Breaking Down the Most Important Pro Days for the Denver Broncos
Free agency is more than a week old now, and teams are pretty much done making big additions to their rosters. The Denver Broncos made arguably the biggest splashes in free agency when they added strong safety T.J. Ward, cornerback Aqib Talib, defensive end DeMarcus Ware and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
They’re not done in free agency, and the Broncos could be adding a few more players from the open market.
At the same time, the team is feverishly working on assembling its draft board. The 2014 NFL draft is only 50 days away, and the Broncos have the 31st overall pick in the first round. They will be picking near the end of each round because of their success in 2013.
There will be plenty of quality players at each pick, so the Broncos must choose wisely.
General manager John Elway has a “best player available” philosophy when it comes to the draft. With pro days going on these next few weeks, the Broncos are looking for those best players.
Here’s a look at the most important pro days for the Denver Broncos.
Auburn Pro Day
The Denver Broncos may be interested in adding pass-rusher Dee Ford with their first-round pick. He’s a disruptive player who could learn a lot from the veterans on the roster.
Despite not working out at the combine due to medical reasons, he has been making the most of the predraft process.
Earlier this year, he was a standout player during the week of practice for the 2014 Senior Bowl. Ford made plays in one-on-one drills, during scrimmage and in the game.
At the Tigers pro day on March 4, he continued to show off his incredible skill set for scouts in attendance. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.59 and 4.63 seconds. He had a 35.5” vertical jump and a 10’4” broad jump. His short shuttle was 4.73 seconds, and his time in the three-cone drill was 7.07 seconds.
In addition to timed speed, Ford impressed with his strength. He put up 29 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
Ford is likely to be available near the end of the first round, and he would be a fine pick for the Broncos. Aside from him, the Broncos could have had an eye on other players at Auburn’s pro day.
Cornerback Chris Davis could help the Broncos in a couple of different ways. First, he’d give them depth at the position and more competition for sub-package corners like Kayvon Webster and Tony Carter. Second—and perhaps most importantly—he would be an incredible return man for the Broncos. He’s currently seen as a fourth-round pick.
Running back Tre Mason would be a surprise pick by the Broncos. With Montee Ball likely set as the starter in 2014, adding another back might not seem like the way to go. However, John Fox has done something like this before.
After selecting DeAngelo Williams in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft, Fox’s Panthers selected Jonathan Stewart in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft. It wouldn’t be crazy to think the Broncos might want more competition at the position, especially with Knowshon Moreno unlikely to return in free agency.
Mason is a player who runs bigger than his size (205 pounds). He is a creative runner who can make defenders miss in the open field due to his incredible balance. He may not be a full-time starter, but he's a fantastic pick as a committee runner. He's currently seen as a second-round pick.
Louisville Pro Day
While many have documented the struggles of Teddy Bridgewater at the Louisville pro day, the Broncos may have interest in a different Cardinals prospect.
Even though they added T.J. Ward in free agency, they still may want to select free safety Calvin Pryor with a first- or second-round pick.
He can roam the field and quickly diagnose plays as they unfold in front of him. He’s known as a sound tackler, but he’s mostly notorious for being a big hitter. He loves to create huge collisions on the field, and his presence is intimidating for an opponent.
At the combine, Pryor measured in smaller (5’11”) than he was listed (6’1”) by Louisville. He did not run at the Cardinals pro day, sticking with his time at the combine (4.58 40-yard dash).
In addition to Pryor, the Broncos could also have interest in Louisville pass-rusher Marcus Smith. The converted quarterback finished second in the country last year with 14.5 sacks.
He ran a 4.68 second 40-yard dash at the combine earlier this year, and like Pryor, he did not run at his pro day. Smith could intrigue the Broncos as a part-time pass-rusher who could come off the board in the second or third round.
Alabama Pro Day
The Crimson Tide always have a stacked roster, and several players from their defense will be picked in the 2014 NFL draft. The Broncos may be considering more than one defender from Alabama with their first-round pick.
Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley is the first player to highlight. He can hit and cover and is known as an intimidating player.
On March 12 at Alabama’s pro day, he showed scouts why he’s a virtual lock to be a first-round pick. He didn’t run at the combine, but he did run at his pro day.
He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.62 and 4.66 seconds. According to Gil Brandt from NFL.com, Mosley showed well during positional drills.
The Broncos haven’t had quality play from their middle linebacker position since the days “Smoke Dog” Al Wilson roamed the field in 2006. If the Broncos fall in love with Mosley, then they’ll likely have to move up to get him.
Another Alabama player whom the Broncos could be interested in is defensive end Ed Stinson. He’s seen as a fifth-round pick and seems like an ideal fit for the “big seven” defensive front that defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio loves.
Stinson is an effective bull-rusher, and he can set the edge against the run. He was a bit of an underachiever in college. Under a coach like Del Rio, he could finally start playing up to the sum of his parts.
Wisconsin Pro Day
The Broncos were unable to find a middle linebacker in free agency. Per Mike Klis of The Denver Post, Nate Irving and Steven Johnson will compete for that spot this year in training camp.
However, adding a rookie middle linebacker to the mix is most definitely an option.
That rookie middle linebacker could be Chris Borland from Wisconsin. He’s a throwback linebacker who loves to find the ball-carrier and destroy him.
At the Badgers pro day on March 5, he showed why he could be an impact player at the next level.
He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.84 and 4.87 seconds. He also had a 35” vertical jump and a 9’8” broad jump. Per Gil Brandt from NFL.com, Borland showed great anticipation in linebacker drills.
In addition to Borland, the Broncos could be interested in wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and running back James White.
Abbrederis is seen as a second-round pick. He can create separation at the line of scrimmage and toys with defenders before (and after) the catch. He can adjust to poorly thrown passes and does a good job of snaring passes away from his body.
White played alongside current lead back for the Broncos, Montee Ball. While he’s just a change-of-pace back, he could play that role effectively. White has great balance, and he is an efficient runner who wastes little movement. He’s currently seen as a fifth-round pick.
Ohio State Pro Day
The Broncos will have options at the end of the first round, as some valuable players will fall to the 31st overall pick. One of those players could be Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller compares Shazier to Buccaneers middle linebacker Lavonte David. The Broncos had a chance to select David in the 2012 NFL draft, but they chose Brock Osweiler instead.
Shazier would be a perfect fit for many defenses out there, and he may be gone before the Broncos pick.
The Buckeyes had their pro day on March 7, and Shazier had a spectacular performance. His 40-yard dash was lightning fast at 4.38 seconds.
He’s a bit undersized at 6’1”, 237 pounds, and his frame may be maxed out. However, he has great instincts when finding the football. He’s position-versatile and can play inside or outside linebacker.
In addition to Shazier, another Buckeye the Broncos could be interested in is cornerback Bradley Roby. At the scouting combine, Roby ran the fourth-fastest 40-yard dash of all participating cornerbacks at 4.39 seconds.
He can click-and-close quickly when a route breaks in front of him. His world-class speed also means he can transition to cover deep routes as well. Roby would make for a fine addition to the secondary.
Note: All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos. All pro day information provided via NFL.com. Draft grades courtesy of NFLDraftScout.com. Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.