Denver Broncos: 2014 NFL Draft

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: Second-round pick Cody Latimer.

What does he bring to the table: When the Broncos stared down a draft board filled with big, strong, fast wide receivers they wanted all that and more.

They wanted not just a guy with quality hands who can add on the yardage with the ball under his arm, but somebody with the mental wherewithal to work in the fast-paced environment of the Broncos' no-huddle attack. They needed somebody was also willing and able to buckle up and block in the run game.

Latimer was the all-of-the-above guy. Enough so that the team traded three draft picks to move up seven slots to take him in the second round. Latimer showed elite speed in his pre-draft workout and his game video shows a tenacious blocker who also has the physicality to win contested passes at almost every opportunity.

"The aggression just comes naturally and you want to dominate corners, guys who are smaller than you," Latimer said. "And with my little basketball history background playing in the post against 6-8, 6-10 guys made me even more physical being able to handle that so once I go up against a smaller corner, it makes it makes it much easier for me."

Prospects for playing time: The Broncos did sign Emmanuel Sanders at the position to replace the departed Eric Decker. And make no mistake the Broncos' pro personnel department had Sanders as one of the top available free agents and the offensive coaches have big plans for him in the coming season.

But with Wes Welker's concussion history and the team's desire for more offensive depth, Latimer can earn some quality snaps right out of the gate. Even with Andre Caldwell having signed a two-year deal with the team just before free agency opened, Latimer projects to be the No. 4 receiver in the rotation.

Biggest hurdle to playing time: Latimer had surgery to repair a fractured bone in his left foot in January -- the fifth metatarsal -- so the Broncos will have to evaluate him physically. There are times, because of blood flow to that part of the foot, the fifth metarsal can be slower to heal than other bones. Also, often players need a second surgery to remove screws that were inserted to help in the healing process or to deal with scar tissue.

Both Decker and Demaryius Thomas had foot surgery in the months before each player's respective rookie seasons. Both dealt with issues relating to that in that first year -- Decker has said his foot was sore for most of that first season.

In the end, however, the Broncos liked what they saw in a limited pro day workout and got a favorable report from their medical staff.

The bottom line: Beyond the physical skills required for the job, the biggest reason rookie wide receivers often struggle in the NFL is they aren't prepared to deal with far more contact in their routes from defensive backs and far more press coverage overall.

They've spent college careers getting a free release against college defensive coordinators afraid to challenge them along the line of scrimmage. All of a sudden being "open" might be a half step when it used to be three yards and most players at the position simply don't make the adjustment all that quickly.

But Latimer plays a physical game -- his 23 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press at the combine was the best among the receivers -- and has the top-end speed that will make him one of the team's fastest players. Add in good hands, proficiency in the kinds of routes the Broncos like to use -- particularly slants as well as wide receiver screens -- and a willingness to work and you have a player who should earn premium snaps in the upcoming season.
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 gain a roster spot to go with some playing time in the regular season, it's a good time to look at the prospects in the six-player draft class.

Today: First-round pick Bradley Roby

What does he bring to the table: There were scouts and defensive coaches around the league who believed, simply based on athleticism and potential, Roby was the best cover cornerback on the draft board.

Roby was one of the fastest players timed at the league's scouting combine with a 4.34 showing (on the electronic clock) in the 40-yard dash, at 194 pounds. He has the kind of fast-twitch quickness and lower-body flexibility defensive coaches players covet in coverage.

Add in the instinctive ability to play the ball without losing sight of the receiver and a swagger in his play and you have exactly what is needed in the formation in the these pass-happy times.

Prospects for playing time: The Broncos see a player who can work into the nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (six defensive backs) right front the start. In a perfect world, when the Broncos face the numerous three-wide receiver sets they'll see in the upcoming season, they would like to have Aqib Talib and Roby play in the two outside spots with Chris Harris Jr. lined up in the slot.

And with Harris Jr. still working his way back after partially tearing an ACL in January, there some chance Roby may have to be ready to work with the starters early.

Biggest hurdle to playing time: Some talent evaluators in the league have labeled Roby as a boom-or-bust guy, a player with breathtaking athletic gifts who may or may not be able to lock in and be a reliable professional.

His game video shows concentration lapses at times where he gives up catches and significant yards to players who are less athletic than he is. He's also had some off-the-field issues -- he pushed a bouncer in an incident in a Bloomington, Indiana bar last year and was cited earlier this year after a policeman found him sleeping in a car.

Some have described him as immature or "spoiled." Not egregious crimes to be sure for a 20-something, but the NFL is a difficult place for those in search of vocational maturity. There are plenty of examples of those who took their time to grow up only to discover the window had already closed on their physical abilities.

The Broncos need Roby to put actions to his words.

"Guys tried to put me in a category, kind of, because of the things I got myself into" Roby said when he arrived in Denver. "I made some bad decisions in the past, but at the end of the day that doesn't make me a bad guy. Ask anybody who's coached me, I'm a great guy, a great teammate."

The bottom line: Roby's talent, and a slide down to the 31st pick of the draft, tilted the scales for the Broncos Thursday night, so they took a chance.

If they're right, they get an immediate contributor who projects to be a starter soon. If they're wrong, and they can't find a way to get Roby pointed in the right direction or Roby simply doesn't hold up his end of the bargain, they will feel the rather significant sting of a first-round whiff.
The Denver Broncos were picking late in this year’s NFL draft – 31st in each round – and after all was said and done, with a trade here and a trade there, they turned their original seven picks into six selections.

They filled some needs with some athleticism, stuck to their board, but upon further review ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. tought their efforts were slightly above averageInsider.

While their first four picks each project to earn at least some playing time as rookies in the coming season, the immediate starters, because of the construction of the Broncos' current depth chart, could come from the middle rounds.

Tackle Michael Schofield, a witty young man who answered repeated questions about his inability to keep weight on his 6-foot-6 frame with “I make 300 [pounds] look good,’’ will get every opportunity to earn the starting job on the right side of the line.

It will be an interesting training camp since the Broncos have often leaned toward veterans in the offensive front with the current coaching staff. Orlando Franklin started at right tackle as a rookie in 2011, but has now been moved for a test drive at left guard in offseason workouts. But in the three previous drafts of the John Elway/John Fox regime the Broncos selected three offensive linemen, one in each of those draft classes. Of the three only Franklin played as a rookie and one – center Philip Blake – was cut last season.

But Schofield has the size and skill set to break through. He was a right tackle at Michigan but was athletic enough that he was told by the Wolverines’ coaching staff he would have been moved to left tackle had Taylor Lewan – a first-round pick in this year’s draft – not returned for his senior season in 2013.

And the other potential starter, at least if he can progress quickly, is fifth-round pick Lamin Barrow. Barrow, who can play the weakside spot as well as middle linebacker in the Broncos’ scheme, will at least get a look there during offseason work.

The Broncos like what Nate Irving has done already in this offseason, but the Broncos continue to want more speed and athleticism in the formation and Irving is seen as a two-down player. Lamin is seen as a potential three-down player in the Broncos' scheme, but he has a lot of ground to make up to make that happen.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Folks keep wanting to tell John Elway he’s all in for the Super Bowl this year, that he is in win-now mode as the clock ticks on what remains in Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning's career.

But Saturday, as he wrapped up his fourth draft as the Broncos’ top football executive, Elway stuck to his mantra. That he is always in win-now mode, as in this year, next year and all the years that follow in whatever becomes of his tenure on the job.

[+] EnlargeBradley Roby
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesThe Broncos are confident first-round pick Bradley Roby will help keep them atop the AFC West.
"There’s so much talk about us trying to win now, and I keep saying we’re trying to win from now on and that’s going to continue," Elway said. “And that’s why every draft you go to is very, very important, because if we’re successful in the draft that’s what creates depth and creates your players down the line … Our mentality is to win now and now on."

Over the draft’s three days, the Broncos moved around some as they surrendered one of their picks this year, one next year and then got one back in '15 to do it, and the six-player draft class, Elway said, accomplished three goals. It increased the team’s speed, increased the team’s physicality, and potentially, if they get what they hope for from the newest crop of rookies, they got a few more players to help win both now and in the post-Manning era.

"Everybody on here, we feel really good about," said Broncos head coach John Fox. “We really increased our team speed. Really if you go through every position, even (tackle) Michael Schofield ran very well. They’re athletic, we hope they develop, but for sure, right away, we increased our team speed."

The class provided at least some angst among fans in the Twitter-verse who wanted a linebacker somewhere in the first two days of the draft, or wished Elway wouldn’t have traded away three picks to move up to take wide receiver Cody Latimer. However, if the Broncos are right and the usual post-draft optimism turns out to be the reality, they see potential starters in the group.

They see first-rounder Bradley Roby as a future starter who will be in the mix to play in the nickel and dime packages as a rookie. They see Latimer, the second-rounder, in the rotation at wideout this season as a No. 4 with the ability for more if there is an injury among the top three at the position -- Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Emmanuel Sanders.

And they see Schofield, the third-round pick, as a potential starter at right tackle as a rookie, or at minimum a player who immediately makes the push for the job against fifth-year veteran Chris Clark. Then there’s linebacker Lamin Barrow, the fifth-round pick Saturday, who the Broncos see as a potential middle linebacker in their scheme.

As it turned out, it was the wait for Barrow on the draft board that turned out to be the most nerve-wracking. Some teams saw Barrow as a weakside linebacker in the NFL, but the Broncos see him as a potential option in the middle with the versatility to do a little more on third down in the team's specialty packages, perhaps paired with Danny Trevathan, a sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft.

"We were holding on a little bit after we moved back from the bottom of the fourth to the middle of the fifth, we were holding on a little bit there," Elway said. "Fortunately Lamin made it to use there, that was the one John did about 18 laps around the room, the most nervous time of the draft."

"(Playing in the middle) is definitely something I’m looking forward to," Barrow said. "... Whatever they need me to play, I’ll play it."

Among the three previous draft classes Elway has presided over, the team has gotten plenty of production from the ’11 and ’13 groups with the 2012 class still lagging behind. Even with Trevathan's development from the '12 class, Ronnie Hillman was unable to crack the lineup much last year, Derek Wolfe is coming back from injured reserve, and quarterback Brock Osweiler is still in watch-and-learn mode behind Manning.

This time around Roby and Latimer will make the Class of ’14 go in coming seasons, but if the Broncos are right about two or three of the others, it will help Elway keep the team right where he wants it.

In win-now mode. Always.

Denver Broncos draft wrap-up

May, 10, 2014
May 10
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A wrap-up of the Denver Broncos' draft. Click here for a full list of Broncos draftees.

[+] EnlargeCody Latimer
AP Photo/Alan PetersimeThe Broncos made an aggressive trade for Indiana receiver Cody Latimer.
Best move: It cost three draft picks for the Broncos to move up seven slots to Indiana wide receiver Cody Latimer, and given the most commonly used draft charts, the Broncos surrendered too much value to do it, especially if the fourth-round pick in the 2015 draft is not at the bottom of the round. But if Latimer develops as you would expect a big, fast, physical wide receiver to develop in the Broncos offense, it won’t matter all that much. If Latimer rolls up his sleeves and gets to work, he should find a way into the team’s rotation as a rookie and develop into a starter.

Riskiest move: The Broncos saw a top-15 player in cornerback Bradley Roby on the board at No. 31 when they made their first-round pick, and they believed that presented the right risk-reward ratio with concerns about Roby’s maturity. The Broncos did their homework on Roby and believe he is ready to grow up and be a pro. So when all was said and done Saturday, the only hole that remained for the Broncos was improving the return game. The Broncos would rather not use wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in the return game given the expectations for him in the offense but might have to make the risky move.

Most surprising move: The Broncos weren’t thrilled with this class of running backs, so it isn’t a shock they elected to pass on taking one. Though there were more big backs available than in years past, the Broncos did not use any of their picks on a back. Montee Ball is the clear starter, and the Broncos believe Ronnie Hillman can still offer some big-play ability in what is likely a make-or-break season for the 2012 second-rounder, but they are still a little thin at the position.

File it away: It might have been the move that got the least amount of attention, but it provided a big glimpse into how the Broncos go about the draft these days. John Elway has preached patience as things unfold, and when the Broncos traded out of the fourth round Saturday, it was, in large part, because they did not have a player still on the board with a grade worthy of that pick. It was a prudent move that got the team an extra pick in 2015 and kept it from reaching on a player. The good teams take the time to set the board right and stick to the board during the draft weekend. Don’t reach, don’t draft solely for need and things will go better. It was draft discipline that will serve them well if they maintain it moving forward.
videoENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The pick: Michael Schofield, OT, Michigan

My take: The Broncos, having already told Orlando Franklin he will move from right tackle to left guard, were on the hunt for a right tackle prospect in the draft’s first two days. The Broncos saw the prospect they wanted in Michigan’s Michael Schofield. He has the potential to play both guard and tackle, which is the kind of flexibility the Broncos hoped to find. Schofield started 10 games at left guard in 2011 to go with 26 starts at right tackle in 2012 and 2013 combined. He’s a gritty player who showed himself to already be proficient in the run game. Schofield is a good enough athlete to have run the 110 hurdles for his high school’s track team in suburban Chicago. He should get the chance to compete for the right tackle spot right away.

Spin the wheel: This pick adds another player to the mix as the Broncos work through the combinations in the offensive front. Coach John Fox said earlier this offseason the team would try “a million" groupings in the offensive line during offseason workouts. With Franklin’s move to guard, the Broncos probably will work Schofield and Chris Clark at right tackle. Newly-signed center Will Montgomery was signed in free agency with the idea he could be a starting center, where he will battle Manny Ramirez.

What’s next: The Broncos have picked as expected thus far with a cornerback, wide receiver and offensive lineman in their first three picks. That leaves them in a position to look at linebackers down the board, especially one who could compete for the middle linebacker job.
videoENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The pick: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana

My take: The Broncos saw their opportunity to jump up to get the kind of receiver they wanted on this draft board and took it. They moved up seven spots in the second round to grab Latimer. In a draft filled with big, fast wideouts, Latimer fits the bill at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, a player who ran in the 4.4s in the 40-yard dash at his pro day.

The Broncos decided they simply couldn't wait any longer to get a receiver who carried a first-round grade from many teams. With Emmanuel Sanders having signed as a free agent to replace Eric Decker, Latimer projects as a rotation player at wide receiver at the outset. Given Wes Welker's concussion history and the fact both Welker and Demaryius Thomas are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents following the 2014 season, the Broncos needed to use the deepest receiver class in memory to help fortify the position. Latimer will contribute this season.

Learning curve: A high percentage of Latimer's catches at Indiana were on short and intermediate routes, such as quick slants and screens, so he will have to show he can do a little more down the field with the Broncos. He came out a year early, so he has plenty of room to grow coming off his lone 1,000-yard season with the Hoosiers (72 catches, 1,096 yards and 15 touchdowns). He has a powerful frame, strong hands and a fearless approach to the game. He'll be asked to run a far larger variety of routes in the Broncos' offense and be able to function in a no-huddle offense that does most of its work at the line of scrimmage, but he fits the physical profile the Broncos were looking for in this draft at the position.

What's next: It was almost a slam dunk that the Broncos were going to grab a receiver in the second round. So, as they move into the third round and beyond, the Broncos will be looking for a running back, a middle linebacker and a right tackle.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos were open to spending a little draft capital to move up in Thursday night's first round of the draft. They tried to do that, but in the end the Broncos couldn't get anybody else to go along for the ride.

"We were trying to move up, the price was too high to move up, there really wasn't the opportunity for us to move up, but we tried," said executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway. " … it was prohibitive for us to move up."

The target was Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley. But the Broncos knew what many in the league knew: If Mosley started to fall down the board he wouldn't make it past the Baltimore Ravens with the No. 17 pick. Mosley didn't as that's exactly where the Ravens selected him.

But clinging to the mathematical belief they could get as many as four compensatory picks in the 2015 draft, they were willing to move some picks this year to move up if they could.

After that was no longer an option the Broncos still tried to move out of the No. 31 spot, including several calls about moving down and out of the first round entirely. But when the Philadelphia Eagles reached a bit at No. 26 to select Marcus Smith and the New England Patriots took a chance on Dominique Easley at No. 29, the move-down market dried up.

"But then, all of a sudden at the end of the draft with some of those other picks that came that started coming in, the teams said, 'no, we think we can still get our guy where we are'," Elway said. "Because it pushed some people down to where they were."

That left the Broncos sitting at 31 with the 14th player on their draft board still available -- Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby. Roby entered the draft as one of the most athletic players available at any position, but also with some maturity and off-the-field questions in tow.

But the Broncos had their eye on the cornerbacks in the first round having released Champ Bailey and Chris Harris Jr. still working his way back from a partially torn ACL he suffered in January. Elway said he believes the team did its due diligence on Roby.

It all means the offense will likely get some attention in Friday's action -- the second and third rounds. The Broncos will give wide receivers and right tackle prospects a long look.

Without a move they will pick at the bottom of the second and third rounds Friday. Players like Mississippi wide receiver Donte Moncrief, LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry or Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews should be there for them.

At tackle Nevada's Joel Bitonio is a possibility, but he would need an unexpected drop in the second round to be available to the Broncos as would a player like Virginia's Morgan Moses. A running back like West Virginia's Charles Sims could cross their radar in the third round as well.

The Broncos will also be looking at middle linebacker candidates throughout the second day like Louisville's Preston Brown.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A Hall of Fame quarterback has now made four opening draft picks as the Denver Broncos' top football decision-maker, and all four players have come on the defensive side of the ball.

While John Elway lives and breathes the "best player available" mantra when he looks at the draft board, he put a little exclamation point on it as Thursday's first round drew to a close. With the 31st pick, Elway rolled the dice that talent and a locker room filled with players who made the Super Bowl last season would trump any concerns about Bradley Roby.

After some trades, plenty of drama, a reach or two in the picks that came before theirs, the Broncos say they were left with a draft board with one top-15 player remaining on it. And that was Roby, a player who brings questions about his maturity to go with an off-the-field scrape or two.

"Highest-ranked player left on our board by a long shot," Elway said Thursday night. "We believe he has tremendous talent and tremendous upside."

At 5-foot-11, 194 pounds, Roby has the size the Broncos want at cornerback. With a 4.39 clocking in the 40-yard dash, he has the speed everybody wants at cornerback. He's a willing tackler and he will arrive in Denver with some baggage in tow.

If the Broncos are right, they get the kind of speed, size and physicality that are a must in this era of big wide receivers. They also have the potential of Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and Roby in a nickel package against the bevy of three-wide receiver sets the team will face.

Add in Kayvon Webster, a physical corner the Broncos believe will be a quality man-to-man player as a potential fit in the dime, and the Broncos could have the ability to answer open formations with four cornerbacks in their defensive huddle. That kind of speed and versatility, if they all tackle in the run game, would give the Broncos options they did not have this past season.

"[Roby] was the guy who helped us the most," Elway said. "He's got all the measurable and he's got the mentality. He'll stick his nose in there in the run game. He'll tackle. He'll fit right with the defense we're putting together."

Like in any risk-reward scenario, the Broncos have to be right to get the reward. Roby had a misdemeanor arrest for a bar incident last summer. He also had a recent citation for operating a vehicle while impaired after an officer approached him in a parked car and administered field sobriety tests.

Roby has also been described as "immature" and "a little spoiled" by some scouts. For his part, Roby says he's ready to stay on the straight and narrow, but draft picks through the years have always said they were ready to be professionals right after they were selected, whether or not it really turned out that way.

"I'm not a bad guy," Roby said Thursday night.

About the arrest last summer, Roby said, "In actuality, it was not a bar fight. No punches were thrown. It was a situation where the bouncer was the aggressor against me. I just retaliated. I made a bad decision."

About the recent incident, Roby said he had fallen asleep in his car.

The Broncos have dug through all of it, with plenty of folks, including defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, talking to those who have been around Roby in his time at Ohio State. They obviously believe in their research.

In the end they drafted him because they believe to win the season's last game, their defense needed them to take that risk.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The pick: The Broncos selected Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby with the 31st pick of the first round. Roby started 35 games over the past three seasons for the Buckeyes and athletically was one of the best cornerbacks on the board, having run a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. It was a value pick, likely the best player on the Broncos’ draft board by the time the 31st pick rolled around.

My take: Certainly Roby has the reach and height (5-foot-11¼) head coach John Fox likes in his cornerbacks -- Fox broke into the league as a defensive backs coach for Hall of Famer Chuck Noll’s staff in Pittsburgh -- and cornerback is a bit of a need position for the Broncos. Chris Harris Jr. is coming off ACL surgery, Champ Bailey was released, and even though they signed Aqib Talib in free agency, the Broncos want more depth at the position.

The concerns are effort and maturity off the field, with incidents including a misdemeanor arrest in July of 2013 that resulted in a suspension for Ohio State's season opener. But the Broncos spent plenty of time evaluating Roby’s character and felt strong enough about him to make the pick.

Still grinding the D: After jumping into free agency with a pile of checks for defensive players including Talib, defensive end DeMarcus Ware and safety T.J. Ward, executive vice president/general manager John Elway still made a defensive player the team’s opening pick of the draft for the fourth consecutive year. Roby figures to compete with Kayvon Webster, a 2013 draft pick, to play the outside spot opposite of Talib in the nickel.

What’s next: A deep draft class of wide receivers will present some options in coming rounds, as well as some right tackle candidates and middle linebackers.
It has finally arrived, the first May draft. And in the final hours before everybody is really on the clock, it's time to conclude a one-a-day look at some specific players who could find their way into the Denver Broncos' draft class by the time the seven rounds come to a close.

Today: Colorado State center Weston Richburg.

The Broncos would likely need to move around a bit to have a chance at one of the best interior linemen on the board and one who played plenty of football just up Interstate 25 from their team headquarters.

That's because Richburg is either, depending on which scout or personnel executive in the league you ask, the best or second-best center in the draft. He does not carry the grade to be taken with the Broncos' first pick -- No. 31 -- and is not expected to last on the board until they pick in the second round at No. 62.

But having played some tackle, guard and center in his 50 career starts with the Rams, Richburg has exactly the kind of versatility and durability the team wants up front. Richburg said this week that teams see him as a center first, but have already talked to him about the prospect of playing guard.

"I've had some teams inquire about that, but I'm a football player and I'm completely open to playing wherever they'd like me to," Richburg said. "And I know versatility is something they want, playing guard is something I would have to do and be more than willing to do."

Richburg also symbolizes the argument against every overzealous parent, coach, or even player, who believes what happens before college determines a pro's future. He essentially played just one full season of varsity football in high school.

After tearing an ACL during his sophomore year he was advised by several doctors not to have surgery until the growth plate in his leg had closed meaning a growth spurt was over. So, Richburg waited a year to have surgery to repair his knee and did not play as a junior.

After a six-month recovery from the surgery, TCU and Colorado State saw enough in Richburg's senior year to recruit him. After choosing to play at CSU, Richburg went on to start every game of his career for the Rams -- 50 consecutive games.

"It's definitely a crazy story how it's all worked out," Richburg said. "I missed a lot of high school [football], but I played more in college than most guys. I don't consider myself behind, I'm probably a little bit ahead."

Richburg played in a zone blocking scheme when former CSU coach Steve Fairchild was calling the shots. He then played in a more physical man-on-man scheme over the past two years with former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain now the team's coach.

More than one scout had also referred to not only Richburg's football savvy, but his toughness as well. His junior season with CSU, Richburg fractured his right hand with three games remaining in the season.

He played the next two games at tackle, but in the season finale simply snapped with his left hand with a cast on his right.

"I was kind of nervous about it the week before the game, but once I got in the game I kind let loose and made it happen," Richburg said. "It actually went pretty well."

Richburg will spend the draft in Texas, with his family and some of his former Colorado State teammates. He's made several team visits in recent weeks. Between appearances at the Senior Bowl as well the scouting combine, Richburg has met with every team in some fashion.

"It's almost here and I almost have new job," Richburg said. "We're two weeks behind everybody else who has gone through this … Sometimes it gets a little stressful and you do get a little anxious, but I have tried to sit back and enjoy the process because it has been such a unique situation."
The home stretch is finally in sight as the, say it with me, May draft is just two days 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.

Today: Wide receiver Kevin Norwood.

In a draft class brimming with wide receivers who possess size, speed and high-end play-making ability, there will be value, including future starters, to be found all over the board.

So, there is no reason for any team to trade picks away to move up to get one unless, of course, the targets are either Mike Evans or Sammy Watkins. But after this draft's top two pass-catchers there are still plenty to be found. So much so that opinions vary around the league about how they should be ranked because there is something for everyone.

And while the Broncos like speed and athleticism as much anybody else, they also need players who can think quickly on the fly and work in an offense with a future Hall of Famer at quarterback that does most of its business without the benefit of a huddle. A player not ready for that kind of mental challenge won't be able to offer much as a rookie.

While the Broncos don't need a rookie to jump in and be a 50-catch player, they do need some additional depth at the position as as well as some youth with Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas each poised for unrestricted free agency following the 2014 season. For his part, Norwood has unselfishly flourished in an Alabama offense that featured far more run than passes in his career. Last season the Crimson Tide ran the ball 96 more times than they threw it.

As a result Norwood, who played in 48 games over four seasons in Tuscaloosa, had 29 receptions as a junior to go with 38 as a senior. Those two years wouldn't even be a full season's work for some of the guys on the board -- Evans had 147 catches in his two seasons at A&M.

But as a pro prospect Norwood brings plenty to table. At 6-foot-2, 198 pounds he has a powerful frame to go with 4.44 speed in the 40-yard dash at the league's scouting combine earlier in the year.

And just as important for the Broncos is Norwood is a savvy player with a high football intellect. A look at his game video shows an instinctive route runner who understands what the defense is trying to do in many situations. He's well versed in the little things too, a technically sound player with few glaring holes in his work.

He also, better than many receivers in this draft, sets up defensive backs in man coverage to create space to catch the ball and consistently works back to the quarterback when the rush has flushed the passer from the pocket.

In the end he's a player who figures to adjust quickly to the workload of an NFL team having already spent five seasons, including a redshirt year, in Nick Saban's program. The Broncos won't have to go far for any outside evaluation on Norwood's play as well as his work ethic and character off the field.

Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase worked for Saban at both Michigan State and LSU. Gase also made a trip to Alabama in recent weeks to visit with Saban and others on the Alabama coaching staff. All in all, Norwood would contribute right from the start.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When John Elway says he wants to be "ready for anything" by the time the draft opens Thursday night, he means everything.

Sitting near the bottom of the first round of this week's draft, the Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager said Monday he's prepared to do what needs to be done to secure the players they want. Elway said the team is certainly willing to stay put at the 31st pick. They would also move up if they see an opportunity to snag a player they deem worthy of the capital it would take to make the move, or would move down as Elway did in 2012 when he traded out of the first round.

"We're looking at the options of moving up, but we're also looking at the possibility of moving back," Elway said. "Leading up to the draft there's going to be plenty of talk out there, and until you really get to draft day you never really know what's going to happen."

The Broncos have a routine allotment of picks at the moment -- one in each of the seven rounds. They enter this week's three-day affair coming off back-to-back 13-3 seasons, including a Super Bowl trip, and -- as Elway said -- no roster holes that need immediate attention.

"We don't feel we have huge holes so we're going to try to pick football players we believe can make our football team and also help us," Elway said.

With Wesley Woodyard having signed with the Titans in free agency, the biggest hole on the depth chart may be at middle linebacker. The Broncos took some swings at linebackers during free agency, but did not sign any of them. Elway, as he has said throughout the offseason, reaffirmed Monday his belief that the job could be filled in-house with Nate Irving handling the duties on first and second downs and safety T.J. Ward as an option in some of the team's third-down packages.

"I don't know that is necessarily a need, we feel pretty good about Nate, especially on first and second down," Elway said. " ... We're more concerned ... on third down. T.J. Ward is an option there, he does a tremendous job in the box."

If the Broncos do get any interest for a trade Thursday night, it will most likely come from a team that wants back into the first round to take a quarterback it desires.

There is also the matter of the "fifth-year" option available to teams for first-round picks in the current collective bargaining agreement. Grabbing a quarterback in the first round that a team believed could be a potential long-term starter would give the team the ability to have a fifth year on the contract instead of four on rookie deals for players selected in the second round or later.

"I think it adds to it, there's no question, especially with the quarterbacks," Elway said. "It makes the end of the first round more inviting."

Elway, a staunch believer in the "best-player-available" philosophy during the draft, said if an offensive tackle or guard was the most highly-graded player at No. 31, the team would not hesitate to take the player. If all of the cornerbacks the team likes are gone by the 31st pick, the strength of the board will likely be an edge rusher or an offensive lineman.

Also, Monday the Broncos added some help in the defensive line when they signed defensive tackle Marvin Austin. Austin, a second-round pick by the New York Giants in the 2011 draft, has been de-railed some by injuries thus far in his career.

He missed his rookie season with a torn pectoral muscle and he was waived last year by the Dallas Cowboys after injuring his back in practice. He later had surgery, but after working him out last week, Elway said Austin will join the team healthy.

"He was a guy who really had a first-round grade three years ago ... he had some injuries," Elway said. "We worked him out last week and he's healed from his back surgery."
The home stretch is finally in sight as the, say it with me, May draft is days 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.

Today: Cornerback Phillip Gaines.

The talent pool is shallow, especially in draft like this one with so much size and speed at wide receiver, but big corners always go up the board on the draft weekend. And big corners with elite speed usually don’t make it out of the first two days of the draft without some significant character baggage in tow.

Gaines is just over 6-feet tall -- 6-0 3/8 -- and weighed in at 193 pounds at the scouting combine earlier this year, or about seven pounds more than he had played during his final season at Rice. But he blistered the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds -- the best showing of any player invited this year -- and he isn’t just a sprinter trying to wear a helmet.

Gaines gets to the ball and breaks up passes. Sounds like a no-duh deal, but the draft is often littered with fast players on defense who never, or rarely, because of a lack of instincts for the game, put their hands on the ball.

Gaines is not that guy. He affects plays -- 27 pass break-ups over his last two seasons -- and consistently wins in contested situations when the ball is in the air. He also makes the transition nicely from his backpedal to run with the receivers and has a good reach to match up with the big guys on the outside.

He needs more strength, sure, but that’s what a strength and conditioning staff is for and his ability to work in a weight room was limited some by a wrist injury that affected him for part of the 2011 and all of the 2012 season. He wore a cast on his right wrist for the entire 2012 season and did not have an interception because of it despite 18 pass break-ups that year.

But he has had difficulty at times in closed-quarters pushing and shoving, but with room to work he has no difficulty running in the vertical routes with almost any receiver across from him. Teams have looked at the wrist injury closely, including his physical at the scouting combine. He injured the wrist originally in the 2009 season and it did not heal properly so it affected him in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

But he did start 13 games this past season and played in 52 games overall in his career, a total that included 40 starts.

Picking at the bottom of the rounds, the Broncos will likely have to make the decision to add a cornerback somewhere in the draft’s first two days -- rounds 1-3 -- to get one with some size. There were just nine cornerbacks at this year’s scouting combine who checked in at over 6-feet tall so the demand around the league will far exceed the supply.
The home stretch is finally in sight as the, say it with me, May draft is just days 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.

Today: Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller.

It would take a highly wacky day, more than a few surprises and a remember-when run on another position, like say wide receiver, for Fuller to take an unlikely slide down to the Broncos in Thursday’s first round.

But this is a high-quality athlete with a great work ethic and a high football aptitude. In short, if he approaches his playing career as a pro as he has to this point, no position coach is ever going to wonder if Fuller has his head in the playbook or why he’s late to meeting after meeting. No, this guy is going to show up, get to work to improve and won't need any rookie hand-holding.

Oh, and he’s a bigger corner who could play outside and in the slot as a nickel. He’s 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at the combine and understands route concepts from the receivers across from him.

“I feel comfortable playing in the nickel, playing outside,’’ Fuller said. “I just want to be versatile.’’

Fuller also has a good idea of what it takes to compete as a pro. He has two brothers who have seen time on NFL rosters – Vincent and Corey – and a third brother, Kendall, who was a teammate this past season at Virginia Tech. Defensive coaches who have met with Kyle Fuller in recent weeks consistently referred to his football savvy and a demeanor that simply reflected his readiness to be a pro.

“I’m very competitive, especially with my brothers,’’ Fuller said. “That’s helped me to where I am now. We always want to be better than the next guy, each other, no matter how fast we are, the plays we make.’’

Fuller is a quality tackler as well and that separates him from some of the other top-tier athletes at the position on this draft board. It’s also why he may be gone 10 or so picks before the Broncos make their first selection.

But for a team that is searching for help at cornerback from this draft, Fuller fits a variety of jobs and would likely earn playing time from the moment he walked into the team’s complex.

He’s on the Broncos' wish list and most likely they’ll watch somebody else take him before they get their turn Thursday night. But the draft is a hope-for-the-best, prepare-for-the-worst affair and if some unexpected reason Fuller is still on the board when their pick rolls around, the Broncos shouldn’t hesitate to write his name on the card.