Denver Broncos: Examining the Good and the Bad from Their Draft
Draft picks Bradley Roby, Cody Latimer, Michael Schofield, Lamin Barrow, Matt Paradis and Corey Nelson are now all Broncos. All put together solid college careers, and all will have a chance to contribute in 2014.
But could the Broncos have done a better job in the draft?
The Good: Rounds 1 and 2
Bradley Roby could have one of the top 15 picks in the draft. However, his off-field issues and inconsistency in 2013 cost him dearly.
Still, he should have been gone before the Broncos picked. He intercepted eight passes in three years and defended 29 in his last two years. He was suspended for a game and missed the Orange Bowl due to a knee injury, but his talent was too much to pass up.
Denver was making a luxury pick, and it nabbed the right guy. It was previously lacking a reliable nickel cornerback, and Chris Harris' knee and Aqib Talib's sketchy injury history both mean that adding another cornerback was necessary.
And adding the playmaking ability that Roby has should make Denver's secondary even better.
In the second round, the Broncos made another great selection. They had to trade up to select Cody Latimer, but for a team that doesn't need late-round picks as much because of its depth, it was worth it.
The Broncos didn't have a reasonable target at their biggest position of need, middle linebacker, so they decided to move up for someone else. They secured a red-zone target in 2014 and a likely starter for 2015 in Latimer, whose hands are among the best in the 2014 draft class.
According to Mile High Report, Latimer dropped one pass in 119 targets. Those kinds of numbers don't come often, so it was worth making a move to nab Latimer.
He won't start in 2014 unless someone gets hurt, but that won't stop him from contributing. Also, the Broncos likely couldn't have found another starter at that time. Latimer was a perfect fit.
Denver did a great job adding talent, despite picking late in the first two rounds. Neither player is likely to start in 2014, but Roby will play most snaps as a nickel corner, and Latimer will be groomed to play a huge role in the future and catch red-zone targets in 2014.
The Bad: The Offensive Line Selections
The Broncos needed to address the offensive line at some point during the draft. However, they made some questionable decisions while addressing the position group.
Michael Schofield was expected to be picked in the fourth or fifth round by NFL.com, but the Broncos picked him 95th. Matt Paradis was picked in the sixth round, but CBS Sports rated him as the 447th-best draft prospect.
Paradis is actually a solid run blocker, but he also is going to have a hard time beating out Will Montgomery and Manny Ramirez. Schofield could compete to start at right tackle, but he's unlikely to beat out Chris Clark.
The Broncos made the right choice by adding depth and competition at tackle in the third round, but they could have picked someone else. Linemen Cameron Fleming, Antonio Richardson, David Yankey, Dakota Dozier and Brandon Thomas were all available.
Schofield would have been a solid choice in the fourth or fifth round. In the third round, however, he was a bit of a reach.
As for their sixth-round pick, Paradis is a solid player. However, he's facing an uphill battle to make the team.
Ramirez, Clark, Montgomery, Schofield, Ryan Clady, Orlando Franklin and Louis Vasquez appear to be locks. Vinston Painter, Winston Justice, Ben Garland and Ryan Miller are also going to compete for either one or two roster spots.
Paradis has potential as a developmental player on the practice squad. After all, he is a road grader as a run blocker. But he is talented, and a team in need of offensive linemen could certainly pick him up if he gets cut.
Schofield and Paradis both could contribute in 2014. However, they both have weaknesses. Denver reached for both players, and it could pay for not waiting until later rounds to draft these players and not picking up the superior talent available.
The Good: Denver's Handling of the Middle Linebacker Situation
The Broncos had an opening at middle linebacker, and they waited until the fifth round to fill it. So why was this a smart choice?
Lamin Barrow, the player the Broncos added in the fifth round, could have been picked in the fourth round. Instead, the Broncos traded down 25 spots. Luckily for them, Barrow was still available.
Barrow, who made 91 tackles in 2013 and 103 in 2012, has the ability to start right away at middle linebacker. In a draft bereft of talent at middle linebacker, he was one of the best at the position.
C.J. Mosley was the best at the position, but he was picked 17th by the Baltimore Ravens. The Broncos wisely decided against reaching for one in the first and second rounds, adding talent at other key positions instead.
And in the fifth round, they added someone who can fill Denver's void and cover. According to CBS Sports, Barrow ran a 4.59 40-yard dash, and he can use this speed on third down and in other nickel situations. He is also 237 pounds, and he could even start in the base defense.
Despite his draft status, the talented Barrow could be the only rookie to start from day one. His tackling prowess means he could dethrone Nate Irving—who has failed to lock down the job despite numerous opportunities—in training camp.
Denver did the right thing by waiting, and it was rewarded with a capable starter at middle linebacker and a wealth of talent at other positions.
The Bad: Reaching for Corey Nelson in the Seventh Round
If one of the worst parts of your draft was a seventh-round pick, you're doing something right.
Still, the Corey Nelson pick was a bit shocking. The fact that he admits to being surprised to be drafted (according to Mile High Report) says it all. He almost certainly would have slipped 14 picks into undrafted free agency, where Denver could have picked him up.
As for Nelson's playmaking ability, his speed is a nice quality, but he is undersized and has durability concerns. He would be nothing more than a coverage linebacker, and he is still a question mark in that department. He has just one career interception.
Denver could have added a safety like Dion Bailey or Lonnie Ballentine to possibly compete with Rahim Moore for a starting job, or it could have added a pass-rusher like Jackson Jeffcoat for depth. Adding a coverage linebacker wasn't a bad idea, but reaching for Nelson was.
If he can recover from his injury and at least contribute right away on special teams, he could end up helping. However, that doesn't justify picking him in the seventh round.
CBS Sports rated him as the 490th-best player in the draft. NFL teams have their own draft boards, but it seems evident that he wouldn't have been drafted.
Picking Nelson instead of a safety isn't going to change much. However, the Broncos could be missing out. They could have picked a better player and added Nelson, who is talented, as a free agent.
The Good: Denver's Undrafted Free Agent Class
For the last 10 years, an undrafted free agent has made the Broncos roster.
While undrafted guys like Wesley Duke haven't panned out in Denver, some recent undrafted free agents have contributed. Chris Harris is now a shutdown cornerback, Wesley Woodyard gave the team six great years at linebacker, and C.J. Anderson has lots of potential at running back.
Denver could find lots of gems in this year's undrafted free-agent class. Isaiah Burse, Bryn Renner, Shaquil Barrett, Brennan Clay, Kapri Bibbs, Louis Young, Kenny Anunike and others all have a shot at making the team.
Bleacher Report's Cecil Lammey expects many players to have high odds at making the team. Isaiah Burse is an example.
He averaged 12.5 yards per punt return and scored twice on 21 attempts last year, so he could easily win the job. Burse is likely to make the team, and Barrett also has a good shot. He accrued four forced fumbles and 12 sacks last year.
Additionally, Denver inked three running backs who will all fight for the fourth running back job. Bibbs, Clay and Juwan Thompson will compete for the job, and one is almost certain to make the team.
Denver did a great job signing quality free agents. In this deep draft class, doing that was important, and the Broncos found players who could end up contributing in 2014.