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Post-Combine: What we've learned

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --As the waiting on a decision regarding quarterback Peyton Manning continues, the business of building the 2015 Broncos continued unabated at the Scouting Combine.

The Manning question lingers, as do the ones about their potential free agents. But some hints at answers to others revealed themselves.



This doesn't mean that the Broncos won't pursue fortifications of the offensive line in free agency, but expect the team to take its typical tactic of not going above a certain value under the salary cap for each of the players it targets -- and being willing to move on to other options, whether it's the next name on the free-agent target list or to internal options.

With offensive-line starters Orlando Franklin and Will Montgomery set to hit the open market in two weeks, and Louis Vasquez moving back to right guard after handling the right tackle, Denver's offensive line might have an entirely new look, which could create opportunities for 2014 draft picks Matt Paradis and Michael Schofield and former defensive lineman Ben Garland, depending on how the moves shake out.

Paradis, in particular, could govern what the Broncos do at center in the coming days. He has the attributes of a zone-blocking center: quickness, intelligence, footwork.

"I think a lot of him," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "I visited with him the other day. I remember coming to Denver years ago and there was a guy on the practice squad in Tommy Nalen. So hopefully we'll find some of those guys, but I know there are some good young players, and it's our job to get them going here, come April."

Schofield was drafted as a multi-position prospect, but right now is "more of a right tackle" than a left guard, Executive Vice President/General Manager John Elway noted.

"Especially when we look at where we are, and the offensive line, and right tackle's a need for us," Elway said. "That's what we drafted him for, is to play right tackle. We think it's a good fit for him."

And, of course, you can expect more repetitions from the talented Cody Latimer, the wide receiver who flashed brilliantly in the summer but saw his opportunities dry up when the season arrived.

"Usually a player like that is going to make their biggest jump from year one to two," Kubiak said.


At inside linebacker, look for Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall to get the first crack at the "moe" and "mike" linebacker spots, respectively. At defensive end, Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe will be -- which should only help the Broncos, considering that the efficiency of their pass rush increased when the two were on the field together.

"We've been impressed with what we've seen," Kubiak said. "We've studied all those guys very hard. I think those two guys fit what we want to do. And there's not a better guy than (defensive line coach) Bill Kollar to get them going."

And with Terrance Knighton set to hit free agency, Sylvester Williams could get a look at nose tackle -- and Elway thinks Kollar could provide Williams the prod he needs to live up to his first-round billing after two inconsistent seasons.

"I think Sylvester's still growing. We still like Sylvester. We still think there's a lot of potential there. I'm not sure that he's scratched it yet," Elway said. "Hopefully -- I think if there's any guy who can get it out of a player, it's Bill Kollar, who's our new defensive line coach.

"Sylvester's going to get tested, and he's going to get pushed, and I think it's good thing for Sylvester."

Elway's draft-and-development program won't succeed without maximizing the first-round picks. The selection in 2011, Von Miller, was a home run, and 2014 first-round cornerback Bradley Roby looks well on his way. And since new coordinator Wade Phillips has succeeded with different types of nose tackles, Williams could be in position to succeed if he takes to Kollar's thorough, but demanding, teaching.

"Wade has played with both (types)," Kubiak said. "Wade has had the huge guy, Ted Washington, if I can go back that far, and Wade has played with a small guy like Earl Mitchell in Houston, where you can shade and do a lot of stunting. So it depends on who you have."

So if Williams is the nose tackle, he'll have tactics catered to his size and skill set. The rest will be up to him.



When the Combine testing results in extreme results such as UConn CB Byron Jones' ridiculous 12-foot, 3-inch standing broad jump, you can expect the Broncos' college scouting department to review the tape of Jones and others at the Combine who delivered unexpected results.

This fits in with the Combine not being the be-all, end-all of the scouting process, but being a tool. Jones probably opened some eyes, and changed the perspective through which his tape will be reviewed. A relevant question involves why his change of direction on the field was so balky, but at the Combine, it was so quick that he finished with some of the best times in the three-cone and short-shuttle drills, to go along with the explosion revealed in his vertical and broad jump.

"I think a lot of times you say, 'Can we get that out of them? He knows he has that potential; can he mature into being that guy?' Because you can't coach athletic ability, you can't coach speed," Elway said. "So that's why those guys that have good numbers here are always very intriguing, because it's a matter of whether you can get it out of them or not."

Recent history has shown that the Broncos will roll the dice on physically gifted players with raw skills from game film -- or players with shaky workout numbers but good game performance -- during the third day. Befitting the hit-or-miss reality of the third day, that philosophy has yielded some players who didn't work out -- such as 2013 offensive lineman Vinston Painter and 2012 lineman Philip Blake -- but others who did, like 2011 tight end Julius Thomas and 2012 linebacker Danny Trevathan.


"It's a pretty good draft, so far, from what I've seen, especially on the offensive side," Elway said, citing the running backs, wide receivers and the offensive line. Even though the Broncos appear to be in good shape at the first two positions, it would come as no surprise if they add a running back or receiver late as the "best player available" at the time, particularly if the player in question has return skills.

But offensive line could be in play for the first two days of the draft, even with the young players the Broncos already possess. If Franklin and Montgomery depart, the Broncos are faced with having only one position of the starting five remaining the same as it was Jan. 12 against Indianapolis: Ryan Clady at left tackle, with Vasquez moving back to right guard, which Manny Ramirez manned during the second half of the 2014 season.

Even with bigger roles for Paradis and Schofield, and even with the addition of a free agent or two, the Broncos could have plenty of athletic, smart options to bolster the line -- with players like LSU's La'el Collins, Duke's Laken Tomlinson and Colorado State's Ty Sambrailo among a bulbous list of possibilities -- and this looks like a good year to fortify up front and continue building the team from the inside out.

And there will be expectations of all who the Broncos pick this year -- except, perhaps, for a developmental quarterback.

"I think the guys that we draft and bring in this year, they (the coaches) are going to use them all," Elway said.

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