Mason's Mailbag: In draft, focus on the player, not the school
Senior Digital Reporter
What's the deal with the Broncos and players from Alabama? John Elway has never drafted one from the Crimson Tide, and they continually churn out big-time NFL players year after year. Do you see anyone in the '18 draft that we might consider and buck that trend?
-- Rob Dickison
There isn't any "deal." Teams evaluate players on their individual merits and potential. The school for which they played is only a small part of the equation, and it's not a primary factor when it comes time to hand in the card with the pick's name on it. For example, in 2011, aren't you glad the Broncos picked Von Miller, from Texas A&M, instead of Marcell Dareus from Alabama? And remember, this was a genuine debate back then. The "trend" of which you speak isn't that; it's actually more of a coincidence.
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The 49ers' fortunes faded during Reid's five years with the team, but Reid was a reliable presence in the secondary and was one of the team's steadying forces. Solid against the run and adept in coverage, he posted his best season last year since his rookie campaign and should get a hefty contract. (Ric Tapia via AP)
His willingness to make plays against the run makes him an asset, and for a team that is willing to move him into the box liberally, the 29-year-old nine-year veteran should provide a positive contribution. (Aaron M. Sprecher via AP)
The Seahawks' defense turned McDougald loose to make big plays against the run, and he helped minimize the drop-off when injuries struck the "Legion of Boom" the last two years. (Ryan Kang via AP)
Boston shines in coverage, and he heads into free agency after posting a career-high five interceptions last year -- two more than the total of his three previous seasons combined. If he can improve his tackling, he could be a force whose best days should be ahead of him. (Ryan Kang via AP)
Although the Saints' defense emerged as a force last season, Vaccaro was not one of the biggest reasons why, especially in pass coverage. However, he is one of the league's best safeties against the run, which will attract some notice. (Ric Tapia via AP)
The dependable Gilchrist had a solid season for Houston last year after spending the 2015 and 2016 seasons with the Jets following a four-year stint in San Diego. You know what you're getting with Gilchrist, and while he might linger on the market, he will be a good option for a team that doesn't find its answer on the market right away. (Matt Patterson via AP)
He's coming off of a torn anterior cruciate ligament that ended his season after nine games, and he has missed 45 games over the last five years because of various injuries. Branch can hold his own against tight ends in coverage, but he's a victim of the maxim that the "best ability is availability." (AP Photo/David Goldman)
His restricted status may limit interest in him, but his ability to line up deep and still be a factor against the run could spur interest, especially because it will be cheaper to get him signed to a multi-year contract now than it would be if he hits the unrestricted market next year. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
The seven-year veteran posted 141 total tackles and three interceptions in his two seasons with the Lions following six years as a backup in New England. He missed the last six games of the 2017 season because of a shoulder injury, but he should be back to full health for 2018. (Detroit Lions via AP)
After joining the Bucs following his release by the Broncos, injuries limited him to just 12 games and four starts. He remains a threat to make plays in the box against the run, but he isn't likely to receive a contract like the one he got from the Broncos in 2014. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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And while Alabama has done an outstanding job of producing NFL players, others in their own conference have actually been more efficient at producing Pro Bowlers relative to their overall total of drafted prospects. Since 2011, Elway's first year with the Broncos in a football-operations capacity, one out of every 4.8 South Carolina draft picks has become a Pro Bowler. Mississippi State, Kentucky and LSU also have better rates than Alabama, which has seen nine of its 54 draft picks since 2011 make the Pro Bowl -- a rate of one Pro Bowler per six selections. (Although it must be noted that Kentucky has produced just eight draft picks since 2011.)
Further, if you focused on the school, rather than the player, you might miss out on some game-changing talent. Take Chris Harris Jr. for example; his Kansas Jayhawks went 3-9 during his senior year and haven't produced a Day 1 or Day 2 pick in the last nine drafts.
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Butler's lack of defensive snaps in Super Bowl LII shouldn't give teams pause in light of his overall body of work, although his 2017 season did not match his 2016 campaign, with his interception tally dropping from four to two and his touchdowns allowed increasing by 50 percent, from four to six. (Peter Read Miller via AP)
The cap room the Bears have makes it likely that they could match any offer, but there could still be interest in Fuller after a stellar season in which he broke up 17 passes and allowed just two touchdowns. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Melvin took a big leap last year, emerging as a bright spot in a dark Colts season. Yet Colts general manager Chris Ballard didn't commit to bringing him back, saying at the Combine that he would "let the market play out" on players that hit free agency, including Melvin. Given Melvin's frame and reach, he should be plucked in the first wave of free agency. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
His first season with the Bills saw him post his best campaign, breaking up nine passes in 11 games (all starts) as he helped Buffalo reach its first playoff spot since 1999. Bills general manager Brandon Beane said at the Combine that the team's recent addition of Vontae Davis doesn't prevent them from bringing back Gaines, but he should probably find more playing time waiting for him on the open market. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Age hasn't hindered Grimes, who posted two of his strongest coverage seasons the last two campaigns with the Bucs. He turns 35 this year, so he is likely to receive no more than a one- or two-year contract, but if he stays healthy -- and he has missed just four games in the last five seasons -- he should still be effective. (Paul Spinelli via AP)
The Redskins' cornerback corps could look radically different in a few days if Breeland departs, as teammate Kendall Fuller is expected to be dealt to Kansas City in the widely reported Alex Smith trade that should be consummated at the start of the league year. According to Pro Football Focus, opposing passers mustered a rating of just 75.6 when throwing at Breeland last year, as he broke up 16 passes. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The Rams gave Johnson the franchise tag in 2016 and 2017, but with Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters set to bolster their cornerback corps, they appear ready to move on from Johnson, who has been solid the last two seasons, but has not matched his dominant form of 2015, when he intercepted seven passes. (NFL Photos via AP)
As he heads into his ninth year, you would think that you had a read on what Robinson is, but his wild variance over the last three seasons -- outstanding in 2015 and 2017, struggling before succumbing to a groin injury in 2016 -- shows otherwise. But his 2017 campaign -- capped by a 50-yard pick-six in the NFC Championship Game -- revealed his ceiling and ensured he will not play 2018 on a contract like he played 2017 (one year, $775,000). (Al Tielemans via AP)
In his first season with the Giants, Cockrell broke up 11 passes, delivering the same kind of production he offered in his previous two seasons with the Steelers. Pro Football Focus credited him with a 70.3 passer rating allowed on passes targeted at him last season, the best single-season mark of his career. (Al Tielemans via AP)
It seems like every year at this time, we hear chatter about how age will catch up with Newman. Amazingly, it hasn't yet, even though he celebrated his 39th birthday last season. A return to Minnesota would likely suit him best. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
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With the Browns' recent moves, how worried do you think John Elway, Vance Joseph and crew are about the #4 pick being traded to recoup some of their lost picks to a QB-needy team?**
-- Joseph Roe
I don't think they're worried about anything other than running their race. Given all the needs facing the Broncos as the new league year begins, there's plenty on the plate.
If you start fretting too much over what other teams do, you'll go paranoid and drive yourself mad.
Would it be possible or even a good idea to try to get Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey as they would come with that valued O-line continuity together? Possible with a trade or multi trade with Buffalo then Cleveland or Indy? Brain storming out loud here!
-- Jeff Stone
It's not realistic without making multiple trades happen, as you mentioned, and there may be too many moving parts involved to make this specific combination possible, especially given where both should end up landing in the first round.
And while the college chemistry is valuable, that is a benefit that fades over time. It provides a short-term advantage, but, for example, if the Broncos traded down and found themselves with multiple first-round picks and got McGlinchey and, say, UTEP guard Will Hernandez, it would not take them long to build the same type of chemistry that existed between McGlinchey and Nelson at Notre Dame.
The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.