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Thursday, April 3, 2014
Analyzing Kiper Grade A draft: Broncos

By Jeff Legwold

As the reigning AFC champions, the Denver Broncos will wait until the 31st pick before they make their first selection in this year’s NFL draft. And after a spending spree the first week of free agency that both raised some eyebrows around the league and largely focused on needs on the defensive line and in the secondary, there is still a hole on the depth chart.

And that’s what Mel Kiper Jr. has addressed in his Grade A mock draft .

Kiper, as he did in his third mock draft last month, has the Broncos addressing a glaring need at inside/middle linebacker by selecting Wisconsin's Chris Borland with their first-round pick.

Borland is the classic performance-over-workout-numbers player, as his workouts don't measure up to that of some other prospects at the position -- he ran a 4.83 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. But at 5 feet 11½, 248 pounds, he has played far better in full gear than he has performed in workouts.

He is instinctive, makes plays all over the formation, rarely takes a wrong step and consistently plays with power at the point of attack. When he squares up on a blocker, he consistently gets the offensive player off balance and puts himself in a position to move the blocker aside on the way to the ball carrier.

Borland does have some injury history. He missed two games in 2012 with a hamstring issue and was awarded a medical hardship in 2010, missing all but two games because of a left shoulder injury. The Broncos had two players start at middle linebacker last season -- Wesley Woodyard and Paris Lenon -- and neither is on the roster now, so the Broncos' 4-3 base defense does have a need there.

With their second-round pick, Kiper projects the Broncos will select Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant, one of the bigger wide receivers on the board at 6-3¾, 211 pounds. But Bryant is raw, having started just 13 games in his career at Clemson.

Bryant does have some ill-timed drops on his résumé -- he lets the ball get to his body too often -- but the athleticism is there and he will be a vertical threat early in his career with 4.42 speed in the 40-yard dash. The learning curve would be steep for him in a Broncos offense that does plenty at the line of scrimmage.

And in the third round, Kiper projects the Broncos will take another linebacker, Montana’s Jordan Tripp. Tripp measured at 6-3¾, 234 pounds at the combine and was a four-year starter for the Grizzlies.

Tripp is an athletic player with high production. He does get tangled up with blockers at times, as he does have shorter arms than some of the other linebackers on the board. He missed all but three games in the 2011 season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. He received a medical redshirt for another year of eligibility, and followed that year with 95 tackles in 2012 and 100 tackles this past season.