trufant well. Trufant is another trendy draft choice for Denver according to NFL Network’s mock draft pundits.
Other name: Boise State’s Jamar Taylor
An additional note on the cornerback discussion…it still feels knee-jerk to me. When Baltimore bounced Denver out of the playoffs with big plays downfield, the secondary rightfully took a lot of blame, including Bailey. If the secondary truly needs fixing, the bad news for Broncos fans is that even if there were a Patrick Peterson in this draft (which there doesn’t appear to be – Dee Milliner is the closest) he’d be long gone by 28 (which Milliner will be). In all likelihood, a cornerback that drops to late first round probably isn’t starting much this season, and so how does that really help? The Broncos still have Bailey, added Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and have depth with Chris Harris and Tony Carter. Let’s not forget the Broncos were credited with the “savvy if he can remain healthy” selection of Omar Bolden last year. Odds are any one of those names would have better odds of making an impact during a given game than a late first/early second round player taken in 2013.
Linebacker and Running Back
I’ve lumped these positions together as the “outsiders” for Denver in the first round. The Broncos’ collection of current middle linebackers is serviceable. Nothing outstanding. Just okay. Sounds a lot like the talent pool in this year’s NFL Draft. In fact, only two inside linebackers are considered first-round talent, and each could be around when Denver drafts at No. 28.
- Alec Ogletree, Georgia
- Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
Each linebacker has upside, but each also has baggage. We all know about Te’o’s girlfriend-that-wasn’t saga and poor performance in the BCS championship game. Ogletree, meanwhile, has battled some off-the-field issues, ranging from a four-game suspension to a DUI charge (you know, the kind of things that made D.J. Williams not worth the headache). Are those issues enough to steer the Broncos in another direction?
Let me just say this now: I don’t want Denver to draft a running back in the first round, and unless you’re part of the Broncos’ front office, you can’t convince me otherwise. The team has indicated its intent to add a running back, but we expected that to come via free agency. It hasn’t, leaving the NFL Draft as the next best place to add depth.
- Eddie Lacy, Alabama
- Montee Ball, Wisconsin
If I’m in the Broncos’ war room (which would be awesome, by the way), I cast my vote for waiting until Rounds 2 or 3.
2nd/3rd Round possibilities:
- Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State
- Knile Davis, Arkansas
- Stepfan Taylor, Stanford
The good news is the wait will soon be over. The speculation will end.
And we can finally welcome the newest Broncos to Denver.