They’ll work diligently to find impact players and quality depth in every round.
Under the guidance of Vice President of Football Operations John Elway, the Broncos have already discovered starters in the later rounds of previous drafts. They’ve also done a good job of finding quality undrafted free agents, too.
On Monday, I examined the top needs and fits for the Broncos. Now, it's time to see what players might be available for the Broncos when their selections are due this coming May.
With one pick in each round, here is a look at an initial big board for the Denver Broncos’ 2014 draft.
- DE Dee Ford (Auburn)
- CB Marcus Roberson (Florida)
- DT Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh)
- FS Calvin Pryor (Louisville)
- WR Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt)
Many teams look for best player available when it’s their turn to pick. The Denver Broncos have some tough decisions to make in free agency, and those decisions will alter their draft plan.
Most of their free-agent moves may be to keep their own players. The Broncos should spend a lot of time and attention (and money) trying to keep guys like wide receiver Eric Decker and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
In the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, I expect the Broncos to address the defensive side of the ball. Teams can never have too many pass-rushers, and this is where Dee Ford comes in. He was a standout player during the week of practice at the Senior Bowl. Ford ended a strong week of practice with an outstanding game, winning defensive MVP honors. The Auburn prospect has long arms, understands leverage and can use his outstanding strength with a strong “pop” at the point of attack. In many ways, he reminds me of former Broncos DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil.
Another defensive lineman the team could consider is Aaron Donald from Pitt. Like Ford, he was a standout player at the Senior Bowl and is known for an incredibly powerful burst at the snap.
If the team chooses to address the secondary instead, then a player like cornerback Marcus Roberson makes a lot of sense. Free safety Calvin Pryor could also be an option, as the team would like better competition at the safety spot.
Finally, if the Broncos lose Decker in free agency, they should look no further than Jordan Matthews. He reminded me of Decker on film, and when I saw Matthews at the Senior Bowl, it confirmed my assessment. Matthews is not afraid to run routes over the middle, has strong hands and could make an immediate impact as a rookie for the Broncos.
- ILB Chris Borland (Wisconsin)
- DE Trent Murphy (Stanford)
- CB Louchiez Purifoy (Florida)
- TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington)
- RB Charles Sims (West Virginia)
If the Broncos do end up taking a pass-rusher in the first round, they could still continue to address the defensive line later in the draft. The second round makes sense for the team to look at a spot that has long been a weak area: middle linebacker.
The team has been searching for a quality middle linebacker since they lost “Smoke Dog” Al Wilson to a neck injury (and subsequent early retirement) in 2006. The team lost attitude when they lost Wilson, and they need to get it back.
Near the end of the second round, the Broncos should consider Chris Borland from Wisconsin.
Watching him at the Senior Bowl, he reminded me of former Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas. Borland is undersized (5’11”, 245 lbs.) by some standards, but he packs a punch every time he’s on the field. He’s a smart player who can diagnose plays quickly as they unfold in front of him. He can “scrape and flow” effectively to find the ball-carrier down the line of scrimmage. When he arrives at the ball, Borland thumps his opponent.
Borland is also an enforcer who can roam the middle of the field and stuff the run. There are question marks about his ability to play in coverage, and that may drop him to the second or third round of the draft.
Trent Murphy is an option if the team fails to address the defensive line in the first round. He struggled during the week of practice for the Senior Bowl, and that has caused his stock to tumble. He still shows up well on film, and Murphy would be a good replacement for Robert Ayers if he leaves in free agency.
They could address the secondary in the second round by taking another Florida corner that has caught my eye, Louchiez Purifoy. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins would give them another young, big and strong weapon for the passing game. Running back Charles Sims might be on their radar if Knowshon Moreno leaves in free agency.
- TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa)
- CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska)
- DT Daniel McCullers (Tennessee)
- ILB Shayne Skov (Stanford)
- OLB Jordan Tripp (Montana)
The Broncos have to decide the future of both tight ends Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen. There’s a good chance that one or both are released this offseason due to their price tag. Either way, the Broncos need to add more talent to the position.
Julius Thomas became a star this year, but he still has yet to play a full season in his pro career. Virgil Green is a good blocker and decent receiver, but he isn’t the caliber of player the team needs if there’s an injury to Thomas.
This is where a player like C.J. Fiedorowicz comes in. I interviewed him at the Senior Bowl, and my neck still hurts from looking up at him. Fiedorowicz is huge, measuring in at 6’6”, 262 pounds. He also knows how to use that size to his advantage. Fiedorowicz will regularly box out smaller defenders and come back to the football. His large wingspan gives him an enormous catch radius, and he can elevate to make catches “above the rim.”
The secondary could still be a position of need at this time. Stanley Jean-Baptiste is a big, physical corner who loves to push around smaller wide receivers.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio loves huge players in the front seven of his defense, and it doesn’t get much larger than Daniel McCullers. He measures in at a whopping 6’7”, 348 pounds.
If the team waits until this point to get an inside linebacker, then Shayne Skov makes a ton of sense. He’s ferocious, loves to hit and would be the perfect enforcer that the Denver defense has been missing since Al Wilson.
Jordan Tripp would be able to help their depth at the linebacker position. He’s dependable, reliable and should develop into a quality weakside linebacker at the pro level.
- CB Chris Davis (Auburn)
- DT Justin Ellis (Louisiana Tech)
- DE Josh Mauro (Stanford)
- ILB DeDe Lattimore (South Florida)
- OLB Adrian Hubbard (Alabama)
These next few rounds are where the Broncos are good at finding quality talent. In the past, they have made picks from the last day of the draft who eventually turned out to be starters in the NFL.
Chris Davis is one player who could be on their radar. Everyone is going to remember him as the player who took a missed field goal to the house to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl this year. However, Davis is an accomplished player with great upside. He can turn and cover with some of the best receivers out there. Davis does not back down from a challenge, and he will make plays on the football when it’s in the air.
Davis can also help as a return man. This is an area the Broncos could have a need at, as wide receiver Trindon Holliday may not return to the team in 2014. Having a knack for making a big play is the hallmark of Davis’ game. He would be an ideal pick for the Broncos, so much so that they might select him a round earlier than some people think.
The Broncos have never been afraid of taking “their guy” higher than other teams have that player ranked. In 2011 I was alone in thinking Julius Thomas could be a fifth-round pick, and the Broncos surprised everyone by selecting him in the fourth round.
The other picks listed here continue to show where the Broncos have a need. As you can see, this has the potential to be a very defense-heavy draft for Denver.
- TE Crockett Gillmore (Colorado State)
- RB James White (Wisconsin)
- CB Antone Exum (Virginia Tech)
- DE Ed Stinson (Alabama)
- DT George Uko (USC)
If the Broncos have not addressed the tight end position by this time, then Crockett Gillmore would be a fantastic fit. Gillmore was a standout player for me when I watched him during the week of practice for the East-West Shrine Game earlier this year. When he got the call up to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, Gillmore once again impressed.
He reminds me of former Washington tight end Chris Cooley because of his versatility. Gillmore can be lined up at H-back, tight end or even split wide at receiver. He has strong hands, good concentration and he can make defenders miss after the catch. He’s a lot like former CSU Ram (and current Broncos tight end) Joel Dreessen.
The Broncos may choose to double up on Wisconsin running backs. They selected Montee Ball last year in the second round of the draft, and James White could be an option for them at this point. White impressed me during the week of practice for the Senior Bowl. He’s an efficient runner who cuts without wasting motion or losing much speed.
The Broncos have power in the backfield with Ball and C.J. Anderson. They could use some speed and big-play ability from the running back position. That’s what White would provide.
- OLB Tyler Starr (South Dakota)
- DE Taylor Hart (Oregon)
- DE Deandre Coleman (California)
- FS Marqueston Huff (Wyoming)
- OLB Shaquil Barrett (Colorado State)
I’m expecting more defensive picks for the Broncos here. In these later rounds, there’s nothing like a small-school player with upside. Tyler Starr is the best pick if he’s on the board.
Starr impressed me during the week of practice for the East-West Shrine Game earlier this year. He’s got the speed to get around the corner as a pass-rusher. Starr can also drop back and make plays on the ball in coverage.
Another player to highlight here is Marqueston Huff. He can fly all over the field to find the ball. Huff does a good job of timing his leaps to knock the pass away or snare an interception.
- ILB Max Bullough (Michigan State)
- RB Isaiah Crowell (Alabama State, Georgia transfer)
- DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe (Colorado)
- WR Matt Hazel (Coastal Carolina)
- SS Nat Berhe (San Diego State)
It’s time to find some sleeper prospects for the Denver Broncos. The seventh round should be chock-full of talent with untapped potential.
Max Bullough would be a fantastic addition for the Broncos here. He showed up to the East-West Shrine Game larger than expected, and Bullough put on a show for those (like me) in attendance.
He loves to hit, and Bullough is known as a violent tackler. In addition to making big hits, Bullough rarely is out of position and can find his way to the ball quickly. Suspended for the Rose Bowl this year, Bullough has some off-field questions to answer for scouts. The scouting combine and the pre-draft process will be incredibly important for Bullough. On film alone, he should go higher than the seventh round.
Other sleepers the team could take a chance on include Isaiah Crowell from Alabama State. The former Georgia running back is arguably the most naturally talented runner in this draft class. He’s instinctive, has good speed and possesses the ability to make defenders miss in the open field. Crowell can pick up yards between the tackles, and he does a good job of keeping his feet moving after contact.
The Broncos could move into 2014 with Montee Ball as their primary back. Behind him they could use a talent like Crowell as a reserve runner and potential future starter.
Note: All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos.
Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.