Draft Day Dawns …

Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy was Andrew Mason’s pick for the Broncos in two mock drafts. But don’t be surprised if the Broncos’ day is defined by a trade.

Jerel Worthy

JEREL WORTHY: ... might be the best fit for need, but need isn't the only consideration. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / MAXDENVER.COM)

As the draft draws near, click here for more on the Broncos’ prospects:

Now you’re probably wondering why I selected Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy in each mock draft.

In the CBSSports.com draft, I considered Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe, whose massive frame and skillset as a one-technique tackle is something that John Fox hasn’t possessed on his defensive line since Kris Jenkins with the Carolina Panthers (EDIT: Hollis Thomas and Maake Kemoeatu had size, but nowhere near the array of moves and ability to move that Jenkins possessed). When Steelers correspondent Chuck Finder passed on Poe, I spent a few minutes pondering choice between the defensive tackles. But given what executive vice president John Elway reiterated Monday about wanting multiple picks who could contribute immediately, Worthy became the more logical choice, given his better range of strengths, multiple pass-rush moves and overall consistency. Poe’s workouts in recent months drew notice, but every time I watch tape of him, I can’t get past how he failed to dominate in the relatively pedestrian Conference USA. His performance pales compared with Worthy’s work in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten.

In the draft for The Sporting News, Poe was long gone. Alabama safety Mark Barron shockingly tumbled through the first round; had he not been selected with the 23rd choice of Detroit, I would have blown up the board and selected Barron. Barron and Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly are the two players for which any draft plans should be destroyed if they unexpectedly drop to the late teens or early 20′s; at that point, the Broncos should do whatever they can to move up a few choices.

When Barron went off the board, I was left to decide between Worthy and Wisconsin center Peter Konz. Had the draft been made two weeks earlier, I would have chosen Konz.

But when Peyton Manning said April 16 that he “enjoyed being around J.D. Walton” during their workouts at area high schools in the weeks before formal voluntary workouts began at Broncos headquarters, that revealed a level of trust and confidence that indicated Walton was solidifying his status as center. Thus, Worthy became the pick.

Ultimately, we’re all guessing. I listen and re-listen to the words of Elway and Manning; I re-examine last year’s draft; I re-study the draft patterns of the Carolina Panthers when John Fox was their head coach. A few patterns become clear: that Fox can — and will — put multiple rookies onto the first team as soon as organized activities (as he did in 2008, when his Panthers went 12-4), that the fourth round and beyond is where the high-potential, steep-learning-curve players are selected, that college production is valued.

There are exceptions to every trend, but all we can do on a mock draft at the 25th pick is to make an educated guess. Nothing more. And if the Broncos trade up or down, everything gets tossed asunder, anyway.

Trades appear to be more likely this year because of the new collective bargaining agreement and the slotting system for draft picks. No longer is a first-round pick onerous for a team’s salary cap — unless they’ve misspent and are up against the limit. It’s been at least a decade since the draft was this conducive to upward and downward mobility via trade.

So while you can expect the Broncos to be on the clock with the 25th pick at somewhere between 8 and 9 p.m. MDT, don’t plan your evening around it. Keep it open. And know that after the fifth pick, Denver’s moment could come at any time.

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About Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason has covered the NFL since 1999, when he worked as an editor on NFL.com when the site was managed by ESPN.com. He worked six seasons (2002-07) covering the Broncos on their official website and two (2008-09) on the Panthers' site. He began MaxDenver.com in 2010 and now contributes to CBSSports.com, The Sporting News and The New York Times.
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6 Responses

  1. If we go Defensive Tackle then John Elway did a very good job misleading us all over the last few weeks over his comments about that position not being as big a need as everyone thinks it is.

    I must say, when the Broncos are not in the Super Bowl – Draft Day is my favorite sporting day of the year!

    Thanks Mason.

  2. Andrew,
    You said something about Fox not having a big body since Kris Jenkins, but that’s not true. He had 364lb starting DT Ma’ake Kemoeatu and 340lb starting DT Hollis Thomas.

    I don’t like Dontari Poe and would avoid him like the plague. But it’s worth noting that John Fox had a 340lb+ starting DT on the roster on opening day for each of his meaningful years in Carolina (the great roster purge of 2010 doesn’t count).

    It’s my theory that he loves the huge, athletic 4-3 DTs to weigh so much as a way to counteract the fact that he likes his linebackers to be smaller and faster. They don’t have to be fat kids out of college, though. anybody that’s like 6’4″ and already weighing over 300 pounds likely has what it takes to add the weight through proper training.

    • Good catch. What I should have tossed in was “frame and skill set,” because there are many things that Jenkins could do that Hollis Thomas and Maake Kemoeatu could not. Jenkins had multiple moves and a wingspan that allowed him to bat down passes more effectively that Thomas and Kemoeatu, who were simply big guys. Poe’s potential is that of Jenkins.

      And not everyone can effectively carry extra weight. That can be hard to project. Even Warren Sapp tried to add extra weight midway through his Tampa Bay career and took a step back. It’s not an exact science.

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