With the NFL Draft just over a month away, the Denver Broncos are hard at work going through the endless hours of tape, and the piles of scouting reports to find the college prospects who can help this team win a world championship.
On Tuesday, the Broncos were awarded four compensatory draft picks to coincide with the six picks already in John Elway’s arsenal. It’s highly unlikely that Denver will use all ten selections. However, the draft is the silly season of the NFL calendar. Everyone and their dog puts out a mock of some kind. So, why can’t I?
The following is a list of ten players the Broncos ought to draft if they’re going to compete this season. Now, it should be noted that this isn’t a traditional mock draft. These aren’t predictions of which players the Broncos will choose.
Rather, this is a list of some of my favorite players in this draft class, who I believe the Broncos need to bring to the Queen City of the Plains. If whichever deity you believe in decided to take April 30th-through-May 3rd off this year, and appointed me interim ruler of the universe, these are the players I’d put in orange and blue. I look forward to your angry tweets.
Round 1, Pick 28, 28th Overall: T.J. Clemmings, OT, University of Pittsburgh.
The first thing you notice about T.J. Clemmings is his athleticism. He’s a freak of nature. At 6-foot-5, 309 pounds., Clemmings is the type of big athlete Gary Kubiak dreams about. He’s got outstanding feet, long arms, and impressive agility. Clemmings is a mauler, who’d walk into Dove Valley as perhaps the best run blocker on Denver’s roster. He’s got the most upside of any offensive lineman on the board, and is my second favorite player in this entire class (more on my favorite player later).
However, he’s not a perfect player. Clemmings has only played along the offensive line for two years. As such, his technique in pass protection is…subpar. He struggled with technique issues at the Senior Bowl, and has fallen out of the first round for some draft analysts. If he’s available at No. 28, John Elway must take him.
The Broncos would be getting an athletic people mover who could step in and start at right tackle immediately, and potentially replace Ryan Clady on the left side of the line when the time comes. Five years from now, T.J. Clemmings will be looked at as the best offensive lineman to come out of the 2015 draft. If he falls to No. 28, and Denver passes, I quit.
Round 2, Pick 27, 59th Overall: Stephone Anthony, ILB, Clemson University.
Stephone Anthony isn’t my favorite linebacker in this class. He doesn’t flash, pop, or really do anything all that exceptionally. However, he does a lot of things of well. He grinds. At 6-foot-3, 243 pounds., Anthony is ideally built to be an inside linebacker at the next level. He tackles cleanly, and would make a solid addition to Wade Phillips’ undersized linebacker group.
If selected by Denver, Anthony will make an immediate on field impact. He’s capable of blitzing from the middle of the field, and has an outstanding nose for the football. 59th overall is a bit of a reach for him. But, when you pick late like the Broncos do, you’ve got to grab quality players at positions of need while you can. With the loss of Nate Irving, the Broncos definitely need depth at inside linebacker. Stephone Anthony is John Elway’s best choice for Denver late in the second round.
Round 3, Pick 28, 92nd Overall: Garrett Grayson, Quarterback, Colorado St.
The Broncos face a bit of a quarterback conundrum after this season. While it’s still possible for Peyton Manning to play beyond 2015, it’s highly unlikely. Being asked to take a pay cut after one of the three or four best statistical seasons of his career clearly irked the five-time MVP.
Right now, the relationship between Elway and Manning is, as my father would say, “Frostier than a witches’ other elbow.” All the indications from both Dove Valley, and Manning, seem to indicate 2015 will be the Sherriff’s final rodeo, although we don’t know for cetrain.
To complicate matters even more, backup Brock Osweiler’s contract expires at the end of this season. Many NFL insiders believe Osweiler has little interest in signing up with Denver long term. So, the Broncos will need to add another passer to the mix to prepare for life after Peyton. If Grayson is on the board at No. 92, the value will simply be too high for Elway to pass up.
Allow me to make two things clear. First, having had the opportunity to watch him up close covering his March 23rd Pro Day, Garrett Grayson is the real deal. Despite being a tad undersized, he’s an athletic, intelligent, articulate leader with outstanding touch and deep ball accuracy. He can make every throw, and understands the pro-style offense better than perhaps any other passer in this class.
With that said, there’s almost no chance Grayson falls all the way to Denver at No. 92. The Quarterback position is overvalued every year, and Grayson’s stock is climbing. The latest I see CSU’s gunslinger going is 77th to Cleveland. The Browns have treated Grayson like they’re a schoolgirl with a crush in the last few weeks. They took him out to dinner the night before his pro day, and couldn’t wait to chat with him after his workout was concluded. If he’s there at No. 77, the Browns will take him. I promise.
However, these are my picks for the Broncos. So, let’s throw logic out the window and imagine a world where Grayson falls to Denver. The Broncos would be silly to pass on him in the third round with all the long-term questions they have under center. In that case, Rams Nation may get their wish, and CSU’s all-time leading passer could stay in-state to become the future of the quarterback position for the Denver Broncos.
Round 4, Pick 34, 133rd Overall: Ben Koyack, Tight End, Notre Dame
Judging Ben Koyack by his college statistics is a little like judging Albert Einstein by his grades in secondary school. Koyack only caught thirty passes for three touchdowns last season. However, that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of being a star in the NFL. His skill-set was highly underutilized at Notre Dame.
Rather than be the threat in the vertical passing game I believe he can be, Brian Kelly asked Koyack to throw his 6-foot-5, 255 pound frame around in the running game. He did that exceptionally well. Denver’s invested more money in tight ends than any other position on their roster this offseason.
Owen Daniels and Virgil Green will be the first and second players on the depth chart. Joe Don Duncan, a first year free agent out of Dixie State will likely be asked to play fullback in Gary Kubiak’s offense. If drafted by the Broncos, Koyack would immediately add depth that was lost when Jacob Tamme jumped ship to Atlanta.
In time, Koyack could become more. He possesses good athleticism, and strong hands. He can attack the seam, and competes like crazy. Given the right tools, Ben Koyack could become an elite all-around tight end in the NFL. Weeks ago he was predicted to be a solid third round selection. However, a poor showing at the Senior Bowl has knocked down numerous NFL draft boards. Ben Koyack to Denver at 133 makes all the sense in the world for the Broncos.
Round 5, Pick 7, 143rd Overall: Kenny Bell, Wide Receiver, Nebraska
Kenny Bell is my favorite player in this entire draft. Much of that has to do with his talent and willingness to compete. However, part of that has to do with how undervalued he’s been. In fact, he’s so undervalued, he’s not even mentioned on one of the internet’s most popular draft websites.
Bell’s been dealt two strong blows to his draft stock. First, he’s entering the league in a year with one of the deepest receiving classes in recent memory. Secondly, he’s got a long injury history. Some draft observers see those injuries as a negative. Not me.
Kenny Bell’s been injured for much of his career because he’s more willing to sacrifice his body than any receiver who has come out of college in the last three years. I dare you not to love him as much as I do after you watch him lay out Wisconsin’s Devin Smith in the 2012 Big Ten Championship game. The 2014 First Team All Big 10 receiver is a lanky, big play threat with outstanding hands and 4.3/40 speed.
Wes Welker will either get signed for the veteran minimum in a new city, or retire in the near future. For his sake, I’m hoping for the latter. Either way, the Broncos will ask Cody Latimer to step up into a starting role this season. Someone will need to replace him as Denver’s depth guy at wide receiver.
Bell could also be an option for the Broncos in the kick return game. I believe Kenny Bell is at least a third round talent that should be available when the Broncos make their first 5th round selection. That’s got to be one of the easiest decisions John Elway has ever made.
Round 5, Pick 28, 164th Overall: Aundrey Walker, Guard, USC
I have a sneaking suspicion that the Broncos are far more confident in their offensive line than they let on. At the NFL winter meetings this week, head coach Gary Kubiak dropped numerous hints about what this line may wind up being.
Based on Kubiak’s comments, I expect Ryan Clady to be their left tackle, Louis Vasquez to return to his natural position at right guard, Manny Ramirez to be the starting center, newly signed Shelly Smith to compete with Ben Garland for the starting left guard spot, and Chris Clark and a draft pick to compete at right tackle. However, the Broncos could use athletic depth at the guard position. Aundrey Walker would provide just that.
Walker had a slow start to the 2014 season, coming off ankle surgery. He came to USC as a tackle. He’s drastically better playing on the inside, where he spent the last two seasons. He’s the type of raw athlete Gary Kubiak built his system around in the late 1990’s. Adding him to Denver’s roster could mean adding one of the sleeping giants of the 2015 draft class. Walker’s got much he can improve on. But, under the tutelage of both Kubiak and offensive line coach Clancy Barone, one would expect him to become a starting caliber lineman sooner rather than later.
Round 6, Pick 28, 203rd Overall: Terry Williams, Nose Tackle, East Carolina
Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense is built around a strong nose tackle to clog up the middle of the field at times, and attack at others, but primarily, let edge rushers like Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware do their thing. The Broncos will rely on younger players like Sylvester Williams, and Marvin Austin to fill that role. However, adding another player to that rotation should be one of John Elway’s top priorities this offseason.
Terry Williams is a big boy. At 6-foot-1, 353 pounds, he would become the heaviest player on Denver’s roster by about thirty pounds. That kind of size is a hindrance for veteran players like ex-Bronco Terrance Knighton. However, a young athlete like Williams is able to carry it well. Of all the defensive lineman who could be available at for Denver at 250, Terry Williams makes the most sense as a player who could contribute to the Phillips’ 3-4 in 2015.
Round 7, Pick 33, 250th Overall: Isaiah Johnson, Strong Safety, Georgia Tech
Much of the conversation about Denver’s defense has surrounded how to replace former starting safety Rahim Moore, and keep as many of the young and talented pieces of Denver’s secondary on the field as possible. There’s been talk surrounding both Bradley Roby and Kayvon Webster about moving to safety. However, no matter what happens at the top of the depth chart, the Broncos need a young player who can come into training camp and compete for reps at both of the safety spots.
In 2012, Isaiah Johnson was one of the best defenders on Georgia Tech’s squad. After taking a medical redshirt in 2013, his last season in Atlanta was an up and down roller coaster. He’s 6-foot-2, and has dealt with injury issues over his career. However, when he’s on the field, he shows many of the skills NFL scouts look for in a starting safety. If he can stay healthy, Johnson could find himself on a 53-man roster at the start of this season.
Round 7, Pick 34, 251st Overall: Hunter Joyer, Fullback, University of Florida
Gary Kubiak’s offensive scheme calls for a powerful lead blocking fullback. Most expect first year player Joe Don Duncan to fill that role. However, picks this late in the draft are always gambles. Using a late pick to add a player to compete with Duncan makes sense for the Denver Broncos.
After coming out of high school as the top fullback in the nation, Hunter Joyer made his mark on the Gator football program over the last four years. He’s a stocky and powerful runner, who can pack a punch as a lead blocker. He’s also got versatility out the wazoo.
At Florida he was used at fullback, running back, tight end, h-back, and wide receiver. If he were to win a starting job, Joyer could immediately produce for the Broncos. That’s a rare feat for someone picked so late in the draft.
Round 7, Pick 35, 252nd Overall: Marcus Rush, OLB, Michigan State
With their final pick in my 2015 dream draft, the Denver Broncos select a player who most likely won’t make the team. However, in a 3-4 defense, you can never have too many linebackers.
Marcus Rush didn’t participate in the Combine, but he shows sneaky athleticism and a nose for the football on tape. Despite measuring in at 6-foot-3, 251 pounds, Rush doesn’t possess a great frame. But, much like Stephone Anthony, he can grind out big plays with pure desire and toughness.
He’s a leader in the MSU locker room, and has the intangibles necessary to navigate his way through the NFL. If the Broncos committed to his development, Marcus Rush could become a special teams contributor for Denver this season.
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