7 Names Every Broncos Fan Should Know Ahead of 2014 NFL Draft
The 2014 NFL draft is fast approaching, and it still doesn't look like there is any way of knowing who is going to go first overall. The uncertainty at the top should make it very interesting to watch, seeing who is going to slide and what players teams are going to reach for because they are desperate.
For Denver Broncos fans, it's something of a relief not to have to pick at the top. It can really be a mess, but the Broncos hold the 31st pick. By the time it gets around to them, things should have settled down a bit and fallen into some sort of order.
That being said, even picking so late, there are burning questions about what the team is going to do. The free-agency strategy seems to have been to throw money at everyone they wanted and build a team that can win immediately.
While the draft is about the future, you have to think that the same mentality is going to go into it. The team is built to tear apart the league and make another run at the Super Bowl, and it's built to do that right away.
No matter what they decide to do, here are seven names that all fans must know going into the week of the draft. They're ranked positionally and by the level of interest the team has in that player/likelihood of the pick.
The Denver Broncos need a middle linebacker more than perhaps any other position. This has been a point of weakness for the team lately, and they are not getting any stronger with the departure of Wesley Woodyard. Mosley was one of the best linebackers in college football last year, and he has been a part of a dominant Alabama program that probably prepared him for the NFL more than any other team.
Mosley is big, strong, athletic and powerful. He can run people over, and he could probably start and contribute right away. That being said, how is one of the top linebackers going to drop into the range where Denver can take him?
Well, there are a few reasons. According to recent rumors from WalterFootball.com's Charlie Campbell, his stock is falling. Teams do not like the fact that he didn't work out at the combine. They don't like his injury history. They think he misses too many tackles.
These are legit concerns that the Broncos need to consider. At the same time, they are definitely not things that can't be overcome. Especially not if you can take a guy who could have been a top-10 pick as late as the end of the first round, and when he fits the biggest need that you have.
If Mosley does not fall, Denver could target Chris Borland. He also fills the need at middle linebacker, and while he lacks a bit in overall size at 5'11", he has the instincts that you need to stuff the run. He's a fierce competitor and a terrific leader.
Guys like Elvis Dumervil have shown that size isn't everything, not if you have the will to win. Borland has it.
The biggest thing to love about him is the way that he's in on every play, flying around the field. He leads by example, and he always wants to make the play. That's the type of energy and commitment that Denver needs in the middle of the field. He's athletic enough to make plays all across the field, so he'll be fine if he can just avoid getting blocked out by bigger players at the NFL level.
The beauty of Max Bullough is that he could be such a late pick. He may still be around in the fifth or sixth round. He had some troubles his last year at Michigan State, missing out on the Rose Bowl for breaking a team rule—a Rose Bowl that his defense won—and that could cause his stock to drop a bit.
On the whole, though, those concerns shouldn't really play into his ability at the next level. While he did make a mistake, it does not undermine his incredible leadership on one of college football's best defenses, and it in no way impacts his ability to throw a crushing hit. He is also taller than Borland, which could make him the better player at the NFL level.
Denver shouldn't reach for him, but he'd be a great solution later in the draft if they miss out on any other top-tier linebackers.
Switching gears, Denver also has a need at cornerback. Champ Bailey is gone, and he just signed with the Saints. Chris Harris is recovering from an ACL injury, and while he is expected to be fine eventually, it's impossible to know how long that will take. Denver needs depth and a potential early starter if Kayvon Webster is unable to step up his game.
Let me just say this up front: Justin Gilbert will not be around for pick 31. He's far too talented. He has great ball skills, he's fast, he's a playmaker, and he knows how to score once the ball is in his hands. The guy is going to go in the top half of the first round of the draft.
The only way Denver gets him is if John Elway is as aggressive in the draft as he has been in free agency. They could potentially create a trade package, move way up and get Gilbert. Denver does not have many needs, after all, so they don't necessarily need all of their picks. Elway would probably rather use fewer picks on better players if at all possible.
The more likely draft choice is Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech. Denver seems to be looking for physical play on the defensive side of the ball, as the signings of guys like DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward indicate, and Fuller brings that physicality. He's athletic and strong, he can make tackles—perhaps not as well as Champ Bailey, but he will bring that attitude to the position—and he is raw. That gives him a huge upside, though it's hard to know how he'll grow into it.
It is clear that there is some serious interest, as The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson reported Denver will soon host Fuller (h/t IAOFM's Douglas Lee). He'll also have visits with other teams, like Chicago, so it's clear that Denver is not going to be the only team targeting him, but it would be far easier to move and get him, if need be, than it would be to go after Gilbert.
Another corner who brings the same type of physical play is Bradley Roby out of Ohio State. He is tough and athletic and he knows how to hit, despite not being the biggest guy in the game. He could support the run and also play the ball.
Roby's struggles came when faced with a terrific route-runner. He consistently got beat, and he did seem to have a tendency to guess at times to make up for it, which can be suicide in the NFL. He'll have to learn to understand the route tree and stick with guys. Fortunately, he has terrific speed, so he can sometimes use that to make up for mental lapses.
Roby recently made headlines by saying that the San Diego Chargers needed to get a "great corner" and proposing that he is the man for the job. While I doubt that would fuel Denver's decision at all, picking him if the Chargers pass and then facing them twice a year could be interesting.
The Broncos did sign Andre Caldwell and Emmanuel Sanders, but they still may want to bolster the receiving options if they can. Matthews has issues with speed, so he could fall into the third round, which would be the ideal spot for Denver to pick a wide receiver if they can use the first two picks on defense.
While he may not be the fastest WR in the world, there are huge upsides to taking Matthews. He has good height at 6'3", and he weighs over 200 pounds. The big benefit, though, is that he's tough. He's not afraid to run those short routes over the middle, even when he knows that he's going to get lit up by the safety.
He's the type of guy who could fit perfectly into the slot position in the future, moving the chains and making the tough catches. Since Denver already has two explosive options in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, Matthews wouldn't need to offer that top-end speed. He also wouldn't have to contribute immediately, but he could be the ideal future replacement for Wes Welker.