Who Are the Experts Predicting to Broncos in the 1st Round of the NFL Draft

Cecil LammeyContributor IApril 8, 2014

Who Are the Experts Predicting to Broncos in the 1st Round of the NFL Draft

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The NFL draft starts one month from today. On May 8th, we’ll see the NFL draft live from Radio City Music Hall during prime time on two networks. The first round is the sexiest round in the draft, with players thought to be bound for stardom in the NFL.

    During the next month, we’ll continue to assemble clues about the direction of each team in the NFL draft. Some clues we’ve already gathered from what teams have done in free agency.

    These clues help experts put together mock drafts. These are exercises that try to map out how the draft will flow.

    Let’s take a look to see who the top experts are predicting the Denver Broncos will select in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.

C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

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    Matt Miller, Bleacher Report

    The Broncos failed to add a middle linebacker in free agency, so they’re likely to look for one in the draft. If C.J. Mosley from Alabama falls to them in the first round, they would likely jump all over that pick.

    Mosley is an impact player who knows how to quickly get to the football. Once he arrives at the play, Mosley loves to punish the ball-carrier. He’s a smart player who can quickly diagnose on the run as the play is unfolding in front of him.

    His athleticism gives him range in coverage, so Mosley is a three-down inside linebacker with incredible upside.

    Denver has been looking for a quality inside linebacker ever since Al Wilson was forced into retirement after a neck injury in 2006. Mosley could be their top target, and he would be a perfect fit.

Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin

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    Mel Kiper, ESPN

    Keeping with the theme of inside linebacker as the top pick, ESPN’s Mel Kiper has the Broncos (subscription required) selecting Chris Borland from Wisconsin.

    Measuring in at 5’11”, 245 pounds, Borland is a bit smaller than scouts normally like at inside linebacker. He plays a lot like former Miami Dolphins star Zach Thomas, who also was a bit undersized for the position. Borland has a ton of heart and hustle which comes through in his playing style.

    He’s incredibly instinctive, and Borland understands how to avoid larger blockers on his way to the football. When Borland tackles the ball-carrier, he does so with sound technique.

    While he has the ability to consistently tackle in the open field, Borland is merely a two-down thumper who will struggle to cover at the pro level.

    Denver’s offense will regularly build big leads in 2014. This means opponents will be forced to playing “catch-up” football earlier than they want to. That means Denver will be in nickel packages more on defense. This requires a middle linebacker who can cover.

    Borland may not be a three-down player at the pro level. The Broncos may be able to add Borland at the end of the second round.

Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

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    Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com

    Under general manager John Elway, the Broncos have a history of selecting the best player available in each round regardless of team need. If Ryan Shazier is on the board with the 31st pick, they could be getting the best of both worlds.

    Shazier is incredibly athletic, but there is a debate about whether or not he’s got the ability to play inside linebacker at the pro level. Denver has a need at middle linebacker, but their outside linebackers are set with Von Miller on the strong side and Danny Trevathan on the weak side.

    If Shazier is added by the Broncos, then it’s likely to be as a middle linebacker.

    He ran a sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash at the Buckeyes' pro day. This merely highlighted the athleticism and speed that showed up on tape. Shazier can stay with receivers or tight ends down the middle of the field.

    He’s a smart player who moves like an oversized defensive back. Shazier knows how to stay low and drive through his tackle as he takes an opponent to the ground. He’s a tackling machine who racked up a conference-high 143 tackles in 2013.

    If the Broncos believe Shazier can play on the inside, then he is a fine first-round pick with the ability to be a star player at the pro level.

Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

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    Rob Rang, CBS Sports, NFLDraftScout.com

    The Broncos could certainly select a cornerback in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. Jason Verrett from TCU might be on their radar when they’re up with the 31st pick.

    Verrett is undersized, measuring in at 5’10”, 189 pounds, but he makes up for that lack of size with a feisty attitude. He’s not going to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage, but Verrett is better suited playing off-man coverage.

    Once a receiver makes his break, Verrett will immediately arrive at the point of the catch. He’ll put up a fight, and Verrett will make it difficult for a receiver to cleanly catch the pass.

    He can backpedal swiftly, and Verrett has the click-and-close ability to get to the ball when the play is in front of him. He also can smoothly drop his hips in transition when the play goes vertical.

    The Broncos want more attitude on defense in 2014. Verrett has a ton of attitude, but there might be larger corners (Kyle Fuller, Bradley Roby) who might make for better options at the end of the first round.

Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

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    Dane Brugler, CBS Sports, NFLDraftScout.com

    Adding more pass-rushers is always a good idea in the first round. Kony Ealy may not be available when the Broncos pick, but if he’s there, then it would have to be considered a nice value pick at 31st overall.

    Ealy has the initial quickness to get into the backfield in the blink of an eye. In addition to quickness, Ealy does a good job anticipating the snap count. This also helps him get to the quarterback quicker.

    He’s still developing a bag of tricks as a pass-rusher, but Ealy has a good spin move to the inside to complement his outside speed. When the quarterback is in his sights, Ealy has the closing burst to get the sack. If he doesn’t get to the passer, then Ealy has shown the ability to disrupt passing lanes with his arms.

    Ealy is not much of a run-stuffer, and he’ll have to begin his career as a part-time pass-rusher in the NFL. With the addition of DeMarcus Ware in free agency, the Broncos don’t have a pressing need at the position. However, adding a young player to develop behind Ware might be a move the Broncos make.

Kyle Van Noy, OLB, Brigham Young

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    Pete Prisco, CBS Sports

    Denver may add a linebacker with their first pick. That linebacker is likely to be an inside linebacker like C.J. Mosley or Chris Borland. However, the team may surprise some by adding a player like Kyle Van Noy out of BYU.

    Van Noy gets by on efficient movement and instincts. He’s not a physical player at the point of attack, but he can find the ball and bring down the ball-carrier. Van Noy has excellent read and reaction skills, aided by his elite quickness.

    It is difficult for blockers to get a good grip on Van Noy because he’s so slippery on his way to the ball. Earlier this year at the 2014 Reese’s Senior Bowl, Van Noy impressed by batting away several passes during practice. His ability to cover will only strengthen his draft stock.

    Van Noy’s skill set is reminiscent of Chad Greenway (Minnesota Vikings). Like Greenway, Van Noy can beat opponents to the point of attack. This makes him even more disruptive, as he’ll turn a ball-carrier back to the inside if he doesn’t make the tackle.

    Where he fits in Denver is a bit of a mystery, but adding a talented player with his upside may be a direction the Broncos go in with their first pick.

     

    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.

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