Posted Mon Apr 9th by Geoff Bangs
Denver gained more yards on the ground than any other team in 2011 under rush happy coach John Fox. However, one may venture to guess that we will see a serious decline in rush attempts as a result of the transition from Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning. We are left with many questions concerning our routinely productive backfield.
Willis McGahee, although productive in 2011, is on the wrong side of 30. Knowshon Moreno has monumental durability issues and seems content rehabbing his ACL by speeding drunk through construction zones. While both could prove to be productive, it would be remiss of the Broncos organization to not improve the RB position. They are very well aware of that. A youthful running back corps is widely acknowledged as one of the Broncos’ largest areas of need entering the 2012 NFL draft, especially with Manning running the no-huddle at 5,280 feet above sea level. Here we will be taking a look at the college prospects that will be available draft options at The Broncos selections.
The 2012 NFL draft is now less than three weeks away. The Denver Broncos own the rights to seven total draft picks at #25, 57, 88, 108, 120, 137, and 188.
PICK NUMBER 25
Doug Martin, Boise State Bronco. 5’9″ 223lbs.
When evaluating a player the two things I weigh most heavily are game tape and interviews. Watching Martin play is very exciting. Hearing him talk about football gets me even more geeked. He is classy, motivated, unselfish and level headed. He has big play ability running, catching, and returning kicks. He is undoubtedly the most complete 3 down prospect following Mr. Richardson. He has the stamina, smarts, and tool set to step into the Peyton Manning hurry up as a starter his rookie season. Martin is slightly undersized which has kept him out of 1st round consideration but his combine was sensational. He ran an official 4.55 40 yard dash and led all running backs in bench press at 28 reps. In 2011 Martin put up 1,299 yards rushing for 16 touchdowns along with 28 receptions for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Denver could also use help on special teams where Martin averaged 36 yards per kick return. He would be a solid value at #25 but could be scooped up right before Denver has the chance to by Detroit or Cincinnati.
David Wilson, Virginia Tech Hoakie. 5’10″ 206lbs.
In his only season as a starter Wilson averaged 5.9 yards per carry on his way to becoming the ACC player of the year. Wilson is a physical specimen and absolutely demolished the combine clocking 4.49 in the 40, 11′ broad jump and 41″ vertical leap. He’s adept at using his speed to get around the corner. His agility, change of direction, and burst have him rated by many as the #2 RB after Sir Richardson. Wilson has concerns pertaining to ball control and he could certainly add a couple pounds to be more durable at the NFL level.
PICK NUMBER 57
Hope can be fleeting. Many hope to see Doug Martin or David Wilson fall to this spot but that’s just not in the cards.
Chris Polk, Washington Huskie. 5’11″ 215lbs.
Polk was very sought after coming out of high school. He is a fantastic downhill runner. He hits gaps hard and fast. He runs extremely well behind his pads and routinely gets yards after contact. This guy is a flat out natural. He has running back in his DNA. Throughout the season Polk hovered around mid-early second round consideration but some were turned off by his lackluster performance at the senior bowl. He lost 10 lbs. leading up to the combine and ran a 4.57 40 yard dash while performing well in pass catching drills to quell the concerns cultivated at the Senior Bowl. Polk has serious potential. He can be a work horse which is important for a team like Denver because of the durability issues with the rest of the stable. He will impress whatever team that chooses him and I believe will have a very large impact as a rookie for a ball club with need at the RB position.
Lamar Miller, The U Hurricane. 5’11″ 212lbs.
Miller clocked the fastest 40 yard dash at the combine for rb’s at 4.40. That is half a second faster than LaMichael James and Chris Rainey who weigh 20 and 30lbs less than Miller. Miller has work to do to become a 3 down back. There are concerns surrounding his blocking and catching ability. However, Miller could easily be gone by this pick. He is a big play threat but definitely needs some polish. Last season he rushed for 1,272 as a redshirt sophomore while battling through a shoulder injury. Had he stayed for his junior year he could have been a 1st round lock next year.
Pick number 88
Robert Turbin, Utah State Aggie. 5’10″ 222lbs.
As with Derek Wolfe in the DT class, this is my guy. Turbin had good production as a sophomore but missed his Junior year due to injuries. As a senior, in 2011, Turbin bowled over the weaker competition averaging 6.1 yards per carry on his way to 1,517 yards and 19 touchdowns. Turbin also added 4 TD’s through the air proving to be a dual threat in the red zone. Turbin goes by the nickname The Hulk because of his love for the comic book character and freakish strength. In this video Turbin speaks about his connection to The Hulk while he and fellow draft prospect LB Bobby Wagner interview each other for The Aggies Football website.
Along with Doug Martin, he was the only RB to bench press 225lbs 28 times. He also clocked an impressive 4.5 second 40. Turbin is a downhill runner that hits the hole hard, bounces defenders off him and then leaves them in his dust. Needless to say his strength, speed and production are very appetizing. His injury and lack of quality competition have kept him in 3-4 round consideration. Turbin’s strength, speed, style, and attitude are a perfect fit for Foxy and the Broncos.
Bernard Pierce, Temple Eagle. 6’0″ 218lbs.
Pierce has size and can pound the ball between the tackles. Pierce dominated much of the weaker competition he faced racking up 1,400+ yards before being slowed down by injuries in November. Pierce ran a 4.49 second 40 yard dash which surprised many because he doesn’t seem to play at that speed. The 40 time certainly helped Pierce’s stock and he also performed very well as a pass catcher in the drills. Concerns linger about his future after suffering a concussion this season. Also against Penn State, his only top tier competition of the season, he only managed 50 yards. I think it’s safe to say the Temple O-line had a good deal of trouble with Devon Still and co.
Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati Bearcat. 5’10″ 197lbs.
Pead is another Doug Martin type. He can help returning kicks. He is a willing, capable blocker on 3rd down and performed well catching the ball tallying 319 yards and 3 TD’s on 39 receptions. Pead runs too high, especially for his height, and may have difficulties between the tackles on the pro level. Ball security is also a concern with Pead. His upside is plenty. A team could easily take him higher than 88 if they believe in their ability to coach him up and make him a more polished overall player.
Lets get LaMichael James out of the way. I just do not see him as a fit for the offense we’ll be running or for what Fox looks for in a running back.
PICK NUMBERS 108 & 128
Vick Ballard, Mississippi State Bulldog. 5’10″ 219lbs.
Ballard is another guy I like a lot. He is a bruiser with the downhill style akin to Turbin which is very effective in Fox’s approach. Ballard enjoyed some higher round consideration until turning in a disappointing 4.65 second 40 yard dash at the combine. On tape his speed is not an issue. There are plenty of instances where he gets into open space and no one on the defense can catch him from behind. Defenses stacked the box to stop Ballard and he still managed an impressive 6.1 yards per carry. No easy task in the SEC.
Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State Aztec. 5’9″ 200lbs.
Hillman tied (with Chris Rainey and LaMichael James) for the second fastest 40 yard dash by a running back at 4.45. Hillman would function as a speed/change of pace player in the rotation that the Broncos currently employ. He has extremely small hands (8 1/2 “) which most likely means ball security problems in the NFL. Hillman put up nice numbers against not-so-tough competition with 1,711 yards rushing (5.5 avg.) for 19 TD’s this season.
Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M Aggie. 5’10″ 206lbs.
Gray came in right behind Hillman with a 40 of 4.47. His game tape shows extraordinary burst and elusiveness. Gray had a breakout Sophomore season but showed durability concerns this year and ended up losing a majority of carries to Christine Michael. Gray is very capable catching the ball out of the backfield. His durability issues relegate him to being a part time contributor in a rotation.
PICK NUMBER’S 157 & 188
Tauren Poole, Tennessee Volunteer. 5’10″ 205lbs.
Poole runs with good power and leverage. Poole was hampered by injuries this season and has no real stats worth stating. Some say he quit on his team. He could be a bust for injury or attitude reasons but he performed very well at The East-West Shrine game and Combine showing desirable change of direction quickness and cutting ability.
Brandon Bolden, Ole Miss Rebel. 5’11″ 222lbs.
Bolden is a big back that does a really good job catching the ball. He runs with power and can hurdle over players trying to hit him low. Bolden had high expectations after averaging 6 yards per carry in the SEC as a Junior but was hampered by injuries throughout 2011.
Lennon Creer, Louisiana Tech Bulldog. 5’11″ 219lbs.
Creer has nice size for the NFL but doesn’t have any impressive measurable’s to speak of. He performed well at The East-West Shrine game which could get him drafted. A Broncos scout did attend the Louisiana Tech pro day.
Terrence Gannaway, Baylor Bear. 6’0″ 241lbs.
Gannaway is BIG. He ran slow at the combine but clocked a 4.55 at his pro day. Gannaway would be the ideal fit for the Broncos if we were running the Tebow option still. He does not have very much experience running downhill and would take time to acclimate.
Chris Rainey, Florida Gator. 5’8″ 180lbs.
Rainey would be most helpful to our squad as a kick and punt returner. He is small, elusive, and speedy. He has big play ability and is a dynamic athlete. Rainey does not have the size or strength to be a contributor in between the tackles. Rainey’s combine time of 4.45 seconds in the 40 yard dash is disappointing for his size.
There are a number of players deep in this draft that could be effective contributors for the Denver Broncos rotation. There is also a strong opportunity to find a player in the first three rounds that can step up into the starting position. It is close to a certainty we will be drafting a RB, and I’m in high hopes whoever is selected will be an exciting and dangerous addition to the ball club. Personally I would be ecstatic to see Doug Martin, Chris Polk, Robert Turbin, or Vick Ballards’ name on our depth chart come training camp.