Denver Broncos: Von Miller and the 2011 Draft Class Roles for the John Fox Era
The NFL Lockout is almost over, and with that, we can get back to the sport that we all love rather than have to listen to lawyers or experts talking about mumbo, jumbo that no one can understand. With that said, I would like to revisit the draft picks that the trio of John Elway, John Fox, and Brian Xanders made just a few short months ago.
With rookies unable to get full NFL experience this year due to the lockout, it is going to be tough for a lot of them to become impact players like we have seen in the past. Most of them do not have a playbook and even the ones who were able to grab a playbook have little to no knowledge of language, cadence, or team chemistry.
Rookies are the ones who have been hit the hardest by the lockout, meaning that we'll see many more veterans early in the season than we might otherwise, creating further time to groom the rookies.
With all that said, I am excited to be writing about football once again and would like to reassess where each Denver Bronco rookie will find their niche.
7b. Defensive Lineman Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma
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Jeremy Beal is going to be a nice player for the Broncos in the next few years. A big and strong, if not very fast, defensive end, Beal was an All-Big 12 selection in 2008 in his sophomore year. In his junior year, he recorded 61 tackles and 11 sacks with a pick.
Beal's speed and quickness need to improve off the line, but he recorded 22 reps in the bench press at the Combine. That will help him, but it will be a couple years before has a true impact on the actual defensive line.
A nice special teams player who can help hold up blockers and make sure tackles, Fox will be a fan of this kid once training camp opens.
Prediction: Beal is a special teamer who will have to work his way to stay on the team. However, he will stay on the team, whether on the active roster or practice squad.
7a. Tight End Virgil Green, Nevada
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Virgil Green is a freak athlete who ran a 4.64 40-yard dash, has a vertical leap of 42.5 inches, and 23 bench press reps.
Green was projected to go around the fourth or fifth round, but instead he fell to Denver in the seventh. Ranked as the seventh best tight end in this draft, the Broncos found quite a steal in the Nevada man. Green should be an immediate special teams player as well as get some major reps with the first team offense.
The Broncos have quite a few tight ends on the roster with Dan Gronkowski, Richard Quinn, Daniel Coats, Virgil Green, and earlier draft pick in Julius Thomas.
I do not expect Coats to make the squad, and even then, having four tight ends on the roster is a lot. But we will see what Fox does their. I know Green is a pure athlete, playing in a position that only a pure athlete can play. He is going to make a splash for the Denver Broncos, and I am very excited about this guy.
Prediction: He will be a special teams player who gets work in at tight end and may not get any starts, but plays a role in the offense.
6. Linebacker Mike Mohamed, California
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Mike Mohamed was an absolute animal in his career at California, starting in 50 of 51 possible games. Mohamed never put up eye-opening numbers at the Combine, but his play in college proved that he knows how to get to the ball carrier, ranking fourth on the all-time tackles list.
Mohamed just has a nose for the ball and he uses his drive, determination, and passion to get free and to bring down the ball carrier. He's not the greatest in pass coverage, but it's skill he will be able to pick up in the NFL. He will be playing in the middle, again as special teams player, but he will be learning from D.J. Williams and the rest of the Denver linebackers.
He is a proven gamer and a wonderful addition to the locker room as well as the on-field product.
Prediction: A special teams player that will need to continue to play with passion and heart.
4b. Tight End Julius Thomas, Portland State
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Yes, I know that is a basketball picture. That is because Thomas' main sport was basketball where he played at Portland State. A basketball player turned football tight end. Hmmm. That sounds familiar.
I think the Denver Broncos in the past have been sick and tired of seeing Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez run and catch all over their defenses and wanted a basketball player of their own. Julius Thomas is that guy.
Thomas is a big guy at 6'5", 246 lbs. He is going to be a huge target for TIm Tebow going forward in the future (yes, I said Tim Tebow and not Kyle Orton). He does not have much experience—only one year—and he will need to work on his blocking when called upon. I do not believe the coaching staff will put him in on many running situations, but in the John Fox offense, running is key, and he will have to learn.
Prediction: He will lead Broncos tight ends in catches this season. He will start at least half the games.
4a. Safety Quinton Carter, Oklahoma
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Quinton Carter is going to find his way into the Broncos starting defense, whether this year or next. As the second safety drafted by the Broncos, Carter will be a huge contributor in their run defense, which is an aspect the Broncos need help in quite a bit.
Carter has a nose for the ball, he has played in big-time games in a big-time conference, and he knows what it takes to be a presence on the field. He has also initiated some major collisions in which he just blew people up.
That type of gritty, determined play is what the new defensive coordinator for the Broncos, Dennis Allen, wants. He will be able to learn under Brian Dawkins and like I said will be a starter in due time. He will be another major contributor on special teams.
I know Broncos fans want to see Darcel McBath and David Bruton show what they are made of, but with two more safeties being added, there will be some major competition at the position. Renaldo Hill looks like he is on the way out.
Prediction: Carter will be a major contributor on special teams and will move around rotation with Dawkins. He may start a couple of games if injuries occur.
3. Inside Linebacker Nate Irving, North Carolina State
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Nate Irving. What a story this kid has. Falling asleep at the wheel of his SUV, Irving drove his vehicle into a ditch, suffered a collapse injury, broken ribs, separated shoulder, a compound fracture in his left leg, and was on the verge of losing his life.
After missing his entire junior year, Irving came back for his senior campaign and recorded 89 tackles, seven sacks, and forced three fumbles.
Irving knows what he almost lost—his life—and now he is hellbent on trying to make the most of every opportunity he is given. Right now that opportunity is with the Denver Broncos.
Fox is enamored by this kid. Irving will compete for the starting spot at middle linebacker, but due to the short offseason his chances of starting in Week 1 are very slim.
He will be a starter if not late in the season, then most definitely next season.
Prediction: He will start at least six games this season. He will be a big special teams player and get some playing time in rotation situations.
2b. Offensive Tackle Orlando Franklin, Miami
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Orlando Franklin is an absolute man child. At 6'6", 316 lbs., Franklin was rated the top offensive tackle in the NFL Draft.
With the uncertainty of right tackle Ryan Harris maybe moving on to free agency, the Broncos decided to beef up their offensive line and begin the process of becoming a competitive running team again. Franklin comes with a mean streak; if you are not wearing the same uniform as he is, then he will pop you in the chin. A quarterback's best friend, Franklin will be a starter for years to come.
There has been much debate regarding where on the line he will go, and it seems as if he is destined for the right tackle (Tim Tebow blindside). Zane Beadles and J.D. Walton were both thrown into the fire last season and they played well. They can only play better this coming season.
Prediction: He will be the starting right tackle all season long; Harris will be lost to free agency
2a. Safety Rahim Moore, UCLA
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John Fox has preached all season that they want to create turnovers and put the offense on the field. Moore, the top rated safety in the 2011 Draft, is a ball-hawking safety who can do just that.
A falloff in his senior year in terms of interceptions, Moore knows how to take the ball away and he hopes that this skill translates in the NFL. He is very intelligent as well as athletic, having run a 4.6-second 40-yard dash at the combine.
Moore will likely be a starter right away even with the short offseason as a safety who can help in run support but is most valuable in the pass defensive game.
Prediction: He will be the starting free safety for the Denver Broncos, who cut Renaldo Hill and Nate Jones.
1. Outside Linebacker Von Miller, Texas A&M
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Rated the best linebacker, athlete, and surest star to break into the NFL, the Broncos were given gruff for not going with a defensive tackle. However, when the best player in the draft is there, you take him.
Miller is a gamer and an exact replica of a Derrick Thomas. Now, I am not saying he is a Derrick Thomas, but he has the makeup, build, and motor of the late great Thomas. MIller's role will be to get to the quarterback quick and often.
MIller posted a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, 21 reps on the bench press, and a 37-inch vertical. He has freakish numbers that will need to translate to the NFL. The Broncos, as well as fans, have high hopes for this kid, especially after Robert Ayers has thus far been a first-round bust, recording a sack and a half in two years.
Prediction: Von Miller will start all season (barring injury) and record 8 sacks (plus/minus 2). He will also be named the Defensive Rookie of the year and a Pro Bowler.
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