Let me just start this off by saying that I hate the concept of grading a draft before th..."/> Let me just start this off by saying that I hate the concept of grading a draft before th..."/>

Grading the Denver Broncos Draft


Let me just start this off by saying that I hate the concept of grading a draft before the players even take the field. However, names on paper is all we have right now, so I hope you will take these grades and every grade I give in the future with the thought in mind that I’m not grading how these guys will perform, but how the value of the player picked matches my personal opinion of where they should go.

The Denver Broncos had one of the worst seasons in franchise history, and had the worst defense in the NFL. They also have a void at right tackle with the impending departure of Ryan Harris, and the worst group of tight ends in the NFL.

Keep in mind, the Broncos have one defensive tackle on their roster, and as a fan of the team, you can imagine my dismay when they did not pick one. However, free agency is going to happen after the draft, and the Broncos have said all along they would pick the best player on their board, regardless of position. They certainly stuck to that strategy, and one of the least talented teams in the NFL just added nine players in a pretty talented draft class.

1. Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M

This pick was a home run for the Broncos. Miller can help any team in so many different ways. He has size, speed, pass rush ability–the whole nine yards. This guy is a gamer, and he has been a consistent performer for the Aggies since he was a Freshman All-American back in 2007.

People can question the fit of Miller in a 4-3 scheme all they want, but the bottom line is the Broncos aren’t asking him to be a safety or corner when it comes to covering guys, even though he is faster than a lot of receivers in this league. Miller will play a Derrick Thomas or Clay Matthews type of role, and with defensive gurus John Fox and Dennis Allen aboard, the Broncos will find the best way to use his skills.

In my opinion, it takes someone who lacks basic knowledge of football to say that Miller can’t fit a 4-3 just because he hasn’t played it. Clay Matthews started one year at USC in a 4-3 scheme, and now he is one of the best hybrid “joker” linebackers in the NFL. You tell me the logic behind that one.

Bottom line–Miller is a great football player, and great football players play well in any scheme. He’s not being asked to be a coverage linebacker. He will do exactly what he is good at, which is get to the quarterback and cause opposing offensive coordinators to lose sleep, especially with Elvis Dumervil in the same defense. This is a passing league, and the Broncos just added two Pro Bowl players (Miller, Dumervil) to their front seven this offseason (Dumervil missed all of 2010 with torn pectoral).

Pick Grade: A+

2. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA

At the time of this selection, I was scratching my head. The Broncos have some young guys at safety, and need defensive tackles. However, they don’t have anyone quite like this on the roster. Moore had 11 picks the last two seasons, and dramatically improved his tackling skills in 2010. He will not be an in the box safety, but he will use his superior instincts and ball-hawking skills to create turnovers on the back end for the Broncos.

Moore was the first safety off the board, and the Broncos got him at 45 overall. So, you get the best safety in the draft with the 45th overall pick, and you not only do that, but you move down 9 slots and pick up extra picks in the process? Big win for the Broncos. This guy will take over as the starting free safety in no time.

Pick Grade: A

3. Orlando Franklin, OT/OL, Miami

Franklin is a big, road grading offensive lineman who played guard at Miami but will probably play right tackle for the Broncos. I have heard from Miami fans that he is best utilized in phone booth situations, and that may be so. The Broncos are losing Ryan Harris to free agency, whenever that comes, and adding Franklin allows them to sign him to a lower tender or let him go entirely depending on the status of the CBA.

Franklin is a massive player with great strength, and adds nastiness to the Broncos’ offensive line. If he can open some holes for the Broncos’ running game, it will really add a dimension to the offense that they did not have last year. The Broncos have not had a 1,000 yard rusher since Tatum Bell in 2006, so this was a solid pick. It wasn’t flashy, and there are mixed reviews about the value here.

Pick Grade: B-

4. Nate Irving, LB, North Carolina State

This was quite possibly the most shrewd selection of the Broncos’ entire draft. Nate Irving is a guy who brings the toughness and intensity that the Broncos have been seriously lacking at inside linebacker since Al Wilson hurt his neck in 2006. With this pick, the Broncos kill two birds with one stone. They get a great leader at the MIKE linebacker position, and they also get a starter at that spot.

This move allows the Broncos to use Joe Mays in rotation, where he was extremely productive last year, and also use him in a special teams role. Irving has great range and can also be one of the more effective third down linebackers coming through the middle of the offensive line. He was always in the backfield at NC State, and he could be a DeMeco Ryans type of steal for the Broncos.

Pick Grade: A

5. Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma

In the second round, the Broncos picked up the top safety in the draft. In the fourth round, they pick up our second best rated safety in the draft, as well as a 2nd-3rd round graded player in Quinton Carter, the head hunter from Oklahoma. Carter can play free or strong safety, and for the Broncos, he will most likely learn under one of the best in Brian Dawkins. Carter is a bone-jarring hitter with great range and quickness, and has arguably the best closing speed of any player in this year’s safety class.

Simply put, the value of this pick was fantastic, and the Broncos continued to stay true to their board here. Carter is a guy that can come in and learn for a year under Dawkins, and possibly give the Broncos a physical LB/S hybrid guy on third downs to cover tight ends and running backs while Von Miller rushes the quarterback.

Excellent pick by Brian Xanders, John Elway, and John Fox here.

Pick Grade: A

6. Julius Thomas, TE, Portland State

The Broncos felt they liked the former basketball player and hot rising TE prospect enough to jump back into the late fourth round to get him, and he was the only player through the whole draft that they actually moved up to get. I don’t question the Broncos’ board here, but I had “mocked” them Thomas in the sixth round. He is a supreme athlete with great pass receiving skills, but he is still very raw.

The Broncos have the coaching needed to develop Thomas into a “Gates” type of tight end, but again, he will need time. He could be in line to be the starter this year, though, so this was another pick where the Broncos addressed that type of need. I love the risk/reward potential with this pick. It’s been a while since the Broncos hit on a fourth round pick, but they just might have hit on two picks in a row here.

Pick Grade: B

7. Mike Mohamed, LB, California

The Broncos took their third linebacker in Mike Mohamed, a 6’3″ 239 pound kid who is one of the better coverage linebackers in the draft. This guy has range, special teams ability, and the leadership qualities that the Broncos look for in a prospect. Low risk, high reward type of pick here in the sixth round, and a guy who will initially make his mark on the team by playing and excelling on the special teams unit. Nothing flashy here, just a solid pick for depth.

Pick Grade: B

8. Virgil Green, TE, Nevada

Broncos swing for the fences with this pick, and at least for now I think they hit this one out of the park. Green was a late rising prospect who absolutely blew up the Scouting Combine with his workouts, impressing every team along the way. Injury concerns pushed him to the 7th round, but I had him graded as a potential 4th round pick, and some scouts thought he could sneak into the second day.

He really had no business still being on the board early in the 7th round, so the Broncos got themselves a huge steal at that spot, taking a guy who can play the H-back/tight end/Dallas Clark role for them. This pick has high upside, and could really pay dividends for the Broncos. I think Green could play a Tony Scheffler/Jeff King type of role for the Broncos, only he has phenomenal speed and athleticism.

Pick Grade: A

9. Jeremy Beal, DE, Oklahoma

Another pick of excellent value, and a guy who easily could have gone in the fourth round based on his production and consistency at Oklahoma as a pass rusher. We’re talking about a guy who had 27 sacks the last three years, and a player who works his butt off on every play. He walked on at Oklahoma because he didn’t pass their athletic (Combine style) tests. Well, he pretty much failed those again in Indianapolis, and now in the 7th round, he has a chip on his shoulder.

I really like this pick for the Broncos, and I think at worst Beal finds himself on the practice squad this season as a “redshirt” type of year. He could easily crack the Broncos’ rotation at DE.

Pick Grade: B+

Denver Broncos Overall Draft Grade: A

Balanced class with tons of talent coming in. The Broncos’ last two drafts could bring them upwards of 10 starting players, and possibly more in the next couple of years.

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