One thing that must be said about the Denver Bronco new regime is that they are aggressive. Denver continues to build its team in the image of their head coach, eschewing individual accomplishments and talent in exchange for team players that will get behind the organization. With only a single season under his belt Josh McDaniels has already traded away the team’s two best players, both still in their prime. Denver entered the draft with a slew of early picks due to trading those players, in a deep pool of talent. After three days of creatively acquiring prospects the Bronco’s ended their draft having made nine selections. Brent Foshee grades out the Broncos draft.
Denver traded down twice in the first round before settling on receiver Demaryius Thomas. Thomas is an imposing physical specimen that has the speed and size to be a big play receiver in the NFL. If not for a mid February foot injury that kept him from working out fully for scouts, Thomas would have easily been a value choice at the Bronco’s original spot of eleven overall. Adding two third round picks in the course of trading down twice then back up once, yet still getting a player that the team clearly coveted was either a stroke of genius or a turn of good fortune. Either way Thomas has the makings of a superstar.
Denver later shocked many in the football world trading up into the first round to select Tim Tebow with the 25th selection. It’s not difficult to see how McDaniels fell in love with Tebow. A player with all the intangibles in the world, the knock on Tebow has been his primitive throwing mechanics. This was clearly not a pick for 2010 and by making it McDaniels has sent a strong message that he expects to be around for several more seasons. While criticized as being impetuous and foolhardy, this type of draft day statement is rarely made in the current NFL. It’s far too easy to say that the move will probably not work- yet is a developmental quarterback selected by an organization with a head coach known for developing signal callers really such a bad marriage? With a solid corps of players around him Tebow is in a much better position to succeed in a few years when he becomes the team’s starter.
With their quarterback and playmaking receiver of the future on board the team wisely used its next two selections to shore up the interior offensive line. Guard Zane Beadles was a collegiate tackle but projects to guard in the NFL. Intelligent and effective, Beadles does have some work to do in the fundamentals department yet he is a wide bodied blocker with a nonstop motor and better than average foot as well as hand speed. He is similar in style to the players that New England has targeted over the years to play on the interior line.
Conversely Baylor center J.D. Walton is an athletic prospect with good fundamentals yet a blocker that must improve his playing strength without sacrificing quickness. Fundamentally sound, Walton is a smaller bodied player that relies on technique and hustle to move opposing defensive linemen off the ball. He stands to add 10-to-15 pounds of muscle and must learn not to duck his head into blocks. Walton offers the potential to start for the Bronco’s after a full season in an NFL environment.
With their third round choice the Bronco’s chose another tall rangy receiver coming off a foot injury in Eric Decker. Decker is a big, physical receiver that runs effective routes and displays soft hands. He is eerily reminiscent of former Bronco Eddie McCaffery and like McCaffery projects as a possession receiver in the NFL. Like Thomas, Tebow, and Walton, Decker needs a year or two to perfect his game and recover from his injury before ultimately hitting his stride.
Perrish Cox became the first defensive player the Bronco’s selected when they took him in the fifth round. Considered by many to be the best senior cornerback in the draft, Cox was expected to be taken on the draft’s second day. His loss is Denver’s gain however. His biggest issue in college was his propensity to fall asleep at various times and the talented cover corner had some off the field issues. Should he be able to dedicate himself to working towards football 100% of the time he could eventually develop into a potential spot starter for the Broncos.
Center Eric Olsen is a prospect whose game has improved each season over the last three years. Able to play both center and guard, he will most likely be used at guard for the Bronco’s. Olsen is a physical player with a nasty streak despite his small frame. Another player that will likely need a year or two in an NFL conditioning program, Olsen figures to be a candidate for the practice squad or possibly the teams 9th offensive lineman. Josh McDaniels familiarity with Charlie Weiss, Olsen’s college coach, should be noted here.
The Bronco’s received good cornerback value again with California product Syd’Quan Thompson in round seven. A good college player that ran poorly and does not have ideal size, Thompson could make an impact early in his career on special teams before settling into a dime back role. His lack of straight line speed will likely keep him from ever being a starter but Thompson is a physical cornerback and could be used in certain zone and man off situations.
Jammie Kirlew, the teams final choice, is a college defensive end that projects to outside linebacker in the Bronco’s 3-4 defense. A limited athlete, Kirlew plays with a ton of intensity and a nonstop motor. Another prospect that looks like he could be a great special teams player, Kirlew could also find a home as backup at multiple linebacker positions.
Grade: (B-) I don’t hate the Tebow selection so I am more partial to this draft than many people will be. I will say that the team likely won’t get much production out of this class in year one, which keeps their grade down, but they could have as many as six players from this class fighting for starting positions in a couple of years. The team clearly identified receiver, interior offensive line and cornerback as positions that needed to be addressed and did so while still getting the player their head coach coveted most of all, Tim Tebow. Aggression usually pays off and I would expect this draft to do so for the Bronco’s in a few years time.
After a season which saw the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers….
A) Missing the playoffs only one season after winning the Super Bowl
B) Embarrassed nationally, while cleaning up off field issues.
It provided the perfect opportunity to return to their roots. Under the tenure of Mike Tomlin as head coach, the team has strayed from their winning formula to varying degrees. During recent draft classes, the team opted to choose high end athletes instead of continually fitting to their previous winning formula. Their recent back-to-basics approach during the 2010 NFL Draft earned them the highest grade of any AFC North squad. Brent Sobleski finishes this week’s conference spotlight.
Ray Mansfield. Mike Webster. Dermotti Dawson. Jeff Hartings. Only four manned the starting pivot in Pittsburgh from 1964 until 2006. One of the NFL’s greatest, albeit unheralded, traditions. While Justin Hartwig has proven to be a solid professional and a starter for a Super Bowl Championship team; the position itself has been downgraded from the previous greatness it once knew. The tradition could possibly start anew with the selection of Florida’s Maurkice Pouncey eighteenth overall. Recent NFL trends have shown a renewed importance of added talent along a team’s offensive interior, especially with the prevalence of 34 based defenses in which Pittsburgh themselves made en vogue. Pouncey would seem to possess the size at 6-feet-4-inches tall, bulk at 304 pounds, and playing strength to hold up individually against many of the defensive studs now occupying zero technique status. Whereas there are very few in the league who even present this option at center, this pivot’s actual strengths as a prospect are his quickness off the snap and agility to get to the second level consistently. This all may be jumping the gun ever so slightly since early returns will likely see Pouncey starting at guard initially before sliding over the football. Guard being a position in which he started as a freshman in college. Once again, this proves directly in line with the tradition discussed earlier as Webster, Dawson, and Hartings all saw time at guard prior to manning pivot duties. As the Steelers look to rebuild their strength through the middle of the line of scrimmage, Maurkice Pouncey was the ideal selection for a roster clearly lacking overall talent along their offensive front.
Penn State may be known as “Linebacker U” when it pertains to the collegiate level, but the nomenclature of “Blitzburgh” has just as strong a positive connotation in Pennsylvania as their Nittany Lion brethren. Pittsburgh has achieved their status by continually drafting linebacker projects to be assembled along the team’s factory line of talent. LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons may be young bucks along this unit, but James Harrison, James Farrior, and returnee Larry Foote certainly are not. In round two, the team chose Virginia Tech defensive end Jason Worilds. Another ideal candidate to transition to the team’s heralded outside linebacker position. Worilds has the athletic tools one asks for in regards to making this particular transition. At 6-feet-1-inch tall, 254 pounds, possessing 4.7 speed off the edge, a 6.95 cone drill, and a 4.29 short shuttle; the future linebacker has the movement skills needed to develop nicely. At Virginia Tech, the former Hokie displayed an explosive first step off the edge, gaining a lot of ground, while getting up field. His motor continually kept humming. Being an undersized defensive end, his issues came when at times being engulfed by much larger offensive linemen. Also after a strong junior campaign, his numbers dipped as a senior due to becoming the focal point of opposing offenses. Because of Worilds abilities and body type, it would not be completely surprising to see this prospect project inside in this particular defense. Whatever the case Jason Worilds has the potential to be another in a long storied history of talented linebackers in the Steel City.
With the departure of top target Santonio Holmes via trade, expectations were to see the team draft another wide receiver prospect early in the process. Southern Methodist’s Emmanuel Sanders became the team’s object of affection in the third installment of this year’s draft. Sanders became a late riser among scouting circles due to impressive workouts. Some wrote him off because of June Jones’ pass happy system where this receiver caught almost 100 passes a season ago. As one watches his game closely; his short area quickness, route running, and ability to adjust on the football are what make this prospect quite intriguing to add to his top end speed. Doubling as a punt returner, Sanders could also help a unit which finished in the bottom half of the league in 2009. Referring back to his system in college and a lack of size, Sanders may best be served as a slot or even fourth receiver due to an early inability to beat the jam at the line of scrimmage. Another talent which will slide nicely into Pittsburgh’s downfield passing attack already hoping to see a rise in play by second year target Mike Wallace, while continuing to rely on Hines Ward, and use the many tools of recently returned Antwan Randle-El to keep defenses honest.
Earlier, the discussion centered about the Steelers’ affinity for drafting linebackers and they did so once again midway through round four. This time, the team chose Ohio State’s Thaddeus Gibson. A hybrid even during his time in Columbus, Gibson was a linebacker recruit, converted to defensive end, but still took most of his snaps from a two point stance. From a talent perspective, Gibson could have potentially selected a round or two higher. In actuality, some of his Combine tests were better than the earlier selected Jason Worilds. His overall quickness off the edge is impressive. His pass rush repertoire has been limited throughout his career which resulted in only nine quarterback sacks over the past two years despite his impressive physical skills. The main concern around this prospect over the past two seasons is size. At the Combine, he tipped the scales at 243 pounds. While at Ohio State, Gibson played at a lower weight most of his career. As such the ability to set the edge and hold up against bigger offensive lineman in this particular defense is clearly in question. His final role on this team may eventually become as a pass rush specialist taking advantage of the athleticism Gibson does present.
A plethora of talent was acquired in the fifth round. The team looked to further address their offensive line issues with the choice of tackle/guard prospect Chris Scott one hundred and fifty first overall. The former Tennessee Volunteer is prototypical to the Steelers’ trench warfare: a large, overpowering, straight line run blocker. In fact this lineman is just a nasty down blocker whom can cave in an entire side of the line. Scott may have been a tackle most of his collegiate career, but his NFL future is certainly at guard since he does not have the feet to stay outside. Solid overall player whom may have had underrated in the right system. Later in the round, Crezdon Butler of Clemson was chosen. In need of improvement along the secondary, the Steelers did more to help said area by re-acquiring Bryant McFadden in a draft day deal than they did via the draft process itself. Butler has nice size and is rather physical but struggles to turn and run in coverage. Two selections later, Utah linebacker Stevenson Sylvester became the next linebacker added to the mix. Unlike the two prospects which proceeded, Sylvester definitely projects inside; particularly to the Mack position used by Pittsburgh. He will struggle to find a roster spot this season with the likes of both Keyaron Fox and Larry Foote already entrenched in the two deep behind the starters. Sylvester should embrace special teams until an opportunity may arise. With this bevy of prospects chosen in this particular round, each should help try and establish quality depth behind somewhat struggling units.
One of the biggest surprises of the draft may have been the slide seen with Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer. The former ACC Offensive Player of the Year was projected by many, including this site, to land anywhere in the second or third round. Instead in round six, the Steelers finally called. From a talent perspective there is a lot to like about Dwyer. A big physical runner that was very productive at the collegiate level while showing a little burst for a big man in the hole. There were some areas of his game which were generally overlooked. For example, the triple option at Georgia Tech made Dwyer the focal point of the offense as the team’s “B back”. As such, he was continually hit on every down by opposing defenses with or without carrying the football. Also, his aiming points were different from an NFL style running attack lining up only four yards behind center. Then perceived weight issues came into play. All these played a factor in Dwyer’s draft demise. Of any situation he could have potentially chosen despite the disappointment, Pittsburgh is ideal. Lacking a true power runner in which this offense was predicated upon for so long; Dwyer should have the opportunity in short yardage situations to take some repetitions away from last year’s one thousand plus yard back Rashard Mendenhall. Currently, the depth chart is relatively thin behind the team’s incumbent starter.
As Pittsburgh’s draft came to a close, two more talents were chosen. One acquired late in the sixth round, and a final piece selected in the seventh round. Earlier, discussion was raised about improving the team’s special teams; seemingly a consistent sore spot for this particular franchise. With the one hundred and ninety fifth selection in the 2010 NFL draft, the Steelers’ landed arguably the best player out of the MAC conference and one of the nation’s all time elite return man in Central Michigan’s Antonio Brown. As a receiver, Brown is explosive but has to work continually to hone his craft coming out of a spread system. As a return man, Brown led the nation in punt return average in 2008. He has been nationally ranked all three years in college regarding all purpose yardage. While his straight line speed is not necessarily jaw dropping, his ability to change directions is as good as anyone in this draft class. Last but not least, a final addition was made along the team’s aging defensive line. Both Nick Eason and Ziggy Hood gained playing time last season as it progressed, but a bulk of the play along the team’s five technique still relies on Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel. Neither of whom will be younger than thirty two years of age this season. As the team looks to add quality depth and youth to the position, the team’s seventh round choice of Ohio State defensive lineman Doug Worthington was a quality decision late in the process. Possessing ideal size and a style of play which translates nicely to the position, Worthington was a prospect whom quite a few scouts were high on as the process played itself out. Down the road, the former Buckeye should be able to provide depth to the position as they transition up front.
– Three linebackers, three linemen, and one power back were chosen in Pittsburgh’s 2010 draft class. When those looking around the league think of the Steelers, immediate thoughts of linebackers flying all over the field and a huge power running attack pop to mind. Which makes this particular class the epitome of a “Steelers’ draft”. After seeing talented players such as Rashard Mendenhall, Lawrence Timmons, and even Ziggy Hood struggle to a degree during their early rookie returns; getting back to what the team does best is a feather in their cap as they look to overcome what appears to be a potential early season swoon. Without the services of superstar quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for at least a quarter of this upcoming season, the team needed this approach to get them back to what won games for them previously.
Only two teams throughout the National Football League finished last season with a four game winning streak. Many whom do not follow the downtrodden Browns would be surprised Cleveland made up half of said equation. Earlier in the season, Coach Mangini was attempting to lay the foundation for the type of football and players he prefers. As the season came to a close, an identity began to emerge…run the football and play overly aggressive defense. Now under the supervision of proven commodities such as President Mike Holmgren and General Manager Tom Heckert, the team has attempted to cement said identity throughout the team’s latest off season.
Sitting at number seven overall, the Cleveland Browns appeared to be in an unenviable position. By most accounts, the “elite” talents would all be off the board by the sixth selection. It eventually played out exactly as many predicted. With no concrete offers to trade down, the team chose Florida cornerback Joe Haden. Ironically, Haden was the most popular name attached at this particular selection throughout most of the process. He also showed enough on tape to warrant same aforementioned status. But the Combine came and went, and the cornerback severely disappointed many onlookers with a horrific forty yard dash time. It came to light later the former Gator was suffering from a strained back. A malady he informed all personnel evaluators prior to running in the event. He redeemed himself with a high 4.3/low 4.4 effort at his pro day. Also, the team acquired a solid starting cornerback from Philadelphia in Sheldon Brown. So the obvious need seemed to lessen. Still, Haden’s skill set projects nicely in Cleveland’s system which greatly needed improved athleticism and toughness in their secondary. Despite potentially lacking elite top end speed, his ability to open his hips; and an overall toughness making plays coming up in support proved too much to pass over as the team also liked Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson greatly. Now the Browns possess three legitimate starting cover men, a growing requirement in a pass happy league.
Early turnaround of the team’s top second round selection, Oregon safety T.J. Ward, marked the choice as one of the biggest “reaches” early in the new day two format. A distinction must automatically be made in regards to these claims. Most had slighted Ward as a prospect based on a long injury history, not on-the-field performance. In fact, this safety played very well when on the field in 2009 and may have been the biggest hitting prospect in the nation from his position. Blessed with explosive hips, a reckless abandon on the field, and enough athleticism to warrant consideration as a starting cornerback in his career with the Ducks; Ward has all the tools physically to start from day one for the Cleveland Browns. Unlike the team’s previous starting safety, Brodney Pool, this prospect’s injuries do not appear chronic. As one researches his past a bit more thoroughly, the situation may have even been overblown slightly. This leader in the secondary has not suffered major injury since 2007. Over two years has passed to heal a knee injury. During his senior campaign, some time was missed due to a high ankle sprain but nothing of major consequence. Obviously, there should still be concern but not to the degree of which it has been played out. Terrell Ray Ward is exactly the type of presence needed in Cleveland’s secondary to improve attitude, tackling, and versatility in Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan’s aggressive scheming. Once the doctor’s thoroughly inspected, and the team was comfortable with what they saw; it became the natural choice at thirty eight overall.
As TFY prepared its 2010 NFL Combine coverage, this site spoke with a source within the Browns organization which identified a primary team focus on drafting a “pro ready running back”. By trading back into the second round, the Browns were able to claim such a prospect in Tennessee’s Montario Hardesty who fits said description to a tee. Very few prospects in this class present the three down capability as this Lane Kiffin prepared runner. At a hair under six feet and weighing 225 pounds, Hardesty has ideal size, accompanied by strong interior running, decisive, and even explosive one cut ability to carry the load on first and second down. What many overlook is this back’s ability as a check down option on third down. The former Volunteer finished second, only behind top ten overall selection C.J. Spiller, among their contemporaries with 25 receptions in 2009. Once again, concerns are raised because of past injury issues. Hardesty did suffer an ACL tear as a freshman. Subsequently, he was not able to find the field full time until his senior season. As the Browns look to become one of the top run dominant teams in the National Football League, Hardesty will add to a stable currently including Jerome Harrison, Peyton Hillis, James Davis, and Chris Jennings. In the end this second round selection may eventually become the bell cow of the offense.
Expectations will likely be overwhelming for the team’s initial selection in the third round, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy. Cleveland fans have long clamored for any potential pulse of talent behind center since Bernie Kosar was forced out of town. Many believe this gunslinger would be the team’s object of affection much earlier in the process. Yet the team stood firm on their evaluation and waited. The gamble paid off. Now Cleveland has the luxury of sitting this signal caller for a period of time as he develops both mentally and physically to the NFL game. Ideally, the quarterback will get to sit and learn behind two legitimate and capable veterans in Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace for at least one full season. Obviously, there is a need for development in both aforementioned areas for McCoy and became primary reasons as to his sliding on actual draft day. Looking past being the NCAA’s all time winningest quarterback [NOTE: Mike Holmgren selected the previous record holder, David Greene, in the same exact slot five years prior]. Not being completely blinded by his impressive career numbers which include a completion percentage of 70.33%, 13, 252 yards passing, and 112 touchdown throws; McCoy’s lack of top end arm strength as well as playing in a spread offense hurt his draft stock. Given time in an NFL weight room, while learning proper technique, and gaining repetitions making legitimate reads from under center in practice; he will likely get his opportunity to become this team’s starter in the future. There are tools to his game which give him the chance to be successful when the time does arrive. Those include his amazing touch in the short game, intelligence on the field, toughness about his game, and athleticism which belie his size. Despite the perceived overwhelming value of this selection, the question becomes…will this team make the internal decision Colt McCoy is their future and subsequently stick to said evaluation when next year’s quarterback crop looks so intriguing? President Mike Holmgren has displayed a tendency to stick to his guns over the years.
One prospect which generally received praise around these parts, but never seemed to garner much attention nationally was the Cleveland Browns’ selection of offensive lineman Shawn Lauvao late in the third installment. Starting thirty three straight games for Arizona State, his final sixteen were spent at left tackle. A position he will not play at the NFL level. Instead, the native Hawaiian will slide back inside to guard, where he competed earlier in his career as well as at the Senior Bowl. The interior blocker fits the same mold as many of this team’s draft selections: smart (almost finished with his graduate studies), tough, and experienced. Powerful in the weight room, Lauvao’s playing strength does not always translate and can be overwhelmed despite solid overall technique. Expectations for Lauvao are continuing to develop and potentially even compete for a starting guard spot as early as this season. His best option may be to “redshirt” this year before being placed in the team’s opening lineup at guard during next year’s schedule.
Safety Larry Asante of Nebraska became the choice in round five. Asante’s game is very similar to the earlier selection of T.J. Ward. Both are potential intimidators with a big presence against the run, field generals of their respective defenses, and very intelligent diagnosing plays. As a result, many scouts were high on a prospect such as this former Cornhusker. The difference lies in Asante’s limited abilities against the pass. He is clearly more effective moving forward in a straight line than dropping back in coverage. Again, those previously mentioned attributes make him attractive as a prospect; but his biggest overall contribution is providing potential quality depth to a position which had to start a converted wide receiver at safety the final half of last season.
Two selections in the sixth round finalized this particular draft class. Both come with high potential return. South Florida wide receiver Carlton Mitchell was generally regarded as an early to mid round selection but fell to a degree. At times, the wide receiver struggled with inconsistency in both his play and was deprived of solid quarterbacking to help highlight his talents. But at 6-feet-3-inches tall, 217 pounds, and capable of low 4.4 speed; Mitchell has ideal physical traits to develop. Much like the latter selection of South Carolina defensive end Clifton Geathers. Physically, there are very few who are in the same realm as this lineman. Standing almost 6-feet-8-inches tall, near 300 pounds, sub five flat speed, freakishly long arms, gigantic hands, and possessing great NFL bloodlines; Geathers never lived up to his potential while playing under Coach Spurrier. His junior campaign was his best before jumping ship early, and even then he only netted 8.5 tackles for loss including 3.5 quarterback sacks. With a lack of burst off the edge, considering his physical tools, Geathers may ideally be suited as a developmental five technique in Cleveland’s 34 defense. As many may have noticed, the usage of terms such as “physical”, “tools”, “development”, and “potential” have been used liberally describing these two particular prospects. The final reward could be tremendous. They could also find themselves on the outs quite quickly at the game’s highest level.
After finishing thirty-second in the league offensively and thirty-first defensively, there is but only way for the Browns to go. The presence of both Holmgren and Heckert, who have run draft war rooms previously, clearly brought a streamlined approach to this year’s class. Nothing about this particular group will skyrocket fans’ team expectations, yet the instant impact could be tremendous. With the potential of landing three to four immediate starters, a long term franchise quarterback prospect, and high end late additions; the Cleveland Browns quietly went about their business acquiring talent which fit well within their burgeoning identity.