The home stretch is finally in sight as the, say it with me, May draft is, thankfully for many scouts, just a day away. And in the final countdown before everybody is really on the clock, it’s time to take a one-a-day look at some specific players who could find their way into the Broncos' draft class by the time the seven rounds come to a close.
The Broncos have said they feel comfortable in their ability to deal with left guard Zane Beadles’ departure in free agency with some in-house moves. Most notably would be the move of right tackle Orlando Franklin, a starter since he was selected in the 2011 draft, to left guard, a move Franklin has been told will be made when the team has full-team workouts in OTAs.
Chris Clark would then move to right tackle with Ryan Clady’s return to left tackle after spending much of the 2013 season on injured reserve with a foot injury. The Broncos will try several other combination as well as they work toward head coach John Fox's promise to put "the best five'' players in front of quarterback Peyton Manning.
But as they continue to look to shore up things in the middle of the formation, the Broncos will give a long look to a fairly deep group of linemen on the board, including a center, a potential right tackle and inside at guard. Jackson and Su’a-Filo are among the best guards in this draft class and both would bring a skill set to the Broncos that would make each a quality fit as a potential starter.
Su’a-Filo was the first true freshman in UCLA history to start a season opener in 2009 and is an athletic player who also played some left tackle in his time with the Bruins. He projects to be a guard in the NFL – he struggled working in the open spaces at tackle at times, especially with recovery skills if knocked off balance some by opposing defensive ends.
But inside Su’a-Filo is quick off the ball and is effective at moving people in the run game and keeping rushers off the quarterback. He does need some work in an NFL strength program and play with a little more upper-body power to fend off defensive tackles.
If you want power, then Jackson is your guy. Also in all of the indicators about a prospect’s potential NFL success, few are more reliable to gauge the future than 50-game starters in the offensive line. Those players have obviously been durable over their college careers and they just seem to understand how to get to work as well as what it takes to succeed game in, game out, season after season.
To that end, Jackson started all 52 games of his career at Mississippi State. He has an enormous reach, befitting his 6-foot-3 ¼, 336-pound frame, and in pass protection there is no place to go. When he slams the door on an opposing defensive tackle, it stays closed.
Consider a potential Jackson-Louis Vasquez pairing at guard for the Broncos -- it would give them one of the biggest tandems in the league -- and Manning would be difficult to see from across the line of scrimmage let alone find for opposing rushers.
Jackson plays with the savvy of the coach’s son that he is and consistently makes good decisions in blitz situations and projects as a player with the skills to start as a rookie with the football character of a two-time team captain. Jackson did tie for the slowest 40-yard dash among the linemen at the scouting combine – 5.63 seconds – but this is a quality interior line prospect who clearly understands the game and should be in somebody’s lineup for a long time.