Denver Broncos Mock Draft: Making a Case for ILB Dont'a Hightower

Jason Muckley@@jamuckleySenior Analyst IIApril 20, 2012

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 26:  Dont'a Hightower #30 of the Alabama Crimson Tide calls the defense against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Many have indicated that the Denver Broncos would do well to trade down in the 2012 NFL Draft to add another high pick and acquire some extra defensive tackles to shore up the middle of the defense in 2012.

Let me present to you an alternate scenario: The Broncos trade down in the first round (with a team like the San Francisco 49ers) and instead of getting a DT, they select University of Alabama inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower.

Hightower is easily the second-best inside linebacker in the draft after Luke Kuechly, whom many have the Kansas City Chiefs taking with their first-round pick at No. 11 overall. Adding a talent like Hightower to the middle of the Denver defense could bring back the days when Al Wilson roamed the middle of the defense striking fear in the hearts of slot receivers and tight ends coming across the middle.

In order for this to work, Hightower will have to slip past the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 24,—one pick before Denver—and the Broncos would have to be certain a team like the Baltimore Ravens wouldn't snatch Hightower at No. 29 (one before the 49ers pick at No. 30).

That's a lot of if's, but for one reason or another, Hightower's predicted draft position has really taken a hit as of late. Finding a gem like Hightower late in the first round and getting an extra pick (perhaps in the second round) would position the Broncos to take two defensive tackles in the second round, while still allowing the possibility of getting some very good players. 

Kendall Reyes, defensive tackle out of UConn may be available later in the second round if teams would rather have a guy like Jerel Worthy late in the first or early in the second. Devon Still's stock may fall as well, and he could be available in the second round if Reyes is gone.

Either way, there will be top DT talent available in the second round if the Broncos are patient and go after an impact player like Hightower at linebacker.

So, why is Hightower so special?

Read what the scouts at say about him:

"Hightower showed off excellent speed at the Combine for such a big, heavy linebacker. He has the size of a defensive end with the speed of a starting linebacker."

When the Broncos took Von Miller last season with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, he made an immediate impact for the Broncos. He energized a group of guys who had seemed asleep, if not dead, for three-plus seasons.

Bringing in a huge, fast inside linebacker who can bring that same type of attitude, drive and ferocity inside would make the Broncos a defensive terror for opposing offenses. Add newly acquired Tracy Porter across from Champ Bailey, and the pressure ratchets up a few more degrees.

Hightower is physical and will wreak havoc inside the box. He routinely took on and beat offensive linemen throughout his collegiate career with the Crimson Tide. Like Peyton Manning on the other side of the ball, Hightower was the signal-caller for the Alabama defense, which is a complex collegiate scheme.

Hightower is the real deal, and he has it all. He is a leader who can call plays from the middle linebacker spot, he is big and fast, he can beat offensive linemen to stop plays in the backfield and pick up sacks—and he might very well fall into the Broncos' lap late in the first round.