Denver Broncos Day 3 2014 NFL Draft Primer

Cecil LammeyContributor IMay 10, 2014

Denver Broncos Day 3 2014 NFL Draft Primer

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    Eric Lars Bakke/Associated Press

    The excitement at Radio City Music Hall on day two of the 2014 NFL draft extended out to Dove Valley in the second round, when the Broncos moved up seven spots to add wide receiver Cody Latimer from Indiana.

    General manager John Elway was all smiles when talking about his new offensive weapon:

    He was high on our board and so we were waiting and trying to be patient with it and see how many guys were going to get down to us. The players that we wanted, once they started disappearing, that’s when we decided we wanted to move up and make sure that Cody was still there. He was our target at that time when we moved up so we felt it was time to move and so we’re thrilled to get Cody there.

    In the third round of the draft, the Broncos added more versatility and depth to the offensive line when they selected offensive tackle Michael Schofield out of Michigan. With their first three picks all coming from the same college conference, Elway said: “Pretty soon they’re going to start calling us the Big Ten Broncos.”

    Now that the second day has concluded for the Broncos, it's time to look ahead to Day 3 of the NFL draft. Here's a look at the Broncos current situation as we enter the final day of the draft.

     

    All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos. All draft grades provided by NFLDraftScout.com.

Updated Needs for Broncos

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Middle Linebacker

    Middle linebacker is the new defensive tackle for the Broncos. For years, Broncos fans would swear up and down that Denver needed more beef in the middle of the defense line, yet for years they would ignore the position in the draft. That seems to be what’s happening with middle linebacker.

    Before the draft, almost everyone under the sun familiar with the Broncos roster felt that middle linebacker was a huge position of need. However, gone are the days of “Smoke Dog” Al Wilson—the two-down thumper who roamed the field in the early 2000s. Middle linebackers today must be able to cover talented move tight ends down the seam.

    Arguably, the only middle linebacker who could play all three downs—C.J. Mosley—is long gone, though the Broncos don’t seem to be too bothered by that.

     

    Cornerback

    You can never have too many quality cornerbacks in the NFL. They added Bradley Roby in Round 1, but they could continue building depth at the position on the final day of the draft.

    It might be time for the team to select a developmental corner with size or speed. This type of prospect could help out as a part-time sub-package player, or they could help on special teams as a gunner or return man.

      

    Running Back

    This might be the position the Broncos draft first on Saturday. They’re looking for a back to compete for a spot at the end of the depth chart behind likely starter Montee Ball. Just because they’re looking for a reserve player doesn’t mean Denver has to look for a part-time specialist at the running back position.

    They could draft a back who has the capability to be a starter if called upon. With the way that running backs take a beating in the pros, it would be wise for the team to do this.

     

    Pass-Rusher

    The Broncos added DeMarcus Ware in free agency to give them another elite pass-rusher. He’s coming off a disappointing six-sack season, but Ware should bounce back in 2014.

    Von Miller is hoping to bounce back, but it may take some time. He’s still recovering from the torn ACL he suffered in the Week 16 game against the Texans last year. We may not see Miller look like his old self until the end of the year, and his status for the start of the season is up in the air right now.

    Last year’s fifth-round pick, Quanterus Smith, is coming back from the ACL injury that cut his 2012 season short at Western Kentucky. Smith missed all of his rookie year in 2013 as he continued to rehab from the injury. If he’s healthy then perhaps they could get a little help rushing the passer from the second-year pro.

    As you can see, the Broncos have a ton of uncertainty when it comes to getting pressure on the quarterback. They could help alleviate that problem by adding another pass-rusher on the last day of the draft.

Day 2 Recap & Analysis

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    The Broncos tried to move up in the first round, but they were unsuccessful. They didn’t have that same problem when they moved up seven picks in the second round so they could select wide receiver Cody Latimer out of Indiana.

    The rookie receiver gives Peyton Manning another large target to throw to. Latimer measures in at 6’2” and 215 pounds. He has a large wingspan, can win at the point of the catch and he makes for a great target in the red zone.

    The rookie is excited to catch passes from Manning:

    He’s a great quarterback—one of the greatest in the game. He’s going to put the ball where I need it to help me make plays. So he’s going to make sure I’m in the right place to make plays and I’m going to make the plays for him. It’s going to be a great combination. I’m happy to be a part of this. The guys they have—[WR] Wes Welker, [WR] Demaryius Thomas—so it’s going to be great.

    In the third round they selected offensive tackle Michael Schofield. He’s got size at 6’7” and 305 pounds, plus he plays with good functional strength. Schofield also has versatility and split time at both left guard and right tackle in college at Michigan.

    The big man talked about his versatility after the Broncos added him:

    At Michigan, I played mostly right tackle my last two seasons, but my redshirt sophomore season I started at left guard. But one of the things I’ve tried to prove throughout this whole process is that I can play both. I would say I’m more comfortable as a tackle but I’ve definitely become more comfortable as a guard so I’m open to whatever position the Broncos want me to play.

    I gave the Broncos an “A” for the Latimer pick as he has the upside to be an impact starter in the pros someday. For the Schofield pick I gave the Broncos a “C” because it’s unclear whether he’ll be a depth player or an eventual starter in the pros.

Top Day 3 Targets

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Kadeem Carey, RB, Arizona

    The Broncos have a need at the running back position and Kadeem Carey would be a fine pick. He’s a smooth runner who has enough speed to get to the edge. Once there, Carey is slippery in the open field and can gain positive yards after contact.

    He also has the size to effectively run between the tackles. He’s not a battering ram on short-yardage downs, but Carey can make defenders miss in small areas.

    General manager John Elway mentioned running back when he talked about possible targets on the last day of the draft: “Well, it’s hard to say. It’s levelled out. I think with the little run on the receivers, that’s thinned out, but there are still some running backs and there are still players on the board. It’s pretty levelled, whether it’s offense or defense. We’ll kind of wait and see what gets to us in the fourth.”

     

    Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech

    The team could add another corner, and a guy like Antone Exum could be on their radar. Exum is a big corner who has the size and athleticism to play safety in the NFL if need be.

    His 2013 season was a disaster, and he was limited to only three games because of knee and ankle injuries. His draft stock has obviously fallen, but Exum still has a ton of talent and upside.

     

    Marqueston Huff, FS, Wyoming

    The team added strong safety T.J. Ward in free agency, but they could be looking for a free safety on the final day of the draft. Marqueston Huff can roam the field to stay back in coverage, but he can also play close to the line of scrimmage to support the run.

     

    Yawin Smallwood, ILB, Connecticut

    He’s an answer for the team at middle linebacker. Yawin Smallwood has decent athleticism, but what makes him standout as a player is his nose for the ball.

    Smallwood can quickly diagnose a play as it unfolds in front of him. He will then quickly get to the ball-carrier at the line of scrimmage. Since they’ve waited this long at middle linebacker, Smallwood isn’t a bad pick.

What Are the Experts Saying?

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Matt Miller, Bleacher Report, predicts the Broncos will select wide receiver Jared Abbrederis in round four, running back Marion Grice in round five, running back James White in round six and quarterback Stephen Morris in round seven.

    The addition of Abbrederis would have been interesting had the Broncos not moved up in the second round to select Cody Latimer because Abbrederis torched first-round pick Bradley Roby for 10 catches, 207 yards and one touchdown when Wisconsin faced Ohio State last year.

    The Broncos are likely to take a running back on the final day of the draft. Grice would be an interesting pick because of his versatile skill set. Head coach John Fox loves backs that can do more than one thing and Grice would compete with C.J. Anderson for the second-string job in 2014.

    If the Broncos add one back, then that’s probably enough. James White could be added and reunited with former college teammate Montee Ball. He would compete with Ronnie Hillman for the team’s primary change-of-pace role. White is an efficient runner who doesn’t waste a lot of motion with the ball in his hands.

    While not overly fast or physical, White has enough speed to make the corner and enough intent to run inside the tackles. He can also be used effectively as a receiver out of the backfield.

    Morris is a player that the Broncos brought out to Dove Valley for a pre-draft workout. He’s an athletic quarterback who can keep plays alive with his feet while keeping his eyes downfield. Morris has a strong arm, and he can make every throw required in the NFL.

    He does have accuracy and consistency problems that may be a mystery to fix. Morris will look great on a throw, then the very next throw he can’t connect on a simple pass. His mechanics also decline when he’s asked to throw on the run.

     

4 Predictions for Day 3

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    The Broncos Select Another Cornerback

    Behind guys like Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., Bradley Roby and Kayvon Webster, the Broncos need better depth. In addition to adding depth, the team could also add a dangerous return man who also happens to play cornerback.

    We should see guys like Antone Exum and Chris Davis finally go off the board during the final day of the draft. Either one would be a good pick for Denver.

     

    The Broncos Draft a Running Back

    The running back the Broncos add doesn’t have to be a part-time player. In fact, there are a few backs left that could be asked to carry the load as a lead back.

    Players like Isaiah Crowell or Kadeem Carey could be starters in the league. It’s would be tremendous value to get a player of their caliber at this point in the draft.

     

    The Broncos Trade Down For More Picks

    Late-round picks can be impact players. The Broncos have found it more difficult in recent years to add undrafted free agents because they have a stacked roster. Perhaps trading back to accumulate more picks is the best recipe for the Broncos.

    Instead of having to sell a priority free agent on the idea of coming to Denver, the Broncos can instead just add the guy they want with a late-round pick.

     

    The Broncos Finally Take a Middle Linebacker

    Broncos fans have been waiting, but that wait should end on Saturday. The Broncos have a few late-round options to choose from at middle linebacker. These players don’t have the power of linebackers taken earlier in the draft, but some do have good speed and a nose for the ball.

    Players like Yawin Smallwood, Avery Williamson, Max Bullough and Shayne Skov are still on the board.

Updated Broncos Mock Draft

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Round 4, Pick No. 131: Kadeem Carey, RB, Arizona

    Poor testing at the combine—specifically a slow 40-yard dash—has dropped Kadeem Carey’s draft stock. He ran a 4.69 40-yard dash, but on film Carey shows much better pad speed. The team get a player who could thrive as an eventual starter on the last day of the draft.

     

    Round 6, Pick No. 207: Chris Davis, CB, Auburn

    The Broncos get their second cornerback here. Chris Davis has speed and elusiveness with the ball in his hands. He’s a reserve corner on defense, but he’s a starting return man on special teams.

     

    Round 7, Pick No. 246: Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina

    A Peyton Manning favorite gets picked with the final selection. Renner had a standout performance at the 2013 Manning Passing Academy, according to Michael David Smith from ProFootballTalk.com. His senior season at North Carolina was cut short due to a non-throwing arm injury, but the upside is still there.

    This rookie is smart, accurate, tough and known as a leader on the football field. The Broncos could decide to add him in order to push Zac Dysert for the third-string job in Denver.

     

    Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.