The Denver Broncos are absolutely stacked with talent at the outside linebacker position. Along with the cornerbacks, the outside linebackers are the best and deepest position on the Super Bowl winning team.
So, why would the Broncos even be interested in using a draft pick on an outside linebacker? The answer is simple, because it’s an extremely important position, and as Elway pointed out after the Super Bowl, you can’t have enough pass rushers.
In defensive coordinator Wade Phillip’s 3-4 scheme, the outside linebacker position is primarily focused on rushing the passer. Phillip’s not only has two of the best at this in the game, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, but he has two very talented up-and-coming players in Shaquil Barrett and Shane Ray, too.
These four players arguably make the most talented and dangerous group of pass rushers in the league. While the Broncos certainly don’t need another outside linebacker for this coming year, they could look to draft and develop one as an asset for years to come.
If the Broncos decide to draft an outside linebacker, don’t expect to see much of him this year.
Here are five outside linebackers that the Broncos could look at in the draft:
5. Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
Projected Round: 1st/2n
2015 Stats: 115 tackles; 9 tackles for loss; 1 sack; 5 passes defended; 2 fumble recoveries
Would using a first-round pick on an outside linebacker be insane? Not if that player is Jaylon Smith.
Smith, widely praised as a top-10 player in the draft, tore his ACL and his LCL in the Fiesta Bowl on New Years Day of this year. Before severely injuring his knee, Smith was a surefire top pick in the draft, but doubts about his injury may have him slip until the end of the first.
If Smith is available at pick 31, and if the Broncos think he can fully recover from the injury, it would be very hard to pass up on his talent. However, there are many questions regarding his recovery from injury.
According to Jeff Legwold and Adam Schefter of ESPN, “Multiple teams have made the decision to fail Smith on the physical after his exam on Friday (during the combine), and sources with three teams at the combine said they do not intend to draft Smith.”
While Smith did not play outside linebacker in a 3-4 in college, he is extremely versatile and physically gifted that he can play any linebacker position in any defensive scheme. This would allow the Broncos to use him as an all-around linebacker, playing on the outside as well as the inside.
Elway proved last year that he isn’t afraid to pick the best player available when he chose Ray in the first round, so saying the Broncos may do the same if Smith falls might not be as big of a stretch as it initially seems.
Although his injury will most likely keep him from playing this upcoming season, drafting Smith would be an investment in a Pro-Bowl caliber player for the next decade, which would be hard to pass up.