2011 NFL Draft Grades: Did the Denver Broncos Hit a Home Run in Rounds 2 and 3?

Rob GregoryCorrespondent IIApril 29, 2011

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Rahim Moore #3 of the UCLA Bruins celebrates during the game against the San Diego State Aztecs at the Rose Bowl on September 5, 2009 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Here is a quick recap of the players taken by the Broncos in the 2nd and 3rd round:

Round 2: Pick no. 45, Rahim Moore, Safety (UCLA). Pick no. 46, Orlando Franklin, OG (Miami – FL).

Round 3: Pick no. 67, Nate Irving, ILB (North Carolina State).

Draft Grade: A

The Broncos receive a high grade because they were able to pull of a trade with San Francisco to move down, still land the players they wanted, and acquire extra picks in the process. The Broncos sent the no. 36 overall pick to San Francisco, and received the 45th, 108th (fourth round) and 141st (fifth round) picks.

The Broncos do not quite receive an A+ grade, despite the fact that they were able to add more picks, simply because defensive tackle remains a big question mark going into Day 3 of the draft.

In the third round the Broncos drafted Rahim Moore and Orlando Franklin, while passing on defensive tackles like Marvin Austin and Stephen Paea. In the fourth-round the Broncos selected another linebacker instead of taking defensive tackle, Kenrick Ellis.

Ellis seemed to be a good option for the Broncos, and there was speculation that the Broncos really liked him, but Denver passed in the end.

Still, it’s hard not to be very optimistic with how the Broncos faired on Day 2 of the draft. They landed the top safety in the draft, Rahim Moore, and while he is not considered an elite prospect, he is thought to be a guy who can be an immediate starter in the NFL.

The Broncos need to find at least four starters from this draft, so Moore is a wise selection. Moore is undersized, but a solid tackler, with great speed, and a very durable player. He is also a ball-hawk—he had 14 total interceptions in three years at UCLA—although he is not a Brian Dawkins-type hitter. He is also a high character guy, so the Broncos know what their getting. It’s a great selection overall.

Orlando Franklin is a massive offensive guard (6'5", 316-pound), who will most likely play right tackle for the Broncos. Franklin will likely be the guy responsible for protecting Tebow’s blind side. And he is be enough, and plays nasty enough, to hold his ground.

Coach John Fox probably appreciates his versatility, size and awesome skill. This type of pick is never the sexy-pick—it’s not like drafting a speedy running back, for instance—but the Broncos realize that tackle Ryan Harris is likely on his way out, and Franklin can really have a significant impact on the offense.

Nate Irving will likely line up in the middle of this new Broncos 4-3 defense. That would put Von Miller on the strong side, and DJ Williams on the opposite side. Irving is a big-time competitor.

He is a productive player, who is not always great in coverage, but can find his way to the opponent’s backfield and make plays. He is explosive and deceptively fast. Last season he recorded 21.5 tackles for loss. Irving, like the other Broncos draft picks, is very versatile.

But Irving is resilient. He missed the entire 2009 seasons after a car crash almost took his life, but left him with a collapsed lung and other serious injuries.

In a conference call meeting with the media following his selection, Irving had this to say to BroncoTalk about teaming up with Von Miller: “I was looking at the earlier pick, and I saw Von Miller, and I’m just looking forward to getting out there and playing alongside him. With me in the middle and him on the edge, we could wreak some havoc on every offensive team in the league.”

Sounds good to me.

Mario Haggan was considered a possible starter in the middle going into next season, but now Irving will have a good chance to beat him out for the spot. This also means that John Fox may not be as high on Joe Mays as a lot of fans are. Mays is undersized, and seemed to be a nice find going into the 2011 season, but he may be best as a backup and special teams player.

So, all in all, a very good, if not great, Day 2. These selections seem to signal to other players that they may not be Broncos in 2011: Ryan Harris, Brian Dawkins and maybe even Joe Mays. The burning question going into Day 3 will be, “What exactly is the plan for defensive tackle?”

I guess that considering all of the Broncos many needs, beggars can’t be choosers.