Denver Broncos Day 2 2014 NFL Draft Primer
The first round of the 2014 NFL draft was an exciting one for the Denver Broncos. “It was a busy day for us,” said general manager John Elway. They tried to move up in the draft, but Elway said the price was too high. The Broncos also had opportunities to move down, according to Elway.
In the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, the Broncos selected cornerback Bradley Roby from Ohio State. “We think we got a gem,” Elway concluded at his post-draft press conference. With cornerback depth addressed in the opening round, it will be interesting to see which way the team goes from here on out.
Now that the first pick is in the books for the Broncos, it's time to look ahead to Day 2 of the NFL draft and beyond. Here's a look at some prospects the Broncos could have their eyes on.
Updated Needs for Broncos
The Broncos were trying to move up in the draft, and it was likely for a middle linebacker. They were unable to make the transaction, so inside linebacker is still a team need.
The Broncos aren’t going to reach at the position, as they have a few in-house options. Nate Irving or Steven Johnson could be on the field for the first two downs. Then they could move strong safety T.J. Ward into a hybrid linebacker/safety spot on third downs and obvious passing situations.
The role of middle linebacker has changed in today’s NFL. If they can’t find someone who can play three downs, then the position won’t be as big of a need.
Even though they added Bradley Roby in the first round, the team could still add another cornerback for depth. They could get another speedy corner to compete for playing time and a reserve spot on the depth chart.
The Broncos may also want to draft someone primarily as a return man who also plays the cornerback position. This makes a player like Chris Davis (Auburn) an interesting pick on the second or (most likely) third day of the draft.
Protecting Peyton Manning is the most important thing for the Broncos to do. They don’t have an answer at center or left guard entering minicamp, and they need to add one (or both) in the draft.
They’ve made strides to improve the protection for Manning on the edge. If Chris Clark replaces Orlando Franklin at right tackle, then that’s an upgrade. However, they need upgrades in the middle of the line that can be found in this rookie class.
The team has to find more running back depth in the draft. With Montee Ball as the likely starter and C.J. Anderson as the primary backup, the team still needs another body to compete with Ronnie Hillman for that third spot on the depth chart.
For the second year in a row, no running back was selected in the first round of the draft. If a running back is not selected before pick 40, then it will be the first time in the modern draft era that a back has not been selected in that frame.
John Fox knows running backs. Outside of Eric Shelton and Ronnie Hillman, most backs Fox drafts show flashes (brief or continued) of playmaking ability. He should be able to find a quality back at some point on the second or third day.
This is a talent-rich class at wide receiver. We saw five wide receivers (Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin) get selected on the first day of the draft. The Broncos should take advantage of the leftover talent in the second round.
Peyton Manning’s favorite receiver is the open guy. Denver needs to find more players who can add depth for this high-powered offense.
Players like Cody Latimer or Donte Moncrief would be fine picks on Day 2. The Broncos could even wait until the third round to add guys like Paul Richardson or Robert Herron.
Day 1 Recap and Analysis
The Broncos tried to trade up in the first round of the draft, but they were unable to do so. They also received phone calls about moving out of the first round, but they didn’t find the right price. Instead, the Broncos stayed at 31 to select cornerback Bradley Roby from Ohio State.
Roby is a fast corner who can arrive at the play in a hurry. He is at his best when the play is in front of him, and he can quickly break on the ball. Roby’s speed will help him stay in a receiver’s back pocket on downfield routes.
He’s a scheme-versatile player who can excel in man or zone coverage. Roby can play on the outside, but he has the speed and foot frequency to cover shifty slot receivers.
He comes with some baggage off the field, but the fact that Denver selected him shows they’re not worried about future transgressions.
General manager John Elway feels the Broncos are going to start Roby on the outside to begin his pro career.
“Yeah, I think we will start there. I think Chris [Harris Jr.] is obviously going to start—he’s our starting right corner. But we will play it by ear and see how Chris comes around [from his injury]. But Chris is the starting right corner; we will see how his knee comes around. But then as we get to nickel, we’ll see what happens there as we get into OTAs and training camp.” Elway concluded, “But yeah, I think he’s got the ability to play inside and outside. He will start going to camp on the outside.”
I give the Broncos a B+ for this pick.
Top Day 2 Targets
Donte Moncrief, WR, Mississippi
The Broncos could use a big weapon like Moncrief in their high-powered offense. His size and wingspan would come in handy when the team is near the red zone—and the Broncos are near paydirt a lot.
Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin
Without an answer at middle linebacker, we could see the team go for a guy like Chris Borland in the second round. He’s a two-down thumper who looked good in coverage drills at the 2014 Reese’s Senior Bowl earlier this year. Too bad his film shows a player that struggles with sideline-to-sideline ability.
Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
The team needs help on the interior of the offensive line, and Gabe Jackson would be a great fit in the second or third round. He’s got the size, but most importantly, he’s got the attitude. Jackson loves to pancake defenders, and he plays with a large chip on his shoulder.
Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming
If they can’t add a big wide receiver like Moncrief, then Denver should consider a speedy receiver like Robert Herron. They need a wide receiver who could fill in as a starter if need be. Herron can play inside at the slot, but he also has the ability to get off the line in multiple different ways. This allows him to line up on the outside and beat jam or off coverage with ease.
What Are the Experts Saying?
Here’s what a few experts have the Broncos doing on the second day of the draft.
Rob Rang, CBS Sports: Broncos take Gabe Jackson in Round 2.
This would be a good fit for the team. Jackson would be able to win the starting left guard job, and he would excel as both a pass- and run-blocker in Denver.
Dane Brugler, CBS Sports: Broncos take Donte Moncrief in Round 2.
The value at wide receiver will eventually dry up. If the Broncos can’t secure interior offensive line help, then a wideout like Moncrief is a no-brainer.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Broncos take Phillip Gaines in Round 2.
Prisco had the Broncos getting C.J. Mosley at 31 in the first round. It’s unlikely they go back-to-back cornerbacks, although they could add another player at that position later in the draft.
The Jackson pick may be the most likely to happen. Gaines in the third would be a stretch considering Bradley Roby was their first-round pick.
5 Predictions for Day 2
The Broncos Trade Up for Donte Moncrief
This could happen if the team doesn’t feel he will be there at the end of the second round. Moncrief is a big receiver who can high-point passes with ease and naturally pluck the ball away from his body.
The wide receiver class is talented, but there could be a run at the start of the second round that could trickle into the end of the round. Once guys like Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson are off the board, then it’s time for teams to consider Moncrief.
The Broncos Trade Up for Gabe Jackson
The need on the offensive line could come to the forefront on Day 2 of the draft. There are a few interior linemen that should go off the board before the Broncos would have to make this move.
Once center Weston Richburg (Colorado State) and Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA) get drafted, then Denver would be in striking distance of Jackson. That may be as early as the middle of the second round. General manager John Elway will still be aggressive if he can find the right price.
The Broncos Draft a Running Back
They’ve done it the last two years, so why not now? In 2012, the Broncos selected Ronnie Hillman in the third round. In 2013, the Broncos selected Montee Ball in the second round. We could see them go back to the well this year.
They’re not looking for a starter; instead, the Broncos want more depth at the position behind Ball, Hillman and (likely) their top backup C.J. Anderson.
No backs were taken in the first round for the second year in a row. That means the entire class is still waiting to be plucked. This creates a ton of value at the position, and the Broncos may want to strike.
The Broncos Trade Down for More Picks
Depending on how the quarterbacks fall, the Broncos could once again be in a position to trade down. They’re more likely to move up for one of the aforementioned players, but going the other way isn’t out of the question.
The Broncos need more talent, and assembling more picks would help them do that. With the difficulty in signing undrafted free agents on a stacked roster, the Broncos might be wise to add a couple of late-round picks to ensure they get who they want late.
The Broncos Don’t Take a Middle Linebacker
This prediction may be the most likely to unfold at Radio City Music Hall. Since they lost out on C.J. Mosley, the Broncos may look to other positions well ahead of middle linebacker. They could add a guy like Chris Borland in the second round, but there may be better values late in the draft.
They could go for a speedy linebacker in Avery Williamson from Kentucky. He’s likely to be available in the last two rounds of the draft.
The Broncos could go with a beefy linebacker in Max Bullough from Michigan State. He’s a two-down thumper who is known as a mean and nasty player on the field.
Updated Broncos Mock Draft
Round 2, Pick No. 63: Donte Moncrief, WR, Mississippi
The Broncos could have selected a wide receiver in the first round of the draft. It would have been a bit of a surprise but far from outlandish. This is a talent-rich class at wide receiver, and the Broncos could take advantage of that in Round 2.
Wes Welker is in the final year of his contract with the Broncos. The team needs to be ready if he moves on in 2015. They also have to be ready in case Welker battles more concussion problems this year. In addition to durability issues for Welker, they must be concerned with free-agent addition Emmanuel Sanders as well. Sanders has stayed healthy over the last two years, but he struggled with foot injuries in his first two seasons as a pro.
Earlier this offseason, the Broncos hosted Donte Moncrief at Dove Valley for a predraft workout. He’s a big receiver with a large wingspan that gives him an enormous catch radius. This makes Moncrief a great target for Peyton Manning in the red zone.
Sanders should take the place of former Broncos receiver Eric Decker on the outside. However, it will be difficult for Sanders to duplicate what Decker did in the red zone. The Broncos could help themselves by adding a big receiver like Moncrief.
Round 3, Pick No. 95: Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
The interior of the offensive line needs help in Denver. The team lost starting left guard Zane Beadles in free agency to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and it has yet to find a replacement. The NFL draft is the perfect spot to find more help at guard.
In the third round, a guy like Gabe Jackson could be the right pick.
Jackson is huge, measuring in at 6’3” and 336 pounds. He plays with a great combination of size, power and athleticism. Jackson can drive defenders out of the way when run-blocking, but he also has the footwork to mirror rushers when protecting the quarterback.
He plays with a nasty disposition, and this helps him win battles on the inside. Jackson is a competitive player who will keep fighting until the end.
Jackson does seem to lose awareness at times as he focuses solely on the man in front of him. This leads to missed assignments when facing complex fronts.
The raw natural tools are there with Jackson, and he would be a fine pick at the end of the third.
Round 4, Pick No. 131: Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
With Knowshon Moreno moving on in free agency, the Broncos have a need at the running back position. They have their likely starter in second-year pro Montee Ball. They have a power back behind him in C.J. Anderson. They also have a speedy change-of-pace back behind Ball in Ronnie Hillman. The Broncos could use an all-purpose runner added to the mix.
Charles Sims from West Virginia is a great fit.
He is a dual-threat back who can contribute as a runner or receiver out of the backfield. Sims has the speed to get to the edge at the second level of the defense, and he’s very comfortable when running inside. He does a good job of running through trash at the line of scrimmage, and Sims is careful where he places each step. This helps him maintain his balance as defenders try to trip him up.
As a receiver, Sims can be a mismatch on wheel routes. While not an ankle-breaker in the open field, Sims is smooth with his cuts and he can pick up yards after the catch. Sims does a good job of looking catches into his hands, and he can even track passes over his shoulder. Sims also puts forth good effort as a pass-blocker.
If Ball misses time due to injury, the Broncos need a back that can do it all. Anderson gives them power, but he’s not the receiving threat that Sims is. Hillman is faster, but he can’t run as effectively inside as Sims can.
Look for Sims to be on the Broncos' radar if he’s available in the fourth round.
Round 5, Pick No. 171: Avery Williamson, ILB, Kentucky
The Broncos have had quite a bit of success plucking linebackers from the Kentucky Wildcats. Impact players like former Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard and current Broncos starter Danny Trevathan played their college ball at Kentucky. The next late-round gem from the Wildcats could be Williamson.
He can fly to the football, and Williamson will consistently find his way to the play. His speed allows him to beat the blockers to the point of attack. Williamson can get behind the line of scrimmage quickly, and he will run down plays that go away from him.
His speed immediately jumps out on film, but Williamson needs to be more physical when facing larger blockers. He can get run out of the play if an opponent gets his hands on him. He is far from a “thumper” inside, and teams can run right at him to move the ball.
Round 6, Pick No. 207: Jonathan Dowling, FS, Western Kentucky
The Broncos may be looking for safety depth later in the draft. Adding a player like Jonathan Dowling would be a strong pick.
He’s a versatile player with experience playing multiple positions in the defensive backfield. Dowling started his college career at Florida, but he was kicked off the team due to attitude issues. General manager John Elway will weigh all facets of a player’s ability as a prospect.
Before the draft, Elway talked about how the team handles players with character concerns.
“What we do, is that we look at every player and we look at the full package that each player has to offer. One issue or another—we try to put them as a group as what he has to offer us with the Denver Broncos and if he can come in here and help us." Elway continued, "That goes into evaluating each player. Whether it be character, mentality, football mentality—that all goes along with the player.”
Dowling is known as a big hitter who is constantly looking for the big play. This gets him in trouble at times, as he plays out of position. He'll bite regularly on play fakes and double moves, so he'll need to play with more discipline as a pro.
Round 7, Pick No. 246: Stephen Morris, QB, Miami
The Broncos are likely to add a quarterback late in the draft. A player they brought out to Dove Valley for a private workout during the predraft process is Stephen Morris (Miami).
Morris is an athletic quarterback who can keep plays alive with his feet while keeping his eyes downfield. He’s mechanically sound when the pocket is clean, but Morris loses his discipline when forced to move in the pocket and throw on the run.
He has a strong arm, and he can make every throw required in the NFL. Morris can fit the ball into tight windows, and this helps him because his anticipation can be late at times. He doesn’t abandon the play too quickly, but Morris instead holds onto the ball too long. This gets him in trouble as pressure mounts around him.
Morris is inconsistent and struggles with accuracy at times. He’s a quarterback who can run hot or cold from game to game, drive to drive or play to play. This makes him a maddening quarterback to decipher. Morris is a lot like current Titans starter Jake Locker in that regard.
As a late-round quarterback, Morris is well worth adding to the roster in order to push Zac Dysert for the third-string developmental job.
Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.