Saturday, April 27, 2013

2013 NFL Draft: Denver Broncos Ace Day 3

(Quanterus Smith's highlights here.)
And on the third day, the Denver Broncos rounded out their roster.  And the fans said that it was good.

During the first three rounds of the draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York this weekend, the Broncos addressed needs at defensive tackle, running back, and cornerback.  The team landed North Carolina's Sylvester Williams, Wisconsin's Montee Ball, and Florida State's Kayvon Webster in the early rounds of the draft on Thursday and Friday before moving on to Day 3.

When the team came on the clock in the fourth round on Saturday, Denver traded down with the Green Bay Packers, acquiring an additional fifth round selection and a sixth round pick.  Going into the draft, the Broncos did not own a sixth round pick (they traded it to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for Brodrick Bunkley back in 2011.  Bunkley has since left via free agency).

With their first pick of the fifth round (146th overall from Green Bay), they chose Western Kentucky defensive end Quanterus "Q" Smith, one of the best pass rushers in the country.  Last season, Smith (6'5", 250 pounds) was leading the nation with 12.5 sacks before an injury caused him to miss the final two games of the season.

Near the end of his senior year, Smith tore his ACL, which ultimately led to him falling in the draft. When healthy, Smith was one of the most dominate rushers in NCAA football in 2013.

If he can return to full health, it will be easy for Smith to fill the production void created by the departure of Elvis Dumervil earlier this offseason.  Smith and the Broncos are confident that he will return to full strength.

“I’ll be ready to go by training camp," Smith told the media on Saturday afternoon.  "I’m going through the rehab process right now. I feel real good on it, confident on it, so I’m excited and I’ll be ready for training camp.”

Smith's best game as a senior game against the talented Alabama Crimson Tide's offensive line in Week 2, when he sacked quarterback A.J. McCarron three times.  The offensive lineman that was protecting McCarron's right side?  San Diego Chargers first round pick D.J. Fluker, the eleventh pick of the 2013 NFL draft.

That's bad news for San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, who is already used to facing a fierce rush from Denver's Von Miller.  Unfortunately for Rivers, Denver didn't stop acquiring QB hunters after selecting Smith.

Shortly after drafting "Q," ESPN's Adam Schefter broke the news that the team had also signed former Chargers outside linebacker Shaun Phillips, a player that recorded 9.5 sacks last season.  The team confirmed the signing an hour later.

Phillips provides the Broncos with additional depth as an edge rusher.  He recorded 69.5 sacks during his nine-year stint with San Diego as an outside linebacker.  In Denver, he will be moved to defensive end.

"I'm a natural defensive end that they moved to linebacker," Phillips said, adding that he is comfortable with playing with his hand on the ground. 

Phillips will join a defensive end rotation in Denver that includes Derek Wolfe (the team's first selection of last year's draft), Quanterus Smith, and Robert Ayers.  Miller, the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, will also see time with his hand on the ground this season.

Phillips, 31, provided a younger option than fellow free agents John Abraham (34) and Dwight Freeney (33), who had also drawn interest from the team.  Freeney is likely now off Denver's radar.
Next, the Broncos went offensive, drafting Georgia wide receiver Tavarres King in the fifth round (161st overall).  King is a 6'1", 200-pound receiver that caught 42 passes for 950 yards (representing an astounding 22.6 yards-per-catch average) and 9 touchdowns in 2013.

In Denver, King's role is expected to be small early on, as he is joining a receiver corps jam-packed with talent.  But King is ready to do whatever is asked of him.

“I can do it all. I can do anything they need me to do. Obviously Wes Welker is a slot guy and you’ve got those two guys on the outside in Eric Decker and ‘Bay-Bay’ (Demaryius Thomas). Wherever I can fit in and help the team is where I’ll be. Anything that I can do to help is what I’ll do,” said King, who scored 21 touchdowns in four seasons as a Bulldog.

In the sixth round (173rd pick via Green Bay), Denver went with Virginia Tech offensive tackle Vinston Painter, a 6'4", 306-pound lineman that will provide depth on Denver's offensive line.

"(Painter) is a hard-working, physical tackle. We like his potential," Broncos V.P. of Football Operations John Elway tweeted after the selection was announced.

The Broncos capped off the draft in the seventh round (234th pick) by selecting Miami (Ohio) quarterback Zac Dysert, a 6'4", 228-pound QB that passed for 3,483 yards and 25 TDs last season.  In Denver, he is expected to compete with Brock Osweiler, Denver's 2012 second round selection, for the backup quarterback gig behind starter Peyton Manning.

"You can never have enough QBs," Elway said after the pick.  "We were thrilled that Zac was available, he is a talented player and competitor.

View a graphic of the Denver Broncos' complete 2013 draft class here.

The Broncos strengthened their entire roster through the draft and addressed several key positions of need, in addition to landing another talented pass rusher in Phillips.  But the party is not over yet.

Now that the draft has concluded, teams will begin signing undrafted rookies to come in and complete for a roster spot this summer.  Over the past ten years, thirteen college free agents have made Denver's opening day roster, per team P.R. man Patrick Smyth.

See @JHSMDEN on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates on undrafted free agent signings.