The Denver Broncos, as a Super Bowl finalist last season, had the luxury of coming into the draft without very many needs. In most cases, they could just take the best player available and not have to reach to fill holes. For a squad that knows their window is only open as long as Peyton Manning is around, it's imperative to nail picks and obtain immediate contributors. Let's take a look at how they did.
- 1st round selection: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State Grade: A-
This grade would be higher if not for the fact that Roby had character questions coming out of college that allowed him to slide to Denver at #31. He was arrested in 2013 following an altercation with a bouncer. As for on the field, he shows tremendous ball skills, Roby was among the FBS leaders in passes defensed over the last two seasons. He also has a nose for the end zone, Roby was the only player in the country to score a TD in three different ways. He scored on an INT return, blocked punt and recovered a fumble. Roby should be able to come in and play right away with the departure of Champ Bailey and provide a needed shot in the arm to a secondary that's struggled.
- 2nd round selection: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana Grade: A+
Great value pick for the Broncos, who had a hole to fill at wide receiver after losing Eric Decker to the Jets. Emmanuel Sanders and Latimer will likely compete for the outside receiver role, opposite Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker. Latimer was considered a first round value by many scouts, so to get him in the 2nd round is a steal for Denver. Welker is also on the downside of his career and has struggled with concussions, the position required an infusion of youth. If not for the fact he sat out of the combine with a foot injury, Latimer could have went far earlier. His ability to be a quality blocker will help him play from Day 1.
- 3rd round selection: Michael Schofield, OT, Michigan Grade: B+
The Broncos get another value pick, getting a player who's proven himself against top flight competition. Schofield will have the chance to win the right tackle spot in training camp and could very well be an opening day starter. He's a no frills player, someone who shows up and does his job. For a QB with a quick release like Manning, that's all that's required. While some boards had him going later, the Broncos are a team that could afford to draft guys they wanted, rather than ones they needed.
- 5th round selection: Lamin Barrow, ILB, LSU Grade: A
If the Broncos had any severe need coming into the draft, it was at the linebacker position. Of all their picks, Barrow has the best chance to come in and get snaps right away. Denver has very little depth at inside linebacker and if Barrow played immediately, it would surprise no one. He's a solid, proven player who stood out in a very tough conference. Barrow is equipped with athleticism, foot speed, and shows great intangibles. He was a leader on LSU's defenses and isn't afraid to be vocal. This pick may wind up being a steal for Denver.
- 6th round selection: Matthew Paradis, C, Boise State Grade: B
Another solid selection in the Mile High City. Paradis will add depth to the offensive line, and is a smart player. He doesn't have superior size and will struggle against high end strength and athleticism. But if you can get a rotation offensive lineman in the 6th round, that's a great value pick. Continues the trend of Denver not trying to hit a home run, but bring in future contributors and bolster depth.
- 7th round selection: Corey Nelson, OLB, Oklahoma Grade: B-
While many observers were shocked that the Broncos didn't do more to address the LB position, I believe they've obtained two that will contribute this season. The 7th round is a great spot to gamble and take a guy who struggled for reasons outside of his control and that's what Denver has done here. If not for him missing most of the 2013 season with a pectoral injury, he would have went much higher. Nelson will be able to compete for a backup position to Danny Trevathan, and as injuries mount during the season, don't be surprised to see him pressed into duty. If he can add some bulk to his frame without sacrificing quickness, he can develop into a rotation LB.
Overall draft grade: B+
The Broncos didn't try to get flashy, they made smart choices and almost every player they chose has a chance to be a key cog, whether it's this season or down the line. Roby, Latimer and Barrow will likely be a big part of things this season, while the others will certainly have their chances. For a team with only 6 picks and none in the top 30, it's hard to do much better.