2012 NFL Draft Analysis: Breaking Down the Impact of the Denver Broncos' Picks
The Denver Broncos started off to a slow start in the 2012 NFL draft. They traded down twice to add an early fourth round pick and early second round pick. All in all, the Broncos had seven draft choices.
Let's take a look at who they got, how they fit, and what type of impact they will have on the Broncos.
2nd Round (36th Overall): Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati
The Broncos' biggest need coming into the offseason was at defensive tackle. Yes, the Broncos have Kevin Vickerson and Ty Warren coming back off season-ending injuries from last year, but they are getting older and you can never have enough bulk in the middle of the defense.
Derek Wolfe is a beast. He is a force in the middle of the defense. He had an awesome senior season as a Cincinnati Bobcat last year. He ranked 12th in the NCAA in sacks with 9.5 and had 21.5 tackles for a loss (70 tackles total), and forced two fumbles. His efforts earned him the co-conference Player of the Year in the Big East.
He is also a workhorse who never takes plays off. He has a steady motor and is known for catching players from behind. He overwhelms linemen with his strength and speed from the point of attack. He has stupendous closing speed on the quarterback and excels in stopping the run. He has a full repertoire of pass-rushing moves and utilizes a strong rip move.
Overall, he is the complete package. He flew under the radar with names like Jerel Worthy, Kendall Reyes and others floating around, but he could prove to be even better than either of those rookies as he expects to start from Day 1.
He really benefited from remaining in college for his senior season as he improved his football IQ and learned to work harder, run faster and he improved his play on the whole. He was a four-year starter at Cincinnati and will make an immediate impact for the Broncos next season, especially with the departure of Ryan McBean and Brodrick Bunkley.
2nd Round (57th Overall): Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State
I couldn't imagine Executive VP of Football Operations, John Elway, going two straight seasons without drafting a quarterback. He did not disappoint when he snatched up Arizona State product Brock Osweiler at the end of the second round.
Osweiler is the fourth, maybe even the third best quarterback in this 2012 draft. He was selected as the fifth quarterback drafted. Knowing that Denver was very likely to draft a quarterback early in this draft, I had Osweiler pegged as the best possible quarterback for Denver to draft when I ranked who I thought might be available in the second round.
Osweiler is the prototypical quarterback that Elway covets. When he sees Brock, he sees himself in the mirror. Osweiler has a huge arm and is a pocket passer who has shown surprising mobility at 6'7".
He doesn't go down when the first guy hits him. His huge height gives him the ability to see down the field and find the open receiver. He is a raw talent. He was only a starter for a single season at ASU. He some fine tuning to do, but his ceiling is way high.
The best-case scenario for Osweiler would be to sit and learn under Manning. Broncos would love to see Manning finish his career in two or three years and give Osweiler the time to polish his QB skills, similar to Aaron Rodgers waiting behind Brett Favre. His impact here won't be truly known until Manning retires. In two or three years, Osweiler could very well be the Broncos' next franchise quarterback.
3rd Round (67th Overall): Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State
To me, picking up Ronnie Hillman out of San Diego State was a big surprise from the Denver Broncos. But in retrospect, looking at what Hillman offers to complement Willis McGahee, I believe this is a great pick.
Hillman, like Wolfe, has the opportunity to affect the Broncos' game every play he is on the field. He will probably not get the bulk of the carries for the Broncos out of the backfield, but is a speed guy with the jets to score anytime he touches the ball.
Last season was Hillman's best at San Diego State. He accumulated 1,711 yards on the ground, and had 19 touchdowns in 2011. In both seasons on the active roster for the Aztecs, Hillman started in every game and was named to the All-MWC team.
He has some room to improve in the passing game, but he is not completely inexperienced either. In 2011, had 24 receptions for 270 yards. That's more than 10 yards per reception. He will be a major threat for Peyton Manning out of the backfield in the flat or behind the defensive line receiving the football.
4th Round (101st Overall): Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State
The Denver Broncos got a steal with Omar Bolden out of Arizona State, who just last season could have gone in the second round. However, Bolden suffered his second ACL surgery in the past three years.That was likely the biggest contributor to his draft stock falling all the way to the Denver Broncos in the fourth round.
Bolden was a four-year starter as a Sun Devil at cornerback and as a kick returner.
He looks to be a great cornerback with superior skills in both man or zone coverage. He can hang with receivers down the field on deep routes. He keeps his feet beneath him and has great balance coming out of breaks. He also sports an extra gear to recover if he gets caught in a trail position.
Bolden is a great value pick for the Broncos. He plays very physical and possesses a solid build. He never shies away from ball on the run and is a sound tackler. He has good instincts, which largely comes from his experience, and has solid press-coverage skills.
Bolden has huge upside as a fourth rounder. He also might contribute in nickel packages and as a backup for Champ Bailey or Tracy Porter if necessary.
4th Round (108 Overall): Philip Blake, OC, Baylor
Philip Blake fell all the way down to the fourth round and fell into the Broncos' laps. He has some great potential at center. Philip should add depth, but also is talented enough to compete for the starting center position with J.D. Walton, who many believe to be mediocre at best at center.
Keeping Peyton Manning healthy at all costs remains the Broncos' modus operandi this season because if he goes down this year, the entire season will follow, straight into the toilet.
Philip Blake's protection skills is one of the key reasons that Robert Griffin III had such a successful season at Baylor the past few years. He has been Baylor's starting center for the past two seasons.
However, prior to 2010, Blake was Baylor's starting tackle. The versatility Blake has shown is a hot commodity for Denver if he doesn't usurp Walton's starting spot this offseason. He would be an interchangeable cog on the line at all three positions: center, guard or tackle.
Blake is a above average athlete for his size. He has the strength to push tacklers aside and surprising quickness to put blocks on linebackers at the second level.
5th Round (137 Overall): Malik Jackson, DE/DT, Tennessee
The Broncos' added Malik Jackson, a defensive end out of Tennessee in the fifth round. He will be competing with fellow Tennessee alumnus Robert Ayers for playing time at DE opposite of Elvis Dumervil. He also has some experience at the collegiate level inside at defensive tackle.
Jackson had a pretty good year in 2011 statistically. He posted 56 total tackles, nine tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, two passes knocked down, and a forced fumble last season. Most scouts see Jackson as a defensive end in the pros, but Jackson posted these stats as a DT at Tennessee last season.
Jackson has shown some quickness getting out of his stance and has some very quick hands. His long arms give him leverage to disengage defenders. He has a good hand punch, which can force offensive linemen back onto their heels. On the end he does a good job of setting containment and forcing backs inside.
To play inside, he would probably have to put on about 20-30 pounds; he has recently weighed in around 284 pounds. I like the prospect of Jackson at defensive end if Ayers continues to struggle. He would definitely fit in as a backup for depth this season.
6th Round (188 Overall): Danny Trevathan, OLB, Kentucky
Danny Trevathan is a little small for the NFL at outside linebacker. He would likely fill a role as an outside linebacker, in the case that the six-game suspension of D.J. Williams for performance enhancing drugs is upheld.
Despite his size, however, Trevathan shined in a talent-loaded SEC last season. He led the SEC with 143 total tackles (76 solo tackles), 12 tackles for a loss, and three sacks. He also had four picks, broke up five passes and forced five fumbles.
As you can see, he had a knack for the ball and he was a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. Again, this wasn't in some mid-major conference, this was in the SEC, where two teams in the conference (Alabama and LSU), Nos. 1 and 2 respectively, played for the national championship.
If you can get past his smaller size at 6'0" and 237 pounds with a 32.5" wingspan, you have a top prospect with major upside. Trevathan could potentially be one of the biggest steals of the draft in the 6th round, especially if he proves to be a worthy replacement of D.J. Williams in 2012.
The Broncos picked up some key impact players that will improve the team in a lot of areas. Probably the biggest area that was boosted was depth.
Depth was something that really hurt the Broncos last season as they saw several key players struggle through injury all season. If the Broncos had a guy or two to insert into the lineup and provide "good enough" help, then maybe they could have had an even better record than the 8-8 mark in 2011.
These newly drafted players will give the Broncos greater depth and more flexibility in designing plays and schemes suited to certain players.
In recap, here are the players and positions the Broncos loaded up on in the 2012 NFL Draft:
2—Derek Wolfe, DT
2—Brock Osweiler, QB
3—Ronnie Hillman, RB
4—Omar Bolden, CB
4—Philip Blake, OC
5—Malik Jackson, DE/DT
6—Danny Trevathan, OLB