Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate Denver Broncos Community!

Broncos Film Room: Two potential Aqib Talib replacements that come available this week

Andre Simone Avatar
July 7, 2018

The Denver Broncos are on a mission to return to elite defensive status.

They’ve added depth to their defensive line and snatched up a big-time pass rusher in the draft, which should help them get back to being an elite pass rushing unit.

Denver’s also added to their depth and versatility at the linebacker and safety positions, which should allow the personnel to fit their current schemes much better. In turn, this should allow the defense to play better against offenses like the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, and Philadelphia Eagles who lit them up a year ago.

The one big glaring question is at cornerback where the Broncos still have two fantastic cover men in Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby, but their third cornerback, who’ll essentially be tasked with replacing Aqib Talib, is a complete unknown. 

Given how much the defense plays in nickel and dime formations, that position could be a glaring weakness next season, which could make a potentially dominant unit easy to beat, by simply picking on that one weak spot.

With the NFL’s supplemental draft coming up on July 11th, the Broncos have a rare opportunity to add a talented young corner who might just be ideally suited to play in their scheme and patch up that hole to perfection. 

Having won fewer than six games last season, the Broncos have priority in the blind bit process that is the supplemental draft, in a rare year where there’s actually some pretty intriguing talent available.

Because of this, we went back to the tape to analyze the two big prospects available to see if they’re worth giving up a future pick, here’s what we found.

Sam Beal, CB, Western Michigan 

Beal has great size at just under 6-foot-1 and is physical at the point of attack. He’s ideally suited as a press cornerback, where he played almost exclusively in college. All of these factors make him a particularly intriguing fit in Denver as a Talib replacement.

What has the NFL world buzzing, though, is his speed, which he showed on tape and confirmed at his pro day, running a 4.47 40-yard dash. He can turn and run with the best of them and has fluid hips, making him very natural in man coverage.

When asked to cover deep, he’s exceptional, and though he did a lot of damage against MAC competition, he showed very well in an early-season matchup against USC, even intercepting Sam Darnold.

Beal will shadow wideouts and run the route for them, making him a constant threat to play the ball. He wasn’t tested often in college but has immense potential. He can handle bigger receivers with ease and even match up against TEs.

He tracks the ball well on deep passes and is fluid turning on comeback routes or curls to play the ball.

When in position, he’ll lower his shoulder and deliver physical tackles. He’s strong as a blitzer coming downhill to make a play at the line of scrimmage and has much more upside in that area of his game.

Beal also possess good speed laterally to follow crossers or reverse runs.

The biggest weakness in his game is that he’s not the most reliable tackler. He lacks physicality against the run, struggles to wrap up when he’s not coming downhill, and the action is coming to him. He’ll be a liability early on in his career and doesn’t fit Broncos in this area, who rely on their defensive backs to be sure tacklers.

Too often, he lets receivers easily block him out the run game and just appears disinterested in playing the run. Beal takes bad angles as a tackler, too.

He can sometimes be undisciplined with his eyes and get beat on passes in which he’s playing perfect coverage.

Beal was going to return for his senior season on a team that had lost its mojo and some of its best players, reports that he had a second-round grade seem overblown, as his production was only average.

The level of competition he faced in the MAC is a question mark, as well, and will require a steep learning curve for him next year. 

He’s also limited in his experience playing zone or off coverage, having been used almost exclusively in press at Western Michigan. 

Beal has massive upside and could’ve been poised for a big senior year, he’s a big play on potential and might get overdraft by someone as a result. 

Adonis Alexander, CB, Virginia Tech 

Alexander was the bigger name coming into this process but has lost a bit of steam to Beal as his pro-day testing wasn’t as exhilarating and he’s coming off a decent 2017 season that wasn’t at the level of his 2016 campaign.

That said, Alexander has elite length and size at 6-foot-2 with incredibly long arms. He’s an elite jump-ball cornerback, who’s potentially a monstrous cover man in the red zone.

The Hokie is a very talented tackler, who will lower his shoulder and put his body on the line. He’s very good working downhill and will read and react quickly. He was used in a variety of coverages, playing off or zone but also press, where he, too, is at his best.

He’s physical at the line of scrimmage and can use his great length to redirect routes down the sideline. That length makes him hard to beat in one-on-one coverage, and he’ll lower his shoulder and challenge the ball at the point of attack.

He plays with really good timing and instincts attacking the ball mid-air, and can be a huge asset against bigger targets.

He has good eye discipline, very good ball skills, and doesn’t shy away from contact. He’s also proven on big stages against NFL-level talents.

Alexander has the ability to turn and run and is good for a big corner at attacking double moves or comeback routes.

He plays faster than he tested, builds up speed, and is a very effective deep cover man as his length makes up for some of his lack of speed.

His 2016 tape was special and, due to his skillset, he could play some safety as well

Because of his size, he’s not the most fluid and can be too handsy. He isn’t a quick-twitch athlete, and will struggle to break up short-to-intermediate routes—slants can be his Achilles heel. 

In conclusion

Given their pro-day performances, and the interest that’s been building around them, Beal is almost certain to go higher than Alexander at this point—all teams showed up at Beal’s pro day while “only” 26 showed at Alexander’s.

Beal is still raw, but his talent would be tantalizing paired with the Broncos pass rush. The problem is he seems likely to be a bit overrated due to his physical skills. Assuming he can be an upgrade to what the Broncos have at cornerback right now might be a bit short-sighted, as he’s not a finished product.

Beal will likely get picked with a second or third-round selection.

Alexander instead can likely be had at a bit of a bargain price, as he was poised to go in the top-50 picks in the 2019 draft with a big season.

He has the frame to fit perfectly in the Broncos scheme and could be an upgrade to what Denver currently has at cornerback behind Roby and Harris. Putting a third or fourth-round bid on him would be worthwhile, and it’s not unthinkable that he might be able to contribute early in 2018 for Denver as their Talib replacement. 

Both have more raw talent than Isaac Yiadom, who I’m still high on, and have just as much raw upside as Brendan Langley, though they’re more polished and ready than Langley was coming into the NFL.

At the right price, it might be essential for Denver to snatch one of these two young cornerbacks up while they can in a rare opportunity to add talent to the defense.


Share your thoughts

Join the conversation

The Comment section is only for diehard members

Open comments +

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?