ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --For true draft geeks, THIS is where it gets interesting.
For teams that want to sustain a winning program without the benefit of high picks, this is where the value rests. Just look at what the Broncos got in 2006, for example: their haul from the last four rounds of the draft included Elvis Dumervil, Brandon Marshall and Chris Kuper.
You'll hear "upside" quite a bit. But you'll also hear about players who don't necessarily fit the height/weight/speed mold. It doesn't mean they can't play. It doesn't mean they can't become stars.
Going into the third day, here's 10 players who are among the best of what's left:
WR Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech: A strong Senior Bowl week and plenty of good tape moved Patton into eyeshot of many draftniks, and he even popped on a few first-round mocks in recent weeks. The knock on him is that he doesn't have elite speed to gain separation, but he can adjust to catch inaccurate passes, even when a defender is in tight coverage.
S Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse: Here's what I wrote March 30: "Thomas showed his straight-ahead speed with a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, is 213 pounds, is aggressive against the run and doesn't miss many tackles. The only issue? He's 5-foot-9, making him the shortest safety in the draft mix this year." The lack of height can be overcome, and he has almost everything else you want. He's worth the pick.
DE Quanterus Smith, Western Kentucky: A torn ACL has hurt his draft stock, and his 250-pound weight means he'd likely be just a pass-rusher in a 4-3, but three of his 12.5 sacks last year came against Alabama. He's explosive, if a bit raw, and needs to learn to rely on moves as much as his pure speed, but there's plenty to like here.
OT David Bakhtiari, Colorado: He might have slid because he checked in at 299 pounds at the Scouting Combine, but he should be able to carry more weight. Mature and smart, he should settle in at least as a right tackle, and could eventually get a look on the left side. Don't forget about his teammate Nick Kasa, a defensive lineman-turned-tight end who had a good Senior Bowl week, but has only played on offense for a season and a half.
QBs Ryan Nassib, Syracuse and Matt Barkley, USC: It's easy to lump these two together, even though they have different skill sets, since their names were tossed about as potential first-day picks. Clearly, teams aren't selecting quarterbacks for the sake of doing so; they want value and upside, and there are questions as to whether either possess a high enough ceiling to justify a high pick. Oklahoma's Landry Jones wasn't touted as a potential first-rounder in some circles, but it's possible he could go off the board before either Nassib or Barkley. Jones' interception totals might be a concern as well as his skittishness under a pass rush, but he could be coached up. Another intriguing prospect whose name might be called before Nassib and Jones is Arizona's Matt Scott, whose stock has steadily risen. Broncos executive vice president John Elway said Monday that Scott was one of the quarterbacks with whom the Broncos met. (Zac Dysert of Miami-Ohio was another.)
DT Jesse Williams, Alabama: The 323-pounder appears to be a natural 3-4 nose tackle, but can play in any scheme. There might be lingering concerns over postseason knee surgery that kept him from running at the combine, but he ran the 40 at his pro day.
RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: The Broncos appear out of the running back market after drafting Montee Ball, but Lattimore's eventual draft destination will be one of the more compelling stories of this year. Whoever picks him should be prepared to place him on injured reserve to let his twice-injured knee have its best chance to return to something approaching its previous strength. When healthy, he has all the earmarks of a prototypical NFL running back.
WR Ryan Swope, Texas A&M: A potential slot receiver who was hindered by an injury that led to a bad Senior Bowl practice. He pulled out of the game as a result. But his 4.34-second Combine 40 time is hard to ignore, and shows he might be able to play one of the other receiving spots. Another receiver to consider is Duke's Conner Vernon; he was a bit more prolific, but not nearly as fast.
G/T Oday Aboushi, Virginia: His game tape looked much better than his Senior Bowl work, when the coaches shifted him around the offensive line to get a look at him at multiple spots. Although his college career was at the tackle spots, he looks more like a guard who can play right tackle in a pinch. His pass blocking is ahead of his work in the run game, and he's diligent and quick.