Denver Broncos: Complete 2014 NFL Draft Wrap-Up and Analysis
Broncos fans should be excited about what transpired on the stage at Radio City Music Hall and behind the scenes at Dove Valley. The Broncos were able to add some impact players at multiple positions. These are players who could step in and start from day one.
Let’s go through the entire process: the draft board, the best pick, the worst pick, undrafted free agents and what’s next for the Broncos.
Here’s a look at how the Broncos helped their team in the draft.
Round 1, Pick 31: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Round 2, Pick 56: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
Round 3, Pick 95: Michael Schofield, OT, Michigan
Round 5, Pick 156: Lamin Barrow, ILB, LSU
Round 6, Pick 207: Matthew Paradis, C, Boise State
Round 7, Pick 242: Corey Nelson, OLB, Oklahoma
The Denver Broncos tried to move up in the first round of the draft. They could have been looking to add a linebacker to play in the middle like C.J. Mosley or Ryan Shazier. The team apparently was unable to work out a trade at a reasonable price in order to move up, and it did take some calls to move out of the first round.
Instead, they stayed put at No. 31 and selected cornerback Bradley Roby. That’s about where his draft stock was, so the Broncos did not reach to add the talented corner.
Roby has speed to burn, and he uses it well on the football field. He’ll keep up with receivers on downfield routes, but he can also use his speed to close quickly on the ball when the play is in front of him.
The rookie corner might be the fastest player on the team right now. The Broncos may use Roby as a starter if Chris Harris Jr. struggles to come back from his partially torn ACL in time for the regular season. If Harris is ready, then Roby will compete with last year’s third-round pick Kayvon Webster for the nickel corner job.
Their next pick was their best pick.
Cody Latimer should have been selected in the first round. He’s got a much better all-around skill set than does Kelvin Benjamin, who was taken by the Carolina Panthers.
Unlike Benjamin, Latimer knows how to consistently use his large frame to snag contested passes. He will also do something with which Benjamin has problems—catch low passes. Latimer has a large wingspan, which gives him a huge catch radius.
This big target should become an instant favorite of quarterback Peyton Manning. Latimer is talented enough to start today, but he’s likely to begin his pro career as a backup since the Broncos are so stacked at the wide receiver position.
After that, the Broncos added solid depth with guys like Michael Schofield (OT, Michigan), Lamin Barrow (ILB, LSU), Mattew Paradis (C, Boise State) and Corey Nelson (OLB, Oklahoma).
Barrow is the player to highlight out of this group. Middle linebacker was arguably the team’s biggest position of need entering the 2014 NFL draft. The Broncos were patient with the draft, and they were able to get a gem in Barrow.
What makes Barrow different from other inside linebackers available at that time is he’s a coverage player first. Barrow is not going to be a “thumper” against the run, although he is a sound tackler with a nose for the ball. Barrow is a standout player in coverage, using his speed and length to frustrate receivers over the middle or down the seam.
The role of the middle linebacker is changing in today’s NFL. Sure, general manager John Elway could have added a dinosaur (a two-down thumper) at the position. Instead, he chose to be ahead of the curve and grab a guy who can play all three downs.
Best PIck: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
The Broncos really added two first-round talents early in the draft. Cornerback Bradley Roby should be a fine player in the pros, but wide receiver Cody Latimer could be a star.
Had the Broncos selected Latimer with the 31st pick overall (Roby’s pick), it would have made sense. Latimer has first-round talent, and to get him that late in the second round makes for an incredible value.
He’s got the size and wingspan to play “above the rim” in the NFL. This will help him greatly as a red-zone target for Peyton Manning. Latimer is a former basketball player who knows how to use his size to “box out” defenders and keep them away from the ball.
His size means that opponents should not play press coverage against him. He’s a physical player who has no problem throwing defenders out of his way at the line of scrimmage. If a corner plays off, then Latimer can easily haul in a quick pass and pick up big yards after the catch.
Latimer has only been playing football for five years, so he’s still raw as a route-runner. He will round out his cuts, and sometimes he’ll lean a certain direction which tips off where the route is going. These things can be cleaned up with pro coaching and experience.
He’s so talented that he could compete with free-agent addition Emmanuel Sanders for the third-string job behind Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker. Latimer gives the team great insurance if any of the three players above him on the depth chart get injured during the season.
Latimer will likely begin his career as a backup. We may not see much of him this year, but in 2015 he could be a major contributor to the Broncos high-powered offense.
I don’t feel the Broncos had a “worst” pick, but if I had to pick a “most average” one then it has to be Michael Schofield. He’s not a bad player at all, but where he ends up at the pros is a bit of a mystery right now.
He’s position versatile, starting at both right tackle (26 starts) and left guard (10 starts) for the Wolverines during his college career. Schofield is also known as a nasty player who loves to intimidate opponents. This will help him in his transition to the pros.
Schofield has the wingspan to keep defenders at bay. He’ll use his attitude and natural strength to push guys where he wants them to go. As a run-blocker he uses patience and leverage to beat his man.
He’s best playing in tight spaces, and that skill set screams guard. However, Schofield does struggle to be a “sticky” blocker at the second level. This is going to limit him if he’s asked to do any pulling from the guard position.
His patience will sometimes get the best of him as a pass-protector on the edge. Schofield will wait too long for an opponent to initiate contact, and thus he’ll be beaten with speed moves.
This pick stings the most to me because of who was left on the board at guard. The Broncos could have selected Brandon Thomas from Clemson. He could have been a first-round pick had he not injured his knee during a predraft workout with the Saints.
The Broncos have shown a willingness to draft injured players before (Quanterus Smith most recently), and they should have grabbed a much better talent in Thomas.
Undrafted Free Agents
After the 2014 NFL draft concluded, the Broncos were quick to add more talent to the roster as priority free agents. These undrafted players are going to get a fair shot to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster.
The Broncos have found gems like starting cornerback Chris Harris Jr., reserve strong safety Duke Ihenacho and backup running back C.J. Anderson as undrafted free agents over the last three years.
Here’s a list of the players the Broncos added after the draft:
Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina
Renner is a big pocket passer with enough arm to make all the throws. A labrum injury (non-throwing arm) cut short his senior season, but he turned heads at the Manning Passing Academy last year. He’ll compete with Zac Dysert for the third-string job.
Shaquil Barrett, OLB, Colorado State
A rangy and athletic outside linebacker who works well in blitz packages. Barrett can also keep up with opponents in coverage. He’ll compete for a reserve spot as a strong-side linebacker with guys like Lerentee McCray.
Bennie Fowler, WR, Michigan State
Fowler has a nice size/speed combination, measuring in at 6’1” 217 pounds and running a 4.49 40-yard dash. He can win contested catches because of his strength, but he needs to show better concentration, as dropping wide open passes was an issue. Fowler is looking to impress enough to make the practice squad on what is a deep group of wide receivers.
Isaiah Burse, WR, Fresno State
Burse was incredibly productive in Fresno State’s offense. He caught 100 passes last year for the Bulldogs, and Burse is dangerous after the catch. With his agility and speed, Burse can also contribute as a return man in the pros.
Kapri Bibbs, RB, Colorado State
Bibbs was a breakout player for the Rams last year, rushing for 1,741 yards and a staggering 31 touchdowns, which tied for best in the nation. He’s not the biggest or the fastest running back out there, but he’s efficient with his movement and he certainly has a nose for the end zone.
Greg Hardin, WR, North Dakota State
The small school prospect has big-time ability. Like fellow UDFA Isaiah Burse, Hardin was incredibly productive in college with over 200 catches in his career. Hardin’s biggest adjustment will be getting used to the speed of the game at the pro level.
Mister Cobble, DT, Kentucky
This big man has the strength to anchor against the run, and he’s tough to move because of his powerful base. Cobble will also get off the line in a hurry, and he can generate some pressure up the middle because of that.
Juwan Thompson, RB, Duke
Thompson is a big back who gets stronger as the game goes on. His size helps him in short-yardage situations. He’s looking for a spot on the practice squad if he doesn’t win the fourth-string job at running back on the 53-man roster.
Brennan Clay, RB, Oklahoma
The Broncos add another big back here. Clay can effectively run between the tackles, but he also has enough speed to make the corner at the second level of the defense. He’ll compete for the fourth-string job in the running back corps.
Kenny Anunike, DE, Duke
The Broncos get a nice pass-rushing threat here. Anunike can bend around the edge with ease, and he’s got an impressive closing burst. He’s got the raw ability to make the final roster as a part-time pass-rusher.
Steven Clark, P, Auburn
The Broncos add another leg here. Clark is not going to compete for the starting job, as that is locked down by veteran Britton Colquitt.
Greg Latta, DE, Purdue
Latta is going to impress because of his strength and work ethic. He’s not overly athletic, but he plays with a non-stop motor. That’s something defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will appreciate.
Aslam Sterling, OT, Kansas
The Broncos have a tackle-heavy roster at this time. It will be difficult for Sterling to make the final roster because they are so stacked at the position. However, the Broncos have made it a habit of finding UDFAs from Kansas. Both Chris Harris Jr. and Steven Johnson played for the Jayhawks before the Broncos added them as priority free agents.
Jordan Sullen, CB, Tulane
Position versatility is what could help Sullen make the practice squad. He’s a rangy player who can also line up at free safety.
Louis Young, CB, Georgia Tech
Like Sullen, Young can also play more than one position. He’s got the speed to contribute on special teams as well.
What's Next for the Broncos?
The team continues through their offseason conditioning program this week. This weekend the Broncos will begin their three-day rookie minicamp. Soon after that will be the first of three OTAs and a minicamp for the entire team.
The Broncos have to finalize a few spots on the depth chart when training camp rolls around.
The left guard position is up in the air right now. The team could use last year’s starting right tackle Orlando Franklin in the spot, or they could see what rookie Michael Schofield looks like there.
The center position will see competition as well. Last year’s starting center Manny Ramirez will compete with free-agent addition Will Montgomery. If Ramirez loses the job, then he may get a chance to compete for the left guard position.
Middle linebacker will be a job up for grabs in camp too. Nate Irving, Steven Johnson and rookie Lamin Barrow will battle for the starting spot. Barrow could have an advantage as his athleticism makes him better in coverage.
The Broncos had a good draft. Now, it’s time for them to find starters in the depth chart and begin installing their offense and defense in the OTAs. This team made big moves in free agency, and they added quality players in the draft.
The Broncos are once again poised to make a Super Bowl run.
Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.