Who Should Be on the Denver Broncos' Short List in Round 1 of 2014 NFL Draft?
The closer we get to the draft, the harder it gets to figure out how things are going to fall. Rumors are always swirling, and analysts contradict each other and—from time to time—themselves. Stocks rise and fall on a daily basis. Guys who looked like locks for the first ten picks drop out of sight, and players that you've never heard of storm onto the scene.
It's something that's impossible to predict with any reasonable accuracy, but there is one thing that can be done: plotting potential targets. It's easy enough to see where the holes are for some teams, and you have to think they'll target those types of players in the draft.
Of course, crazy things do happen. Teams take guys in the first round that are not on anyone's radar.
For the Broncos, though, without too many glaring needs, the draft should be fairly straightforward on that first day. The team will have its top targets, and it may even move up to get them if it looks feasible.
The biggest need for the Broncos is certainly at linebacker. Wesley Woodyard went to Tennessee and Von Miller is coming off of an ACL injury. There are other young players, like Danny Trevathan, but no one who strikes you as a stalwart leader—someone who can rally the troops, stuff the run and give the defense its teeth.
C.J. Mosley could be that guy. He may miss some tackles, but he's fast and powerful. He racked up 319 total tackles at Alabama, and everyone saw how dominant that defense could be. He's the type of player that Denver would probably have to move up to get, but he could start immediately and fill the position for years to come.
With so few other needs, Denver could overspend in a trade to move up and not really feel it too much. The Broncos' draft should be more about getting impact players for right now than building for the future, as this is a team that is built to win. Mosley gives them that.
Let's preface this by saying that Denver will probably not be able to go up high enough to get Darqueze Dennard, and I'm not even sure that the sacrifice they'd have to make to get him would be worth it. But if he ever started to fall or slip, Denver should pounce. It has a need at corner with the loss of Champ Bailey, and Dennard is the perfect fit.
He's tough and likes to play man coverage. He's fast and physical. He's used to playing against top competition, and he has the skills to make plays if he gets the ball in his hands.
He's predicted by many places to go in the middle of the first, so this would be a stretch for Denver. However, if it looks at all possible, Denver should be watching carefully.
Justin Gilbert—a corner out of Oklahoma State—is actually ranked higher than Dennard on some boards, such as the one on CBS Sports. So it depends who you ask; for example, Mel Kiper of ESPN told reporters, according to Kyle Meinke of MLive, that Dennard will be better than Gilbert because of his physical play.
If Dennard does go and Gilbert is still there, this could be another direction that the Broncos turn. Kiper's prediction aside, there are things to like about Gilbert that Dennard cannot offer. For example, he's taller by an inch and he weighs slightly more, so he could play well with bigger receivers.
All told, Gilbert could just as easily end up being the best corner in the draft. If Denver can get him, he could be another player with an instant impact and a long-term value.
It might end up being fairly easy to get Ryan Shazier, a fast, athletic linebacker out of Ohio State. Some boards put him around the 22nd pick, which wouldn't be all that far for Denver to move up if they don't want to pay the high price for Mosley. Interestingly enough, the board on CBS actually has him listed right above Mosley. Again, it depends who you ask and how the draft falls, but both should be on Denver's radar.
The only issue would be that he is listed as an outside linebacker, and Denver could really use an inside backer—but it still wouldn't be a bad pick by any means.
He's the type of player who can dominate a game, flying all over the field and making tackles. He put up great numbers at Ohio State, with 102 solo tackles in 2013, and when you watch him play, he strikes you as a guy who just has that next-level athleticism. That is something that Denver could use for sure.
Finally, the Broncos' brass should keep an eye on Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech. He's another corner who can play a physical style of football and really get in the face of opposing receivers. He's perhaps not quite as good as Dennard or Gilbert, but he'd be easier to get, and he might end up being just as good at the next level.
One of the biggest upsides to Fuller is his aggressive streak and his ability—and willingness—to play the run. He's not going to shy away from contact or wait for linebackers to help him out. He's going to come up and lay someone out, making that play on his own.
If Denver wants to have a physical defense that knocks people around, Fuller could contribute to it. Add that to the fact that they might be able to get him later than the other two top corners, and it could be a perfect fit.