This quarterback draft class is a weak one, but there are some decent options left if the Denver Broncos choose to go that route. They passed on a quarterback on day two and reassured fans of their faith in Brock Osweiler.
They have wanted to get an extension done with Brock for a while—it is still their plan. Any other QB would compete for the third spot. As John Elway put it, they are not kicking Osweiler to the curb.
Some of the options left are Huston Mason out of Georgia, Brandon Bridge out of South Alabama, Taylor Heinicke out of Old Dominion and Chris Bonner out of Colorado State-Pueblo. Each one of them brings something different to the table, but all are capable of competing for that third quarterback spot.
Mason looks the part of a quarterback in Gary Kubiak’s system, though his size isn’t ideal for an NFL quarterback. Bridge has the size and athleticism, but he is incredibly raw. Heinicke is a small QB, both in height and weight, and doesn’t have the ideal arm, but he is tough, accurate and has a high football IQ.
He should do very well as a third quarterback and even compete for higher position given time. As for Bonner, he is a big, strong quarterback, who is mobile but not a running QB. He has everything you want in a QB and can grow to be a quality starter in the NFL.
The running back class is a strong one, and the Broncos have a good group on the roster already. However, they could still look to add one that the coaching staff likes, since none on-roster were added by the current coaching staff. There are plenty of day three options available for the Broncos to choose from, if they so choose.
Towards the top of the group remaining is Jay Ajayi from Boise State. He is a jack of all trades running back who represents great value. However, a torn ACL in 2011 and some off-the-field troubles may see him continue to slide. John Crockett, out of North Dakota State, is another running back option.
He isn’t a jack-of-all-trades, but has the potential to be a solid complimentary back. Tyler Varga out of Yale is sort of position-less in the NFL—not a fullback, nor a running back, but he is a great competitor and someone you want on your team. Zach Zenner out of South Dakota State is a very capable back, but also caught between fullback and running back.
Just like Varga, Zenner is the typ of player you want on your team. David Cobb out of Minnesota is a popular name going around after day two of the draft. He has all the tools to be a good power-style runner, but isn’t limited to that.
Wide receiver is a position many expect the Broncos to add to, one way or another, during draft weekend. The Broncos still have plenty of picks left and there are many talented WRs left on the board. Don’t be surprised if they add to the group at some point on day three, and even moreso during the undrafted free agency signing period.
The top of the remaining WR class is Tre McBride out of William & Mary, a Division II player who was dominant. He is well-liked throughout NFL circles and is a versatile player who could help the Broncos in many ways.
Rashad Greene out of Florida State is a great athlete, but he will have to put on weight to make it in the NFL. Even then, he will get stuck in the slot. Darren Waller out of Georgia Tech is a raw, big and tall receiver. In the NFL, teams are interested in moving him to tight end, which is likely what the team he ends up with does with him.
Titus Davis out of Central Michigan is a slot receiver in the NFL and has the upside to be a tremendous one. Then there's Kenny Bell out of Nebraska. He is a fast vertical receiving threat in the NFL immediately, but with coaching he can be more than that. DeAndre Smelter out of Georgia Tech is a lot more refined as a receiver than Waller, but with a long list of injuries, he will likely go undrafted.
Denver already took a tight end, but they may look to add another. However, that may be through undrafted free agency. Gary Kubiak loves tight ends and they are an integral to his offense. Jeff Heuerman is a really good tight end prospect and also versatile. Even with Virgil Green, Owen Daniels, Heuerman and Dominique Jones, they could look to add more. The Broncos also have James Casey and Joe Don Duncan, though they both are more likely to get looks at fullback.
Some of the best TEs left on the board include Blake Bell out of Oklahoma, Jesse James out of Penn State, Eric Tomlinson out of Texas-El Paso and Nick O’Leary out of Florida state. Bell makes the most sense, since he is more of a developmental prospect and one they could put on the practice squad, while they coach him up.
O’Leary falls into that same type of tight end mold that James Casey does—versatile and more likely best served as a fullback hybrid. James is the best of what is left. He isn’t one of these athletic tight ends you see in today’s NFL, but is a top notch blocker who can catch the ball good enough to be considered a threat.
Tomlinson is probably the best blocking tight end in the class. However, his receiving game is extremely raw and rarely used, though he displayed some of the best hands at the Combine, with no drops in any drill. Tomlinson would lkely be moved to fullback, where his excellent blocking can be put in front of the running back.
The Broncos made moves on their offensive line during the draft. They traded Manuel Ramirez away and selected Colorado State tackle Ty Sambrailo. With their offensive line a mystery, they could look to add more players to compete. Rick Dennison and Gary Kubiak have the best record of developing day three offensive linemen of any group of coaches. For this article, offensive line will be split into multiple groups.
The top of the group is La’El Collins out of LSU, but with uncertainty on whether he will sign with a team if drafted this late, he will likely go undrafted and re-enter the draft next year as recent report suggests. T.J. Clemmings out of Pittsburgh is another top OL, but his foot injury has caused him to fall. It is worse than many media realize and a major red flag with many teams. With him being a great athlete, the foot injury is even a bigger concern.
Max Garcia out of Florida is one of the better centers left, but he isn’t a great scheme fit. Garcia has the traits of a phone-booth mauler in a power scheme and doesn’t exhibit what you want in a zone blocking offensive linemen. Reese Dismukes out of Auburn is the best center left and fits the Broncos scheme excellently. I figured he would be gone by now and unsure why he has fallen, despite my efforts to get some sort of idea as to why.
Andy Gallik out of Boston College is another one of the top centers left. Like Garcia, however, Gallik is best left in a phone-booth as a power scheme mauler. Chad Hamilton out of Coastal Carolina is a great fit for what the Broncos want. He has above average technique and top-notch athleticism. His footwork is great as well. Has everything you want for a zone blocking offense interior linemen, in this case, at center.
Two developmental picks are Laurence Gipson out of Virginia Tech and Jamil Douglas out of Arizona State. Both have all the tools for what you want in a zone blocking offense, but need a lot of work to get put it all together. Both could use time on the practice squad before getting a chance to compete for a spot.
The final three that make this list are Rob Crisp out of N.C. State, Brett Boyko out on UNLV and Robert Myers out of Tennessee State. Crisp is the most intriguing and should be scooped up not long into day three. He has a huge upside in a zone blocking scheme as a right tackle and eventually take over as a left tackle.
Boyko has the attitude and smarts you want in an offensive linemen. His athleticism isn’t great, but has good footwork to last as a center in a zone block scheme. Myers has great technique and footwork to be successful right away in a power scheme.
However, he isn’t limited to a power scheme. He may not be the most athletic offensive linemen, but he is more than capable of being a successful guard in a zone blocking scheme. His top notch technique gives him a leg up on many other prospects.
The Broncos have a solid defensive line and depth. However, most are set to hit free agency next year, so the Broncos could look to add help for a year from now. The DL will be split into multiple groups just as the OL was.
The top DL left is Grady Jarrett out of Clemson. At Clemson he played nose tackle in an aggressive one gap scheme, and did so successfully. He is a great fit for Denver and will add depth at nose tackle. Marcus Hardison out of Arizona State is better as a 3-4 5-tech defensive end, but has the tools to be a capable nose tackle in certain situation. Michael Bennett is a pure 5-tech defensive end, but with coaching, he may develop enough to handle some nose tackle snaps. Louis Trinca-Pasat out of Iowa is another one of these player that would be a 5-tech that can handle nose tackle responsibilities in Denver’s defense.
One of the best pure 3-4 DEs left is Za’Darius Smith out of Kentucky, but he would have to add a bit to his frame. Tavaris Barnes out of Clemson may go undrafted, but would be a good late draft pick/undrafted free agent developmental prospect that Denver can stash on the practice squad until next year. Travis Raciti out of San Jose State is a versatile player that can play anywhere in the front, but as long as he is attacking and not dropping into coverage.
Brian Mihalik out of Boston College is a player few have heard of. He is a tall, long prospect who doesn’t bring much outside of his frame, but he has a high football IQ and plenty of room to grow. A team could look to stash him, especially with his frame and length. B.J. Dubose out of Louisville is an extremely raw prospect. He would have to be stashed before even getting snaps on defense.
Ray Drew out of Georgia reminds me so much of a current Bronco, Malik Jackson. When I was scouting Drew, it was like watching Jackson all over again. If Drew takes to coaching and puts the effort in, he could end up just as good, if not better, than how Jackson has turned out for the Broncos. Finally, that leaves Rakeem Nunez-Roches out of Southern Miss. His effort is relentless and his motor never stops. He's a fierce player who can excel in a single-gap system, as a NT or DE in a 3-4.
The Broncos linebacker group is strong and they added with another edge rusher in Shane Ray. They may look to add another edge rusher and interior guy in the final four rounds of the NFL draft.
Kyle Emanuel out of North Dakota State leads the way. He is a favorite of mine and with good reason. Some people I have talked to think he will move inside to the NFL. One compared him and his play style to longtime Chicago Bear, Brian Urlacher. Davis Tull out of Tennessee-Chattanooga is another one of these guys I really like. Like Emanuel, I think Tull will make a living playing as an inside linebacker in the NFL. When I talked to people about him there was nothing but praise.
Zach Wagenmann out of Montana, Lynden Trail out of Norfolk State and Ryan Delaire out of Towson all were 4-3 college defensive ends, but likely to be moved to OLB in the NFL, especially in a 3-4 front. As late round guys, they are all a bit of a project with only Wagenmann likely to have any sort of year one impact. With Trail it would have to be decided on where he plays as some teams like him as a tight end. Delaire needs a lot of work and unless he grows quickly, shouldn’t see much time this upcoming season.
That leaves Jake Ryan out of Michigan, Jeff Luc out of Cincinnati and Damien Wilson out of Minnesota. All of these guys were ILBs in college and should translate that way in the NFL. Ryan played OLB as well, but found his spot when placed in the middle of the linebacker corps.
He also would provide a big body capable of taking up space, which Denver doesn’t really have. Wilson is like some linebackers Denver already has, but would contribute on special teams right away while he grows on defense. Luc would need to spend time on a practice squad, but he has huge upside, though only as a run thumper. He just does not possess the movement or capabilities to be a successful coverage linebacker.
The cornerback draft class was a deep group, though it is thinning out fast. Not many corners worth it are left on the board, though there are a few. If Denver is considering moving one of their corners to safety, they could be looking for one on day three.
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Charles Gaines out of Louisville could be a good choice. He compares well to Aqib Talib and would probably take to him and grow best playing under him. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu out of Oregon was a top corner before he tore his ACL in December. In the NFL, he will be best in the slot or as a safety, however.
Josh Shaw out of USC had some off-the-field trouble, though everyone I have talked to said they are certain it was a one-time deal. That dropped him down boards some. Like Ifo, he may be best as a free safety, but at corner, he wouldn’t be limited to the slot. Bobby McCain out of Memphis is a small corner who would be limited to the slot, but even there, he is a tad undersized. Lorenzo Doss out of Tulane has all the tools you want in a corner. His size says slot corner, but his play style says boundary corner.
Denver has a solid safety corps, though they do lack depth, especially at strong safety. They could look to fix the safety corps in the last few rounds, or even in undrafted free agency. However this is a weak safety class, but a group of solid options still remain.
Derron Smith out of Fresno State, Adrian Amos out of Penn State, Kurtis Drummond out of Michigan State, Cody Prewitt out of Ole Miss, James Sample out of Louisville, Durrell Eskridge out of Syracuse, Ibraheim Campbell out of Northwestern, Damien Parms out of Florida Atlantic and Clayton Geathers out of Central Florida, all remain. All of whom are good options for Denver.
All of these guys have the same thing in common. They are combo safeties. Their skill-sets may be slightly different, but they are all capable of playing both safety positions. They may be better suited to free or strong safety, but versatility is huge. Being able to play both is where these guys' value really lies. Denver needs safety help at both spots. They also need help on special teams, where all these guys could help.
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