Denver Broncos: In-Depth Look at Their 2011 NFL Draft Possibilities

Nick CastilloContributor IDecember 23, 2010

Could Patrick Peterson be in a Bronco Uniform?
Could Patrick Peterson be in a Bronco Uniform?Chris Graythen/Getty Images

After having the worst season in Bronco history, it is clear that this team will need a lot of help if they want to return to their winning ways. This Bronco season featured more drama then most teams have in 3 seasons.The drama culminated when Josh McDaniels was fired with 4 games left to play. He left behind a team in pieces with no confidence and no hope for the future. Dove Valley is as dark as it has ever been. Josh McDaniels' firing was rock bottom. Thankfully, we can only go up from here. The next move the Broncos will make will be to figure out who they want to run the Denver Broncos. Brian Xanders will get some serious consideration to keep his job as GM while the hunt for a head coach continues.

Personally, I don't want Brian Xanders continuing as a GM. The media has bashed Josh McDaniels for several of his moves, but Brian Xanders certainly had a say in all those transactions. The final word may have been McDaniels', but the fact that Xanders was involved in these decisions at all is enough for me to want a new GM. In a perfect world, the Broncos would hire a person like Eric DeCosta. He is a man who could turn around our bad drafting and help shape this team into a contender. DeCosta served as Director of College Scouting for the Ravens for six years, at one time being the youngest College Scouting Director in the NFL. He currently works for GM Ozzie Newsome of the Ravens.

As for head coach, there are a ton of candidates that will get looks. If Gary Kubiak is fired from Houston, expect him to get a call. A couple of my candidates include: Jon Gruden, Jim Harbaugh, Perry Fewell, and Ron Rivera. Gruden is a fiery coach who could help ignite the fire back in Dove Valley. Harbaugh helped reshape Stanford's football program. Perry Fewell is a defensive minded guy who could finally bring back the Orange Crush defense that we have missed for so long. He would likely bring back the 4-3 defense which is very intriguing. Finally, Ron Rivera is another defensive minded guy who helped make San Diego's defense one of the best in 2010.

No matter who is the GM and head coach, the Broncos cannot afford more bad drafting. The years of drafting Jarvis Moss, Tim Crowder, Alphonso Smith, and Richard Quinn need to be done. This May, the Broncos will have quite a bit of ammo to work with. We are currently in rebuild mode and the 2011 NFL Draft needs to be a hit. With a top 5 pick, 2 2nd round picks, a 3rd, 6th, and 7th rounder, there are a lot of good prospects that the Broncos could get. Let's take a look at some of those prospects.

1st round, 2nd overall

Patrick Peterson, CB

Da'Quan Bowers, DE/OLB

Nick Fairley, DT/DE

Marcell Dareus, DT/DE

These 4 players are the "elite" 2011 draft prospects. Each of them could greatly help the Broncos in their rebuilding process.

Patrick Peterson is the best cornerback prospect in years. The 6 ft 2, 210 lb corner from LSU has the makings of a shut down corner in the NFL. Despite most teams throwing away from Peterson this year, he still managed a season high 4 interceptions. He also is a pretty good punt returner averaging over 10 yards a punt to go along with 2 touchdowns. Peterson could be in the Broncos' sights as Champ Bailey will likely go elsewhere next year.

Da'Quan Bowers was the best defensive player in 2010. The Clemson Tiger put together a phenomenal junior year. He really dominated the ACC all year long. The Ted Hendricks award winner finished with a jaw dropping 16 sacks and 25 tackles for loss. Bowers is 6 ft 4, 275 lbs. He manhandles opponents with great strength and quickness. He could be an impact player in the NFL if he puts the time and effort in. He is a one year wonder, but his upside is tremendous. He could play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. He is arguably the best defensive player in the upcoming draft.

Nick Fairley had himself a Da'Quan Bowersesque year. He has been hyped for much of the year due to his dominant performances in the SEC. The Auburn Tiger accumulated 11 sacks and 21 tackles for loss. He is an athletic freak. The 6 ft 5, 298 pound defensive tackle can reportedly run as fast as a 4.8 40 yard dash. He has a great motor and will make scouts drool when he goes to the combine. However, he is a one year wonder and has been labeled a "dirty player". Nevertheless, Fairley has the potential to be elite in the NFL.

Marcell Dareus comes from the excellent Alabama Crimson Tide program. The 6 ft 4, 304 pound defensive tackle put together a nice season despite losing several of his teammates to the NFL. Dareus finished the year with 4 sacks, 9 tackles for loss and 30 tackles. Dareus has great strength and speed to go along with his excellent bulk. He was suspended for 2 games for NCAA violations so he doesn't come without baggage. Nevertheless, he is a scheme versatile player who could make a big impact at the next level.

2nd round, 35th overall

Jimmy Smith, CB

Deunta Williams, S

Christian Ballard, DT/DE

Stephen Paea, DT/DE

Jimmy Smith has quietly become one of the best cornerbacks in college football. First off, he has excellent bulk at 6 ft 2, 205 lbs. He also is capable of running a 4.4 40 yard dash which will help him draft stock. Smith has consistently been a shut down corner for the Big 12. He doesn't have big time stats due to his competition usually staying away from him. However, he is a player who will make some team very happy if he falls into the 2nd round.

Deunta Williams is probably the best safety in the draft. Williams is a ball hawk in every sense of the term. He has 12 interceptions in his career. He has excellent build at 6 ft 2, 215 lbs. He has great instincts to go along with great speed. He reportedly is a film junkie as he spends a ton of time analyzing film. He was suspended for 2 games to to NCAA violations, but he has been very up front about everything that occurred. He will be a starting safety for someone and is a steal in the 2nd round.

Christian Ballard is another talented Iowa Hawkeye defensive lineman. The 6 ft 5, 297 pound defensive tackle is an impressive player. He has great quickness and explodes at the snap. He has a great motor and never gives up on a play. His stats aren't nearly as good as teammate Adrian Clayborne's, but Ballard is a nice player to pick up in the 2nd.

Stephen Paea spent the year terrorizing the Pac 10. Paea was unblockable this year for the Oregon State Beavers. The 6 ft 1, 311 pound defensive tackle is as strong as an ox. His bull rush is nearly unblockable. His strength and initial quickness make it very hard to contain him. He collected 45 tackles and 6 sacks in 2010 despite facing constant double teams. Paea is a hard worker and will be a stout defensive tackle in the NFL.

2nd round, 49th overall

Ras-I-Dowling, CB

Quinton Carter, S

DJ Williams, TE

Marcus Cannon, OT

Dowling returned for his senior year with hopes of vaulting himself into 1st round status. Instead, he got hurt and is now on the fall. Dowling has great size at 6 ft 2, 200 pounds. He shows great instincts and does a nice job in press coverage. He has some technique issues, but those can be fixed with good coaching. Dowling has the potential to be a starting cornerback. He could be the steal of the draft if he falls to this spot. His talent alone should net him a late 1st round slot.

Quinton Carter is a bruiser of a safety. He is one of the hardest hitters in college football. He has totaled 200 tackles in his career at Oklahoma. Although he is known as a big hitter, he isn't limited to just hitting. Carter had 4 interceptions in both his junior and senior years. On top of all that, Carter is a great person. He has his own charity and spends his time giving to people in need.

DJ Williams is underrated in my opinion. He isn't that far off from Kyle Rudolph. DJ caught 49 passes for 589 yards and 4 touchdowns this year for the Razorbacks. Not only can he catch the football, he is a very good blocker. He has reliable hands. If he runs a fast 40, he could vault up draft boards.

Marcus Cannon has been the staple of the Horn frogs offensive line. He is a mammoth at 6 ft 5, 350 pounds. He is a terrific run blocker. His best spot might be as a right tackle. He could struggle against quick defensive ends which may be why he might be a guard. He has some technique issues but he could be a great run blocking offensive lineman at the next level.

3rd round #67th overall

Kelvin Sheppard, LB

Lance Kendricks, TE

Stanley Havili, FB

Sione Fua, DT

Kelvin Sheppard has been the emotional leader for the LSU Tigers for 3 years He is a tackling machine. He has accumulated over 300 tackles in his career. He also had a season high 4 sacks in 2010. The 6 ft 3, 240 pound linebacker always seems to find the ball. He has trouble shedding blocks and will need to change his weight depending on the scheme he is drafted into.

Lance Kendricks is one of the best tight ends in this draft class. He is 6 ft 4, 240 pounds. He has all the tools necessary to be a solid tight end in the next level. He has caught a lot of balls despite playing in the run based Wisconsin offense. He is a pretty good blocker. He reminds me a little bit of Jason Witten who is a mismatch with linebackers and is a big target for quarterbacks.

Stanley Havili has been a big part of USC for 4 years. He has quietly been one of USC's best players for his entire collegiate career. The versatile fullback is a match up problem waiting to happen. He is 6 ft 1, 225 pounds. He runs hard, blocks well, and is quite a good receiver out of the backfield. He's a hard worker and will be a nice mismatch for someone.

Sione Fua is a big, powerful DT out of Stanford. The 6 ft 2, 306 pound nose tackle compiled 22 tackles, 4.5 for loss, and 5 sacks playing in Stanford's new 3-4. Fua is a superb run stuffer and has able to get an impressive number of sacks for a nose tackle. He might be the best nose tackle in the draft. If the Broncos keep the 3-4, Fua is a must get prospect. He's big, powerful, and exactly the young talent that we need on our d-line.

6th round

Cory Grant, DT

Allen Bradford, RB

Allen Reisner, TE

Charlie Gantt, TE

Cory Grant is a big defensive lineman who played his collegiate ball at TCU. He was named 2nd all Mountain West this year after collecting 18 tackles and 4 sacks for the Horned Frogs. The 6 ft 2, 305 pound Grant is a big boy who has could make a nice backup defensive lineman at least.

Allen Bradford is a bruising running back from USC. His stats aren't that good due to being in USC's multi-back system. The 6 ft, 235 pound back totaled 225 carries for 1462 yards in the last 2 years. He is a powerful runner who displayed decent break away speed this year. He isn't a feature back, but could give you a solid #2.

Allen Reisner was stuck behind the great Tony Moeaki, but really got his chance his senior year. Reisner finished the year with 39 receptions for 410 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is a little undersized at 6 ft 3, 235 pounds, but he displays a nice pair of hands and is a pretty good blocker. He is one of my favorite prospects in the late rounds.

Charlie Gantt has all the makings of an NFL tight end. He has a great frame standing at 6 ft 5, 260 pounds. He is a very good blocker. His skills have been honed at Michigan St. However, he is also an underrated receiver. He caught 22 passes for 261 yards and 3 touchdowns this year. He doesn't have great athleticism, but he can get to the soft spots and get you good yardage. He is also one of my favorite prospects. Gantt or Reisner would be fantastic picks in the late rounds to improve our TE corps.

7th Round

Mitch Mustain, QB

Anthony Sherman, FB

Chris Conte, S

Michael Morgan, LB

Mustain came to USC with hopes of leading the Trojans to a national championship. He had to settle for being the back up to the sensational Matt Barkley. Mustain got to play in a limited capacity this year and even started one game due to a Barkley injury. Mitch is a great late round prospect. He has good tools. He is a stand up guy, decent arm strength and is very coachable. If the Broncos trade Orton this off season, they will need to add another QB. A late round QB like Mustain could develop into a nice back up.

Anthony Sherman is one of the nasty blocking fullbacks coming into the 2011 draft. He is 5 ft 11, 240 pounds. Like I said before, he is a very good blocker. He is powerful and looks to be a lead  blocking fullback in this league. He could take the place of oft-injured Spencer Larsen.

Chris Conte did not have the collegiate career many expected him to. He played CB for Cal for 3 years before they put him at his natural spot as SS. He excelled and had his best year in 2010. He totaled 72 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 interception. He is definitely worth a late round flier and could be quite the sleeper. He has really good size at 6 ft 3, 212 pounds. He was misused in his time at Cal.

Michael Morgan has all the athleticism needed to succeed, but he doesn't have the production. He had just 57 tackles in 2010. Sadly, that is his season high. The 6 ft 4, 220 pound backer also needs to hit the weight room. However, he has good speed and could make a nice STer and possibly a backup linebacker. That's all you can ask for in the 7th round.

This is just a taste of the potential players the Broncos could pick up. With pro days, the Combine, and the Senor Bowl still to come, a lot of these players' rankings will change. But here is a preliminary look at some players who could really help the Broncos in 2011. Notice that most of the players on here are defensive. That is because the next 2 off seasons should be devoted to fixing the atrocious defense that we currently have. With some solid drafting, we could be back in the AFC West race sooner then people may think. Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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