2014 NFL Draft: Ranking the Denver Broncos' Best First-Round Options
The Denver Broncos won’t pick until 30 other teams have selected, but that doesn't mean they can't get a good player.
In this historically deep draft, the Broncos have ample options. They could go with a cornerback, a guard or a linebacker, or they could simply draft the best player available. No matter what, whomever they draft will make an impact on the team.
But who should that be?
5. Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
The Denver Broncos didn't eliminate the need for a left guard by signing Will Montgomery, but they definitely made it less of a priority.
Still, if the talented Xavier Su'a-Filo falls into the Broncos' lap, they could very well select him. As NFL.com noted, he is an effective pass-blocker. Additionally, according to the Broncos' official website, Su'a-Filo has been projected to end up in Denver by three of the 11 listed writers.
If Su'a-Filo were to land in Denver, he would compete with Montgomery for the starting job at left guard. There's a decent chance Su'a-Filo could beat out the 31-year-old Montgomery.
However, there's also the distinct chance that he wouldn't win the job.
According to Pro Football Focus, Montgomery was an above-average player last season. He gave up just two sacks, and even though he's fairly old, he can still continue his production.
Either the versatile Montgomery or Manny Ramirez could slide over from center to left guard to create a stellar offensive line. The line surrendered a mere 20 sacks last year, and that number should be the same even without Su’a-Filo.
Su'a-Filo could also step in and keep the line intact, but picking him or any other guard isn't worth a first-round pick. Unless the Broncos feel that he is the best player available, they shouldn't take him.
In other words, the Broncos shouldn't take Su'a-Filo unless a few other targets are already off the board.
4. C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
A few months ago, the thought of C.J. Mosley falling into Denver's lap was laughable. Now, it doesn't seem so farfetched.
Mosley's 2013 season was stellar, but his injury concerns could be hard for teams to overlook. Additionally, middle linebackers aren't as valuable as they used to be. Even players with outstanding college careers, such as Manti Te'o, don't always warrant first-round selections.
If this holds true, he could fall into the Broncos’ lap. Mosley is a talented all-around defender who can fill the Broncos' need in coverage. He compiled 106 tackles last year as well.
He has the versatility the Broncos want, but there are also downsides. First of all, middle linebackers are nearly becoming obsolete. This is because in the popular nickel package, middle linebackers usually come off the field.
Additionally, he weighs just 234 pounds. He didn't force a single fumble in 2013, and he didn't intercept a pass either.
If the Broncos are going to pick a player at a position that isn’t as useful relative to others, the player must be able to make plays.
Additionally, he could have trouble with hefty tight ends. If Mosley can't capably cover tight ends, he could end up as a bust. And if he can’t stay healthy, he could meet the same fate.
Mosley is a talented player who will likely be off the board when Denver selects, but even if he is on the board, the Broncos might be wise to avoid him. He’s got incredible instincts, but he might not benefit the Broncos as much as they think.
There is a better fit at the same position, and there are better overall fits for the Broncos.
3. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Broncos committed $57 million to Aqib Talib at cornerback, but that doesn't mean they're done at the position.
Due to the recent boom in passing, teams employ slot receivers and three-receiver sets extremely frequently. Defenses counter this with the nickel package, which typically features three cornerbacks.
Denver has Talib and Chris Harris penciled in as starters, but it needs one more player (Kayvon Webster and Tony Carter were both shaky in 2013). This is where the speedy Verrett could come in.
Verrett would be much higher on draft boards if it weren't for his height. He is 5'9", and in this era of lanky receivers, being short as a cornerback is not a good thing.
However, the fact that he is expected to be taken in the first round despite his height shows his immense talent.
Last season, the TCU product recorded 14 passes defensed in 11 games and intercepted two passes. In addition, according to CBS Sports, he displayed his notable speed at the combine with a 4.38 40-yard dash.
The Broncos have two physical corners in Talib and Harris, but neither is exceptionally fast. Denver could use this kind of speed.
In addition, Verrett shouldn't be battling the shoulder problems that held him back in 2013. His playmaking ability (he intercepted nine passes and defended 43 in his three-year career) could benefit the Broncos greatly.
Verrett would be a great fit for the Broncos. There are better corners in the draft, but some of the other talented ones, like Bradley Roby, have other red flags. Roby has legal issues, but Verrett doesn’t. His only problem is his height.
He isn't the best corner in the draft, and he doesn't fit the mold of the physical player the Broncos want. However, Denver hasn't capably filled out its nickel package, and playmakers don't grow on trees.
2. Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Yes, the Broncos already have Danny Trevathan and Von Miller at outside linebacker.
However, the versatile Shazier might be too good to pass up if he falls to Denver. His 4.36 40-yard dash is absolutely absurd for a linebacker, and while his size isn't ideal, his talent is telling.
In college, he was able to use his speed to explode through rushing lanes and rack up sacks and tackles for loss. He came through with seven sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss.
Oh, and in 14 games, he had an insane 142 tackles.
However, there’s a downside. According to NFL.com, the underweight Shazier checks in at 237 pounds. He weighs more than Mosley, but he’s still a bit light. His athleticism makes him capable in coverage, although his size makes covering tight ends a bit worrisome. If he can't cover tight ends, it would limit him. Still, he has the speed and playmaking ability that is extremely sought after and rare.
If Shazier can capably complement Trevathan in the 4-2-5 nickel package, he would be a great fit. It remains to be seen if Shazier can cover tight ends, but if he can, he could become a phenomenal player.
Even if he can’t, his playmaking ability is undeniable. The Broncos need to take a chance on him, because his potential is off the charts.
With Miller's injury and Denver's need for a coverage linebacker, he would be hard to pass up. Even though the Broncos have bigger needs at more important positions, there aren’t many players like Shazier.
In other words, if he falls to the Broncos, they shouldn't let him fall any further.
1. Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Kyle Fuller has seen his draft stock skyrocket, and it's now unlikely that he'll be available when the Broncos pick.
But unlike other top players, such as Kony Ealy, he still has a realistic chance of ending up in Denver. According to The Denver Post, Fuller will visit the Broncos. This shows Denver’s evident interest in Fuller.
If he is available, it would be incredible for the Broncos. Fuller played in just seven games last year, but he did a great job in his limited action. He intercepted two passes and had 10 passes defensed, showing that he, like Verrett, can force turnovers and make plays.
However, unlike Verrett, he possesses ideal size for a cornerback.
He is 6'0", but he also runs quickly. His 4.49 40-yard dash complements his height and terrific physicality, making him a remarkable all-around prospect.
The Broncos, along with many other teams, have noticed. He also will visit with many other teams picking ahead of the Broncos, but there's still a chance that he falls to Denver. If the Broncos like him enough, they could even move up for him.
If Fuller slips to the Broncos, though, it would definitely change the team's defensive fortunes. A secondary with Talib, Fuller and Harris would definitely allow the Broncos to improve their fortunes against the pass. Last year, they ranked 27th in pass defense.
With Fuller, that certainly wouldn't happen again.
It's unlikely that Fuller is available for the Broncos, but if he is, the Broncos must select him. He would fill a need, and he would do it better than anyone else within the Broncos' reach.