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Old 08-13-2009, 08:46 PM   #1
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Default Scout.com's: Denver Broncos --Top 10 Prospects

http://profootball.scout.com/2/887802.html

Denver Broncos: Top 10 Prospects

By Chris Steuber
Scout.com NFL Draft Analyst
Posted Aug 12, 2009


Scout.com's Chris Steuber continues the top 10 prospects series and begins to breakdown the AFC West with the Denver Broncos leading off. In this series, an NFL prospect is classified as a player entering their third year in the NFL or is under 25 years old. Find out who Steuber targeted as the Broncos top 10 prospects inside.


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After the Miami Dolphins selected Jake Long with the first pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, there were six more tackles taken after him in the first round. One of those tackles was Ryan Clady, who was the second tackle selected in the draft and the 12th pick overall by the Denver Broncos. Coming from the WAC conference - a conference thatís considered one of the weakest in Division I football - Clady dominated the competition for three years and decided to forego his senior season to explore his game at the next level. Clady did much more than explore in his first year.

Itís hard to imagine that a rookie offensive tackle could dominate from the moment he stepped into the league, but the 6-foot-6, 309-pound athletic mauler did just that. The No. 1 prospect in the Broncos organization, Clady started all 16 games for the Broncos and allowed just a half of a sack the entire season, which ranked first among all left tackles in the league. For his efforts, Clady finished third behind Matt Ryan and Chris Johnson respectively in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting and was named second team All-Pro. The honor that Clady didnít receive, but his draft counterpart Long did, was a trip to Hawaii to star in the Pro Bowl. Players are usually voted into the Pro Bowl based on reputation, and as good as Clady was in his first year, he wasnít the top pick in the draft, didnít play for a playoff team and didnít have the name recognition that others possess around the league, yet. Cladyís game is now being compared to some of the best tackles in the league, including future Hall of Famer Walter Jones. The sensational first season that Clady put together provides the Broncos with a sense of security on the left side of their line. And from this point on, Clady will be a perennial Pro Bowl selection.

Another 2008 draft pick, second round wide receiver Eddie Royal, also played at a Pro Bowl level during his first year. Known for his ability as a return specialist at Virginia Tech, Royal was a good slot receiver with the Hokies, but he struggled to show consistency catching the ball and running routes. Although, something clicked for the second rated prospect in the organization during his first year with the Broncos; maybe it was the fact that he was surrounded by better talent and had a quarterback that could get him the ball, but Royal showcased great ability as a receiver. In his first career game, which happened to be on Monday Night Football, Royal emerged on national television as a player to keep an eye on and caught nine passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. He started in 15 of 16 games [missing one game due to injury] and finished the season with 91 receptions for 980 yards and five touchdowns. Royalís 91 catches were the most by a rookie since Anquan Boldin hauled in 101 during the 2003 season. At 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, Royalís size and skill are best suited for the slot, because heís most dangerous in space. But, expect him to be moved all around Ė inside, outside and even in the backfield for some trickery - to create mismatches. If Royal can stay healthy, he will once again approach 90 catches.

The Broncos have done a nice job of drafting the last two years, and this past April they secured three players that immediately will become top five prospects in the organization - running back Knowshon Moreno (No. 3), linebacker Robert Ayers (No. 4) and cornerback Alphonso Smith (No. 5). All three players have the talent and opportunity to enjoy the same success in their first year as Clady and Royal experienced.

At 5-foot-11, 217 pounds, Moreno is a mirror image of future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson. Everything that they do on the field is comparable, from their ability to their physique, even their versatility; itís all eerily similar. And the irony is that Moreno ended up in the AFC West, the same division that Tomlinson tore up for the last decade. Moreno is a tremendously gifted offensive weapon who finished his career at Georgia with 1,400 yards and 16 touchdowns. He runs with outstanding pad level, displays great vision and tremendous cutback ability. He has a quick first step and is lethal on the edge. Heís deceptively strong between the tackles and will fight for extra yards. Heís faster than his timed speed suggests and has the potential to take it the distance from anywhere on the field. Moreno plays with a lot of emotions and is a high energy player who can occasionally be taken out of his game if heís not productive. The upside of Moreno is limitless, his talent is obvious, and judging from the success that the í08 running back class had in the NFL last year, donít be surprised if heís the starter on opening day.

With the Broncos switching to a 3-4 defense, Ayers will make the transition from defensive end to linebacker. At 6-foot-3, 272 pounds, Ayers could play DE for the Broncos, but his athleticism and ability to get in the backfield make him a great weapon off the edge. A bit of a late bloomer, Ayers was a backup at Tennessee for his first three years and finally broke into the starting lineup as a senior. In his first year as a starter, Ayers had an up and down year and finished with 49 tackles, 15.5 for a loss and just three sacks. The 15.5 tackles for a loss shows his ability to get in the backfield and terrorize, which is what they envision Ayers doing more of with his transition to outside linebacker. Ayers is more quick than fast and uses his hands very well. He has a powerful lower body and great leg drive. He attacks mostly on the outside and has the ability to bring his momentum inside. He has an explosive nature, but has to develop better technique to compensate for his lack of straight-line speed. He has to show better awareness and improve his run defense. It will be interesting to see how Ayers progresses as a player, because heís one of a handful of players selected in the first round thatís the ultimate boom or bust prospect.

A first year player that the Broncos are extremely high on, which was shown during the draft when they traded their 2010 first round pick to Seattle to get him, is Smith. If Smith were a few inches taller he would have been a top 20 lock, but at 5-foot-9 and 193 pounds some wonder if heís just a very talented nickel corner. Smith will start his career as the teamís nickel corner with Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman patrolling the outside, and will take some of the return responsibilities away from Royal so he can concentrate more on offense. Smith may be undersized, but heís a physical, productive defender who registered 39 tackles and seven interceptions to close out his career at Wake Forest. He displays good route recognition and is a determined defender. Heís effective facing the action, locates the ball quickly and possesses excellent closing speed and ball skills that allow him to turn defense into offense. He is a very instinctive defender who has a great sense of timing. Smith plays physical at the line, and at the NFL level he will have to display that ability in the slot. Itís unfortunate that Smithís career will always be tied to the first round pick that the Broncos gave up to acquire him, because if he struggles in his first year, fans will clamor for the unknown. A note to Broncos fansÖ donít worry, the Broncos stole Smith in the second round and will be rewarded with an outstanding playmaker for years to come.

Rounding out the top 10 are third year offensive tackle Ryan Harris and defensive end Tim Crowder at No. 6 and 7 respectively as well as second year contributors fullback Peyton Hills (No. 8), cornerback Jack Williams (No. 9) and linebacker Wesley Woodyard (No. 10). Just missing the cut were former first round disappointment Jarvis Moss, free safety Josh Barrett and defensive end Ryan McBean.
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Old 08-13-2009, 08:54 PM   #2
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Hillis should be above Crowder but other than that I can't find anything wrong with that list.
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Old 08-13-2009, 08:56 PM   #3
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Good read.

If the stuff on Moreno is even half true, I'm warming up to him.

Still have a bad taste in my mouth because I wanted more defensive players drafted... But hopefully he proves his worth.
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Old 08-13-2009, 08:57 PM   #4
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Woodyard is a badass, too.
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:00 PM   #5
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I'd put Smith ahead of Ayers.
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:00 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RhymesayersDU View Post
Good read.

If the stuff on Moreno is even half true, I'm warming up to him.

Still have a bad taste in my mouth because I wanted more defensive players drafted... But hopefully he proves his worth.
Well the front 7 in the last draft were one of the weakest in recent history. So it appears Denver went BPA. I think Moreno will be our keystone player, he has that ability and leadership, and smarts.

The problem is the front office mortgaged way too much of next years draft on the likes of alphonso smith. When next year the DL and front 7 is supposed to be one of the stongest in recent history. But in the NFL I guess you have to play for today not next year.
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:02 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ApaOps5 View Post
Well the front 7 in the last draft were one of the weakest in recent history. So it appears Denver went BPA. I think Moreno will be our keystone player, he has that ability and leadership, and smarts.

The problem is the front office mortgaged way too much of next years draft on the likes of alphonso smith. When next year the DL and front 7 is supposed to be one of the stongest in recent history. But in the NFL I guess you have to play for today not next year.
Just so I'm clear...

We traded our 1st round pick, but we'll still have Chicago's, right?

Let's assume they're middle of the pack or better, so roughly 15-32 somewhere. Is the class deep enough to get a good front 7 guy late in the first round?
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:04 PM   #8
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Regardless of the team, that's a pretty good haul in those 10.
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:04 PM   #9
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I just hope Moreno ends up somewhere between Michael Westbrook and Emmit Smith. That would make this Bronco fan very happy.
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:14 PM   #10
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Interesting list. Mine might be:

1) Clady
2) Smith
3) Moreno
4) Ayers
5) Harris
6) Royal
7) Hillis
8) Quinn
9) Crowder
10) McBath
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:14 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RhymesayersDU View Post
Good read.

If the stuff on Moreno is even half true, I'm warming up to him.

Still have a bad taste in my mouth because I wanted more defensive players drafted... But hopefully he proves his worth.
A running game helps the defense.
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:22 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RhymesayersDU View Post
Just so I'm clear...

We traded our 1st round pick, but we'll still have Chicago's, right?

Let's assume they're middle of the pack or better, so roughly 15-32 somewhere. Is the class deep enough to get a good front 7 guy late in the first round?
Its too early to tell. A year ago at this time, Robert Ayers isnt a first round pick; guys like Laurinaitis possibly were. Same with Clay Matthews Jr.. And even if you go by the names out there now, theres a lot of variety.

I've seen Brandon Spikes slotted at 5-25. Ive seen Cody slotted from 2-20 (one guy has him at 42 but claimes he is the best NT in the draft). Boo Robinson (Wake Forest) is a guy at NT that some think is a better NT prospect than Cody. Boo Robinson is all over the place but if he is good this year, his value could be raised by the proliferation of the 3-4. You also have Rolando McClain from Alabama at ILB (though he benefits from playing behind Cody). You also have Greg Hardy (Ole Miss), who many think is the best edge rusher.

What would really be huge would be if Chris Baker comes along this year and gets a foothold on NT. Then we can draft someone like Spikes or Hardy.

Last edited by lex; 08-13-2009 at 09:39 PM..
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by montrose View Post
Interesting list. Mine might be:

1) Clady
2) Smith
3) Moreno
4) Ayers
5) Harris
6) Royal
7) Hillis
8) Quinn
9) Crowder
10) McBath
1. Ryan Clady
2. Eddie Royal
3. Knowshon Moreno
4. Alphonso Smith
5. Ryan Harris
6. Robert Ayers
7. Peyton Hillis
8. MARCUS THOMAS
9. Jack Williams
10. Wesley Woodyard

Just out... Tim Crowder, Spencer Larsen, David Bruton, and Brett Kern. (Kern has been KILLING the ball, I think people may be a bit surprised by him this year)
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:38 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by montrose View Post
Interesting list. Mine might be:

1) Clady
2) Smith
3) Moreno
4) Ayers
5) Harris
6) Royal
7) Hillis
8) Quinn
9) Crowder
10) McBath
Your list looks way better than the original, but I think you're selling Eddie short.
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:38 PM   #15
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Jack Williams and Tim Crowder havent done ****. Woodyard barely makes the list, and Larsen was snubbed. Here's my list:

1. Clady
2. Moreno
3. Hillis
4. Royal
5. Harris
6. Woodyard
7. Larsen
8. A. Smith
9. Ayers
10. Marcus Thomas (the DT)
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:40 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Broncenstein View Post
Jack Williams and Tim Crowder havent done ****. Woodyard barely makes the list, and Larsen was snubbed. Here's my list:

1. Clady
2. Moreno
3. Hillis
4. Royal
5. Harris
6. Woodyard
7. Larsen
8. A. Smith
9. Ayers
10. Marcus Thomas (the DT)
What's with your hard-on for Hillis?
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:41 PM   #17
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Harris is a prospect?
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:41 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by montrose View Post
Interesting list. Mine might be:

1) Clady
2) Smith
3) Moreno
4) Ayers
5) Harris
6) Royal
7) Hillis
8) Quinn
9) Crowder
10) McBath
no way is a nickel back corner higher then our stud LT and WR...hell even hillis and moreno belong above him as he might not even start over jmfw
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:43 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Broncenstein View Post
Jack Williams and Tim Crowder havent done ****. Woodyard barely makes the list, and Larsen was snubbed. Here's my list:

1. Clady
2. Moreno
3. Hillis
4. Royal
5. Harris
6. Woodyard
7. Larsen
8. A. Smith
9. Ayers
10. Marcus Thomas (the DT)
Odd that Jack williams and Tim Crowder get a haven't done **** but Moreno, A. Smith and Ayers are on the list without ever playing a down in the NFL. And Hills at three ahead of a guy that had 92 catches last year? I just question what the heck you are thinking.
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:46 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsiguy96 View Post
no way is a nickel back corner higher then our stud LT and WR...hell even hillis and moreno belong above him as he might not even start over jmfw
See thats why trading the first round pick for Smith might end up sucking. Not that I think Smith is bad I just think we under estimated JMFW. That's a lot of talent sitting on the bench either way when we could have had a guy on the field at another position.
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:51 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DBroncos4life View Post
Odd that Jack williams and Tim Crowder get a haven't done **** but Moreno, A. Smith and Ayers are on the list without ever playing a down in the NFL. And Hills at three ahead of a guy that had 92 catches last year? I just question what the heck you are thinking.
I should clarify that JMFW and Crowder have actual game experience and haven't done ****. Smith and Ayers make it on potential alone... considering their production in their respective collegiate conferences. When Peyton Hillis was injured last year, our playoff hopes ended. Ultimately he was a bigger weapon than Royal. Any more questions?
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:52 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lex View Post
A running game helps the defense.
Agreed, but personally I would have been willing to roll the dice with Hillis, free agent signings, etc. Perhaps not ideal, but I think it would have gotten the job done in the short term while we rebuilt the defense.
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:52 PM   #23
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If youre going by impact, the most reasonable ranking based on commonly held assumptions is:

1. Clady
2. Moreno
3. Royal

Moreno will touch the ball more than Royal, assuming he doesnt get injured. Plus, with Turner and Dennison, Moreno's impact is magnified even more. Does anyone have the feeling we'll be running more ZBS than Josh anticipated once people see how potent it can be with a quality RB?
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:55 PM   #24
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See thats why trading the first round pick for Smith might end up sucking. Not that I think Smith is bad I just think we under estimated JMFW. That's a lot of talent sitting on the bench either way when we could have had a guy on the field at another position.
i agree 100% here, but im not going to make a "bust" post until 2-3 years from now to see if smith can transition to full time CB...
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Old 08-13-2009, 09:56 PM   #25
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What's with your hard-on for Hillis?
Maybe you should watch the NYJ and Atlanta games... and the first half of the KC game at home. You know, the games where Hillis was the tailback by default due to injury... and just happened to be awesome. Or you could do a search of my previous posts and look back to my reaction when we drafted the guy. Either way, you could stand a little education.
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