5 OL Prospects Denver Broncos Should Be Monitoring at the Combine
The Denver Broncos may be targeting at least one player for the offensive line in the 2016 NFL draft. Entering this offseason, there are perhaps four of the five starting spots on the offensive line that are up in the air for the 2016 season.
With the NFL Scouting Combine this week in Indianapolis, the Broncos will get an up-close-and-personal look at the incoming crop of offensive line talent.
General manager John Elway has been with the team as an executive for five drafts, starting in 2011. In each draft, Elway has taken a defensive player in the first round—or at least as his first pick since he traded out of the first round to take defensive end Derek Wolfe in the 2012 NFL draft.
This may be the year Elway snares some offensive help for the Broncos with their first pick. Analyzing the players at the combine is an important part of the process, and the offensive line needs a near-complete rebuild for the upcoming season.
Here are five offensive line prospects the Broncos should be monitoring at the combine.
Christian Westerman, OG, Arizona State
The Broncos have question marks across the offensive line, especially on the interior of their line at guard. Evan Mathis is set to be an unrestricted free agent, and the left guard position may be open. Louis Vasquez didn’t look like a great fit for the zone-blocking system, and there’s a chance the Broncos release the veteran to find a better fit.
Christian Westerman from Arizona State should be on the Broncos radar.
A fine athlete, Westerman has the initial quickness to move well laterally at the line of scrimmage. A student of the game, he has shown the ability on film to work effectively when asked to combo block. He’ll get off the line quickly, then he does a good job of latching on to a moving target at the linebacker level of the defense.
Westerman checks in at 6’3”, 296 pounds, and he may need to add 10 pounds of muscle to better move the pile. In short-yardage situations, Westerman can lose ground and get pushed back. Better playing strength would help him grind out the tough blocks inside.
NFLDraftScout.com rated Westerman as a second- or third-round pick. His athleticism makes him a great fit for what Denver does. While taking him in the first round might be too high, the Broncos should have Westerman on their board during the second day of the draft.
Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford
This draft class isn’t chock-full of great talent at the guard position. The Broncos may want to consider any guard available in free agency, but they also may consider Stanford guard Joshua Garnett.
Two things stand out when watching Garnett on film: lower-body strength and hand usage.
Garnett has a thick lower body, which helps him move opponents with ease. He understands leverage and keeps his pads low when coming out of his stance. He has violent-striking hands and can disengage an opponent quickly. Once free, Garnett uses his hands to punch and push defenders out of his way.
While a naturally violent player, Garnett’s aggression can work against him. His technique and footwork will suffer at times, as he’s too busy trying to maul an opponent on every snap. In order to play up to his potential, Garnett is going to have to play with more discipline while maintaining that aggression.
NFLDraftScout.com rated Garnett as a second- or third-round pick. While more of a power player, the 6'4", 317-pounder seems to have the athleticism necessary to work in the zone-blocking system.
Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
The Broncos should also be looking at the tackle position in the draft. A player who may not exactly fit their zone-blocking system—but could be on their radar—is Michigan State’s Jack Conklin.
While not the most athletic tackle, Conklin is a mauler who loves to dominate at the point of attack.
Measuring in at 6’6”, 325 pounds, Conklin has one of the best size/strength combinations of any tackle in this draft class. He does a good job using his hands to control defenders as a run-blocker, and Conklin works well in unison with the guards next to him. He is unafraid of any challenge he faces and will work hard through the whistle.
Conklin may struggle with speed-rushers on the left side at the pro level. However, he could be a starter from day one if inserted as a right tackle during his rookie year.
NFLDraftScout.com rated Conklin as a first-round pick and the 24th overall prospect. There’s a good chance Conklin is off the board by the time Denver picks at No. 31 overall. The Broncos will be prepared in case he falls to them—or if he falls within striking distance where they can trade up to get him.
Shon Coleman, OT, Auburn
A player we can all root for is offensive tackle Shon Coleman from Auburn. Diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, Coleman spent more than two years battling and defeating cancer. He’s worked his way up the ranks, and now he may go off the board on the first day of the draft.
Coleman is a mountain of a man, measuring in at 6’6”, 313 pounds. He has a long wingspan that helps him ensnare defenders tasked with getting by him. He’s an aggressive player who plays with a nasty streak where he works to dominate and intimidate an opponent. His punch could stunt Superman, and Coleman uses his upper-body strength to toy with unprepared defenders.
He’ll need to improve his footwork in order to play up to his potential in the pros. While a physical player, Coleman lacks discipline and will sometimes bend too far at rushers trying to get around him.
NFLDraftScout.com rated Coleman as a first- or second-round pick and their 39th overall prospect. If he checks out medically at the combine, Coleman could easily be a first-round pick with the potential to start at either tackle position in the pros.
Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
The zone-blocking system requires the offensive linemen to be laterally agile after the snap. Jason Spriggs from Indiana has the athleticism required to shine in the Broncos offense.
Spriggs is tall at 6’5”, and he’s agile at a svelte 301 pounds. He’s a knee-bender who does a good job of timing his punch after the snap. Spriggs understands leverage and can use his long arms to get under defenders' pads and control them around the edge.
He’s not a power player, instead relying on guile and athleticism on the edge. There is a concern about his setup against speedy edge-rushers, which he needs to address quickly.
NFLDraftScout.com rated Spriggs as a second-round pick. The Broncos would want him as a tackle, but Spriggs does have the skill set to play anywhere across the line in a zone-blocking system.
All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via the Broncos' media department unless otherwise noted. Advanced stats via ESPN's employees-only database.