in Indianapolis (AP Photo - Darron Cummings)
The Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine are behind us, and besides paying attention to the continuing CBA negotiations, many fans are focussed on the draft and all the various prospects that their team might be looking at.
With the second overall pick in the draft, the Broncos will be in a great position to take an impact player in their effort to rebuild the defense which has been struggling for several seasons now.
Broncos Zone spoke with Shawn Zobel of DraftHeadquarters.com about the upcoming draft. Shawn has been one of the most accurate draft analysts in the business, and provides detailed rankings and player information on his website. He is currently busy with the preparations for his annual Draft Preview, but was able to find some time for an interview with Broncos Zone.
Broncos Zone: To start off, you were at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last weekend. Which player’s performance were you most impressed by? And who hurt his stock the most in Indianapolis?
Shawn Zobel: I thought that North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin helped himself more than anyone in Indianapols. At 309 lbs, I clocked him at 4.78 in the 40-yard dash and he put up 38 reps on the bench press, both terrific numbers for a defensive tackle. I thought that Oklahoma’s Jeremy Beal hurt himself quite a bit. After a poor week at the Senior Bowl, running a 5.13 in the 40-yard dash may drop him out of the draft completely on draft day.
BZ: Being in Indianapolis, you obviously talk to a lot of people and hear a lot of things in the hallways. You posted an article about Cam Newton who is, according to your sources, very much in play for the Panthers with the first overall pick. Did you hear about any players whom the Broncos met with or who they like a lot?
SZ: From everything that I’ve heard recently, they’re eyeing Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers with the No. 2 pick. Now, we’re still roughly two months away from the draft, but he’s certainly a player they have their eye on at No. 2.
BZ: Is Peterson, who had a terrific combine and is often linked to the Broncos, best suitable to be a press corner? If so, does it still make sense to draft him into a scheme which will most likely be zone heavy?
SZ: Patrick Peterson can do it all. He can play press, off, man, zone, cornerback, or safety. Whichever scheme he is drafted into, he has enough athleticism and talent to transition to there.
BZ: Which teams, considering we’ll likely see a rookie wage scale, could be most interested in trading up to the #2 spot?
SZ: I’d say anyone looking to draft a quarterback, so I’d consider Cincinnati, to jump ahead of Buffalo, Arizona, San Francisco, Tennessee, Washington, and Minnesota.
BZ: Obviously Texas A&M’s Von Miller has impressed a lot of people at the Senior Bowl and the Combine. Some people in the Denver media have stated that the Broncos are also high on him. He would, however, seem likely to become a 4-3 outside linebacker in the Broncos' system. Do you see him making an impact as a 4-3 outside linebacker, or is he strictly a 3-4 rush linebacker?
SZ: I see him as a 3-4 outside rush linebacker. While I think that he could player outside in the 4-3, he’d be playing out of position. He’s a special player, but in the 4-3 defense in Denver, there are other players that I’d like to see them look at than Miller. Now, if they had stayed in the 3-4, he’d certainly be a player worth considering.
BZ: Stephen Paea and Marvis Austin both had great combines, and seem to offer great value in the second round, especially now the Broncos have released both Bannan and Williams. Which of them do you think has more potential, and is Paea’s knee injury something to worry about?
SZ: Austin no question has more potential and upside. He’s a former top recruit who some have compared to a young-Warren Sapp in the past. Paea is a very solid prospect, but Austin has the talent to be great. Paea’s knee injury isn’t a major concern for me.
BZ: With Ryan Harris becoming a free agent if the new CBA is agreed upon, are there any mid/late round right tackle prospects who in your opinion could have an impact come week 1 of the season, or will the Broncos only be able to find a starter in the early rounds?
SZ: Clint Boling, Marcus Gilbert, and DeMarcus Love are guys they could look at. I don’t see many later-round guys being able to start right away. However, there is enough depth in the draft to get a solid prospect in the mid-to-late rounds.
BZ: Last season, the Broncos selected Perrish Cox in the 4th round, feeling that his value outweighed the risks there. Is there a player fans should look for who has great potential but looks likely to fall due to off the field concerns?
SZ: Colorado CB Jimmy Smith. A fantastic talent with an ideal combination of size and athleticism, Smith has big question marks and could fall as a result of that. Arkansas’ Ryan Mallet has been well documented and could be another player who falls. Add in Clemson’s DeAndre McDaniel as well.
BZ: After the college football season, we talked on Twitter about Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones, whom you then liked to Sean Weatherspoon who was drafted by the Falcons in the first round last year. It seems like his stock has fallen a little since. Where are you projecting him to go right now?
SZ: I see Jones as a third-to-fourth round prospect. In addition to weighing in at just 5-11, 240 lbs, Jones speed was not where I expected it to be and he is not on the same level as a prospect as Weatherspoon was when he was coming out of Missouri.
BZ: Which players will have the most to prove during their upcoming pro day?
SZ: Auburn QB Cam Newton, Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers, Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert, and Ohio State DT Cameron Heyward.
BZ: Do you spend the weekend of the draft in New York or from the comfort of home?
SZ: I’ve been attending the draft live in New York since 2004.
BZ: Thank you very much for the interview, and good luck in the upcoming weeks!
Want to know more about the upcoming draft and the prospects? Visit Shawn's website draftheadquarters.com or order his 200+ page Draft Preview. Also, be sure to follow him on Twitter for the latest draft news and projections.