The Denver Broncos will bring their draft class into their Dove Valley complex this coming weekend for a three-day, welcome-to-the-show rookie minicamp.
All of the first-year players will get their indoctrination into the Broncos’ way on all things football. So, at Step 1 in their quest to earn a roster spot to go with some playing time in the regular season, it’s a good time to look at the prospects for each of those players in the six-player draft class.
Today: Fifth-round pick: Lamin Barrow
What does he bring to the table: At 6-foot-1 3/8-inches tall and 237 pounds with 4.59 speed in the 40-yard dash (on the electronic clock) at the scouting combine, Barrow fits the profile of what the Broncos want at middle linebacker.
Though he played the weakside linebacker spot in LSU’s defense for much of his career in Baton Rouge, his game video shows a player who moves well laterally, who finds the ball quickly and sheds blockers better than he’s been given credit for in some of the pre-draft evaluations.
Barrow also showed the ability to smoothly drop into coverage with precision, his drops were consistent in zone coverages, and he didn’t waver from the assignment so was usually where he was supposed to be. Barrow is also a former team captain with football character and is expected to arrive with a quality work ethic.
"I definitely came into the fold -- came up as an inside linebacker," Barrow said of his career at LSU. "But then LSU and their coach, (defensive coordinator John) Chavis he had me on the left side and then the middle, but it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to (playing in the middle). I feel like I’m going to work really hard, and whatever they need me to play, I’ll play it."
Prospects for playing time: That is up to Barrow, but if he shows enough in the coming weeks and months the Broncos would be inclined to get him in the lineup.
Nate Irving, by all accounts, has done well in conditioning work in recent weeks and looks as if he senses an opportunity for some potential playing time in the middle of the defense. That said, the Broncos have tried Irving in the middle before and moved on to other options each time.
Whether it’s Barrow or Irving or anyone else who steps up, the key will be squaring up blocks, shedding and making plays in the run game. With what Barrow has shown in his collegiate career, he has more potential as a three-down option because of his coverage ability.
The Broncos see Irving as a two-down option that would then force some adjustments on third down, including dropping safety T.J. Ward into the box as a linebacker in the nickel package.
Biggest hurdle to playing time: Barrow’s skills should translate fairly quickly into pass defense. He moves well and showed quality straight-line speed in his pre-draft work, perhaps even a little more than some scouts expected before he ran at the combine.
But playing the middle is a physical job. Though the Broncos use their mammoth defensive tackles to try to keep the blockers off the middle linebacker, the job still requires plenty of taking on blocks without surrendering a run lane, shedding those blocks and making tackles. Because of his athleticism, Barrow ran around blocks at times and was still able to run himself back into the play. That doesn’t work so well in the NFL, and how he plays that part of the game will be the biggest factor in how much playing time he earns.
He projects quickly into the nickel package, but if he shows those skills in run defense, he would be exactly the kind of three-down option John Elway covets at linebacker.
The bottom line: In many ways Barrow was the pick the Broncos’ brass sweated the most during the three-day draft. They stayed put in the fifth round and hoped he would be there, but Elway joked that head coach John Fox did "18 laps" around the war room until the Broncos could select Barrow.
They have high hopes for him at a need position, and if he shows himself to be ready, he would find himself in the lineup quickly -- much the way a sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft did as a rookie, a guy named Danny Trevathan.