In the final stretch to the 2014 NFL Draft, we continue to churn out all the info you need to be ready for the draft and impress your friends with enough knowledge to rival Kiper Jr. and Mayock. We'll start with an overall assessment of the Broncos draft needs followed by a round-by-round breakdown of who I think they should take.
Broncos Draft Needs
The Denver Broncos made huge splash in free agency through the first 24 hours of free agency. They made a couple of other under the radar moves in free agency in the last few weeks as well. Now that many of their own free agents have signed elsewhere there is a clear picture as to the core roster make-up. John Elway has made it clear that the Broncos look to fill their needs through free agency and then draft the best player available through the draft.
Tier 1 Needs (Possible Starters)
1. Middle Linebacker – This is easily the Broncos greatest position of need after free agency. They certainly tried to address this hole, but were left empty-handed as D'Qwell Jackson, Jon Beason and Daryl Smith chose to sign elsewhere. As of now, the Broncos starter would be Nate Irving. He was supposed to be their starting MLB going into training camp last year; however, Irving struggles in coverage. While he excels against the run at Strongside linebacker, he did not show the instincts and play recognition that is needed to play in the middle. The Broncos moved Wesley Woodyard and eventually brought in Paris Lenon to play MLB. Obviously their confidence in Irving at MLB was never high to begin with.
2. Cornerback – The Broncos signed Aqib Talib out of nowhere in free agency and there is no doubt he brings physicality to the secondary with the ability to cover any teams top target one-on-one, including Jimmy Graham. At the other side, Chris Harris will be returning from a partially torn ACL. Harris is as proven as any defender on this Denver Broncos squad, improving every season. This Kansas Jayhawk duo have proven they can play at an elite level. The concern with both of these players is durability. Magnifying that concern is the Broncos lack of depth at the position. They will be counting on Kayvon Webster to step up in a big way. He flashed well at the beginning of the year before being exposed as the season went on. I love how physical he plays, but he needs to take as game to the next level as the Nickel Cornerback was on the field two-thirds of the defensive plays on this Broncos team. That third CB is a starter. If one of these three guys gets hurt than suddenly we are counting on Tony Carter a lot more than I would like to at any point next season.
3. Free Safety – The Broncos filled a huge need at SS with the signing of 2nd team All-Pro T.J. Ward. He brings toughness and leadership and can come up in the box and make plays. His compliment needs to be a centerfielder type free safety. Rahim Moore would actually fit this role quite well. His freak compartment syndrome is can injury that has no precedent as far as an NFL player making a comeback. If he can return to full health this will not be an issue, but that is a huge IF for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Quincy Carter hasn't been able to stay on the field in the three years since the Broncos drafted him. Duke Ihenacho's biggest weakness is coverage he is not a free safety.
Tier 2 Needs (Depth)
4. Guard – The biggest loss the Broncos felt was Zane Beadles. He was a quality starter but they were not willing to overpay to keep him in Denver; Jacksonville was. The signing of center Will Montgomery significantly lowers the need here. It allows the Broncos to shift Manny Ramirez back to guard and fill the hole at LG. The Broncos have also mentioned trying Orlando Franklin at LG and letting Chris Clark start at right tackle. Either way the Broncos look capable of filling this position, this need is now purely for depth.
5. Running Back – Montee Ball will be given every opportunity to be the Broncos lead back and they believe that he can be. I will admit he showed a lot of improvement the 2nd half of last season. Behind him C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman have not proven much to give any kind of comfort of the depth at RB. Anderson had one good preseason game before getting hurt and Hillman is a proven fumbler. They will use a mid-round pick on this position to add competition.
6. Wide Receiver – The Broncos let Eric Decker walk in free agency and then upgraded his position for less money with Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders has explosive speed and excels after the catch. Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker fill out a trio that will not miss a beat from last season. They also re-signed Bubba Caldwell as their 4th WR. So why even list wide receiver as a need? Wes Welker. This is likely his last season in Denver. His contract will be expiring and he showed signs of his body starting to break last season. The greatest part of the Emmanuel Sanders signing is his versatility to play either inside or outside. If Welker ever goes down he can fill that role in the slot. But also after this season it gives us the flexibility to add an outside receiver or slot receiver in the draft to be groomed as a starter after this year. With the ridiculous depth at WR in this draft it is fairly likely that the best player on the board will indeed be a WR with one of the Broncos first three draft picks.
Now to touch on the players I think the Broncos will pick in this years draft.
2014 Broncos Picks
If you took a look at my most recent first round mock , you'll have known that I predicted the Broncos traded up to #23 with Kansas City. Kansas City is a prime candidate to move down. They're without a 2nd round pick in this deep draft. After losing both starting guards, that is clearly their greatest area of need. They can move back and pick up a top guard while gaining an extra 3rd round pick back. The Broncos are looking to move up grab an immediate impact player at LB (Mosley, Shazier) and CB (Gilbert, Fuller, Dennard).
Broncos trade picks #31 and #95
Chiefs trade pick #23
This works out to be very even on the trade chart, the standard all NFL teams use to value draft picks for trade purposes.
The Broncos move up for one of the top corners in the draft. He has elite speed (4.37) and good size at 6'0" 202. Gilbert has the talent to come in and immediate start on the outside. He breaks to the ball and knows how to make game-breaking plays. This will allow Chris Harris to move back inside and play a majority of his snaps where he excels the most. Aqib Talib has yet to play a full 16 game season and Harris is coming off a partially torn MCL. If one of them goes down at any point in the season the Broncos will still be able to rely on 2nd year man Kayvon Webster. Gilbert provides bonus value in that he is a special talent at kick returner with ability to go the distance every time he touches the ball.
At 6'2" 220 Donte Moncrief has very good size and answered questions about his speed by running a 4.34 40 yard dash. Unlike Eric Decker he has excels at creating separation coming out of his breaks and very good route running. He also fits the mold as a Broncos WR with very nice blocking down the field. This pick was made looking ahead towards next season when Wes Welker will likely be gone. This will allow Emmanuel Sanders to move inside to slot next year and allows more money for re-signing top weapons Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas.
131. Jordan Tripp LB, Montana
This could become one of the biggest steals of the draft. Tripp has very good athleticism for a linebacker, testing better than C.J. Mosley in nearly every category at the combine. He has the production to match with enough instincts to play in the middle. There are questions about his level of competition and short arms but he will immediately compete for the starting MLB position. He may end up as a weakside linebacker but with his speed he will at least be an immediate value as a nickel linebacker and special teams ace.
171. Brandon Linder, OG, University of Miami
Linder has good size and plays nasty. Leader of the offensive line with 42 career starts and high character. He provides depth at guard with measurables and the work ethic to eventually become a starter.
207. Jonathan Dowling FS, Western Kentucky
Dowling plays aggressive hits hard and has good height at 6'3". He punishes receivers and has very good range to play centerfield. His character is a concern after being kicked off the team at Florida. The Broncos have shown interest in Dowling and the 5th round is late enough for them to take a gamble.
246. Kapri Bibbs RB, Colorado St
Bibbs has nice vision and cutback ability. The Broncos have certainly shown interest and he has a chance to come in and compete in their young backfield.
For those of you that demanded more than just the Denver Broncos 2014 mock draft, our expert NFL draft correspondent, Marco "Kiper" Navarro, has put together an entire first round 2014 NFL mock draft (including his predicted trades and picks 33 and 34 because...well just because he said so).
Each player includes an accompanying link to a highlight video if you choose to peruse, so have at it!
Wow, with the free agent picks by Elway you can't help but get excited about next year. But if Elway wants to get back to the Super Bowl and help Peyton Manning out on the other side of the ball, Denver needs to continue looking at the defense in the draft to get younger and more physical. "In Elway I trust" and I believe he won't disappoint!!!
Denver will trade out if they feel they can get Fuller in the second round. Their trade partner will be the Houston Texans, who will look to trade back in for a QB giving Denver an extra pick in the 3rd round. After reviewing all of the corners in this draft, I like Kyle Fuller. He is a big corner, physical against the run and is very good in coverage. Fuller would give great depth to the secondary in case of injury and could potentially start.
With the signing of Talib, Elway wants to continue to get younger and more physical in the secondary and will still draft heavy on defense this year.
2nd Round: Deone Bucannon, SS Washington State 6'1, 216 lbs (alternate pick: Ed Reynolds Stanford, FS)
After great picks in free agency, Denver can let draft talent fall to them. It was hard not to get involved in all the hype with safety Calvin Pryor(who is a very physical safety). But that hype died pretty quickly when I watched Deone Bucannon play. Denver could land the best all-around safety in the draft without giving away picks. I know that Denver signed T.J. Ward, but Bucannon would be too hard to pass up. He would add more youth and physicality to the secondary. Deone is a very hard hitting physical safety who reminds me of Steve Atwater. He puts fear into wide receivers and would give Del Rio another option at safety in case someone gets hurt like Quentin Carter (who has been hurt for two years). He is also exponentially better in coverage then Duke Ihenacho and Calvin Pryor. In fact, he is very very good in coverage. Some so called experts have him as a 3rd rounder I have him as a high 2nd rounder!!
3rd Round: Marcus Smith DE Louisville 6'4, 260lbs (alternate pick: Kareem Martin North Carolina, DE)
Smith has the potential to be a 2nd rounder, but it will depend on if Denver feels Derek Wolfe will be healthy enough to play next year. Therefore, I think Denver should get Smith here for insurance on Wolfe. It was hard for me to let Murphy go as my pick, but I found a guy that has one thing Murphy doesn't have and that's being explosive off the line. Smith, like Murphy, also had a ton of sacks - 14 this year - and reminds me of (Von) Miller with his explosiveness off the line and mastery of the sack strip fumble on QB's.
Like cornerbacks, you can never have enough pass rushers as we seen in the Super Bowl when Seattle had pass rushers coming from everywhere. With Von Miller getting healthy, Malik Jackson having a break out year, Q. Smith coming off IR, Sylvester Williams getting better at pass rush up the middle, Knighton dominating the middle, Derek Wolfe hopefully healthy enough to play next year, and now Demarcus Ware WOW!!! Del Rio could be drooling at the possibilities this D-Line could bring. Can you say... "Orange Crush"!!!!
With all the rumors of Denver trading up for ILB Mosley, I really doubt Denver will do so. They don't have the extra picks and they have needs elsewhere. In my opinion, Shayne Skov is an all-around ILB and should be taken in the 1st and 2nd round, but because of injury concerns, he falls. Skov has the ability to become a three down LB. He is really good in coverage, can get pass rush up the middle and can shed blocks really well to stop the run. Denver would be crazy not to draft Skov, who can be an instant starter at the ILB position. With an already great Linebacker corp having Skov in the middle, Miller on one side and Travathan on the other that is just a scary thought for QBs!
4th Round: Brandon Coleman WR Rutger 6'6, 220lbs (alternate pick: Mike Davis Texas, WR)
There's no reason to think Denver will use a high pick on a wide receiver because they resigned Caldwell and signed Emmanuel Sander. I would be very surprised if they did given the needs on D. Yes, I know there is some panic in Broncos Country, but Eric Decker is replaceable and with a wide receiver class, one of the deepest and best draft classes in years, Denver will wait. I know some women will beg to differ, but when it comes to football, everyone is replaceable except Peyton Manning. Denver solidified their defense with the first four picks, now they need to replace Decker.
Brandon Coleman is the guy. He is huge at 6'6 220lbs and has 4.5 speed, which is impressive for his size. Reminds me a lot of Demaryius Thomas and I believe he could learn from Thomas on running routes better. Denver would not miss a beat, adding Coleman to the offense and it would help Manning out having two huge receivers and a big tight end in the red zone, Manning would be licking his chops.
I thought long and hard about putting a running back on the board for Denver, but in reality John Fox likes to have four running backs on his roster. With Knowshon Moreno gone, that leaves Ball as the starter along with Anderson and Hillman competing for the backup. If Ball or Anderson get hurt, that would leave Hillman as the backup. That's a scary thought because of his fumbling issues, so if I'm Denver they have to get a running back late in the drafts, insurance on Hillman or just plainly for possibility of injuries.
I like Gaffney, he would be the biggest running back on Denver's roster and is very hard to bring down. In addition, he's pretty good in pass protection and, for his size, he runs a 4.4 and has great vision. John Fox will want to take a lot of pressure off of Manning next year and pounding the ball Gaffney could help out with softening up defenses and give Fox his one-two punch with Ball and Gaffney.
6th Round: Marqueston Huff S/CB Wyoming 6'0 196 lbs (alternate pick: Matt Patchan Boston College OT)
John Fox loves to have players that can play different positions. With Huff still on the board, he will be hard to pass up. He will give great depth at the corner and safety position. Huff is a tackling machine notching 127 tackles along with 2 INT's last year. He is very good at playing corner and the safety positions. I believe Denver will draft Huff so he can compete with Omar Bolden for the backup position. My prediction, Huff will ultimately win the back up position and Bolden will be released before the season starts. Omar Bolden has been a draft bust and has struggled playing corner and safety position. Bottom line, I have seen enough of Bolden and I believe the Broncos have too.
7th Round: Max Bullough ILB Michigan State 6'3 250 lbs (alternate pick: Russell Bodine North Carolina, OG)
I believe Denver will go mostly defense in this draft since that was their weakness last year and the high flying offense nearly carrying them single-handedly to the promise land. Denver could go OL here as I have for my alternate pick, but with Denver signing Montgomery at center and Denver developing offensive lineman so well (Chris Clark, Manny Ramirez) no need to waste a pick an OL.
I like Bullough to backup Skov. Bullough can really shut down the run and is pretty good in pass coverage for his size, but could use some work. I believe Bullough could get better and what better way to learn from a former linebacker turned coach in Jack Del Rio. From what I have seen on tape, I believe Bullough would be able to compete with Skov for the starting job because he has great instinct (like Skov) and would add some crucial depth at inside linebacker for the future.
Well there you go Bronco Country. With the great picks in free agency, if Denver can land my picks and/or even my alternate picks Denver could find themselves in Arizona with Peyton Manning lifting the Lombardi Trophy!!!!
History suggests it's hard to get back after losing the Super Bowl, but history is made to be rewritten!!!! GO BRONCOS!!!!