Denver Broncos Round 1 Big Board Ahead of the Combine

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Denver Broncos Round 1 Big Board Ahead of the Combine
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Despite being Super Bowl runner-ups in 2013, the Denver Broncos have several positions that they will need to address in the 2014 NFL draft.

The Broncos have the No. 31 overall pick and can go a variety of directions with their first-round draft pick. As we head into the NFL Combine (February 19-25) and free agency in March, many things could change.

At the moment, however, the Broncos have needs at the following positions that they can address with their first-round draft selection: CB, DE, WR, S, LB and possibly even RB.

Super Bowl XLVIII was a rude awakening for a team that coasted through most of their 13-3 season. Though the Broncos proved to be the best team in the AFC, it was illustrated in the biggest game of the season how much faster and physical the Seattle Seahawks were in comparison to the Broncos.

This big board will focus on players who have a chance to be around when the Broncos select No. 31 overall, combined with their needs at the position.

For example, you won't see Teddy Bridgewater or Jadeveon Clowney on this big board. Both players will be off the board by the time the Broncos make their selection. Plus, quarterback is not a position of need for the Broncos at the current moment.

Here are 25 prospects the Denver Broncos will be looking at with their first-round draft selection.

 

1. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (5'11", 192 lbs): Roby has world-class speed, clocking in at 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He's an excellent athlete who relies heavily upon his talent, and not his technique, to get the better of opposing wide receivers.

There's a question of whether or not he can play at a high level in the NFL considering he played in the Big Ten Conference. While he is lackadaisical in his technique, Roby is an excellent tackler and has prototypical size for an NFL corner. He will be a first-round draft selection.

 

2. Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn (6'2", 242 lbs): An excellent pass-rusher, he notched two sacks each in the National Championship Game against Florida State and in the Senior Bowl. Consequently, he was named the Senior Bowl MVP and increased his draft stock due to the game.

Has the ability to drop back into coverage, which shows he's a versatile player. The problem lies in his lack of size and lack of ability to contribute in the running game. As a pass-rushing specialist, however, the Broncos won't find a better one at the No. 31 overall selection than Ford.

 

3. Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri (6'5", 275 lbs): Ealy is perhaps the best two-way player entering this draft. Capable of rushing the passer and stopping the run, Ealy is projected as the 17th-best prospect and the second-best player at his position coming into this draft by CBS Sports.

The Missouri product has an effective spin move and is capable of dropping back into coverage. Due to his experience at right defensive end, Ealy could step in and start for the Broncos immediately.

 

4. Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford (6'5", 253 lbs): One of the best pass-rushers in the nation while at Stanford, Murphy racked up 15 sacks in his senior season in 2013.

Murphy has great length for an end/linebacker standing at 6'5". Though he has a lean frame, Murphy compensates with great pass-rushing skills, frequently using his hands to get past offensive linemen. Considering his frame, he can project as a strong-side pass-rushing linebacker.

Some don't believe Murphy's sack statistics from college will translate to the NFL. Darren Page of Bleacher Report believes Murphy won't be an effective speed rusher around the corner in the NFL.

 

5. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU (5'10", 176 lbs): Very similar in stature to Roby, Jason Verrett out of TCU is another cornerback who seems best suited to be a nickel back in the NFL. He has great finishing ability and ended his collegiate career with nine interceptions and 34 passes defensed.

Due to his lack of size, he struggles to shed blocks in the running game and has a hard time defending fade routes and jump balls.

 

6. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama (6'1", 208 lbs): Clinton-Dix is considered the best prospect at the free safety position and a first-round draft selection. Clinton-Dix made a name for himself at Alabama, playing versus the top talent in the country. That is a fact that cannot be ignored when considering a player's transition from college to the pros.

As Matt Miller notes in the Pro Player Comparison video, Clinton-Dix is a hard hitter that can take on an enforcer role on a defense. The Broncos had issues with the Seahawks' enforcer safeties in Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in Super Bowl XLVIII.

The Broncos have a need for an intimidating safety, and Clinton-Dix would fit that very role for the Broncos.

 

7. Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville (6'2", 208 lbs): With Mike Adams on the verge of turning 33 years old and being a free agent, the desire for a young, top-notch free safety might be there for the Broncos.

Of course, Rahim Moore is still on the team, but his season ended due to an unusual medical issue. Depth might be an issue with free safety Michael Huff also a free agent.

Pryor is a hard-hitting safety who is projected as a middle-to-late-first-round selection. Zach Kruse of B/R had the following to say about Pryor:

Talent evaluators will look at Pryor and see a little bit of Chancellor—a monstrous, well-built safety who blew apart the underneath game of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. The former fifth-round pick is an enforcer type who can also cover, an increasingly rare breed in the modern NFL game.

Rather than go the route of adding a hard-hitting veteran safety through free agency, the Broncos could go the unexpected route and start fresh by adding a hard-hitting rookie safety through the draft. That would be none other than Pryor.

 

8. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State (6'0", 195 lbs): If the Broncos are expecting to draft another Champ Bailey by selecting Gilbert, they'll be disappointed. Having said that, despite Gilbert's lack of run support as a corner, he is the most explosive playmaker at the corner position in this draft.

He led the Big 12 with six interceptions in 2013 and returned six kickoffs for touchdowns during his collegiate career. Possessing prototypical size for an NFL corner, Gilbert lacks in key areas but makes up for it with his explosiveness and versatility in other areas.

 

9. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (6'3", 205 lbs): If the Broncos are to lose Eric Decker through free agency, Matthews will certainly fill the void in terms of size. Matthews possesses great size, with the ability to get a quick burst off the line of scrimmage. He's a good route-runner and was durable at Vanderbilt, playing in 51 games.

However, the Vanderbilt product does lack elite speed and he has a problem with dropping passes. Rob Rang of CBS Sports noted Matthews' issues with dropping passes during Senior Bowl week, and Ryan McCrystal of Bleacher Report noticed the same issue in his studying of game tape of Matthews.

 

10. Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State (6'3", 248 lbs): Considered a dynamic player with a quick first step, Shazier displayed the ability to play inside and outside linebacker, along with his penchant for tackling ball-carriers (144 tackles in '13) and sacking quarterbacks (seven sacks in '13).

Shazier fails to wrap up ball-carriers occasionally and is weak when dropping back into coverage. Despite his flaws, it's hard to ignore Shazier's ability as a three-down linebacker and his versatility in playing all linebacker positions.

 

11. David Yankey, LG, Stanford (6'5", 314 lbs): With left guard Zane Beadles a free agent, the Broncos might have a hole to fill on the left side of the line. With the Broncos placing a huge emphasis on protecting Peyton Manning, it is absolutely pivotal that there are no weak spots along the offensive line.

Yankey is the top-rated guard entering this draft. Better yet, he has started at both left guard and tackle during his collegiate career, making 26 starts at guard and 14 at tackle in his three years of starting.

Yankey is considered to have excellent footwork and good lateral movement skills. If the Broncos wish to address the left side of the offensive line in the event Beadles leaves, Yankey would be their safest option.

 

12. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State (6'5", 235 lbs): If you're looking for a big receiver who will have an immediate impact in the NFL as an end-zone threat, look no further than Benjamin. The FSU product caught 15 touchdown passes in 2013.

Similar to former NFL great, Randy Moss, Benjmain takes long strides to establish separation from opposing defensive backs. His straight-line speed is elite for an NFL receiver his size.

Benjamin does bring some weaknesses with his overall package. He tends to be overly physical with the opposition, leading to penalties. He can also get a bit lazy with his technique, considering his big frame. Think of Plaxico Burress' NFL career and that's what you're likely getting with Benjamin.

 

13. Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State (6'3", 210 lbs): Robinson possesses the size that the Broncos like. Robinson lacks great athleticism and speed, but he overcompensates with great technique as far as route-running, footwork and a quick release off of the line of scrimmage goes.

Robinson is just 20 years old, and he will be turning 21 in August. He was highly productive over the past two seasons at Penn State, recording 174 receptions for 2,450 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Ryan McCrystal of B/R has compared Robinson to Brian Hartline, with the potential to reach an Anquan Boldin level of production. The Broncos will take a guy like that as their No. 2 receiver in a heartbeat.

 

14. Brandin Cooks WR, Oregon State (5'10", 186 lbs): The receiver with the best resume of this draft class is none other than Cooks. The Fred Biletnikoff winner and First-Team All-Pac 12 and consensus All American in 2013, Cooks had 128 receptions for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns this past season.

Despite his smallish frame, Cooks has the skill set to be a go-to option in the NFL. Great speed, superb athleticism and his ability to return punts could see Cooks become a first-round selection.

Because of his lack of size and strength, he struggles to win 50/50 balls and doesn't usually win in tight coverage.

Cooks is a different mold from Denver's big receivers but like Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, he has the potential to be a No. 1 receiver despite his small frame.

 

15. Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida (6'0", 178 lbs): According to Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report, Roberson excels in the Cover 2 defense and has good press technique. He lacks elite speed, running a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash.

He lacks explosiveness and top-end speed. He is projected best as a nickelback in the NFL. However, with nickelbacks being just as valuable as any other position on defense these days, Roberson is considered one of the top corners entering the draft, with CBS Sports considering him to be the fourth-best player at his position.

 

16. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona (5'10", 207 lbs): One of the Broncos' biggest priorities this offseason will be the re-signing of Knowshon Moreno. If Moreno is not brought back, the Broncos have a sudden void at running back.

Although Montee Ball would be expected to take over the starting role, the Broncos would be thin at the position. Ronnie Hillman has fallen out of favor and was declared inactive throughout the season in favor of undrafted free agent C.J. Anderson. Hillman was inactive for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Carey is considered the No. 1 overall prospect at his position. His production cannot be overlooked, as Carey ran for 3,814 yards and 42 touchdowns on the ground over the past two years. Instinctive and a great slash runner, Carey's durability was excellent in college as he carried the football 26 times per game over the past two years.

His weaknesses include his lack of elite speed and off-the-field issues. With the way the Broncos use their running backs, Carey could easily succeed in the role Moreno occupied for the past two years.

 

17. Lamarcus Joyner, CB, FSU (5'8", 190 lbs): Remember former safety and Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders? That's who Joyner will remind you of.

Despite a below-average frame, Joyner compensates by hitting like a truck. He is an excellent tackler and is just as good blitzing the quarterback. He had 5.5 sacks in 2013. He has versatility, starting at cornerback, playing the nickel and starting at strong safety during his collegiate career.

Due to his smallish frame, he can overcompensate by being too aggressive at times. Joyner might be stuck playing the nickel or being a situational defensive back in the NFL.

 

18. Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech (6'0", 189 lbs): Another top corner in a stacked cornerback class, Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech is projected to be a second-round selection.

Fuller possesses good size for a corner, standing at 6'0". Matt Miller of B/R states in the Pro Player Comparison video that Fuller compares to Prince Amukamara, due to both players' injury histories and their lack of development in terms of technique due to their injuries.

Fuller is solid in off-coverage, but he struggles in press and zone coverage, according to Wharton of B/R.

Regardless, Fuller is expected to be a starting corner in the NFL. The question is, when?

 

19. Xavier Su'a Filo, LG, UCLA (6'3", 305 lbs): Filo projects as a first- or second-round selection, and he is the second-ranked prospect at his position.

The UCLA product is a versatile lineman. Over five years at UCLA, Filo made 40 starts, at both left tackle and left guard. An agile run-blocker and a combative pass-blocker, Filo would serve well on an offensive line featuring veterans such as Ryan Clady, Louis Vasquez, Manny Ramirez and Orlando Franklin.

 

20. Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State (6'3", 265 lbs): Crichton is a safe pick. He does not possess the potential of a Jadeveon Clowney or the aforementioned Ealy at the defensive end position, but he can generate a solid pass rush while remaining stout versus the run. He had 7.5 sacks in 2013.

Another bright spot of his is versatility. He played all over the defensive line while at OSU. He lacks experience dropping into coverage and often gives up when unable to generate an immediate pass rush.

 

21. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, Brigham Young (6'3", 244 lbs): The Broncos could shore up the linebacker position with Wesley Woodyard a free agent. Paris Lenon started to have a more featured role on defense at middle linebacker as the season progressed, and, although middle linebackers have seen a decreasing role with the increased importance of the nickel defense formation, the Broncos have to be looking for ways to improve their linebacker core.

Van Noy is a safe selection. Projected as a first- or second-round selection, Van Noy has experience at a variety of positions on defense. Known as a technically sound but not physically dominant linebacker. Frequently he goes after the quarterback's throwing arm on passes, which causes fumbles. He had six forced fumbles in 2012.

Van Noy, though, is not an elite athlete nor is he an explosive tackler. He is, however, a fundamental linebacker who has shown the ability to force turnovers.

 

22. Trevor Reilly, OLB, Utah (6'5", 255 lbs): Considered to the be the fifth-best outside linebacker and a second-round draft selection, Reilly possesses the ability to play both defensive end and linebacker. In 2012, Reilly started eight games at "Stud" linebacker and four games at right defensive end.

There are questions about his injury history (tore his ACL in '12, and he had the knee scoped last month) and his advanced age (26 years old).

If you draft Reilly, you're getting a rangy hybrid end/linebacker. The negatives are that he's 26 years old and coming off serious injuries to his right knee.

 

23. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU (5'11", 195 lbs): Similar to his teammate from LSU, Jarvis Landry, Beckham projects best as a slot receiver in the NFL.

He has terrific leaping ability and has shown the ability to make yards after the catch. He was a First-Team All-SEC pick in 2013 and acted as a punt return man for the Tigers, further increasing his versatility.

However, like Landry, he lacks top-end speed. At his small frame, it's hard to see him as anything more than a No. 3, with a chance to add value to his name by contributing in the return game for a team. But the Broncos don't really have a desperate need for that type of player at the moment.

 

24. Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU (6'0", 195 lbs): He has all of the makings of a solid slot receiver in the NFL, and he has the ability to get open and make catches versus zone coverage. Landry ran a lot of short and intermediate routes while at LSU and was named a Second-Team All-SEC Selection in 2013.

While he lacks top-line speed and acceleration despite being a small guy, Landry started just 12 career games at LSU. He'll likely be an effective slot guy in the NFL, but are the Broncos really willing to reach late in the first round for a slot receiver when Wes Welker will be with the team through at least next season?

 

25. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State (6'0" 235 lbs): An extremely big back, Hyde could provide the perfect complement to the 5'10", 215-pound Ball at running back for the Broncos.

An angry runner who runs with power, Hyde is projected as a second-round pick and the third-best player at his position. He is a workhorse back who carried the football 208 times for 1,521 yards and and 14 touchdowns in his senior season.

However, he lacks an all-around game that the Broncos like in their running backs. Not much of a threat as a receiver out of the backfield, garnering just 34 receptions in four seasons at Ohio State. That presents a problem considering the Broncos' spread-it-out type of offense.

 

All draft projections and rankings of players are from CBSSports.com.

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