Round 2, Pick 45: Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA (23rd overall prospect)
Brian Dawkins is 37 years old and simply not the player he used to be. The Denver Broncos needed to find a replacement at the free safety position. When Rahim Moore fell all the way to the 45th overall selection, the draft board fell perfectly for the Denver Broncos and they took advantage. The Broncos initially possessed the 36th overall pick, but they traded down nine spots with the San Francisco 49ers, picking up fourth and fifth-round selections in the process. This trade was well worth it, for they were still able to get a first-round talent in Moore. He is a big playmaker who fills a need at the free safety position. Moore was a bargain in the middle of the second round, and getting that bargain after trading down is even better.
Round 4, Pick 108: Quinton Carter, FS, Oklahoma (41st overall prospect)
Having already selected the Draft’s top free safety with the 45th overall pick, the Denver Broncos used one of the other two picks acquired in that trade down to select the second-best free safety in the 2011 NFL Draft, Oklahoma’s Quinton Carter.
While this may appear to be overkill at one position, his value as a Day 3 selection was too good to pass up. Carter may not be a big-play defensive back, but he is an instinctive, well-rounded safety.
He will find a role within the Broncos’ secondary by converting to strong safety, for the Broncos also have a need at that spot, or as the Broncos’ third safety and special teams contributor. Getting a player of his caliber, a second-round value in Round 4, is a huge bargain.
Round 6, Pick 189: Mike Mohamed, ILB, California (138th overall prospect)
Making the conversion to a 4-3 defensive scheme, the Denver Broncos really needed to upgrade at middle linebacker. The Broncos found their starter at the position with the selection of North Carolina State’s Nate Irving in Round 3. They also found the perfect backup for a great value in the sixth round with the pick of California’s Mike Mohamed.
Mohamed had a very productive career for the Golden Bears, and is a solid run-stopper who is unlikely to play on passing downs, but is a perfect fit as a backup middle linebacker and a special teams contributor. Mohamed would have been well worth a Round 5 selection, so getting him in the sixth round makes him a steal, and a great pick to continue shoring up the linebacker corps.
Round 7, Pick 204: Virgil Green, TE, Nevada (82nd overall prospect)
Among the most shocking players to slide in the 2011 NFL Draft was Nevada tight end Virgil Green. Green, who was a fourth-round value prior to the NFL Scouting Combine, appeared to move his way up into being a potential Day 2 selection by standing out with tremendous measurables at the combine.
Green was a productive player at Nevada who is polished as a tight end and has high potential as a receiving threat at the position given his athletic ability. This makes it really difficult to understand how Green could fall all the way into the seventh round, but as he did, the Broncos took advantage by making him the first selection of the Draft’s final round. By adding Green, along with fourth-round selection Julius Thomas from Portland State, the Denver Broncos selected the two best natural athletes at the tight end position from this year’s Draft, which should greatly improve the Broncos’ downfield passing game, and fills a major void at the position.
Round 7, Pick 247: Jeremy Beal, DE, Oklahoma (80th overall prospect)
After running a horrendously slow 40-yard dash time at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, it came as no surprise that Oklahoma defensive end Jeremy Beal fell to Day 3 of the NFL Draft. Even so, it was expected that Beal, a highly-productive defensive end collegiately, would at least be selected by the fourth or fifth round.
Instead, Beal was still available in the final 10 picks of the Draft, and the Denver Broncos recognized that his value was too good to pass up. The Broncos needed to address the defensive end position, and while Beal lacks the athleticism to be a premier pass rusher, he should be able to be a productive situational defensive end, and as a player worth taking a chance on in Round 3, he is certainly a tremendous bargain as a seventh-round pick.
Round 1, Pick 2: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M (1st overall prospect)
With the Denver Broncos switching to a 4-3 scheme, Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller is not an ideal fit for their defense, and given their needs on the defensive line, Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus may have been the best choice for them with the second overall selection.
However, Von Miller is in fact the best overall prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft, and while he is best suited for a 3-4 team, he proved his ability to play as a 4-3 linebacker at the Senior Bowl, and he is a tremendous talent with a high motor who would excel on any team. The Broncos got the Draft’s best player, and he is going to fill a need at the outside linebacker position, so while it can be argued that he was not the best selection, it was certainly not a mistake to draft him either.
A team does not go wrong by selecting the best player on the board, especially when they fill a position of some need, and the Broncos did exactly that. Miller will become an immediate star for the Broncos’ defense, and they will not regret this choice.
Round 3, Pick 67: Nate Irving, ILB, North Carolina State (49th overall prospect)
The Denver Broncos had already planned to convert to a 4-3 defensive scheme, but prior to the Draft, they had a gaping void at middle linebacker. They filled that void with a very good pick early in Round 3, with the selection of North Carolina State inside linebacker Nate Irving.
After missing his entire junior season with severe injuries from a car accident, Irving bounced back to have a very productive senior season. He is a smart, instinctive player who tackles well, and is the right fit for the Broncos’ new defensive scheme. He was a good value early in the third round, a high-quality selection that made sense for both value and need.
Round 4, Pick 129: Julius Thomas, TE, Portland State (207th overall prospect)
With a growing trend of former basketball players becoming dynamic playmakers at the tight end position, it came as no surprise that Julius Thomas, a former basketball star at Portland State whose athleticism makes him the best such prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft, ended up as a fourth-round selection.
However, Thomas really should not have been selected above the sixth round, for his status as a prospect is completely based upon projection, and the Denver Broncos should not have traded up into the fourth round to draft him. Granted, the Broncos did not give up that much to get him, for they traded fifth- and sixth- round selections, and also received a seventh-round selection, which they used to draft another dynamic tight end, and actually the better prospect, in Nevada’s Virgil Green.
Thomas certainly has high potential given his combination of size and athleticism, and between him and Green, the Broncos have greatly upgraded at the tight end position, and given Tim Tebow better weapons to work with. If Thomas lives up to his upside, he could end up being a steal well worth trading up for in the fourth round; however, considering he is very much a project, trading up for him was a questionable decision.
“What The...?” Picks
Round 2, Pick 46: Orlando Franklin, OT, Miami (163rd overall prospect)
The Denver Broncos needed a right tackle, and they drafted Orlando Franklin to fill that void. The problem is that while Franklin may be massive in size, he is a raw, sloppy talent who is probably best suited to be a three-position backup at right tackle and both guard spots. There are many deficiencies in Franklin’s game, making it highly questionable whether Franklin can succeed at the tackle position.
Considering their need at the spot, Villanova offensive tackle Ben Ijalana would have been a terrific selection for both value and need. Value simply does not match up with drafting Franklin in the middle of the second round.
The Picks They Traded
Round 4, Pick 99 was traded in September 2010 in exchange for Laurence Maroney.
This was a complete waste of what turned out to be one of the first draft selections of Day 3. Maroney, who likely would have been released by the New England Patriots had they not found an interested party in trading for him, was unproductive in his time with the Denver Broncos, and will not be returning to the team next season. This was a trade that the Denver Broncos most certainly regret.
Round 5, Pick 135 was traded during the 2010 NFL Draft in exchange for two seventh-round selections in that Draft, which they used to select cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson and defensive end Jammie Kirlew.
Syd’Quan Thompson had a productive rookie season with four interceptions, and Jammie Kirlew has potential as a pass rusher, so this trade looks like it was one worth making.
Round 6, Pick 168 was traded in March 2010 as part of a package in exchange for quarterback Brady Quinn.
Not only did the Denver Broncos trade away this draft selection, they also traded away Peyton Hillis, who broke out to become one of the NFL’s best power backs last season with the Cleveland Browns. All they got in return was Brady Quinn, who has now become their third-string quarterback. A horrible trade for the Broncos, and the sixth-round selection has little to do it.
The Denver Broncos had to fill many defensive needs in this Draft, and upgraded their defense significantly by selecting the best overall prospect in this year’s class in Von Miller, then continued to get great value while filling defensive needs throughout the Draft with free safeties Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter, inside linebackers Nate Irving and Mike Mohamed, and defensive end Jeremy Beal.
Additionally, the Denver Broncos had a need for talent at the tight end position, and they got two very dynamic athletes to play the position in this Draft with the selections of Virgil Green and Julius Thomas. Selecting Orlando Franklin in the second round was a major reach, but at least he has some potential to fill the Broncos’ void at right tackle.
The Broncos did fail to fill their biggest need, that being the defensive tackle position, but by significantly improving the linebacker, safety, and tight end units, Denver accomplished alot in this Draft. Overall, they grade out with a B+, for they accomplished much of what they needed to while getting good value throughout the Draft.