Rolling the green and gold dice

“Lacks an ideal body type with a pudgy midsection and lean shoulders.”

Does that sound like someone that should be protecting a 39-year-old quarterback? Is that the description of a rookie offensive lineman who is ready to step into the NFL and battle grown men in the trenches from day one?

No. And heck no. Those are the only logical answers to two extremely fair and relevant questions.

But on Friday night, when the Broncos selected Colorado State offensive lineman Ty Sambrailo in the second round of the NFL Draft, nobody wanted to hear those things. They didn’t want to talk about reality; it was way more fun to bask in the feel-good story about the local pro team drafting a player who went to college just 50 miles up the road.

As a result, any semblance of negativity about the selection was met with anger, criticism, insults and all of the other things that tend to make Twitter a place that gets more and more vile by the day. It was time for sunshine and rainbows in Denver; nothing else was welcome.

Since Sambrailo was picked, the love-fest has continued. Very little critical analysis of the selection has occurred, as scouting reports like the damning sentence listed above have been largely ignored; instead, the focus has been on the offensive lineman’s ability to do a backflip on skis.

In reality, the focus should be on the fact that John Elway and Company reached for a player at No. 59 who was projected to go in the third or fourth round. That’s an alarming gamble, one that seems to indicate that teams not located within a tank of gas of Fort Collins didn’t think as highly of the CSU offensive tackle as the Broncos did.

At that spot in the draft, a player needs to have a chance to start in year one and must be a starter by year two. Given that Sambrailo was labeled as a “project” during the NFL Draft broadcast, the first scenario seems unlikely and the second appears to be optimistic.

And it wasn’t just the talking heads who had concerns about the 6-foot-6, 311-pound offensive tackle. Most of the scouting reports raved about his athleticism, smarts and leadership qualities, but they were also filled with plenty of questions about things that matter just as much.

Dane Brugler’s report on CBSSports.com, which included the gem that opened this column, was also filled with plenty of other concerns. Here’s what else he had to say about Sambrailo:

“Light lower body with struggles to anchor vs. bull rushers – too easily knocked off balance. Below average functional strength and lacks the upper body power to control or stonewall rushers.”

An offensive lineman who lacks in upper body strength isn’t exactly a good thing. That’s a recipe for getting dominated by even marginal pass rushers.

“Inconsistent leverage off the snap, allowing his pads to rise and leaving his chest open – too easy for rushers to attack his breastplate. Shoots his hands, but lacks ideal length and needs to improve his pop and timing. Aggressive nature tends to backfire at times, lunging and missing his block.”

That’s sounds like a lot of draftnik nonsense, without a doubt, but it doesn’t suggest that Sambrailo makes up for his lack of strength with flawless technique. A young player can only work on so many things at once; this particular rookie will have his hands full.

“Character needs investigated after a March 2012 off-campus knife fight that required 14 stitches to the back of his shoulder.”

But, hey, he can do a backflip on skis!

Of course, none of this means that Sambrailo won’t develop into a very good NFL player. By all accounts, he has the work ethic necessary to develop the strength and skills needed to excel at the highest level. But it does serve as a bit of a reality check, one that was desperately needed given the green-and-gold tinted glasses that were being worn when looking at the pick.

A player from a non-power conference has to jump off the screen when watching game tape; he has to dominate opponents at the level in order to project into an immediate starter in the NFL. That wasn’t the case with Sambrailo; instead, he’s a player with a tantalizing combination of size and athleticism, something teams think they can develop into something special. In other words, he’s a project.

In the second round of a very deep draft, the Broncos needed to land a starter; they had to add a piece that could contribute right away. That didn’t happen.

Instead, Denver added another player who seems like a good bet to be added to the team’s list of recent misses in round two. Last year, Cody Latimer (2 catches, 23 yards, 0 touchdowns) was their second rounder. The season before, the Broncos took Montee Ball (731 career rushing yards). And in 2012, they reached for Derek Wolfe (11.5 sacks in three years) and Brock Osweiler (17 completions for 159 yards in the orange and blue).

Those are more facts that it’s probably easier to simply ignore, however. That would only interrupt the citywide case of groupthink.

Every fan is happy on draft day. And when their favorite team takes a local kid, the euphoria tends to hit even greater heights.

That’s why a reality check is in order. Ty Sambrailo has a long way to go to be a contributor for the Broncos.

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