This is it NFL fans, the time of year that bridges the gap between the Super Bowl in February and the training camps of June for us football fiends.
The NFL Draft is the annual extravaganza of expensive players, suits and television graphics. This year is extra special though, as the Draft takes place during primetime on a Thursday night for the first time in history. Not only that, the Draft will now run over three days instead of two and the whole process could make it the most exciting ever.
For Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels and GM Brian Xanders, rebuilding a franchise is an arduous process, one that begins through the draft. This will be the duo’s second attempt at drafting for Denver and is vital to that rebuilding process.
In 2009, the two shocked many by taking RB Knowshon Moreno with their first pick. Even though Moreno was the best rookie running back in the league last year, there was so much need for defensive players in Denver. They thoughtfully followed Moreno with DE Robert Ayers with the Broncos second pick of the first round, although Ayers has yet to pan out as an NFL player.
Overall, the Broncos selected six offensive players (RB, TE, G, C, WR, QB) and four on the defensive side of the ball (2 CBs, S, DE). While Denver ended 2008 as the second best offensive team in the league and in the low-20s on D, McXanders couldn’t help but bolster the O even more.
This time around, the Broncos’ front office addressed their porous defensive line in free agency with the additions of NT Jamal Williams, DEs Jarvis Green and Justin Bannan, and boosted their secondary when signing CB Nate Jones. This way, McXanders free up more picks for offensive players since many defenders were signed through free agency—they can help both sides of the ball.
But, the Broncos have lost some players as well, most notably WR Brandon Marshall, ILB Andra Davis, TE Tony Scheffler, and C Casey Wiegmann.
So, while plugging up some holes, the Broncos exposed more and created additional need positions for 2010 and beyond.
As they sit today, the day before the Draft, Denver has numerous needs on both sides of the ball—fans are hoping they address each of them.
The Broncos needs are as follows—C, WR, TE, ILB, DL, S, CB—basically every position on the football field needs young players. How exactly Denver goes about it only McXanders knows, but the following is a mock draft compiled of educated guesstimates of exactly who and where the Broncos will pick.
Round 1, Pick 11
The Broncos will go in one of two directions here—use the pick on a stud or trade down on a less expensive, less risky player.
Scenario A: If Denver uses the 11th pick, it will likely be on ILB Rolando McClain from Alabama. McClain is a 6’3” 254 pound beast that can stop the run well and flies to the ball with his nonstop motor. Not only is he touted with having great football instincts, he was also a player/coach for Alabama’s fourth ranked defense which was second best against the run.
He recorded 66 tackles in 2009 including two sacks, and intercepted two passes as well. McClain’s stellar play earned him the Butkus Award for the nation’s best linebacker and he will be a perennial All Pro in the NFL no matter where he lands.
Imagine McClain alongside D.J. Williams for now, and part of a solid core of linebackers with Elvis Dumervil in the future.
McDaniels on McClain, “He understands the game at a level where most kids that come in as rookies will never be at. That’s a credit to the work he’s done at Alabama, the way he’s been coached and he has a very bright future ahead of him.”
Another player the Broncos look at is WR Dez Bryant. Bryant is an absolute burner or a receiver that can return punts as well. His 6’2” 225 pound frame makes him a big target and he jumps high while catching the ball with soft hands.
But the risk of Bryant being another primma donna receiver is too steep and Denver will probably not take him to fill Marshall’s shoes. Speaking of shoes, Bryant forgot his cleats when attending his pro day, so he couldn’t run a 40, and he missed the last 10 games of the 2009 season after lying to an NCAA investigator.
Still, McDaniels made him sound like a possibility, “I’m not going to comment on Brandon, but with Dez Bryant, I think you need to be careful confusing character issues with some people who have made some mistakes. This guy has never been arrested, never had a drinking issue and never done anything to put himself in that position. I think he’s made a few mistakes that he wishes he hadn’t made but I think there’s a difference.”
“I’ll tell you this, he’s on our board – there’s no question.”
If the Broncos trade down, as I’ve heard many sources hint at, they will find themselves in the early to mid-20s and will be looking at C Maurkice Pouncey.
Pouncey played at Florida, picking up a National Championship in 2008 while snapping the ball to Tim Tebow and blocking extremely well throughout.
He’s 6’4” 304 pounds, giving him the beef that McDaniels likes on the front line. He played both at center and guard giving him versatility and increases his value down the road. Although, he did tear a labrum and had it surgically repaired so his durability could be a question but his game is near mistake free. Plus, if Denver trades down, they’ll pick up another late round pick, another opportunity to fill a need.
My money is on the Broncos trading down and picking Pouncey, but McClain would be an amazing addition.
Round 2, Pick 11 (43)
After the first round on Thursday night (7 ET ESPN), there will be almost 24 hours before the second round begins, much different from years past. Teams will be able to reset or reorder their boards and thoroughly discuss their next moves.
This is where Denver takes a wide receiver.
Damian Williams out of USC has good size 6’1” 197 pounds, with great speed and leaping ability. He was the top performer of all the receivers in the bench press (19), vertical jump (38.0 in.) and 3-cone drill (6.79 sec.).
He has lots of experience playing in the receiver screen game, something McDaniels showed in 2009 he loves to employ.
Williams’ weaknesses include some fumble issues and he did suffer multiple injuries in college.
Still, Williams is quick enough and already possesses the football IQ to understand that running solid routes and studying your position is the way to success in the NFL.
He would be a great team player and an extremely hard worker—a definite change from Marshall.
Round 2, Pick 13 (45)
Denver selects…Brandon Spikes, linebacker out of Florida. Spikes is the perfect combination of size, strength and toughness as an inside linebacker in the NFL and he would look great in the Broncos’ blue and orange.
Not only can Spikes stop the run well, he also can cover pass routes adeptly. Versatility is always a plus in football, especially when there are so many holes to fill.
He will need some work with pass playing techniques, but what linebacker won’t heading into the NFL?
Round 3, Pick 16 (80)
After moving Tony Scheffler for their fifth round pick from the Eagles via the Browns, the Broncos need another tight end, especially as Daniel Graham ages.
Ed Dickson from Oregon would be a great answer. He’s 6’4” 249 pounds and has the speed and athleticism to separate from defenders, and rack up RAC yards.
Even though Dickson needs help learning how to block better and run crisper routes, his potential is as high as any tight end. He’s the most athletic of all the tight ends in 2010’s draft class (4.67 40-yard dash, 34 in. vertical) and he would have a tremendous blocking teacher in Graham.
Round 4, Pick 16 (114)
Denver is aging quickly in the defensive backfield and they must pick at least one player back there this year.
Chris Cook will be a perfect addition in that role as he has the size (6’2” 212), and once again versatility to play both corner and safety.
His 4.46 speed isn’t fast enough to play man without safety help over the top but he can support the run well. He’s best in zone coverage and could possibly learn how to play better man coverage under Champ Bailey. Or even make the switch to safety learning from Brian Dawkins.
Round 5, Pick 6 (137)
Myron Rolle is by far the most intelligent player in this draft, a reason many are predicting will make him fall to the fifth round or later–which is surprising to say the least.
Rolle hasn’t played since 2008 after taking the Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford, but he’s been training and has stayed in shape. He’s 6’2″ 212 pounds and can fill holes in the run game very quickly. Plus, Rolle can cover well in a two-deep scheme and could develop into a leader on the Denver D in the future.
Round 6, Pick 14 (183)
Though the Broncos bought a brand new defensive line through free agency, they still need younger players on the defensive front for the future.
Georgia tackle Geno Atkins does a great job of stopping the run and penetrating the line to pressure the quarterback despite being a bit undersized (6’1” 293 lbs.).
He’s got a great motor and doesn’t stop until the whistle blows and can use his explosiveness to get off the ball. Atkins would have to bulk up a bit, and put in work to use his hands better, but he will find a spot in Denver someday.
In all, the Broncos have lots of decisions to make, and I personally cannot wait. Will they take any of these players? In all likelihood yes. Will they take off of them? No way.
No Matter what, this will be an exciting weekend for football fans so get lots of popcorn ready, some cold beverages and when you sit back on your couch be glad you’re not Mel Kiper Jr. who studies round the clock and calendar for these three magical days.
Rich Kurtzman is a Colorado State University Alumnus and a freelance sports journalist. Along with being the Denver Broncos Featured Columnist here on NFLTouchdown.com, Kurtzman is the Denver Nuggets FC on bleacherreport.com, the CSU Rams Examiner on examiner.com and a contributor to coloradosportsdesk.com.