Happy Tuesday, friends. I’ve had a chance to review Thursday night’s game a few times, and in the spirit of what I did yesterday with rookie QBs, I decided to share some thoughts about the Broncos’ 2012 rookie class. Since I’m so interested in player development, I’m thinking I may do so semi-regularly throughout the season.
Derek Wolfe - DT, 2nd-round pick
Wolfe makes me smirk, because not only was I all over him before the Draft, so was Doc. It was a good day to be an IAOFM guy while the Legwolds and other writers of the world were flailing. Remember, Legwold had never heard of Wolfe when the Broncos picked him.
Well, Wolfe looked like the real deal on Thursday. He has an excellent mix of size, strength, quickness, effort, and ability to use his hands well as a pass rusher. His hand use is really advanced for a rookie, and I think he has a nice innate feel for how a pocket is moving that he can employ in working toward the step-up/escape point. You can say that he gets garbage or coverage sacks, but how many times over the years have we wished that somebody could play inside and pick up a few of those?
I think Wolfe portends to be a player who challenges for double-digit sacks from the inside every year. For 2012, I think it’s reasonable to expect Wolfe to play a lot as an inside nickel pass rusher, and to play some base downs as both a DE and DT. The Broncos are never going to regret drafting Wolfe, I guarantee that.
Brock Osweiler - QB, 2nd-round pick
I wasn’t a huge fan of the Osweiler pick on Draft day, but I am warming to it as time goes on. On the positive side, Osweiler can really throw the ball. I gave Ryan Tannehill props yesterday, and Brock is athletically and stylistically similar to Tannehill, in the sense that he has a noticeably strong arm, but is probably best in a horizontal, quick passing scheme. I liked the way that he quickly diagnosed the right way to go with the ball, and his accuracy was impressive as well.
Some would ding Brock because his arm slot is still pretty low, but I don’t think it matters, as long as his accuracy is reasonable, which it seems to be. The guy is 6-foot-7, so a three-quarters delivery at his height isn’t any lower than a high release from a 6-3 guy. If I were coaching him, I’d ignore all the stuff about his throwing mechanics, because they look good enough to me. I really liked his footwork too. The area I’d be coaching up is ball-handling and faking, where like most young QBs, Brock is raw. Also, he could stand to improve his pocket awareness - as seen on his near-interception - when he had no idea the rush was bearing down on him.
Ronnie Hillman - RB, 3rd-round pick
Hillman didn't play. From what has been reported, he would have if the weather had been better. As a smaller back, he's going to have to demonstrate an ability to stay healthy over time.
Omar Bolden - CB, 4th-round pick
Before the game, if you’d asked me about Bolden, I’d have said I like his potential as a kickoff returner better than I like his coverage ability. In this game, it was the other way around. I was impressed with Bolden’s play in man coverage, and I thought he did a good job maintaining his leverage and playing the route. He got called for a bogus pass interference penalty on a play where he was in the receiver’s hip pocket and was playing the ball. I was very encouraged by Bolden’s coverage, and I want to see more of it.
On the one kickoff Bolden fielded, he looked tentative with the ball. To me, it would be ideal if he became the primary kickoff guy, because he showed some real explosiveness with that role at Arizona State. I’ll be interested to see how much he improves as the sample size grows.
Philip Blake - C-G, 4th-round pick
Blake played both Center and Guard with the third team, and considering how poorly the second team offensive line played, it’s pretty troubling that he can’t beat those stiffs out presently. Of course, Blake is going to make the team over some of those stiffs, but I’d like to see him earn that spot.
On the field, Blake showed okay against the third-stringers he played against. About the best thing I can say is that he looked equally competent at both Center and Guard, and that kind of position versatility has a lot of value in a backup lineman.
Malik Jackson - DT-DE, 5th-round pick
I was pretty impressed with Jackson, and I believe that he definitely showed enough to be squarely in the conversation to make the 53-man roster. Like Blake and Wolfe both, Jackson has good position versatility, and he played both DT and DE. I see him as more of a sub-package DT as his career progresses.
Jackson had a lot of good moments in the pass rush, and he fell on a fumbled snap, showing excellent situational awareness. I saw some of the talent that made Jackson a coveted recruit for USC at one point, and a good player at Tennessee once he transferred. I think he was a good value pick, and that he has a real chance to pay off if he develops at a good pace, and can keep himself on the roster while the improvement is playing out.
Danny Trevathan - OLB, 6th-round pick
Everybody likes Trevathan, and he seems like a lock to be a game-day active and play a lot in nickel situations. Not bad for the 188th pick in the Draft from a losing program. I was impressed with Trevathan’s ability to play curl-to-flat while getting a good jam on the inside receiver, and still keeping his eyes on the total route concept.
When a young LB has good eyes, and an ability to move well, you might just have a player. Trevathan also played a lot on special teams, and that will be key to his ability to get on the field as a rookie too. It’s not often that a sixth-rounder establishes himself as a near-lock to make the team before training camp even begins, but Trevathan seems to have done so.
None of the undrafted guys really stood out much to me, to be honest. I know many fans like to champion the cause of some undrafted guy, and be able to say they’ve been down since Day 1, but I don’t think this is likely to be the year of the I Hate Nachos guy. Really, that’s a subtle indication that the Broncos seem to have quietly amassed a lot of quality depth at just about every position except the offensive line. We’re going to see useful NFL players get cut from the RB, TE, DL, LB, and DB groups before this is all said and done.