NFL Draft 2011: Denver Broncos' 5 Possible Big-Time Steals

Aaron YoungCorrespondent IIIApril 19, 2011

NFL Draft 2011: Denver Broncos' 5 Possible Big-Time Steals

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    With the 2011 NFL Draft right around the corner, it is time to have a look at possible steals throughout the draft for the Denver Broncos. I will also explain why these players are good fits in Denver.

    Here's a look at five possible big-time steals for the Denver Broncos in the 2011 Draft.

    Comments are always appreciated.

Drake Nevis, Defensive Tackle, LSU

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    Position: Defensive Tackle

    School: LSU

    Height: 6’1”

    Weight: 294 lbs.

    Combine 20 yard shuttle: 4.65

    Combine weight reps: 31

    Projection: Second – fourth round

     

    It’s almost unbelievable to me that a defensive tackle as talented as Drake Nevis is not considered as a possible first rounder. He is undersized compared to many others at his position however, and this raises enough questions to push him down draft boards.

    The Denver Broncos definitely need several new sets of hands at defensive tackle. Now that the organization is going back to the 4-3-scheme, they are left with no serviceable defensive tacklers.

    Although I expect the Broncos to take Marcell Dareus off the board in the first round unless they decide to trade down, they still need help at defensive tackle.

    Drake Nevis could be the right guy if the price is right. The former LSU lineman had a very explosive senior season, and apparently had no problem moving people out of the way in the strongest conference in college football, the SEC.

    What impresses me is Nevis’ ability to anticipate the snap count. This allows him to get a head start on many offensive players. His athleticism often forced teams to double team him.

    Nevis attacks gaps more explosively than most lineman and he shows an above-average rip and swim move. His bull rush was effective enough in college, but he would probably need to gain weight for this bull-rushing technique to be effective in the NFL.

    Another great thing about Nevis is his motor. Drake Nevis keeps it going until the referee blows his whistle for the last time in the game.

    This is probably not only due to his good stamina, but also his great intangibles.

    Throughout his collegial career, Nevis won several offseason awards, including the LSU Jim Taylor Award for Leadership. 

Shane Vereen, Running Back, Cal

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    Position: Running back

    School: California

    Height: 5’10”

    Weight: 210 lbs.

    Combine 40 yard dash: 4.47

    Combine weight reps: 31

    Projection: Second – fourth round

    Denver’s running back situation is rather dismal at the moment. The former first rounder, Knowshon Moreno, can’t seem to stay healthy.

    His partner in crime, Correll Buckhalter, is nearing the end of his career and according to the Denver Post, is an obvious candidate for release after a terrible 2010 season.

    The fact of the matter is that at some point during the draft, the Broncos will probably need to address the running back position, and Shane Vereen just might fit the bill.

    He is widely considered as a change of pace back-prospect in the NFL.

    For most of his college career, he was the backup for Lion’s running back, Jahvid Best, but when he was handed the starting job in 2010, he rose to the occasion.

    Vereen is considered a late second or third-round pick.

    However, if he slips to the fourth round—which he might because of his lack of experience and the small need for running back in this draft—he may well end up being one of the biggest steals in the draft.

    Despite his size, Vereen has to be considered a power runner.

    He showed off great strength at the combine, totaling 31 reps of 225 lbs. This was the second most for running backs—only one behind fullback Anthony Sherman.

    The former Golden Bear makes quick reads and hits the holes with urgency. This allows him to gain positive yards on almost every down, even if the play is schematically broken.

    Although he is not a burner, Vereen is an OK outside runner as well. What really helps him is his ability to make quick decisions and his patience when setting up blockers in front of him. He does not make many tacklers flat out miss him, but he has terrific legs and he keeps them moving, hence generally picking up yards after the initial contact.

    His ball security might become an issue in the NFL, as he often relied on his strength instead of tucking the ball properly in college. Scouts and coaches know that this won’t fly in the NFL, so that is something that needs to be addressed.

    With that being said, Shane Vereen is not known to be fumble prone.

    The running back’s pass-blocking ability is his biggest question mark.

    In order to be an every down running back in the NFL, you have to understand pass-blocking assignments. This is definitely something he will have to work on during this offseason and preseason.

    The fact is, we don’t know a whole lot about his ability to block defenders, because most of the time at Cal he would slip out of the backfield to become a receiver on passing situations.

    However, from what we have seen, it seems like although he generally picks up the right guy, he often allows the defender to close in on him instead of being aggressive and attacking the defender.

    Having a pass-catching running back on your roster can definitely help out a lot of teams. He is the kind of guy that would be wonderful to have as you are developing a young quarterback, as a pass-catching running back typically is a nice security blanket.

    Passes targeting running backs often have a high completion percentage, and almost always end up in positive yardage.

    For the sake of the Broncos, he could be a solid target while young quarterback Tim Tebow develops.

Brandon Harris, Cornerback, Miami

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    Position: Cornerback

    School: Miami

    Height: 5’11”

    Weight: 195 lbs.

    Combine 40 yards dash: 4.53

    Combine vertical leap: 35.5

    Projection: Late first round – Early fourth round

    The Broncos have re-signed Champ Bailey, but everybody knows he is not the long term answer in Denver.

    Many people would like the franchise to pick up Patrick Peterson in the first round, but if they don’t, they will still need help at cornerback.

    If Brandon Harris falls as far as he might, he just might be the steal of the decade, and the decade just started.

    I view Harris as the third best cornerback available in this year’s draft, but he just might be the one with the most upside.

    Harris’ greatest strength is his man to man coverage ability. His superior athleticism allows him to run with just about everybody.

    He has some learning to do as a zone coverage defensive back, as he sometimes hesitates due to lack of awareness.

    A knock on him has been his lack of interceptions. Although he does not intercept a lot of passes, he knocks down plenty. So this is not really a problem.

    I don’t have any problem with him in run support or as a tackler. He misses a tackle every now and then, but seems very coachable considering how he has improved every year.

    He also has an excellent backpedal. This allows him to have his head turned toward the backfield long enough to recognize running plays. He is also fast enough to notice the pass and run with the wide receiver if he has too.

    What I absolutely love about Brandon Harris is when he comes off the line as a blitzer.

    If you run a cornerback blitz with a guy this fast and disruptive at the right time, it is very likely the play will end up with a sack.

Martez Wilson, Outside Linebacker, Illinois

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    Position: ILB/OLB

    School: Illinois

    Height: 6’4”

    Weight: 250 lbs.

    Combine 40 yard dash: 4.49   

    Projection: Top 20 draft pick – fourth round

     

    Going back to the 4-3-scheme, the Broncos need help at outside linebacker. There is really no telling when Martez Wilson will be taken off the boards in this year’s draft.

    He has been projected as early as a Top 20 draft pick due to his athleticism and versatility.

    Wilson, initially viewed as an inside linebacker in the 3-4-scheme, has gotten a lot of hype of late as a strong outside linebacker in the 4-3-scheme. The idea is that he can start outside and later move inside if the defensive scheme allows it.

    One of the reasons experts think Wilson can contribute as an outside linebacker is his speed. His 40-time at the combine was the fastest among linebackers, and that type of speed is extremely rare for inside linebackers.

    Martez Wilson is definitely at home while playing the run. He has terrific instincts, and once he sees a play develop, he does not hesitate, but attacks downhill.

    He can also hold his own as a coverage guy, so he is likely to become an every down linebacker in the NFL. Considering his versatility, Wilson could possibly play several positions in third down situations.

    Wilson is not a terrific pass rusher, but does OK due to his speed. He is very effective if he finds an open lane, which his instincts often allow him to do, but he needs to become more violent with his arms in order to shed blockers.

    One thing I really like about Wilson is his tackling ability. He is not a hard hitter, but we have seen over the last few years that many so-called hard hitters seem to miss a lot of tackles.

    This guy does not miss many tackles. He sometimes takes bad angles, but can compensate with his speed. He wraps up in great fashion, and once he can reach you with those enormous arms, you are doomed to go down.

Anthony Sherman, Fullback, Connecticut

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    Position: Fullback

    School: Connecticut

    Height: 5’11”

    Weight: 242 lbs.

    Combine 40 yard dash: 4.70

    Combine weight reps: 32

    Projection: Seventh round – UDFA

    One of the things John Fox will try to establish as the new head coach of the Denver Broncos is a sound running game.

    The Broncos didn’t fare too well rushing in 2010, ranking 26th in the league. The running game picked up when Tim Tebow was under center, but there is clearly something wrong with your running game when your quarterback is your lead rusher.

    When John Fox was in charge in Carolina, he was lucky to have two very good running backs in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.

    In Fox’s scheme, the fullback is a very important part of the running game as a blocker. He had a stout fullback in Brad Hoover before he was released, and Tony Fiammetta ended up being a quality lead blocker, too.

    Denver’s best option at fullback is Spencer Larson. Although little used last season, he is expected to return in 2011 due to his modest salary and special teams ability. This does not mean that an upgrade is not needed in Denver.

    Enter Anthony Sherman.

    Anthony Sherman is arguably the best fullback in the 2011 draft. Considering the lack of need for fullbacks, it’s not even certain that he will be drafted. That would make one team very happy in the following free-agency period.

    Although he is not considered fast, Sherman is known to be very explosive. There have been questions surrounding his strength, and some people have wondered if he is strong enough to be successful at the next level.

    Sherman put up 32 reps at the combine earlier this year—the most for running backs/fullbacks. This definitely dismisses all questions concerning how strong he is.

    The Connecticut graduate has the ability to not only block approaching defenders effectively, but also drive them backwards in the running game.

    He has also shown that he is efficient as a pass blocker.

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