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Well, that was fun. The annual weekend of excitement we know as The Draft has come and gone, leaving NFL fans waiting and wanting to watch their favorite sport.
Of course, the absence of games and practices leaves analysts to wonder, “How did each team do in the Draft?”
For the Denver Broncos, it was a weekend of gambles, at least at the beginning of their nine selections. (Look: BSN’s Denver Broncos Draft Central)
1st Round, No. 23, DE/OLB Shane Ray, Missouri
Defensive end / outside linebacker Shane Ray was the biggest such gamble. The team moved up five spots and sent away their starting center in a deal made to move up and steal what John Elway and Co. believe is a top-10 talent. Mike Mayock called his the “quickest first step in football,” which was easy to see by watching only a few clips of film. The young man is explosive off the snap. That ability to move more quickly than the offensive lineman looking to block him will serve Ray well in getting to the quarterback. 14.5 sacks, 22.5 tackles for a loss, earning him SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
But, there are some downsides to Ray, too. First and foremost, the marijuana thing. To be popped for pot possession is one thing, but for it to happen the Monday before the Draft is idiotic. Without a doubt, that run-in with the law made teams run away from Ray, the major reason he fell so far in the first round. He says it won’t happen again, and he better come through on that promise because Ray now has to start in the NFL’s substance-abuse program before he’s even played a snap. Second, there’s a question of size and strength, as he weighs in at a mere 245 pounds. Even at outside linebacker, Ray will have to bulk up to fight with the massive offensive linemen in the NFL. Finally, DE/OLB wasn’t the Broncos’ biggest need, hurting this grade as well.
Ray’s Grade: C-
2nd Round, No. 59, OT Ty Sambrailo, Colorado State
Taking Ray was a high-risk, high-reward gamble. Selecting Sambrailo in the second round was a reach. Sambrailo is a great kid who has an NFL future, but he’s not going to come in and play right away for the Broncos. Second round picks should be expected to compete for a starting spot right out of school, but while the former CSU Ram has multiple upsides, he has major holes in his game as well.
Let’s start with the positives: He’s intelligent in the pass-blocking game, athletic and able to move in front of edge-rushers with ease. He uses great fundamentals as a pass-blocker and has the speed to move out and block for screens.
Now the negatives: Scouts worry he’s not strong enough despite his 6’6” 311-pound frame. He must improve as a run-blocker, something that will not only be important as an offensive lineman in the NFL, but especially in Gary Kubiak’s run-heavy offense.
Simply, he was graded to be taken in the third or fourth round and Denver reached to get him at No. 59 overall in the second. He will fill a need in adding depth to the line but likely could have been taken in the third.
Sambrailo’s Grade: C-
3rd Round, No. 92, TE Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State
Heuerman, again, looks like a gamble. Why? His history of Lisfranc injuries in his foot, which was operated on last spring and then again in August. Tight ends must push off to effectively run routes as well as use their foot to anchor and push through defenders on run plays. Denver lost their starting tight end in Julius Thomas and then signed a temporary replacement in Owen Daniels. Daniels is a much better blocking tight end than Thomas was, but Daniels is less athletic, too. Heuerman seems to be a combination of the two, and we’ll have to wait to see how well he blocks as scouts were all over the place on that aspect of his game.
Heuerman Grade: B-
4th Round, No. 133, C Max Garcia, Florida
Consider this: The Broncos may have just found their new starting center in the fourth round using a compensatory pick after watching Eric Decker leave to the New York Jets. Unlike the first three, Garcia is not a gamble at all, but a great value pick. He was named Second-team All SEC at center as a senior and weighs in at 6’4” and 309 pounds.
Our Brandon Spano seems to love the pick:
I agree. I think Max Garcia at 133 was one of the best picks of the 2015 Draft https://t.co/sjCsUOlPCu
— Brandon Spano Show (@BrandonSpano) May 4, 2015
Garcia’s Grade: B+
5th Round, No. 164, CB Lorenzo Doss, Tulane
Doss is small (5’10” and 182 pounds) but speedy as hell (4.47 40-yard dash). Speed kills in the NFL, even if that means on special teams, which is likely where Doss will end up. If he makes the team. The young corner is a “feast or famine” type guy, gambling to make big plays, which pays off at times. Had 15 interceptions and 33 passes defended in the last three years as a starter at Tulane.
Doss’ Grade: B-
6th Round, No. 203, DT Darius Kilgo, Maryland
Can a team really have too many massive men to clog the middle? No. At 6’3” and 319 pounds, he’s a mammoth man, but the knock on is his one-dimensional run-stuffing game. This was a great pick for depth, though Kilgo will likely end up on the practice squad this year. What he does with practice and coaching will likely make the difference between playing and backing up for years.
Kilgo’s Grade: C
7th Round, No. 250, QB Trevor Siemian, Northwestern
Somewhere, Northwestern alum Mike Wilbon is smiling. Gary Kubiak is high on the young QB’s ability to play at the next level. Maybe he can at least put pressure on Brock Osweiler.
Siemian’s Grade: C-
7th Round, No. 251, DB Taurean Nixon, Tulane
The Broncos already have two cornerbacks who played together in college in Chris Harris and Aqib Talib. So, why not try to recreate that in the future? Doss is clearly the better of the two, but it’s possible Nixon will provide depth on special teams or the practice squad.
Nixon’s Grade: D
7th Round, No. 252, LB Josh Furman, Oklahoma state
At 6’1” and 210 pounds, Furman is too small to play linebacker in the NFL. Maybe the Broncos will move him to safety, with all his reported speed.
Furman’s Grade: D
Denver Broncos’ 2015 NFL Draft overall grade: C