Finding Broncos: 5 NFL Draft Prospects Denver Must Avoid In The First Round

Senior Draft Analyst Erick Trickel takes a look at five prospects that are getting first round talk, but shouldn’t be. All five are players that the Broncos should avoid taking at pick 20, or in the first round at all.

Every year, a handful of NFL Draft prospects get so hyped up that they end up hearing their name called a lot earlier than they should. Whether teams fall prey to the hype, or just flat out miss on their evaluations, you can go back every year and find at least one first round selection that shouldn’t have been made.

We're still a couple months out from the Draft, but there are already prospects getting hyped up into the first round that shouldn’t be. These are players that teams are likely to reach on, and the Denver Broncos shouldn’t be one of them. This doesn’t mean these players are not good, it is just that they don’t belong in the first round.

Cam Robinson, Offensive Tackle, Alabama Crimson Tide

At 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, Robinson has the size of an NFL offensive tackle. He is also young, set to turn only 22 years old during this next season. Add in the experience he has playing in the SEC and you can understand why he is going to get over-hyped. It's something that has already happened, though the hype seems to be calming down of late.

For the longest time, I stood alone on the “Robinson isn’t a first round player” front. His technique is a mess. While his size may say NFL offensive tackle, what his play actually shows is NFL offensive guard.

He reminds me so much of Ereck Flowers out of Miami just a couple years ago. Flowers was one of those players taken in the first round who shouldn’t have been. Like Flowers, Robinson projects best as a guard at the NFL level, though Flowers is playing left tackle, but doing it poorly I might add. Despite the experience Robinson has, scouts and offensive line coaches are seriously concerned with where his technique is at. At times, he shows beautiful technique, though it is very rare to see.

You often see him winning with superior strength, with help from a teammate, or with the defender losing the match-up more than Robinson winning it. Add in the fact he lunges on almost every snap, and you have a player that NFL defensive linemen are going to eat up.

Robinson simply isn’t a first round prospect, and this is now being repeated by many scouts in and around the NFL. Scouts view him as a guard at the pro level.

It is likely a team gets desperate, drafts Robinson early and sticks him at left tackle, like the New York Giants did with Flowers. Fans should hope that the Broncos don’t do that. There are better options at 20 for the offensive line than Robinson.

Malik McDowell, Defensive Line, Michigan State Spartans

McDowell flashes whenever you put on his tape. However, consistency is a major concern, along with maturity, motor and football IQ.

You can watch him do something excellent on one play, than the next he shows 20 percent effort, or gets sloppy and beaten. It is maddening to watch someone who has his ability seemingly not care for 50 percent or more snaps of a game.

Now there is no question that McDowell has a high ceiling. His flashes are jaw dropping. It's just that, on top of the previous issues mentioned, his technique is non-existent.

McDowell often relies on his strength, or athleticism to win, which is good, but you have to have technique. Players need a plan of attack and combining strength/athleticism with technique could make him even more dangerous than he is.

There is also the question of how long it'll be before McDowell is a full-fledged starter, which is what you want with a first round pick. It is my belief that he is a two-year project, at least, before being a full time starter.

He can contribute in 15-20 percent of snaps per game right away, then maybe 30-40 percent in year two. He is a project with a ridiculously high ceiling that he may not reach.

With his maturity, motor, football IQ, lack of technique and just being a long-term project, McDowell is a prospect to avoid in round one, especially for Denver.

Garett Bolles, Offensive Linemen, Utah Utes

It wasn’t long ago I was okay with Bolles at 20 — if Denver doesn’t address the offensive line in free agency. But as I've recently reported, they are expected to.

My opinion of Bolles changed after doing more tape study on him. His flaws were on display and changed my opinion fromhim being a day-one left tackle option to strictly a right tackle in the NFL.

First off, there is his age. He will be 25 years old before the beginning of the season. While people outside the NFL will make a bigger deal about that than NFL folks, it is still a concern for teams. There are also concerns about core strength, bend, lack of power in his lower body and many other issues with his game. He isn’t a project, and can start day one, but he does need a lot of refining.

Take Bolles in the second round. I am all aboard with that. Watching him, I just don’t see a first round player, nor a left tackle.

Playing in the AFC West, the right tackle has become just as important with edge rushers like Khalil Mack, Justin Houston and Joey Bosa, the value for right tackles is higher than ever. What it comes down to for Bolles is just not being a first round talent.

Zach Cunningham, Linebacker, Vanderbilt Commodores

Here, I am going to cheat a little. I said to start that these are players getting first round hype who shouldn’t be, but with this player he should, but only for the right scheme. The scheme the Broncos run is not that scheme, however, and even if it was, he would be redundant with the personnel they already have.

Cunningham has a similar style to current Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall. They play much better when not taking on blockers and can fly through space and openings to attack the ball carrier.

Put those two next to each other and you have two linebackers who struggle taking on blocks. Denver needs a linebacker who can take on blocks, which would open up Marshall. This is what Danny Trevathan did for Marshall and why they were a great tandem.

Cunningham is a great player. He has a lot of upside and talent. If you want a day-one starter in an attacking 4-3 scheme ad your weakside linebacker, Cunningham is your guy.

However, for the Broncos, his style is just too similar to Marshall for it to work for the defense and plays to Cunningham’s weaknesses. So, yes. I cheated a little here, but Cunningham is still one the Broncos should avoid simply due to scheme and personnel.

Christian McCaffrey, Gadget, Stanford Cardinal

To put it bluntly, McCaffrey is not a first round prospect. Yes, he put up some big numbers in his time at Stanford, but you scout the player not the stats.

McCaffrey is a solid player that can do a lot for a team, which helps his value. That doesn’t make him a first round prospect.

His vision is good, but not great. Balance is also good, but not great. His size isn’t ideal and not that of a workhorse running back, which is fine because McCaffrey is a gadget player.

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He is the type of player you give 10-15 touches a game, mostly as a receiver out of the backfield or in the slot. That doesn’t include as a returner, which also helps his value.

There are serious concerns about how much of his success was McCaffrey and how much of it was the team around him. Stanford had one of the best run-blocking units in college, which helped McCaffrey out a lot.

They often were able to give him so much space he just had to make one defender miss for a big gain. In the NFL, the odds are he won’t have that benefit.

Being a gadget runner helps his value, but what hurts his value is that there are many other plays who can bring the same thing to a team that don't have to be taken early. McCaffrey is a constant riser and faller heading into this draft.

While he is a good player, he isn’t first round good, even with his versatility. If Denver's options are to take McCaffrey in the first, or one of the other guys in the third or fourth round, then go with the other guy.

The talk I have heard has McCaffrey slipping out of the first, which would be perfect. He is excellent value in the second round, while bad value in the first, especially at 20.

McCaffrey isn’t a top 32 player, let alone top 20. His dad’s legacy in Denver doesn’t change that, and Denver shouldn’t reach for him. Many Denver-based media types are too caught up in his hype because of his dad’s legacy to realize that.

So those are my five prospects the Broncos should avoid. Maybe now we should take a look at five player flying under the radar that the Broncos should consider in the first round. Stay tuned for that.

Erick Trickel is the Senior Draft Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ErickTrickel.

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