NFL.com analysts Bucky Brooks and Chad Reuter are handing out grades for every team following the 2012 NFL Draft. Click the team name to see each team's entire class.
John Elway and John Fox have enjoyed an outstanding offseason with the addition of Peyton Manning, but the Broncos entered the draft with significant needs on both sides of the ball. The team nabbed Derek Wolfe in the second round after a series of trades with the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The hard-working defensive tackle is a Day 1 starter as a three-technique and immediately fills a Broncos' void along the defensive line. The additional pick gained from the flurry of trade activity netted Omar Bolden, an athletic corner recovering from a torn ACL that cost him his senior season. Offensively, the Broncos gambled on a franchise quarterback of the future in Brock Osweiler and also took a dynamic change-of-pace runner in Ronnie Hillman. The collective potential of the group could solidify the Broncos' future for years, but the series of strategic gambles on questionable prospects could also burn them.
Best pick: Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati (Round 2, 36th overall pick).
As a blue-collar interior defender with size, strength and toughness, Wolfe fills a pressing need along the Broncos' defensive line.
Questionable pick: Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State (Round 2, 57).
The Broncos were willing to invest a high pick in an unproven quarterback prospect with only 15 career starts at Arizona State and a quirky throwing motion. Osweiler certainly shows intriguing potential, but taking a flier on a developmental quarterback prospect prevented the Broncos from addressing a more pressing need.
Sleeper pick: Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State (Round 3, 67).
Hillman flew under the radar during most of the pre-draft process, but scouts view him as one of the most explosive change-of-pace backs in the draft. He brings a new dimension to the Broncos' backfield with his speed, quickness and receiving skills.
Scott Pioli has rebuilt the Chiefs by deftly selecting productive, hard-working players in every stage of the draft. This year, Pioli appeared to deviate from the philosophy when he selected Dontari Poe in the first round, despite questions about his productivity at Memphis. However, it's impossible to find 346-pound defenders with this combination of size, strength and athleticism, so it's a worthwhile gamble with the unique upside. Jeff Allen, Donald Stephenson and Devon Wylie are classic "hard hat and lunch pail" guys with the potential to fill key roles as rookies. Cyrus Gray and DeQuan Menzie are promising Day 3 picks. Bottom line: This looks like another stellar class that should keep the team in contention in this division for the foreseeable future.
Best pick: Jeff Allen, T, Illinois (Round 2, 44).
Allen is a versatile offensive lineman with the rare ability to play four positions along the line. He is in line to start at left guard, but could emerge as a swing player capable of filling any role.
Questionable pick: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis (Round 1, 11).
Poe experienced a meteoric rise up the charts after a sensational performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, but his questionable production on tape leads to concerns about his ability to develop into a dominant interior defender as a pro. As mentioned above, though, Poe's rare athleticism/power combination is quite enticing.
Sleeper pick: Devon Wylie, WR/KR, Fresno State (Round 4, 107).
Some will attempt to label Wylie as a Wes Welker clone, based on his impressive skills as a slot receiver. He is an explosive playmaker with the ball in his hands and could add another dimension to the Chiefs' offense and kicking game.
It's hard to give an accurate assessment of the Raiders' efforts due to their limited number of picks, but Reggie McKenzie attempted to fortify the depth on his roster with this initial draft class. Tony Bergstrom is a big, physical road grader with the potential to crack the starting lineup at guard. Miles Burris, Jack Crawford and Juron Criner will fight for playing time as backups, and their speed and athleticism could make them valuable contributors on the Raiders' kicking units, too.
Best pick: Tony Bergstrom, OT, Utah (Round 3, 95).
As a big, physical blocker with a nasty demeanor, Bergstrom will add toughness to the Raiders' gritty offensive line. He will vie for a starting spot as a rookie and could be a long-term solution at a perennial problem area for the team.
Questionable pick: Miles Burris, OLB, San Diego State (Round 4, 129).
This is a tough one, considering the Raiders' lack of picks. Burris faces an uphill battle in grabbing a starting spot, but a role as a core special teamer is certainly not out of the question as a rookie.
Sleeper pick: Juron Criner, WR, Arizona (Round 5, 168).
Criner took a surprising plunge down the charts, despite a very productive career at Arizona. He is a big, physical pass catcher with sneaky speed and quickness. He could thrive as a No. 3 receiver for the Raiders.
A.J. Smith and Norv Turner are under the gun to engineer a deep postseason run, and this urgency certainly affected the Chargers' draft plans. The team selected a number of players with the ability to make immediate contributions, particularly Melvin Ingram, Kendall Reyes and Brandon Taylor. This trio addresses San Diego's biggest defensive needs, while also providing the unit with versatile players capable of serving multiple roles in the game plan. The Chargers also provided Philip Rivers with a talented playmaker in Ladarius Green and a pair of frontline protectors (Johnnie Troutman and David Molk). Green, in particular, has the potential to become a true difference maker as a tall, lanky tight end with the speed and athleticism to create mismatches on the perimeter.
Best pick: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina (Round 1, 18).
The Chargers surprisingly landed the draft's most explosive pass rusher in Ingram. Critics downgraded him due to his sub-standard arm length, but he was a dominant player in the SEC and arguably the top rusher at the Senior Bowl. If he plays to that level in San Diego as a rookie, Smith will be grinning like a Cheshire cat in the fall.
Questionable pick: Johnnie Troutman, OG, Penn State (Round 5, 149).
It's hard to question any of the Chargers' picks, but it was surprising to see the team fail to address the void created by Kris Dielman's retirement prior to the fifth round. Troutman is a gritty competitor with size and strength, but he could struggle stepping in for a perennial Pro Bowler on the interior.
Sleeper pick: Ladarius Green, TE, Louisiana-Lafayette (Round 4, 110).
If you're looking for an unheralded rookie with big-time potential, cast your eyes on Green. While his slender frame makes him a liability as a run blocker, expect Turner to take advantage of his unique skills on the perimeter. The 6-foot-6, 238-pound playmaker can blow past linebackers in the passing game.
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