Denver Broncos Draft Stock Watch: Players Rising and Falling on Denver's Board
Most of the big moves in free agency have transpired. The Denver Broncos were extremely active during the first week of the process, adding many quality starters to the roster. Now, they will look to the draft to continue piecing together the depth chart.
Any other free agents added at this time may not alter their plan for the draft. Even the big-name players they’ve added at certain positions like wide receiver or cornerback may not change what they do in the draft.
Mike Klis, of the Denver Post, said in a recent interview on CJ and Les (ESPN Denver) that the Broncos were not going to take cornerback or wide receiver off their board in the first round just because they added Aqib Talib and Emmanuel Sanders.
So who could the Broncos be warming and cooling on?
Here’s a look at some of the players who could be rising and falling on the Broncos’ draft board.
Rising: C.J. Mosley
The Broncos failed to find a new middle linebacker in free agency. C.J. Mosley (Alabama) could be their top target in the draft this year. Mosley is a coveted middle linebacker who can cover, and he won’t come off the field on third downs.
Per Mike Klis, of the Denver Post, if Mosley fell to the 31st overall pick, the Broncos would certainly select him.
It’s been a long time since the Broncos have had an enforcer at the middle linebacker position. They need to get back to the days of “Smoke Dog” Al Wilson, and Mosley could be the player to do just that.
Mosley also fits the theme of the offseason additions so far—attitude. He plays with a mean streak, and Mosley loves to create big hits that can force the ball out.
As other players rise up the first-round board, Mosley seems to be slipping just a bit. He’s not slipping on Denver’s board, and they may even move up to select him if he gets close enough to their 31st overall pick.
Falling: Dee Ford
Denver could still be looking for pass-rushers, but perhaps not in the first round. We may see the Broncos focus their attention on another part of the defense with their initial pick.
According to Jeff Legwold, of ESPN.com, the Broncos are still open to bringing defensive end Shaun Phillips back (if the price is right). Phillips led all Broncos last year with 10 sacks, but he’s not getting much interest on the open market.
Dee Ford (Auburn) is a talented player, and the Broncos could certainly use a pass-rusher like him in a part-time role.
At this time, the Broncos seem content to move forward with what they have in place. We’ll see if Quanterus Smith (a fifth-round pick last year) can give them extra depth as a pass-rusher in 2014.
Rising: Ryan Shazier
Position versatility is a great attribute for any young player. The Broncos have used such players like Ryan Shazier (Ohio State) in the past with great success.
With the speed and agility to play outside or inside linebacker, Shazier makes for an intriguing prospect.
He can find the ball quickly, and he arrives at the ball-carrier with a thud. Shazier understands how to scrape-and-flow down the line of scrimmage to elude blockers at the second level. His nose for the football and understanding of pursuit angles help him fly to the ball.
Shazier is also rangy enough to adequately cover receivers or tight ends on passing downs. This skill set makes him an ideal fit for the Broncos.
They have not found the answer at middle linebacker just yet, so Shazier could compete for playing time immediately. He could also work as an outside linebacker for the Broncos, giving them depth behind either Danny Trevathan or Von Miller.
Falling: Stephon Tuitt
The Broncos added a defensive tackle last year in the first round when they selected Sylvester Williams at 28th overall. Going back to that position again this year in the first round doesn’t look like an option for Denver.
They will look for Williams to do more in his second year with the team. At the NFL’s owners meetings, Broncos head coach John Fox gave some insight as to what the team expects from the second-year pro.
Per Jeff Legwold of ESPN, Fox said “I thought he had a very good rookie year ... and his track record has shown he's going to be a good player."
The Broncos are going to also get Kevin Vickerson back from the hip injury that cost him about half of the season in 2013. “Big Vick” and Williams will compete for playing time opposite “Pot Roast” Terrance Knighton in the middle of the defensive line.
While Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame) is a disruptive player, it seems like connecting him with the Broncos in the first round is a mistake.
Rising: Kyle Fuller
Even though the team added Aqib Talib in free agency, the Broncos could be in the market for more cornerback depth in the draft. This slide could be about Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech), Jason Verrett (TCU) or Bradley Roby (Ohio State).
Talib is a talented player, but the veteran corner has never played a full 16-game season in his six-year NFL career. The Broncos need to add some insurance in case the injury bug hits Talib again.
Verrett has the athleticism to stick with most any receiver down the sidelines. He does a good job transitioning out of his backpedal, and Verrett attacks the ball in the air. Verrett’s only downside is a lack of size, but he has speed and instincts to make up for that.
Like Verrett, Roby lacks ideal size for the position. Roby does have blazing speed, and he can mirror receivers throughout the entire route tree. Even when he takes a false step, Roby has the recovery speed to quickly make up for his mistake.
Fuller is a big, physical corner—and he may be the best fit for the Broncos.
He has great anticipation, and Fuller will break on the ball as it comes in to the receiver. His length gives him an advantage over smaller corners because he can reach the edge of nearly any passing window. Fuller also has the leaping ability to consistently knock away jump-ball passes.
If the Broncos want to add more competition at the cornerback position, then one of these three players might be the answer. Fuller is the most Talib-like out of the bunch, and he could certainly be their first-round pick.
Falling: David Yankey
After losing Zane Beadles to the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency, the team needs to address the interior of the offensive line. At this time, the Broncos may be leaning towards an in-house option over selecting a premium guard in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
The Broncos could move right tackle Orlando Franklin inside to left guard. Former Broncos left guard (and current ESPN analyst) Mark Schlereth believes that guard is the best position for Franklin.
By moving Franklin inside, the team could then use swing tackle Chris Clark at right tackle. Second-year pro Vinston Painter could then win the job as the team’s swing tackle.
Mike Klis, from the Denver Post, even considers former defensive lineman Ben Garland a sleeper candidate for the left guard opening.
Every clue gathered this offseason about the left guard position points to Denver using a player already on the team. This means a talented guard like David Yankey (Stanford) may be falling down the Broncos draft board.
Rising: Weston Richburg
Finding a good center for your football team is not easy. Centers who can start for 10-plus years are a rare commodity, and teams are always on the lookout for a guy like that.
Weston Richburg (Colorado State) may be that guy.
Richburg has the athleticism to get to the second level and be a “sticky” blocker when opening up holes for the ground game. He also has the footwork to provide great protection for the quarterback.
At Colorado State, Richburg controlled the line calls and he’s familiar with an offense that calls an audible frequently.
In a recent interview on Ridin’ Shotgun (ESPN Denver), offensive line expert Matt Bitonti (DraftDaddy.com) compared Richburg to former Colts center Jeff Saturday. Of course, Saturday and Peyton Manning were close teammates for many years in Indianapolis. Adding a young version of Manning’s old center could be the right move for Denver.
Picking at the end of the round, there’s a chance that Richburg won’t be on the board when the Broncos pick in the second round. This means he could actually be in play for the Broncos in the first.
Adding a rare center prospect may change the plan to replace Zane Beadles on the offensive line. Richburg is a quality center, and his addition could move last year’s center Manny Ramirez back to his more natural position of guard.
Falling: Kelvin Benjamin
The Broncos made a big splash in free agency when they signed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. They’ll use Sanders to replace Eric Decker (New York Jets), but adding another wide receiver in the draft is not out of the question.
Kelvin Benjamin (Florida State) may not be their ideal target in the first round.
He’s big (6’5”) like Demaryius Thomas, but Benjamin lacks the refinement to his game that would make him a great fit.
Benjamin has good body control and hand-eye coordination to go along with speed and short-area quickness. He can be a threat in the red zone because of his size and wingspan, and those skills alone will give him value as a pro.
However, Benjamin is not a refined route-runner. He will battle for contested passes because he fails to get open consistently. Faster NFL defensive backs should be able to jump all over his sloppy routes.
Benjamin is a big man, but at times it seems like he doesn’t know how to use his frame properly. He will let too many passes into his body, and Benjamin will have some bad drops from time to time.
He’s a boom-bust pick that doesn’t really fit what the Broncos want. With this incredibly deep draft class at wide receiver, taking a wideout in the second or third round may be the way to go.
Note: All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos. Draft grades courtesy of NFLDraftScout.com. Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.