Now that the 2012 NFL draft has concluded, it's time to take stock of how the Denver Broncos have improved themselves over the past three days. One thing is certain: the Broncos' brain-trust of John Elway, Brian Xanders and John Fox stayed true to their draft board and stuck to their own player analysis when making their choices.
First and foremost, they traded back from the 25th overall pick, rather than reaching on a player they felt they could take later on. They then traded out of the first round entirely, choosing instead to collect draft capital, confident that they could still get similar value in a draft that Elway said was "thick through the middle."
The following slideshow is a video breakdown of every Broncos selection in the 2012 Draft, along with some brief reaction analysis and a grade for each pick. Enjoy!
There might have been some eyebrows raised when Derek Wolfe came off the board with the Broncos' first pick in the draft, especially considering that there were several more highly-touted defensive linemen available. Still, the Broncos like Wolfe's toughness, aggressiveness, good hands and high-character leadership qualities.
Wolfe was Denver's highest-rated player at their biggest position of need, so overall the Broncos made the right move with this selection, despite the feelings of many that Wolfe could have been had in a later round. The Broncos obviously didn't want to run the risk of losing him.
GRADE: B+ Much prefer to have the DT with the excellent motor and determination who the Broncos had rated the highest based off of their own criteria, rather than other DTs rated higher by "experts" but with character and effort question marks.
Many draft experts believed that the Broncos would take a flier on Brock Osweiler, and Denver followed suit with their second overall pick. Perhaps boasting the strongest arm of any QB in the draft, Osweiler is certainly a developmental pick, and the plan will be to give him an apprenticeship under Peyton Manning.
Ultimately, I would have preferred to see the Broncos select a player that could have made a more immediate impact. Osweiler probably won't see the field for at least three years. Still, John Elway has forgotten more about playing quarterback in the NFL than most will ever know. If he feels that Osweiler is a can't miss talent, who is willing to question it?
GRADE: C- This grade (as with all grades for NFL Drafts and draft picks) could be subject to change depending on what happens down the road. Osweiler seems like a great kid, and hopefully he is an outstanding player for the Denver Broncos for a long, long time. Would have preferred an impact player to make a more immediate contribution to winning a championship.
Ronnie Hillman is an explosive running back with game-changing play-making ability. Words used to describe him are: speed-burner, versatile, dangerous and slippery. He compares to Kendall Hunter and Darren Sproles, and broke most of Marshall Faulk's collegiate records. Used as a change-of-pace back to Willis McGahee, Hillman will give Peyton Manning yet another weapon out of the backfield.
There's a lot to like about this pick, but the only drawback is that Denver traded up 20 spots to select him, which cost them the fourth-round pick they earned by trading out of the first round. Still, Elway wanted to accrue draft capital, and ultimately felt that cashing some of it in to take Hillman was the right thing to do.
GRADE: B+ Excellent pick to acquire a true burner, a shifty, scat-back with good hands who has the ability to score anytime he touches the ball. Will be a quality weapon for Peyton Manning to have in his holster. You can't teach speed. Wasn't crazy about losing a fourth-rounder to take him.
The Broncos may have the sleeper of the draft in cornerback Omar Bolden. Largely overlooked due to missing the entire 2011 season with a torn ACL, Bolden is a dynamic player. He's fast (4.42 40), possesses incredible agility, has good football instincts and is exceptionally strong, benching 225 lbs 24 times at the combine—most among CBs.
His only knock is his injury history—the ACL that cost him 2011. He also missed substantial time in 2009 with an MCL injury. Still, if he is back to 100 percent and the Broncos trainers can keep him healthy, he could be a viable NFL starter for years to come.
GRADE: A- According to Elway, the Broncos projected Bolden to be a first-to-second round talent had he played in 2011. As long as he can get back to full playing strength, Bolden could be a supreme steal. Incredibly strong, super athletic and possesses great football instincts. Just get him—and keep him healthy.
In an effort to add protection for Peyton Manning, the Broncos bolstered their depth at offensive line with the selection of Phillip Blake. Blake graded well at the combine and showed impressive agility for such size (6'2" and 311 lbs).
Blocking for Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and the explosive 2011 Baylor offense, Blake has experience protecting valuable skill players. He should come in and provide immediate competition for JD Walton, and will give the Broncos some depth up front in any case. This is an excellent move to add some insurance for their free-agent signing of Manning.
GRADE: A Absolutely no problem taking measures to protect Peyton Manning, and doing so with an athletic lineman at an appropriate spot in the draft makes a lot of sense. Excited to see the level of competition Blake can add to the offensive line.
Continuing to get younger and deeper on the defensive front, the Broncos selected Malik Jackson in the sixth round. A transfer to Tennessee from USC, Jackson lead the Vols in tackles for loss (11) in 2011 and added five sacks. He is versatile, and can play inside (as he did in college), but also projects to play on the edge in the NFL, as he may be more effective in space.
The knock on Jackson is his overall strength, as he reportedly shows a tendency to get beat by bigger, stronger offensive linemen. Still, if he can refine his technique and build some strength, his versatility could be huge asset in adding depth to the Broncos' defensive line.
GRADE: B According to Coach Fox, the Broncos are going to line Jackson up on the end and "see how it goes." Sounds like a great plan. Late-round picks are like mining for gold, and adding depth along the line is always a good thing.
The Broncos love linebackers from Kentucky, and they proved it in selecting Danny Trevathan. Trevathan is an athletic linebacker with superb lateral ability. He is able to run down ball carriers from sideline-to-sideline, but is also very disruptive in the passing game.
The knock on Trevathan is that he is undersized at 6'0" 235 lbs, and struggles when dropping into coverage. Still, his quickness and agility will compensate in the open field, and he will be a fine player to give Denver more depth at linebacker. Projected to go in the fourth round or even earlier, the Broncos got excellent value in Trevathan at pick No. 188.
GRADE: B Denver's other Kentucky linebacker has worked out; no problem going back to the well. Trevathan plays with a chip-on-the-shoulder for being dubbed "undersized." Excited to see the competition he can bring to the linebacking corps. Potential nickname: "Treviathan."