Saturday, July 19, 2008

Preparing for the 2009 NFL Draft; pars octava:

Before continuing with this purely subjunctive, speculative and mostly imaginary (only the football players aren't) exercise, let's take a moment for some relevant considerations. The rounds in which the players discussed here may be drafted are mostly guesswork. For sure, it's based on measurables, production, level of competition and other stuff (e.g., character considerations), so maybe you could call it educated guesswork. Estimating how many and which Juniors come out in '09 and where they may plug into an anticipated draft order is like voodoo divination.

The League has been cool to allow fans to peek into the process, but the teams themselves jealously guard their evaluations and draft boards, especially the criteria by which they arrive at those conclusions. Plus, no team is monolithic in their thought processes. Within each club are factions which argue and struggle between and during their times on the clock. Between now and the end of April '09, much can happen. An entire college football season is yet to be played. Players will emerge to have impressive performances not only in big games, but over the course of the year. Injuries will occur and, unfortunately, so will arrests and dismissals. When the selection process begins, thirty-two different points-of-view will be presented in each round requiring quite a bit of reassessment on the fly. The draft itself is a game inside a game inside a game.

In '08, for example, who would have thought no WRs would be taken in the first round and that the first would be Donnie Avery from Houston? More CBs were drafted than most draftniks had predicted: five in the first round; six in the second; four in the third; NINE in the fourth; four in the fifth; one in the sixth; and, three in the seventh for a total of THIRTY-TWO! That's close to one-seventh (c.14%) of all players drafted at that one position. Chevis Jackson, CB, LSU was taken by Atlanta at #68 in the third while Steve Johnson, WR, Kentucky, who tore Chevis (and the SEC) up in '07, wasn't drafted until the seventh round (#224) by Buffalo. Denver surprised it's own fans (something I always enjoy) by drafting Eddie Royal, WR, VaTech in the second round and Jack Williams, CB, Kent State in the fourth.

The '08 draft pool was very deep before a bunch of great Juniors joined it. It was a good year for the Broncos to have nine draft picks. The quality of the CFAs is also testimony to the great depth of '08. Studying the probable '09 draft pool has led me to believe that it won't be as deep as '08 even when adding the anticipated group of Juniors. CFAs in '08 would probably be drafted in '09 (e.g., Wesley Woodyard and Anthony Alridge). I'm not exactly sure how many draft choices the Broncos have in '09. I'm assuming seven, but are they due any from other teams or by compensation? Don't know. It also isn't completely clear what Denver will need to give the NY Jets for DeWayne Robertson. Seems as if it might be conditional on how much he plays involving anywhere from a 4th or 5th to a 6th or 7th round pick. I sure hope it isn't a fourth because if you'll reread "pars septima", the fourth round of '09 is expected to still have a bunch of good football players.

Another unpredictable is whether or not Mike Shanahan will trade up. He'd tell you he isn't even worried about that right now because TC and the season are here. He'll study it after the season. He has a whole staff of college scouts on it. FS, G and TE should still need help in '09. Question is, how well the RBs, MLBs and DL do in '08? What will the CB situation be as regards resignings, FA and salary cap? The fourth round in '09 could be used to address any of those. I really think that every other year the Broncos should try to keep all of their picks and even acquire some more. They have been accumulating many young players, but there is a limit to how many rookies a team can absorb. It takes two or three years to properly evaluate rookies and most of them seem to be signing three or four year contracts. Drafting ought to be an exercise in choosing guys who have a good chance of making the team as '08 seems to be. Alternate years could be used to target players for whom to trade up (usually requiring the loss of draft choices) as in '07.

Here are some possible fifth rounders for the Broncos to consider in 2009:

  • Jaison Williams, WR, Oregon, 6-4, 240, 56 rec, 844 yds, 8 TD in '07. [*Ducks' leading receiver] Seems big enough to be an H-Back or TE, doesn't he? So are Brandon Marshall and rookie Lorne Sam. If the Broncos feel the need for a big receiver, here's Jaison. If he gains over a thousand yards in '08, he might be worth it. Dropped passes seem to have been an issue. Guys his size shouldn't worry about the coverage. On the contrary, he should be terrorizing the secondaries. We'll be watching.

  • George Hypolite, DT, CU, 6-1, 288, 49 tkl, 6 sk, 5.5 tfl, 1 pbu and 1 int in '07. After the "jumbo" experiment with DT in '07, he seems small, but have you seen him play? This dude has a motor. I'm thinking he would fit with Denver's new DL concept. He could become one of those three-hundred pound bowling balls I think the Denver DL needs. Besides, when a DT comes in on rotation, he needs to bring some game and not just hold the fort.

  • DeAndre Wright, CB, UNM, 5-11, 193, 36 tkl, 1.5 tfl, 9 pbu and 3 int in '07. If the Broncos decide to add another CB in '09, I would prefer Londen Fryar, Western Michigan, listed as a fourth round prospect. If however, another need is addressed in the fourth, this Lobo could be worth it depending on the CB position situation Denver finds itself in next Spring. As much as the Mountain West throws the ball, their DBs are usually pretty good.

  • Will Johnson, DT, Michigan, 6-5, 290, 40 tkl, .5 sk, 2 tfl in '07. Plays for a big school with the biggest stadium in a big conference. Need to keep tabs on him in '08. Michigan will probably play the 3-3-5 D that Rich Rodriguez used at WVA. DL in that D are usually sent to a designated gap on each call (e.g., slant, angle, pinch). That could be considered a good preparation for the style the Broncos may use this season. By the way, Will's one of those academic awards guys, too.

  • Jorvorskie Lane, FB, Texas A&M, 6-0, 278, 169 att, 780 yds, 16 TD, 12 rec, 115 yds, 1 TD [*as a RB] Mike Sherman is moving him to FB in '08 which will put Lane and TB Mike Goodson in the backfield together for obvious reasons. It remains to be seen how Jorvorskie will adapt to a different position where he will have plenty to do (blocking and receiving) without being handed the ball. Sherman is probably looking at his roster and saying to himself that a 280 pound back: a) better be a blocker; and b) needs to lose some weight. Lane has a reputation for slacking in the offseason, but maybe a new coach and a new attitude will change that. FB was a need for the Broncos last year. Peyton Hillis will have the opportunity to become a pro fullback which consists of blocking, special teams, blocking, receiving, blocking and carrying the ball occasionally followed by more blocking. Sometimes big RBs who have been accustomed to running the ball have difficulty becoming the multi-dimensional player a FB must be. Maybe a real pro coach can turn Lane into a real pro FB.

  • Andy Levitre, G, Oregon State, 6-2, 324. A college tackle who projects to G in the NFL and can play C as well. Interchangeability is a necessity for NFL OL and this guy could play T or C in a pinch. Sometimes fans try to pigeonhole OL in one starting or backup spot. Truth is you start your best five and if one of those goes down, bring in #6 and shuffle if necessary. I hope the Broncos will have drafted a G before the fifth round in '09, but if not, Andy might be there. He probably compares to Montrae Holland. Oh, and he's one of those academic awards guys, too.
If the Denver Broncos end up having to give a draft choice to the Jets for DeWayne Robertson, I hope it's just a sixth or seventh because it looks like the '09 pool of players holds up fairly well through five rounds. A reasonable 2009 draft through five rounds for Denver might look something like:
  • 1st: Courtney Greene, FS, Rutgers;
  • 2nd: Mitch Petrus, G, Arkansas;
  • 3rd: Bear Pascoe, TE, Fresno State;
  • 4th: Scott McKillop, MLB, Pitt or Devin Moore, RB, WYO or Londen Fryar, CB, Western Michigan;
  • 5th: George Hypolite, DT, CU or DeAndre Wright, CB, New Mexico.
Quantitatively the Broncos may need to draft more defensive than offensive players in '09 ... maybe.

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