Denver Broncos: Weston Richburg

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."
With just 14 words fired off over Twitter on the first day of the Denver Broncos' offseason program, Orlando Franklin confirmed a move in the offensive line the team's decision-makers have considered for quite some time.

Franklin, whose Twitter profile begins simply with; "Right Tackle for the Denver Broncos," confirmed his move to left guard Monday, the opening day of the Broncos' team workouts in 2014. Following the team's first full gathering with the team's strength and conditioning coaches since the 35-point loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, Franklin sent:

 

Though Franklin learned of the decision Monday, this is something Broncos officials had considered last spring and were considering once again shortly after the season ended, when they had made the decision to let guard Zane Beadles test the free-agent market. Beadles signed a five-year deal worth $30 million with the Jacksonville Jaguars shortly after free agency opened last month, a deal worth far more than the Broncos would have been willing to spend.

The Broncos made no offer to Beadles' representatives, though Beadles had played in every game and started every game but two in his four years with the team. That departure left a hole in the team's plan up front.

The Broncos, searching for more power in the middle of the offensive line for much of the past two season, had considered moving Franklin to guard during the 2012 offseason. They worked him there at times during training camp, and head coach John Fox has said Franklin took some reps inside during last year's regular season as well.

The Broncos then jumped out a year ago to sign Louis Vasquez to a four-year deal -- the longest free-agent deal the Broncos signed last March -- and in return Vasquez gave the Broncos an All-Pro season at right guard. But the defenses that gave the Broncos the most difficulty, most notably the Seahawks in the title game, often did so with pressure in the middle of the field.

[+] EnlargeOrlando Franklin
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsOrlando Franklin will give the Broncos more pop in the run game at left guard. With his long reach he will be difficult for inside defenders to handle in the pass game as well.
As a result the Broncos are trying to answer lineup questions at left guard and will take a look at center as well.

Franklin has started 47 games at right tackle since he was the second of the Broncos' second-round picks in the 2011 draft (the 46th pick overall). At the league meetings last month, Fox said Franklin "was prepared to play guard last year."

It won't be an unfamiliar position for Franklin, who started 25 games at left guard in his career at the University of Miami before starting at left tackle in his senior season. And there were many scouts who believed when Franklin entered the '11 draft he would be a better guard in the NFL over the long haul.

Franklin is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2014 season. He will give the Broncos more pop at the point of attack in the run game. His reach -- he is 6-foot-7-inches tall -- will make him tough to handle for opposing defensive tackles on the inside in pass protection. His chief hurdle will be to block on the move in the run game when the Broncos go to more of a zone look, but the Broncos have been of the mind it will help them overall to move him inside.

With Ryan Clady's return at left tackle, Chris Clark will get the first look at right tackle and Will Montgomery, who signed as a free agent, will battle Manny Ramirez in early offseason work for the starting center spot. When the Broncos signed Montgomery in the second week of free agency, they did so with the feeling he would push, and could win, the starting center job.

But make no mistake, the Broncos will still give a long look to potential swing tackles in the draft as well as swing players inside who can play both center and guard. In the latter scenario, the Broncos won't have to look far for a player who could fit the bill in Colorado State's Weston Richburg.

Richburg started 50 consecutive games for the Rams and never missed a game -- a streak that included him snapping with his left hand at times during the 2011 season after he had fractured his right hand. Richburg is athletic, savvy and only added to his quality résumé on the field by performing well at his pro day in Fort Collins, Colo., last month.

The Broncos also believe Vinston Painter, a 2013 draft pick who spent much of last season on the team's practice squad, is a potential fit at right tackle down the road as well.

In the end, Fox has said they will use only one criteria to pick Peyton Manning's personal protectors. Fox said they are "trying to get our best five on the field and there will be a lot of different formulas for that ... we'll work a million combinations."

And on the first day of offseason work Franklin's shift to the left was the opening move.

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