The Denver Broncos were another team that had few needs going into the 2013 NFL Draft. Between the talent pool they already had, their targeted approach to free agency, and the presence of Peyton Manning, the Broncos front office led by John Elway could use the draft as more of an opportunity to add talent rather than a place to plug holes with one unique caveat. The presence of Manning is a blessing in that he makes them a contender instantly but he also puts pressure on the draft to get players that contribute now that help him get the team to the Super Bowl in the relatively short window he is playing due to his age and the concerns with his neck. There were a few positions that stood out as positions they were likely to address but it was unclear when such as running back, defensive tackle, and adding another pass rushing threat with the unexpected loss of Elvis Dumervil. The Broncos were able to draft talented players that could contribute immediately and change the face of their team, which could help them get to the Super Bowl.
Before free agency, the logic was the Broncos would add a defensive tackle, specifically a nose guard to the middle of their line to help them stop the run. The Broncos defense was extremely effective in passing situations with their range, ability to cover especially with their linebackers, and their effectiveness rushing the passer but they were vulnerable against the run, particularly up the middle. However, when the Broncos added Terrence Knighton in free agency to fill that role from Jacksonville in what was a good, under the radar signing for them, it became more of a question as to what they would draft. And after the Dumveril mess, there was speculation they would try to immediately replace him with a first round pick. The other possibility that made sense for them was adding a middle linebacker that could help them stop the run first and foremost because they have smaller linebackers that could contribute on passing downs such as Joe Mays and Nate Irving. The trend was defense for the most part and when the pick came in, they did go defense, but they continued attacking their defensive line by adding Sylvester Williams, the defensive tackle from North Carolina.
Williams is a big but athletic defensive tackle with an impressive first step and good snap anticipation that allows him to beat his opponent off the snap. He was able to get to a point where they were forced to block his side which allowed him to disrupt plays in the run or the passing game. Williams had a nice collection of splash plays during his career, but he needs to improve at block shedding. Too often, Williams either won at the point of attack immediately or was beaten.
It is basically a given that Williams will start unless he struggles to the point where Kevin Vickerson beats him for the spot, which would be a sizable upset. Williams gives the Broncos a lot of options in terms of how they want to line up their defense. Their base defensive line is huge with Williams and Knighton in the middle with Robert Ayers and Derek Wolfe. Wolfe is a 295lb lineman that can play left end on running downs and kick inside on passing downs. Ayers is 275lbs on the other side. The hope is those guys can impose their will with a bunch of athletic linebackers who can fly around and make plays behind them with Mays, Wesley Woodyard, and Von Miller.
On passing downs, Miller moves up to a rush end type position, Wolfe can move inside, Williams can stay in, and free agent acquisition Shaun Phillips can come in on the other side in that Dumveril role and just focus on getting after the quarterback. It is a quality rotation and could have a major impact on improving their run defense as well as allow them a number of different line groups depending on the situation and the opponent.
In the second round, the Broncos made a surprising move when they selected Montee Ball, running back from Wisconsin. The Broncos were a team that made a great deal of sense for Ball, but it was a little surprising they took him there. There was plenty of speculation they would opt for Eddie Lacy. In fact, there were plenty of people projecting them to take him in round one, so it was a stunner for them they passed on him in round two.
Ball was perhaps the most reliable yet unspectacular back in the draft. He is a guy who will consistently get between three and five yards per touch but is not a threat to break off huge runs. On the other hand, he is also not a guy who is going to get knocked backward and take losses. He is a meat and potatoes type back that allows the Broncos to move the chains and let Manning continue to throw the ball. Ball is also a guy who can punch the ball in down by the goal line. They have guys who can come in and contribute in passing situations that can catch the ball and block better than Ball with whoever makes the final roster out of Willis McGahee, Ronnie Hillman, and Knowshon Moreno; an area where he has shown little. It would be stunning if he does not work his way into being the main ball carrier on first and second down especially.
The concerns over the amount of carries for Ball might have dropped him further in the draft providing a great opportunity and value for the Broncos because they need him to be good right this second as opposed to eight years from now. They needed a guy they could rely on for this year, so he was a great fit for the Broncos and made a lot of sense.
In the third round, the Broncos selected Kayvon Webster, cornerback from South Florida. The Broncos have cornerbacks who can help them for this year but Champ Bailey’s Hall of Fame career is coming to an end and while they have some guys behind him, no one has jumped out as a starting caliber player which is why they signed Dominique Rogers-Cromartie to replace Tracy Porter, who is now in Oakland. In Webeter, they get a guy who is predominately drafted on his athletic ability rather than his production in college. Webster has played a lot of football while in Tampa with a lot of experience in the three years but did not really set himself apart there based on his play. He has shown he is a guy who is willing to tackle as well but it was not until the East-West Shrine Game that Webster really stood out on his ability to play corner. He has the size, strength and speed to play in the NFL but needs to work hard and develop. It would be a smart move on his part to take advantage of every opportunity to pick Bailey’s brain on what he can do to get better in the NFL and perhaps played a part in their decision to make this move.
This is a move that seems to happen every single year where a corner shows impressive physical skills and gets drafted higher than his tape indicates. Part of this is due to the difficulty in evaluating the corner position as stats are a poor indicator of how a guy has played, so it is possible for guys to get lost in the shuffle. Last year, the Minnesota Vikings made a similar move when they picked Josh Robinson from Central Florida also in the third round. Robinson was an exceptional athlete but his merits on the field were up for some debate. In 2011, the Cleveland Browns made an investment like this of their own when they took Buster Skrine out of Chattanooga. Skrine was an exceptional athlete but extremely raw as a corner.
In the fifth round, the Broncos added a pass rusher to help them likely next year in Quanterus Smith, defensive end from Western Kentucky. Smith created a large amount of buzz when he put up three sacks in a game against Alabama early in the year and continued by putting up an impressive number of sacks before suffering an ACL tear near the end of the year, which will probably have him put on injured reserve for this season.
Smith played defensive end for the Hilltopppers but he is more likely to be moved to a linebacker in Denver’s system along similar lines as Von Miller; an outside linebacker on running downs and potentially putting his hand on the ground on passing downs. Smith has shown an impressive ability to get after the passer who likes to attack the edge and then knock down the opposing tackle’s arms to get himself free and flatten out to the quarterback for the sack. He has also shown a decent spin move and is not afraid to slant inside. Smith is a poor run defender and if teams run at him, he struggles. He is undersized for the defensive end position and plays like a run and chase linebacker when facing the ground game.
It stands to reason that the Broncos hope that after he fully recovers with his knee that he will develop and eventually take the spot that Shaun Phillips is currently holding as he gets to the end of his career. Phillips has been a tremendous player, particularly for the Chargers but his play has dropped off as of late as he has gotten older. Phillips could be a good player for Smith to watch as he came out of Purdue as a defensive end turned linebacker in the same way and plays a similar style as Smith does.
Still in the fifth round, the Broncos added Tavarres King, the wide receiver from Georgia. This is a good pick for the Broncos and serves an immediate function in their system. The Broncos have DeMaryius Thomas and Eric Decker who are solid but unspectacular receivers for Manning and they have added Wes Welker to play in the slot. King gives them a talented deep threat that has good long speed and tracks the ball well down the field. He fits well in a vertically based offense and much of his experience is attacking from the hash to the sideline and usually runs go routes and posts or a curl or comeback. King is a bit of a long strider but when he gets going, he is someone who can test defensive backs deep and he uses that to open himself up coming back to the football.
King could work to improve his footwork and get more efficient with how he transitions his weight to make cleaner cuts to run routes more quickly, but for the most part, King is what he is going to be as a player. He had a good amount of success filling that role forGeorgiaand excels playing off of other talented receivers and can take advantages of match ups to beat up on opponents, which is exactly what he would be doing inDenver.
If King can beat out guys like Andre Caldwell, he would likely be a guy that comes in when they want to use four receiver sets, play on the outside across from Thomas and have Decker slide inside. While he may never be a game breaking type receiver, the combination of playing inDenver’s system which is a good fit for him and having a quarterback like Manning who will hit open receivers, he could have an instant impact and a good rookie year. Getting a player in the fifth round that fits a niche and could make an impact immediately is a good move for this team.
In the sixth round, the Broncos added Vinston Parker, offensive tackle, from Virginia Tech. Parker is an interesting pick because he was actually recruited to play for the Hokies as a defensive tackle before switching to the offensive line during his red shirt year. Parker impressed at the Scouting Combine when he ran a 4.95 40 in addition to a 30.5″ vertical and 32 reps on the bench press. Like with Webster in the third round, this seems like the Broncos are taking a shot on someone as a developmental player and seeing what can make him into with work. Initially, he appears to be general offensive line depth and could learn a number of positions but he might be ultimately slated as a guy they hope can be a swing tackle. It does not seem like a given that Parker will make the final roster and could be a candidate for the practice squad, but perhaps the Broncos have a specific vision for him in mind with his athleticism on special teams in addition to the offensive line.
With their last pick of their draft in the seventh round, the Broncos added a quarterback; Zac Dysert from Miami(OH). Perhaps simply capitalizing on value or subscribing to the idea that a team should take a quarterback every year, the Broncos add Dysert to a team with Manning and Brock Osweiler, who is developing in hopes of taking over for Manning when he retires. Although Dysert struggled during the Senior Bowl week, he was impressive on tape. He possesses good physical tools that could be developed in the NFL, a ton of experience playing quarterback, and an incredible amount of toughness. Dysert needs to work on developing as a quarterback and in particular, knowing when to say die and go onto the next play. He has made some incredible plays at desperate times but has also thrown passes that he wishes he had back. Dysert played every snap like it was fourth down and it caused some issues. He also took too many sacks in college.
Dysert is an ideal third quarterback to development either to be held onto as a potential starter down the road or as a trade piece for later. They used a seventh round pick and if they can develop him effectively, they could move him for a significantly higher draft pick down the road. Considering the investment made in Osweiler, it seems unlikely he would beat him out to be the heir to Manning’s thrown, but stranger things have happened and while he went in round seven, Dysert had the talent to go much higher.
My Thoughts: I was not as high as some on Sylvester Williams and think the fact he is 24 years old has gone largle unnoticed but I love what this pick enables their defense to do with different alignments. Being able to go big and strong to sleek, fast, and athletic is a great advantage in the NFL. They could play from ahead before; now, they can play in tight games and stop the run if they need to come back in games.
Montee Ball was a reach to me, but I understand it. What struck me about that pick is that it screams a quarterback making the pick. Elway, Manning or both see a running back they can count on to get them the yards he should but not doing anything spectacular. They get a reliable back they can predict what they are going to get from but not someone who is going to make too many highlight plays, which leaves more for them. Ball will get his share of touchdowns but he is not going to take any food out of Manning’s mouth. The pick makes sense. It was a pairing I had projected early in the process but taking him at the end of the second was a little surprising.
Getting a corner to develop somewhere in the draft made sense given their current set up. Bailey and Cromartie should be a good pairing this year, but they have little in place in case of an injury or after Bailey retires. They may like guys like Omar Bolden and Tony Carter but they brought in Cromartie for a reason; no one was ready to take that job that was on their roster. It is always a little curious when teams take a guy largely on athletic ability and workouts but it happens more often than people think. Taking the risk on Kayvon Webster will be interesting to keep an eye on and he is probably viewed more for next season and beyond as when he will make a meaningful contribution, if he ever does.
Getting Quanterus Smith for the future and likely in hopes of ultimately replacing Shaun Phillips was a smart play. Smith would have gone much higher if not for the ACL, so they get him at a bargain price and he fits what they like in their pass rushers. He has the potential to be the long term running mate for Von Miller.
I like the Tavarres King pick because they know exactly what they are getting; a deep threat who fits that role now. King is 6’ which is a little taller than the usual deep threat that goes in this area of the draft, has shown good hands and the ability to make plays down the field with his body and really fits the role of a fourth receiver that can come in and stretch the field. He can open things up for other players underneath and if teams focus their attention elsewhere, he has shown he can really take advantage and make plays like he did in the SEC Championship against Alabama.
I was a big fan of Dysert through the draft process and believe he has the talent to be much better than a number of quarterbacks who were picked ahead of him. Having the ability to take their time with him and develop him while he can watch Manning operate can only help him. Manning has never been a guy who is looking to teach but if Dysert can pick up how to work and watch tape from him and use the tools he has, he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. It may not be with Denver, but they can develop him and move him for future assets.
Overall, the Broncos did not have to come in and attack a ton of needs which allowed them to be flexible and play the board. They got good values with their picks, got guys that can come in and contribute now as well as a few picks that could pay dividends in the future and increasing the Broncos talent pool. This draft will probably be graded on whether or not it helps the Broncos win the Super Bowl but it has the chance to be a good, solid draft based on the merits of the players picked even if they are ultimately unable to win the Super Bowl this coming year.
Tags: 2013 Nfl Draft Denver Broncos Georgia Bulldogs Football Kayvon Webster Miami(OH) Redhawks Football Montee Ball North Carolina Tarheels Football Peyton Manning Quanterus Smith South Florida Bulls Football Sylvester Williams Tavarres King Vinston Parker Virginia Tech Hokies Football Von Miller Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Football Wisconsin Badgers Football Zac Dysert