#108: Kory Lichtensteiger, C: What's with all these lineman from mid-majors? Lichtensteiger probably lasts until our next pick and maybe even until round 5; however, Denver clearly coveted Kory enough to draft him a little early. Some may say this is a reach, but I am enormously happy with this selection. There's a lot to like this kid. Lichtensteiger is an incredibly likable guy with a blue-collar work ethic. He is a ferocious competitor on the field. He's among the more polished centers available in this years draft with respect to technique. He also possesses fantastic lower-body strength and is an enormously effective drive blocker in the running game.
The knock on Lichtensteiger is his poor track record defending 3-technique tackles in pass protection. This is likely the reason he made the switch from guard to center at Bowling Green. He also is a little light to play center in the NFL; however, at 298 lbs, he's already bigger than Nalen. Denver likes lineman who lack prototypical size and Lichtensteiger should therefore fit right in. There is a lot of silly discussion about Lichtensteiger's durability. He played an entire season with a torn labrum and waited until the off season to have corrective surgery. Does that sound like a guy who's not durable?
I'm a little concerned that Denver hasn't addressed the defensive tackle or middle linebacker positions as of yet. Otherwise, great pick. Grade: A
#119: Jack Williams, CB: Williams is the second MAC player Denver has drafted in a row. Frankly I'm shocked by this pick as I think Denver has a shot to fill some big needs with a player like Beau Bell or Letroy Guion, both of whom are still on the board. Williams is only 5'9" tall but has adequate bulk (185 lbs). He has excellent zone coverage skills and is a fantastic tackler. He forced six fumbles last season for Kent State to match his 10 interceptions. Williams is a hard hitting player with fantastic speed and quickness. He's also an experienced kick and punt returner.
The knock on Williams is that his size is a red zone liability. He'll have trouble matching up against bigger receivers. He's rough around the edges technically and will struggle in man-to-man and underneath coverage. He's played with some nagging injuries and missed a game or two as a result. Durability is therefore a concern but shouldn't be an overriding factor in my opinion.
With Paymah failing to reach his potential and Foxworth likely on his way out of town, Williams is a need in this year's or next year's draft. He's a physical kid who'll be a good option in nickel packages. There's also a good chance that Denver converts Williams to free safety. He's got the range to cover a lot of ground, reads the quarterback well, and delivers punishing hits. It'll be interesting to see where he fits. I'm a little surprised by this selection given our glaring needs, but overall think Williams is a solid prospect as a nickel back or free safety. Grade: B
#139: Ryan Torain, RB: Torain's pick is undoubtedly an attempt to remedy Denver's paltry power success percentage and red zone touchdown percentage from last season. Realistically, Torain is probably a fullback or short-yardage back type rather than an every-down starter. He's a north-south type runner with the strength to move the pile. He doesn't have great elusiveness or breakaway speed, so don't expect to see him much outside of the red zone. While RB's with Torain's size are few and far between in this year's draft, there are a handful of guys I like better with this pick including Cory Boyd and Jalen Parmele. But hey, the Broncos are supposed to be the best in the business at this late-round runningback thing, right? Grade: C-
#148: Carlton Powell, DT: Given that Guion, Hayden, Rubin, and Okam are all on the board, this pick astonishes me. Powell is an undersized 2-gap defender without the speed to consistently pressure the quarterback. His lateral mobility is poor and he's a terrible tackler. Defensive tackle was Denver's biggest need heading into today's draft. With the plethora of talent still available at this pick, the Broncos could have made a big splash in the 5th round. I'm terribly disappointed in this pick. Grade: D-
#183: Spencer Larsen, ILB: We may never know whether or not Nick Hayden would've adorned a Broncos jersey had he survived two more picks. Rather than add desperately needed depth to the defensive line interior, Denver went with another need at inside linebacker. Larsen, who turns 24 this year, has the size to play the position but in almost every other way he's a project. Still, Larsen gives Denver a project ILB for a low price. He should contribute on special teams immediately. This isn't the splash at a needed position that Beau Bell or Jonathan Goff would have made, but its definitely a guy who'll have a shot to make the roster. Grade: C
#219: Joshua Barrett, S: Barrett is an absolute steal at this pick. He is a high-character player who was the leader of the Sun Devils defense in 2007. He's everything you want in a safety: great ball skills, world class speed, great size, great blitzing ability, etc. Barrett likely slipped because he red shirted his freshman year with an injury and played through a pectoral injury in 2007. At the end of last year, he missed two games with a knee sprain. Heading into the draft, Barrett projected as high as a 3rd-round pick. Denver is fortunate to grab a great player so late in the game. Grade: A+
#226: Peyton Hillis, FB: Hillis is a big kid with a lot of promise. He has the power to move the pile, great hands, and pretty good speed (4.66 40-time) for a guy his size. After playing in a tough conference, he's a proven talent. What's more, Hillis is an exceptional pass blocker. The knock on Hillis is that he's not a prototypical lead-blocking fullback. He struggles as a lead blocker in the running game. These aren't big concerns for Denver, however, because the Broncos run more of a one-back offense. Last season fullbacks were primarily used in split back formations to max protect Jay Cutler in the shotgun (a strange formation) and in the red zone. My guess is that Hillis adds an additional short-yardage back with the potential to develop into a long-term solution at fullback. Hillis also has the straight-line speed to be effective on special teams. Great pick. Grade: A