Assigning Odds to Every Potential Denver Broncos 1st-Round Pick
Putting together a draft plan is a lot like painting on a canvas.
The draft is always in flux, and teams have to be ready for moves/trades/values they didn’t expect. Some strokes are brilliant, and can be the foundation of the piece. Other strokes initially look “off” compared to the surroundings. Regardless of how things come together in the moment, the final piece must look good.
There may be a plan in place where a certain player is considered a “lock” in the first (or any) round. But what happens when that player is off the board by the time their pick rolls around? What about when a player of greater value falls to them unexpectedly?
Essentially, general manager John Elway wants to be like Bob Ross and make “happy” accidents—or happy little trees.
The point is this; the Broncos must be fluid with their thinking in each round. They must anticipate which players will be on the board when they pick, while also watching what other teams do to see if certain players may fall to them.
Here’s a look at potential targets for the Broncos in the first round with odds on the player being added.
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The Broncos have a need at the cornerback position even though they added Aqib Talib in free agency. Talib has never played a full 16-game season during his six-year pro career, and the Broncos need insurance in case his durability problems arise once again in 2014.
Not only does Talib have health concerns, but their other starter, Chris Harris Jr., is coming off a partially-torn ACL injury he suffered in the playoff game against the San Diego Chargers. His status for the start of the regular season is up in the air at this time.
Kayvon Webster was their third-round pick in 2013, but he struggled with a larger role as a rookie. Simply put, the Broncos need a better backup plan.
Their top target in the draft could be cornerback Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech).
Fuller is a big cornerback, measuring in at 6’0”, 190 pounds. His size is evident on the field, as Fuller excels in press coverage. He uses his strength and long arms to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage.
He has the ability to play multiple positions at the pro level. Fuller could work well as a starter on the outside, but he also can play inside as a nickel corner. During his time in college, Fuller played linebacker, safety, nickel corner and outside cornerback.
Fuller has an aggressive style, which is both a positive and a negative.
It’s a positive because he’ll take chances with his sharp ball awareness and make plays. It’s a negative because he’ll freelance too often and sometimes bite on double moves or pump fakes.
Fuller is not the fastest corner, but his recovery speed and fluid hips always keep him next to the receiver in coverage.
Odds: 75 percent
C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Broncos did not add a middle linebacker in free agency. They had varying levels of interest in free agents like D’Qwell Jackson (Indianapolis Colts) and Daryl Smith (Baltimore Ravens), but the Broncos couldn’t come to an agreement with either one.
At this time, the Broncos are set to let Nate Irving compete with Steven Johnson for the starting job in the middle, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post.
Irving and Johnson are likely to have added competition in the form of a rookie selected within the first three rounds of the 2014 NFL draft.
The player at the top of the wish list for the Broncos could in fact be C.J. Mosley (Alabama).
Mosley is a smart player who can quickly diagnose plays as they unfold in front of him. He understands angles and has the athleticism to get to the ball in a hurry. Once he arrives, Mosley can make a big play. His long arms help him wrap up the ball-carrier quickly and forcefully.
He’s a coach on the field who knows where to put the players around him before the snap. Mosley is rarely fooled by play fakes or play-action passes. This helps him excel in coverage.
Mosley is arguably the only inside linebacker in this draft class who can cover effectively. His ability to play three downs will make him an appealing prospect for multiple teams in the first round.
Measuring in at 6’2”, 232 pounds, Mosley is shorter and lighter than ideal at the position. The lack of ideal size could lead to durability problems. However, in a professional weight program it’s not out of the question to think Mosley could add 10 pounds of muscle in the NFL.
Per Klis, the Broncos are hoping beyond hope that Mosley will be available in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
Odds: 50 percent he’s there, 100 percent if he’s available
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
If Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech) is gone by the 31st pick, then we could see the Broncos look at a corner like Bradley Roby (Ohio State).
Roby’s game is all about speed, speed and more speed.
He’s an exciting player to watch because of his acceleration. Roby can find the ball quickly downfield, and he can turn on the jets to get to the ball in the blink of an eye.
His speed also appears when closing on the football when the play is in front of him. By no means is Roby a thumper, but he’ll aggressively attack the ball-carrier on run plays or underneath routes. He’s a physical player who loves to make big plays for his team.
Roby’s aggression can be used against him at times. He’ll sometimes overrun a play because he’s coming in too hot. Slowing down (just a bit) and not dropping his head as a tackler would help him make more plays at the pro level.
His speed also makes him a dangerous blitzer off the edge. The versatility to play outside and in the slot could make him an intriguing option for the Broncos.
Odds: 60 percent
Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin
The chances of linebacker C.J. Mosley (Alabama) falling to the Broncos seems slim at this time. That means the Broncos will have to have a backup plan.
That player could very well be Chris Borland (Wisconsin).
He’s a two-down thumper who plays a lot like former Cowboys/Dolphins star linebacker Zach Thomas. Like Thomas, Borland is a passionate player who thrives near the line of scrimmage.
Borland is disciplined with his movement, and he’s rarely out of position due to a play fake. He won’t take blockers head on in the hole, instead Borland will try to slide around them to make the play. By being a step ahead of the play, Borland can usually put himself into good position.
He is a coach’s dream because of his team-first attitude and preparation for the game. Borland is an instinctive player who is completely dedicated to the game.
Borland has big question marks in coverage. If he does take false steps in coverage, then he lacks the recovery speed to get back to the football. He also lacks the lateral agility to be a true sideline-to-sideline player at the pro level.
He won’t fail in the NFL due to lack of effort. Borland is a focused player who the Broncos could fall in love with.
Odds: 50 percent
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The search for a cornerback will continue if both Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech) and Bradley Roby (Ohio State) are off the board.
The next-best player available could be Jason Verrett (TCU).
He’s not the biggest cornerback, measuring in at 5’10”, 176 pounds, but Verrett makes up for his lack of size with instincts and aggression. Verrett has excellent ball skills and the ability to plant and close quickly.
Verrett is not a press corner, but instead he excels playing off-man coverage. This allows him to backpedal cleanly while waiting for a receiver to make his break. Verrett understands route concepts and can jump plays underneath.
He also has the fluid hips to transition smoothly and cover plays that go deep downfield. While not a burner, Verrett is rarely out of position due to making false steps.
Verrett is not a shutdown corner like Fuller or Roby could be, but he’s effective enough to be a starter on the outside. He also has the ability to play inside as a nickel corner as well.
Odds: 40 percent
Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
If the Broncos can’t land C.J. Mosley (Alabama), and if they think the first round is too early for Chris Borland (Wisconsin), then they could add Ryan Shazier (Ohio State).
His best fit may be as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense. However, I feel Shazier could start inside at middle linebacker in a 4-3 at the pro level.
Shazier’s athleticism jumps off the screen when watching tape. His speed allows him to consistently make plays on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage. Shazier ended his career with the Buckeyes with 44.5 tackles for a loss.
He’s known as a team-first guy, and this made him a favorite of the coaching staff in college. Shazier is likely to endear himself to his new staff immediately at the pro level.
He’s a bit undersized (6’2”, 230 pounds) at this time, but his playing strength helps him hold up at the point of attack. The Broncos can find two-down thumpers on the street. They’re looking for a middle linebacker who can also cover.
Shazier is athletic enough to cover, and his instincts put him in the right position to make plays in the open field. In pursuit of the play, Shazier does not relent. He’s fierce when attacking the ball-carrier, and Shazier understands how to take the best angles to the play.
His game is reminiscent of Lavonte David (Tampa Bay Buccaneers). The Broncos passed on David in the 2012 NFL draft to select quarterback Brock Osweiler. Had they picked David, the Broncos would already have a Pro Bowl player at the position. They can correct that by selecting a guy like Shazier this year.
Odds: 50 percent
Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
After losing Zane Beadles (Jacksonville Jaguars) in free agency, the Broncos have an open spot at left guard. The position is unsettled at this time, per Mike Klis of the Denver Post, and it’s unclear whether Ben Garland, Manny Ramirez or Orlando Franklin will be the starter at the position.
With the addition of free-agent center Will Montgomery, the Broncos best move may be to move Ramirez back to his more natural position of guard. He won’t abandon the starting center job without a fight—one we should see unfold during training camp.
Another answer at the position for the Broncos could be to select a guard at the end of the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. One of the best players available at the position is Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA).
Su’a-Filo played multiple positions (guard, tackle) over the last two seasons with the Bruins. His athleticism allows him to pull effectively and become a sticky blocker at the second level of the defense. His footwork also helps him inside when staying in to pass block.
He’s got the strength and wide base to hold his ground and get a good push as a run-blocker. Su’a-Filo should play with more of a mean streak at the pro level. He’s strong and athletic, but seems to lack the “killer instinct” to truly dominate an opponent.
Su’a-Filo also needs to clean up some technique problems. He could benefit from better body positioning as a blocker and needs to stop reaching for defenders when he takes bad angles.
Guard is certainly a position of need for the Broncos. We’ll see if they address that with their top pick this year. It may not be the sexy pick for Denver, but it could be the right pick.
Odds: 35 percent
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Broncos are looking for a few positions early in the draft. Those positions (in no particular order) should be middle linebacker, cornerback, offensive guard and wide receiver.
Some may be surprised by their interest in a wide receiver, but further investigation does expose a need at the position.
The Broncos added Emmanuel Sanders in free agency earlier this year. He should take the place of Eric Decker (Jets), and his speed will give the team another wrinkle on offense. Sanders is not the biggest receiver, and earlier in his pro career foot injuries kept him from playing up to his potential.
Wes Welker was added last year in free agency, and he’s set to start in the slot once again this season. Welker played in only 13 games last year as he missed time recovering from two concussions. With his playing style, the Broncos have to be ready in case he misses more time in 2014.
These concerns for both Sanders and Welker mean the team should look at adding a wide receiver within the first three rounds of the draft.
If they go with a wide receiver in the first round, then Brandin Cooks (Oregon State) could be an option.
Like Smith, Cooks is a smaller receiver who plays bigger than his size because of a feisty attitude, strength and ability to rip away contested passes. Cooks has the speed to stretch the field and can fly by defenders after the catch.
He has never missed a game at any level of football, so those bringing up durability concerns because of his small stature (5’10” 186 pounds) are sorely mistaken.
Cooks has the ability to be a starter in the NFL. He can make an impact immediately for another team, but with the Broncos he’d likely have to wait for that opportunity.
In addition to helping out at wide receiver and giving them a star-in the-waiting at the position, Cooks can also contribute as a punt returner.
Odds: 25 percent
Note: All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos. Transaction history provided by ProSportsTransactions.com. Contract information provided by Spotrac.com. Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.