Denver Broncos 2012 NFL Draft Picks: Grades, Results and Analysis

Keith Thomas@@Keith_Thomas11Contributor IIIApril 26, 2012

Denver Broncos 2012 NFL Draft Picks: Grades, Results and Analysis

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    After the quietest of openings to the NFL draft for the Broncos, they now appear ready, finally, to make a splash on Day 2 of the 2012 selection show.

    With vice president John Elway leading the charge, Denver traded away any hopes of drafting in this year's opening round—opting out of its original pick at No. 25 and then the 31st pick as part of that trade.

    So the unanswered questions for Broncos fans—will the Broncos look to surround the future Hall-of-Fame quarterback with some young talented wide receivers and/or beefy offensive linemen, or will the Broncos look to build on an already up-and-coming defensive squad?—remained that way overnight and into the second day of the draft.

    This is a huge draft for the Broncos, and we're going to track, analyze and grade each of Denver's draft picks right here, so check back often to get the most comprehensive coverage of this year's selection show from start to finish.




Denver Broncos Draft Overview

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    Look on the bright side Bronco fans—Denver made no actual drafting mistakes on Day 1 of the 2012 NFL draft. By trading out of the first round, the Broncos assured that they didn't wreck their draft right out of the gate.

    When Denver finally did get to pick, it wasn't exactly a series of scripted moves.

    Although the Broncos shocked no one by taking a defensive tackle early in the draft, the name Derek Wolfe was a little surprising. Similarly, getting a backup for Peyton Manning to be the future of the franchise was a known priority, though ASU's Brock Osweiler wasn't the name everyone necessarily had in mind.

    Denver rapped up Day No. 2 by trading up in the third round to select SDSU talented running back Ronnie Hillman.

    This leaves the Broncos with half their picks still to be made on the final day, so stay tuned.

    Below is a brief glance of Denver's draft order, which gets exciting near the end of the third round with the Broncos making four out of 33 picks. Click through each slide to learn all you need to know about each of the newest members of the Broncos.

    Round 1, Denver traded out of its first-round pick twice, to the point that they no longer had a first-round selection.

    Round 2, Pick 4 (36th Overall): Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati

    Round 2, Pick 25 (57th Overall): Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State

    Round 3, Pick 4 (67th Overall, From Cleveland): Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State

    Round 4, Pick 6 (101st Overall, From Jacksonville): Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State

    Round 4, Pick 13 (108th Overall, From NY Jets): Phillip Blake, C, Baylor

    Round 5, Pick 2 (137th Overall, From St. Louis): Malik Jackson, DE, Tennessee

    Round 6, Pick 18 (188th Overall, From NY Jets): Danny Trevathan, OLB, Kentucky



Round 2, Pick 4: Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati

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    Although the Broncos didn't surprise anyone by drafting a defensive tackle with the first pick of this year's draft, it was the name of Cincinnati's Derek Wolfe that caught some off guard.

    Despite the fact that many thought the Broncos would go after Michigan State's Jerel Worthy or Penn State's Devon Still, John Elway's group selected the 6-5, 296-pound Wolfe with the 36th overall pick to help upgrade the middle of a defensive line in need.

    Still, Wolfe is no slouch.

    In 2011, he became the first Cincinnati Bearcat to win the Big East Defensive Player of the Year award after leading the conference in tackles-for-loss with 21.5. He also recorded 9.5 sacks and 70 tackles during his senior campaign.


    STRENGTHS: Wolfe is a classic Elway and John Fox guy—a very heady and knowledgeable player who understands both the game and where he fits into the defensive unit. His other strengths are that he's got tremendous football strength with a keen ability to fight off blocks, and his speed and ability to rush the passer are better than average considering he's nearly 300 pounds.

    WEAKNESSES: Although he can get to the quarterback well for a big guy, he's thought to be a little slow off the line in run game pursuit and becomes invisible against a double-team.

    Grade: C+

    If Wolfe gets into Broncos camp and improves his technique and works on his footwork, he has the ability to turn into a good player for Denver.

    But it seems like a pick that Denver reached for—one they could've gambled on later in the draft—especially considering that the Broncos have seven more total selections and two more on Friday alone.

    Could be a good pick, but it's hard to believe it was a good pick this early.

Round 2, Pick 25: Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State

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    It's no secret that the Broncos need a backup quarterback for veteran Peyton Manning, and with the 57th overall pick, Elway selected who they hope will be the QB of the future in Denver—Arizona State's Brock Osweiler.

    Replacing Manning is a tall order, so all Elway did was go out and grab the tallest quarterback in the game. At 6-7, Osweiler will scan defenses at nearly 5,287 feet above sea level in Denver.

    And even though Manning has an obvious short shelf life as he enters his 15th season, many fans will question if Osweiler is the guy for that role.


    STRENGTHS: For a big, lanky QB, Osweiler gets rid of the ball very quickly and has a delivery that seems natural and unaffected by his size. Additionally, being that long, he has a strong arm capable of making nearly any throw expected of him at the professional level. He has the obvious advantage of seeing over any defensive line he'll face at any level.

    He's a heady player and natural leader with an easy going demeanor.

    WEAKNESSES: His decision-making-ability has been questioned in recent times, which is a natural concern for a guy who has only started 15 career collegiate games at ASU (that lack of big-game experience is also a concern). When rushed, he has a tendency to force throws and turn the ball over.

    Still, considering his biggest knock is his decision making, Osweiler couldn't ask for a better quarterback to learn from, as Manning is one of the greatest orchestrators of offense ever to play the game.

    Grade: B-

    Again, this pick feels like a bit of a reach, but Elway, coach John Fox and the Bronco braintrust spent a lot of time with Osweiler earlier and feel like this is their guy. 

    I doubt, however, that this backup QB will have the fan-led billboard support that a certain No. 2 quarterback had in Denver a year ago.

Round 3, Pick 4 (From Cleveland): Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State

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    Although Ronnie Hillman only played two seasons at San Diego State, the speedy scat-back left his mark as a former All-MWC performer and first-team freshman All-American in 2010.

    The following season, in 2011, Hillman broke the Mountain West Conference single-season rushing record when he ran for 1,656 yards with 19 rushing touchdowns. 

    Heading into last season, Hillman was listed on a few different Heisman Trophy preseason watch lists.


    STRENGTHS: No matter what the difference is between speed and quickness, Hillman's got both. And to go along with his speedy running, Hillman's got great cutting ability and field vision, and once he gets into the open, he's nearly impossible to catch from behind.

    He may not power over many backs, but he'll make a few miss from time to time.

    WEAKNESSES: At just 5-9, 200 pounds, size may be the only real issue for Hillman. He's a bit inexperienced in big games, leaving SDSU after just two seasons.

    With running back health an issue for the last couple of seasons, look for Hillman to see the field early and often in Denver.

    Grade: A-

    This is a solid overall selection for the Broncos. Even though many were thinking Denver would go out and lock up a wideout with this pick, utilizing Hillman in short-yardage situations with a check-down-style quarterback like Manning will make this pick pay off.


Round 4, Pick 6 (From Jacksonville): Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State

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    It's no secret that one of Denver's goals in this year's draft was to add depth and get younger in the defensive backfield. But the first person selected to lead the re-staffing of said secondary is a little bit surprising.

    By most accounts, ASU cornerback Omar Bolden is a talented corner and gifted athlete. That, however, doesn't make this a risky pick for the Broncos, as they continue to surprise with picks in the fourth round of this year's NFL draft.

    Bolden is coming off a missed 2011 season following a torn ACL.

    Prior to the injury, 5-10, 200-pound Bolden was a first-team All-Pac-10 performer following a stellar 2010 campaign. 


    STRENGTHS: Bolden is your classic cover corner and excels in both man and zone defensive schemes. When healthy, Bolden is fast and has great body control and great hands.

    Additionally, Bolden can double as a kick/punt returner, and has explosive speed when he hits the hole.

    WEAKNESSES: Hate to use the phrase damaged goods, but it's a delicate situation any time you select a player coming off such a major injury. Sure, many players have had brilliant post-ACL careers, but it's still a gamble to see how he returns from the injury—especially for a player who relies on speed and cuts so much.

    Other weaknesses, when healthy, include making occasional misreads of defenses, though he has great recovery speed to bail himself out.

    Grade: C-

    No one doubts that Bolden was one of the greatest athletes in college football—two years ago. His health, however, is a major concern. And it's one that could have been a gamble for a much later round, especially considering there were still many strong cornerback candidates on the board for the Broncos to choose from.

    If this pick happens in the sixth or seventh rounds, it's a much higher grade.


Round 4, Pick 13 (From NY Jets): Phillip Blake, C, Baylor

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    Although a late bloomer—didn't even play football until his senior year of high school—Baylor's Phillip Blake has picked it up quickly, becoming a three-year starter for a Bears' offensive line that protected quarterback Robert Griffin III well enough for him to win the 2011 Heisman Trophy.

    Blake was a first-team All-Big 12 pick in 2011 and was honorable mention all-conference as a junior in 2010.


    STRENGTHS: At 6-3, 311 pounds, Blake is a big strong guy that grades out well in both pass protection as well as blocking in the running game.

    In addition to playing center the last two years at Baylor, he was the team's starting right tackle his sophomore season. And considering a natural positional switch is from center to guard, Blake has the versatility to give Denver instant depth on the O-line in several spots.

    Considering he's only played organized football for four years, the upside is unknown for Blake.

    WEAKNESSES: His lack of big-game experience over the course of a career is perhaps of slight concern. His raw skill set and technique will need some refining to become a dominant starter at the NFL level, and will need to improve his overall agility.

    These are things, however, that can easily be addressed with the use of the professional-level training programs and facilities.

    Grade: B+

    For years now, the Broncos know offensive linemen. When it comes to drafting gems in the later rounds of the NFL draft, in Denver we trust. But what makes Blake a sharp selection at this late in the draft, is his untapped talent and positional diversity along the line.

Round 5, Pick 2 (From St. Louis): Malik Jackson, DE, Tennessee

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    Denver's defensive reloading continued in Round 5 by adding its first defensive end of the draft—Tennessee's Malik Jackson.

    The 6-5, 284-pound DE has had an interesting road to Denver, beginning his career at USC and transferring out after his sophomore season amid program chaos, and ended at Tennessee as an impact player for the Volunteers. Jackson was a second-team All-SEC selection in 2010.


    STRENGTHS: Jackson is quick off the ball and has a big, long body that helps him turn corners. He's got good leverage and control of his body and should be able to help add some depth on the outside for Denver.

    WEAKNESSES: Despite his size, it is thought that Jackson needs to get in the weight room and get stronger if he is to have success with battling bigger, stronger offensive linemen in the NFL. He's still a little untested and raw, which is somewhat understandable considering the path he took to get to the draft. That, however, should be an easy fix considering he can be a little developmental, as he won't be expected to start any time soon.

    Grade: B-

    Jackson's got great athletic ability and potential. And even though he needs some work and experience, considering he was an all-conference selection in the SEC, which is a D-linemen power conference, he's got the skills to play on Sundays.

Round 6, Pick 18 (From NY Jets): Danny Trevathan, OLB, Kentucky

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    With the selection of Kentucky outside linebacker Danny Trevathan, it looks as though the Broncos decided to avoid going for any wide receiver weapons for Peyton Manning's offense this year.

    At any rate, backing up the defense was also a priority that was no secret, and the addition of Trevathan supports that theory. And it even has the smell of a late-round steal.

    Trevathan is the first ever Kentucky linebacker to earn first-team All-America honors following a senior season that saw him lead the SEC in tackles for the second-straight season, which is quite the feat in that defensively stacked power conference.

    His 11.92 tackles per game was good enough for fifth in the nation while his five forced fumbles led the country and his four interceptions from the linebacker position was second. Indeed, Trevathan was a tackling and turnover-creating machine.

    Trevathan received All-America and all-conference consideration his junior year in 2010 as well.


    STRENGTHS: His speed and lateral movement allow him to get to the ball regardless of the ball carrier, which is why he's the two-time SEC leading tackler. He sniffs out and causes turnovers, and can even cover well in the pass game. He has great instincts for the position and a nose for the football.

    He's a gifted athlete and has great hands.

    WEAKNESSES: At 6-0, 237 pounds, Trevathan looks a little more like a small running back than a linebacker. As a result of him being undersized, and subsequently not as strong, he has a hard time shedding blocks at times.

    But he has great recovery speed when initially blocked out of plays, which is evident by his 374 career tackles.

    Grade: B+

    Though undersized, the Broncos can bulk Trevathan up to Sunday size. And if they're able to do that, this kid has the positional instincts and athletic ability to see the field for coach John Fox' Broncos. Considering what Trevathan was able to do in the SEC, he might end up being a steal for Denver.