Draft Notes: LB superlatives and rankings

Happy Friday, friends.  With Doc continuing to work through the offensive and defensive line prospects for the 2013 Draft, today I’m skipping forward to the linebacker group.  I spent some time thinking about how I wanted to do this, and what I decided is that I’m only looking at players who fill a traditional linebacker’s role. 

That is, I’m leaving the edge rush guys who may play in 3-4 schemes to Doc.  I’m interested in all inside linebackers, and also outside linebackers who are more coverage players than pass rushers.  The way that some 4-3 defenses now play a lot like 3-4s, and a few 3-4s play like 4-3s, I’ve come to believe that it’s better to call a linebacker a linebacker, and an edge rusher an edge rusher.  The distinction between whether an edge rusher is a DE or an OLB is increasingly narrow and irrelevant.

As a side note, on my way into work today, I was thinking about how schemes in the NFL seem to be getting more simplified and homogenized.  There are really only about four different offensive schemes, and probably three different defensive schemes being used, if you think about them at a high level.  The level I’m referring to breaks on differences in staffing requirements.

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Scouting the 2013 Draft: Offensive Tackles, Part 3

Let's continue our discussion of tackle prospects in the 2013 Draft. Here's our introduction to the topic as it relates to Denver, plus Part 1 and Part 2, if you need to catch up.

As noted on NFL.com on March 29, Mike Mayock sees six tackle prospects as standing out from the rest. I didn’t disagree on any of them:

  1. Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M)
  2. Eric Fisher (Central Michigan)
  3. Lane Johnson (Oklahoma)
  4. D.J. Fluker (Alabama)
  5. (tie) Menelik Watson (Florida State) & Justin Pugh (Syracuse)

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Draft Notes: TE superlatives and rankings

Happy Wednesday, friends.  Today, we pick up where we left off in our Draft Superlatives series with the tight end position.  In the modern NFL, most of the best innovations in the passing game are coming from teams finding creative ways to employ tight ends.  Do you remember how Peyton Manning said last year that much of the Broncos' game plan revolved around how teams play Jacob Tamme?

What he meant was that when a team has a TE who can flex out and run routes the way Tamme can, a defense is given an impossible choice; if they play base defense, and try to cover the TE with a LB, they’ll struggle with that coverage.  If they play nickel defense, and try to cover the TE with a safety, they may have better success in coverage, but it will tend to come at the expense of their success in stopping the run.

Defenses tend not to have many players who can both cover a TE and hold up in the run game.  That’s why a team like San Francisco, which has two such players in Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman, can look so dominant on defense.

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Scouting the 2013 Draft: Offensive Tackles, Part 2

Picking up where we last left off, today’s fare includes a talented converted tight end, a small school player who didn’t get a Combine invite (but probably should have), and one of the elite tackles in this year’s draft. Let’s dig right in:

Reid Fragel - Ohio State - 6-8, 308 lb

Fragel has slipped under the radar so far in pre-draft coverage. Ohio State lost both of its tackles after the 2011 season, and Fragel was converted from tight end to offensive tackle to help pick up the slack. He took to the change nicely, although he is still raw in his footwork and technique, as you would expect. That’s okay - he played right tackle during the 2012 season and showed a lot of promise as an OT.

For a guy with only a single year at the position, he looked very good. His height is a mixed blessing - he’ll have to work to keep his pad level low, but he’s got a wide wingspan. He’ll still have to put on more muscle weight for the NFL. 

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Scouting the 2013 Draft: Nose Tackles, Part 1

When you talk about nose tackles and nose guards, it’s easy to get confused. Traditionally, the guy in the middle in an odd-front defensive line was called the nose guard. The nose in an even-front line is generally called the nose tackle. You’ll still run into those terms when you read materials from coaching seminars and such.

Denver’s scheme is very much a hybrid, so it won’t matter much what you call this player. Either way, the Broncos currently lack someone there who looks like a long term starter in the role of a run-stopping, blocker-absorbing, three-down player who has the ability to collapse the pocket and even pressure the QB, optimally.

Justin Bannan confounded a lot of people in 2012 by outplaying Brodrick Bunkley’s production of the previous season, and at considerably less cost. Both of them are basic two-down linemen - guys who can absorb double teams, stop the run, and leave the field on most passing downs. That’s great - but with the league-wide move to more no-huddle offenses, I believe that Denver will need a three-down NT at some point.

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Mailbag: How about Margus Hunt or Tank Carradine?

Happy Friday, friends.  This morning, we received a couple of good questions on Twitter from two longtime readers.  Jared Still asked for our thoughts on simply relying on Robert Ayers to be the starting open-side DE, and drafting Margus Hunt from SMU.  Kriss Bergethon asked what we thought about signing Richard Seymour and drafting Cornellius "Tank" Carradine from Florida State.  This is obviously all about filling the hole left by the departure of Elvis Dumervil.

You've got questions, we've got opinions.  The first thing I would say is that we should probably step back for a minute, and think about exactly what that hole is.  Dumervil was a starter at open-side DE, which meant that he played on the side away from the tight end, and often lined up wide, with edge responsibilities in the run game, and edge rushing responsibilities in the passing game.  Like Jared, I'm very confident that Ayers can handle base downs at that position.  In fact, the Broncos will undoubtedly be better against the run with him out there, because he plays with a level of power that Dumervil doesn't have.

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Draft Notes: WR superlatives and rankings

Happy Thursday, friends.  Today, our positional tour of the 2013 draft class stops in the wide receiver area.  This is an unusually strong year at the position, in a deep overall draft class, and there’ll be a lot of opportunity for teams to bring in quality players  in the second and third rounds, and not pay them a whole lot of money for about four years.

Whether the Broncos are players in the receiver market will depend a lot on what they intend to do with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.  Decker is entering the final year of his contract, and Thomas is under contract through 2014.  The removal of Elvis Dumervil from their salary structure will help create room to pay at least one of them (presumably Thomas), but it will be tough to pay them both.

If the team doesn’t think that it can retain Decker after this season, then it may be looking for a receiver to replace him after a year.  Good teams have to let middle class players walk sometimes.  This is the kind of receiver class that lends itself to yielding a quality starter at the 58th pick, so you should consider the possibility that the Broncos do something there.

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Scouting the 2013 Draft: Offensive Tackles, Part 1

Continuing with our discussion of offensive tackles, today we have one player who didn’t even make it onto the field for the 2012 season, and two of the top tackles in this year’s draft. Let’s get right into it:

Chris Faulk - LSU - 6-5, 331 lb

Many NFL fans aren't familiar with Chris Faulk, but there’s good reason: going into his junior year, he suffered a knee injury last August, but he decided to declare for the draft after last season regardless of his age, level of experience, and the handicap of not having played during the 2012 season.

You can see why he might make that decision. Not only is Faulk huge, but he shows some nice footwork and seems to have some athleticism that you don’t always see in a man of his size. He showed a noticeable lack of technique when playing the left tackle slot as a sophomore, though. He is as raw as you would expect from a player with only two seasons of college ball under his belt, no matter how big that belt might be. Both his footwork and his hand technique are in need of work. He hasn't shown that he really understands how to get into a defender and keep them away from the quarterback, or drive him downfield in the run game.

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Why draft an offensive tackle if you’re Denver?

With Ryan Clady locked up on a franchise tag and Orlando Franklin having taken a giant step upward last season, why spend time, money, or a draft choice on an offensive tackle?

Denver has a backup blocking TE/OT in RFA Chris Clark, who’s a decent lineman on run plays but who is not capable of handling any prolonged starting snaps. Since Clady’s cost may have to again be dealt with next season, Denver is still short one viable OT - the guy who can cover if Franklin or Clady go down. There are options on the roster, but it’s not a stretch to say that with Clady potentially playing on a one-year franchise tender and Franklin still being talked about as a guard, bringing in a top OT might be wise.

How would that work? I think it’s pretty simple. If Denver does move Franklin, it’s likely to be at the position he usually played in college - left guard. They didn’t pay right guard Louis Vasquez, with his pass protection skills, to sit out. With Zane Beadles making the Pro Bowl as an alternate (and earning it), though, how would that work? Here’s an option:

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Draft Notes: QB superlatives and rankings

Happy Thursday, friends.  Over the next couple weeks, I’m going to be sharing some quick thoughts on position groups in the upcoming NFL draft. Isn't it hard to believe the first round is only five weeks from tonight?

The other Broncos-centric sites aren’t running 75-part mock drafts anymore, as far as I know, so maybe our readers haven’t been as focused on stumping for this guy or that other one yet.

Today, I'm going to begin with QBs, and will employ what I hope is an easily digestable format, and use it for every group as I go.  While the Broncos aren't likely to be drafting QBs, we want to keep you knowledgeable of the whole draft class.  Also, I can see them being a team who could sell off the 28th pick to a team looking to get back into the first round for one of these guys.  Check it out, on the other side of the jump.

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