....the Denver Broncos represented by The Sports Guru of Mile High Report select....
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois
Standard Issue preface to any and all Broncos mock drafts: Denver WILL NOT be picking at #12. There is a 98% chance they will trade down, and a 2% chance they will trade up. There simply isn't anything at #12 that they can't get elsewhere, and when you factor in escalating rookie contracts and tight purse strings in Dove Valley, Denver will be looking elsewhere for their first pick in the draft.
But there are several players that are worth listing at the #12 spot for mock draft purposes, including OTs Ryan Clady and Chris Williams, which would fill a debatable need, and DE Derrick Harvey, which would be more about forcing a trade than enhancing the roster, though there are few NFL rosters he WOULDN'T enhance.
But for this mock there is an opportunity to address a concern that for Shanahan has definitely been on his mind, and could be handled with just the right amount of "Shanny Surprise" to please the Mastermind.
It should be known that Mike Shanahan has no problem drafting a RB early. Forget the success he has had picking them late. He recognizes that of all the late round names to file through Denver, only Terrell Davis was a truly special player. When Denver traded up to nab Cutler at #11 in 2006, Shanahan is on the record stating that if Cutler had gone before Denver could trade up for him, they would have traded up anyways and taken Laurence Maroney. So it is definitely something he would do for the right guy. And Rashard Mendenhall could definitely be that guy.
Like Terrell Davis, Mendenhall is a quick runner, not a fast runner. His game is a power, inside style, and he has the physical strength and size to compete well in that game. He shows that trait of traits for the zoneblock scheme, which is patience: patience to set up his blocks, patience to wait for the cutback lane, and patience to follow his lead blockers. You won't catch Rashard running into the backs of his guys and coming to a standstill. He has excellent leg churn to finish off runs in trash, and the presence to keep his pads down and break tackles. He has courage, and if I have a major complaint about him it is that he might be TOO courageous, as he will take on tackles and tacklers that are better left in his deceptively elusive dust.
Denver won't ask him to run off tackle, which is a good thing, as he doesn't quite have that kind of speed, and he will definitely have to show improvement in his lean and upper body control. He seemed to be getting his fumble problem under control, but when I watch him, I see the root of the problem still present, i.e. arms that flail wildly when cutting back and quick stepping. This MUST be addressed, but it is a correctable problem.
All in all he is a tough guy for a tough job, a one cut running game between the tackles, and he should free up the home run hitters in Denver for years to come. With Denver's redzone woes and an unreliable powerback in Travis Henry, nothing would make Shanahan happier.