Broncos Draft wrap -up

General manager Brian Xanders has been directly involved in drafts for the last 15 years.

He's never had an outside linebacker earn the type of pre-draft grade of second overall pick Von Miller, a prolific pass rusher at Texas A&M.

"I've never seen a player with his ability at his position," Xanders said Saturday after wrapping up the team's post-draft press conference.

On the scouting scale, an 8.0 grade is a rarity, which would be afforded to a Sam Bradford at No. 1 overall last year or perhaps Stanford's Andrew Luck next April. A 9.0 is a near impossibility.

Xanders wouldn't give away Denver's scale number but did say Miller graded out as an immediate starter and that 10 teams called him to tell him Miller was the best player on their overall board.

"His athleticism at 248 pounds matched up with average starting corners and receivers in the league. But his production, graded off the tape, was so rare. And his mismatch ability, there were tackles he'd run by and they wouldn't touch him."

The Broncos bypassed Alabama's Marcell Dareus, the top-rated defensive tackle, because they felt Miller was so special. Miller ended up being one of six defensive players picked by Denver. The team also grabbed two safeties, two more linebackers and a defensive end to help bolster a Denver defense that ranked last overall.

The only issue was that, by grabbing Miller, 12 defensive tackles overall went in Round 1. Denver didn't feel comfortable enough to address that area the rest of the way, feeling it would be reaching.

The position entering draft weekend was the club's biggest glaring need.

Thus, Denver will push hard in free agency to fill that void. The team will try to re-sign pending free agent Marcus Thomas and peruse the open market.

At the draft, the goal was to fill four starting slots within four picks in the top 68, and the Broncos may have done just that: at outside linebacker with Miller; at free safety with UCLA's Rahim Moore; at middle linebacker with North Carolina State's Nate Irving; and at right tackle with Miami's Orlando Franklin.

"One of the main criteria in this draft was to get faster on defense," coach John Fox said. "That's something we felt was a deficiency and I think we accomplished that in a pretty big way."

It also was an apparent victory for Denver's new power structure, with Xanders, Fox and new executive vice president of football operations John Elway running the draft for the first time.

"I was really happy with the whole process," Elway said. "We discussed a lot of things and came out unanimous on who's going to be the next guy. It worked well, especially when you look at the guys we got."

BEST PICK

Linebacker Von Miller: He will be an instant starter at strong-side linebacker and immediately boost a pass rush that posted just 23 sacks last season, tied for at least the 45th worst showing in Denver's 50-year history. COULD SURPRISE

Linebacker Nate Irving: Bill Parcells in a TV special had Irving as the draft's top inside linebacker with a first-round grade. Denver's brass saw many of the qualities, touting his non-stop motor and ball-hawking skills.

A closer look at the Broncos picks:

Round 1/2 -- Von Miller, OLB, 6-21/2, 246, Texas A&M

The conventional wisdom was that Denver would fill a gaping hole at defensive tackle with Marcell Dareus. But John Fox saw Miller as slightly more explosive and the pass rush that produced just 23 sacks last season a more glaring need. Miller with the returning Elvis Dumervil significantly boosts Denver's ability to attack the pocket.

Round 2/45 - Rahim Moore, FS, 5-111/2, 202, UCLA

The safety class overall is considered weak but there's near universal opinion that Moore, if not the top available, is among the best options. Moore has a real chance to unseat Renaldo Hill at free safety, as the Broncos continue to try and improve their range and speed defensively.

Round 2/46 - Orlando Franklin, OT, 6-5, 316, Miami

Denver expects to lose incumbent Ryan Harris at right tackle and Franklin likely will be given the opportunity to step in immediately to buttress an already young offensive line. Franklin also played left tackle as a senior, but the Broncos believe Franklin has the size and nasty demeanor as a run blocker but will have to prove he can adequately protect lefty Tim Tebow's blind side.

Round 3/67 -- Nate Irving, MLB, 6-1, 242, North Carolina State

Irving is the kind of player that doesn't necessarily wow you with measurable - particularly after a severe 2009 car accident sapped some of his strengths - but he is a player who is constantly around the ball. And the tenacity he demonstrated to return from multiple injuries demonstrates the football-first mentality Denver sought in its prospects.

Round 4/108 Quinton Carter, S, 6-01/2, 211, Oklahoma

Denver tried to address its safety position in 2009 with the developmental additions of Darcel McBath and David Bruton. Neither has emerged as a bona fide starter candidate, with McBath suffering a litany of injuries. The Broncos try again with both Carter, more a hard-hitting, inside-the-box type, to add to second-round pick Rahim Moore.

Round 4/129 - Julius Thomas, TE, 6-4 1/2, 246, Portland State

The Broncos try to land lightning in a bottle a la Antonio Gates or Jimmy Graham, taking a player with a steep basketball background and converting him to a viable NFL tight end. Denver, swapping with Green Bay to make the pick, has a need at the position for someone who can stretch the field vertically with soft hands. Thomas may fit that bill on that front but is raw and also must get stronger, benching 225 pounds just 16 times at the combine.

Round 6/189 -- Mike Mohamed, MLB, 6-3, 239, California

The third linebacker on draft weekend by Denver, Mohamed figures to battle Irving at middle linebacker but has moved all around his collegiate 3-4 alignment. Mohamed isn't a burner but is quick, athletic and smart and racks up tackles. He was Cal's leading tackler at 112 in 2009 and 95 in 2010. Should be a productive special teams player.

Round 7/204 -- Virgil Green, TE, 6-3, 245, Nevada

The Broncos released tight end Daniel Graham and 2009 second-rounder Richard Quinn still has only one catch on his resume. So it was imperative Denver shored up the position. Green joins Thomas two rounds earlier as immediate combatants for playing time. Green has freakish athleticism with a 42.5 inch vertical leap and a 4.5 40 time. He's also been productive, with 58 catches and 10 touchdowns the last two seasons, in a spread offense run by San Francisco second-round pick Colin Kaepernick.

Round 7/246 Jeremy Beal, DE, 6-2, 262, Oklahoma

Denver finally dips into the defensive line pool and emerges not with a tackle but end in Beal, a three-year starter. Beal is considered a high energy player who could help as a situational pass rusher with 28 sacks over the last three years.



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