Denver Broncos Draft Review

by Tommy Lawlor –


1 – WR Demaryius Thomas – Georgia Tech
1 – QB Tim Tebow – Florida
2 – OL Zane Beadles – Utah
3 – OC J.D. Walton – Baylor
3 – WR Eric Decker  – Minnesota
5 – CB Perrish Cox – Oklahoma State
6 – OC Eric Olsen – Notre Dame
7 – CB Syd’quan Thompson – Cal
7 – LB Jammie Kirlew – Indiana

The Broncos traded WR Brandon Marshall so we knew they needed a WR.  Would they take Dez Bryant early on?  No.  They traded out of their early pick.  Then with the 22nd pick in the draft they took Demaryius Thomas from Ga Tech.  Very interesting.  Thomas has tremendous upside, but he is very raw.  Josh McDaniels saw the impact that a guy like Randy Moss can have on defenses.  Thomas isn’t quite on Moss’ level, but he’s a similar type of player in that he’s big (6’3, 225) and a very dangerous downfield receiver.  Thomas was a big play machine at Ga Tech.  I don’t know if he can ever be a workhorse receiver (100 catch type), but his playmaking potential would be huge for the Broncos.  Eddie Royal has shown in the past that he can be a possession receiver if needed.  Thomas would stretch the field and open up running lanes for Knowshon Moreno.  

The Broncos traded back into the 1st round so they could select QB Tim Tebow.  I had a feeling that Denver would end up with him.  This pick is complicated to evaluate because Tebow is such a polarizing player.  Let’s look at this a few ways.  I personally wasn’t real high on Tebow as a QB prospect.  There is potential, but a lot of issues to overcome (mechanics, footwork, passing skills, coming from spread offense).  QBs that need that much work make me nervous.  The Broncos targeted Tebow and were aggressive in going after him.  While I’m not keen on the pick, I do like the way they went about it.

Josh McDaniels didn’t just take Tebow because he was still around.  Denver made the decision prior to the draft that “this is our guy…let’s go get him”.  They knew what they were getting into and had a plan.  I can’t overstate how important that is.  You don’t take a player like Tebow on a whim.  You need to embrace him and his issues.  Also, this has to be an organizational pick.  You need ownership, the Personnel Dept., and coaching staff to all be on the same page.  I’ve not heard any scuttlebutt about this being a split pick.  Remember Vince Young and the draft?  There were rumors of a disagreement between Norm Chow, Jeff Fisher, and Floyd Reese.  Chow left in a year or two.  Reese got canned.  Jeff and Vince are still there and working things out.  Denver as a whole seems to like Tebow.

From a value standpoint I didn’t like the pick at all.  I just don’t think you take a project that early.  QBs get over-drafted each year, but Tebow is such a developmental risk that I think trading back into the 1st round was a bit much.  McDaniels clearly believes in Tebow and would argue that he was too good to risk losing.  I understand his thinking, but disagree with it.  Time will tell who is right.  We saw how far Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy fell.  It would have been real interesting to see where Tebow would have gone if Denver hadn’t moved up.

Tebow is a high character player.  He embraces pressure and tough situations.  He’s got a great work ethic.  He’ll do everything he can to make it as a QB in the league.  Still, desire and effort aren’t always enough for NFL QB.  That is a highly skilled position that requires skill and talent.  By the summer of 2011 we should have an idea whether the Tebow experiment is on the right track or heading to oblivion.

With the next pick Denver went for OL Zane Beadles from Utah.  He played LT in college, but projects to OG in the NFL.  Beadles is a versatile, experienced, tough player, but I was surprised to see him taken in the 2nd round.  At the Senior Bowl you could see his limitations.  He’s physically overmatched by top flight DL.  Zane has to outwork his opponents and be technically profiecent to be really effective.  He’s got a limited ceiling, but I do like him as a prospect and he can provide stability at all 3 interior spots.  Zane could also slide outside to OT in an emergency.  I think of him as a lesser version of Andy Levitre, who the Bills took in the 2nd last year.  Andy had a good rookie year.  We’ll see if Beadles can match that.

The Broncos went right back to the interior line in the 3rd round and grabbed  OC J.D. Walton.  This was a reach to fill a need.  Denver had no good solution at Center.  They took Walton with the hope that he could win the job right away.  Right now he’s on pace to be the starting OC.  I thought Walton was a solid player at Baylor, but he never looked like Top 100 material to me.  If you approach this from the angle that they had to land a Center I guess the pick does make some sense.  I prefer that Top 100 picks go to Top 100 type players.  Walton never did anything at Baylor or in the pre-draft process to truly stand out as a top player.  Take him in the 4th and I’m fine with it.  Pick 80?  Not so much.

Denver had another 3rd round pick and took WR Eric Decker from Minnesota.  Excellent choice.  Decker was a player that just about everyone loved, but injury concerns hurt his value.  Decker missed half the year with a foot injury and it kept him sidelined through the pre-draft process.  He is hoping to be back on the field by August.  Hoping, I said.  The Broncos are pleased with his progress, but foot injuries are always tricky and you really have to keep your fingers crossed.

When healthy Decker is an outstanding player.  He’s big at 6’3, 215.  He is tough and physical.  Eric will fight for the ball up in the air.  He’s not passive in the least.  We don’t officially know how athletic he is (couldn’t work out), but he made a ton of plays in college and looks very talented.  Decker could be an outstanding possession receiver.  He knows how to work the middle of the field and get open.  He’s not afraid of getting hit.  Decker was extremely productive.  Despite missing half his Senior year he finished his career with 227 catches and 24 TDs.

In the 5th round the Broncos took a chance on CB/RS Perrish Cox.  There is no question about his talent.  Cox is a solid CB and gifted returner.  He slid to the 5th due to serious character issues.  He was suspended for Oklahoma State’s bowl game and then not allowed to take part in the OSU Pro Day.  That tells you the coach was really ticked at him.  The Broncos obviously felt he was good value at this point with the risk/reward factor not as significant as if you’d invested a Top 100 type pick.  Cox has good cover skills.  He broke up 15 passes in 2009 and picked off 4.  He is a physical corner that likes to press.  Cox doesn’t have great speed, though.  He was very good on punts and kickoffs.  He ran back 2 punts and 4 kickoffs in his career.  If Cox can keep his head on straight, Denver may have gotten one of the big steals of the draft.  If Cox continues his turd ways, he’s in trouble.  With only a 5th round pick invested in him Denver won’t hesitate to cut him.

In the 6th round the Broncos once again went for an interior lineman.  They nabbed C/G Eric Olsen from Notre Dame.  Olsen has a good frame at 6’4, 306.  He is versatile and experienced.  He isn’t much of an athlete, but Denver is hoping he can develop into a backup lineman.  You don’t expect those players to be great talents.  Olsen played for Charlie Weiss at ND and now will play for Josh McDaniels in a similar offense.  That should ease his transition.

Denver had 2 picks in the 7th round.  The first pick landed them CB Syd’Quan Thompson of Cal.  I don’t think any player had a worse postseason than Thompson.  He measured in small and timed slow.  He didn’t impress at the Senior Bowl and showed his athletic limitations at the Combine.  Thompson’s game tape is fun to watch.  He is very tough and aggressive.  He hits and tackles more like a Safety than a small corner.  He plays much bigger than he is.  Unfortunately you just can’t ignore his issues.  He was great value in the 7th round.  If any player can overcome size/speed issues, Thompson is the kind of person who will get the job done.  I’ll be pulling for him to make it in the NFL, even if that’s just as a STer and role player.

The final pick went for Jammie Kirlew from Indiana.  He played DE for the Hoosiers, but will move to LB for the Broncos.  Kirlew (6’1, 264) was very productive for IU.  He finished his career with 52.5 TFLs.  Kirlew isn’t explosive, but is quick and has a very good motor.  He’s also a high character player that you can count on to give you his best.  He’ll play defense, STs, or whatever else you can ask of him.  Kirlew should handle the transition to OLB pretty well.

Josh McDaniels and the Broncos rolled the dice on several picks.  They could come out of this looking like geniuses or fools.  Tim Tebow will certainly be the pick that most determines how we judge this class.  If he becomes a competent starter, McDaniels will get a ton of credit.  If he is simply another Heisman Trophy winner that couldn’t handle the NFL, McDaniels will need to keep a copy of the want ads handy.

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