The NFL draft, the paramount moment for teams to make leaps ahead or backward in three short days, has come and gone. The Denver Broncos went in with 10 selections and came out with nine new players.
While the Broncos remain a contender in the AFC to reach Super Bowl 50, they also had big areas of need entering the draft on Thursday night. When the draft came to a close Saturday the team had addressed every area of concern with varying levels of success.
The Broncos first pick is undoubtedly their best pick and any franchis would hope to say that due to the value of any first-round selection. Shane Ray from the University of Missouri represented a top-10 talent and dropped to No. 23.
The drop was due to a highly publicized, bone-headed mistake he made just days before the biggest day of his life. A marijuana citation became his biggest nightmare on Monday and a dream come true for the Broncos on Thursday. All parties involved believe the incident is a one-time mistake and leading up to the incident he had a clean record of behavior.
The Broncos had to trade up to get Ray at No. 23 believing that he would be gone at their original position of No. 28. They also traded away two fifth-round picks and veteran guard, Manny Ramirez.
“We feel good about him and realized that he made a mistake, but also the type of football player that we got. We got a guy that plays with his hair on fire, rushes the passer, loves the game of football, is competitive and is going to be a great fit for us.” Elway said Thursday night. “We had him at 10. He was 10th on our board. We really felt we got the value sitting at 28 and had the opportunity to move to 23.”
Ray will be a great backup option at outside linebacker and will not only benefit from learning from two great pass rushers in Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware but he can also keep those guys fresh throughout the season by seeing playing time at both spots. His athleticism alone makes him a steal at No. 23 and the Broncos got arguably the best deal in the entire first round of the draft.
Additional good picks: Max Garcia, C/G (133 overall), Lorenzo Doss, CB (164 overall)
Jeff Heuerman, a 6’5”, 255-pound tight end from the Ohio State University was selected by the Broncos in the tail end of the third round Friday evening. Although the team has signed several players at tight end, Heuerman appears to be a long-term solution.
Gary Kubiak is somewhat of an expert at finding and developing tight ends and he was glowing in his praise of the former buckeye and it seems that Heuerman will fit the offensive system the Broncos will run for years to come.
“This guy is a leader. I did a lot of homework on him. He’s a leader on a national championship football team. That says a lot right there. I love his passion. I like the way he plays,” Kubiak said at the end of day two. “He’s a very smart player. Anytime you have those types of players, you’re versatile offensively, you can do a lot of things and they are special teams players, too.”
What makes the pick just ‘decent’ as opposed to ‘great’ is the place where he was selected. Taking Heuerman at 92nd overall was a bit of stretch. He was projected to be picked long after the third round and was not in the top-10 tight ends on most experts’ boards but was the fourth one taken.
The Broncos undoubtedly drafted Heuerman for his unique and versatile skill set and not the flashy pass catching ability of some of the other tight ends in the draft class. He will be used in a plethora of ways and that seemed to be a theme with almost every pick the Broncos made in the draft.
Additional decent picks: Darius Kilgo, DT (203 overall), Trevor Siemian, QB (250 overall), Josh Furman, S (252 overall)
Despite the majority of Colorado falling in love with the selection of Colorado State Ram, Ty Sambrailo, the second-round selection was a reach and at possibly the most important moment in the draft for Denver. While Sambrailo is a viable NFL prospect he was certainly not worthy of the 59th overall selection where he was taken. Furthermore, the Broncos largest area of need is offensive line and a player with immediate starting potential should have been the main priority with the team’s second selection in the draft.
Instead, the Broncos picked a third to fourth-round prospect in the second-round and missed on several guards and tackles that will likely see the field on other teams long before Sambrailo does in Denver. Sambrailo has been evaluated as an athletic, experienced tackle that can pass block efficiently but he also has been called undersized, weak and a liability against better than average pass rushers.
At the conclusion of the draft Kubiak emphasized that the Broncos wanted to draft players with “a lot of starts from big programs, that competed in big games.” Sambrailo did play in his fair share of football games but in “big games” like against Utah and Alabama he struggled mightily.
In the end he may become a serviceable starting lineman in the NFL but the Broncos needed a player who would push for a starting role in 2015 and most likely be a starter in 2016. Sambrailo will require a lot of strength and technique building and at the moment, he appears to be several season away from being a consisted starter in the NFL.
Additional bad pick: Taurean Nixon, CB (251 overall)
Quickly looking back on the Broncos draft they did well and addressed big areas of concern. They also stole a big time playmaker with their most valuable pick. Those two factors combined make it a successful draft. However, in the seasons to come the position in which they selected their much needed lineman will likely be an area of contention and debate among not only Rams fans but Broncos Country as well.