Throughout the offseason, we’ll be profiling players who may end up in Denver when all is said and done with the 2017 NFL Draft. The Broncos clearly have plenty of holes to fill before they get back to Super-Bowl form and we’ll be examining a long list of players they may choose to help the franchise do just that.
Whether it’s finding disrespect in not being double teamed or saying he’s the best defensive tackle in the country, Caleb Brantley has all the confidence in himself, and for good reason too. As a first-team All-Florida player in high school, the defensive tackle from the University of Florida is one of the premier interior defensive lineman in this year’s draft.
In his three seasons in college, Brantley consistently wreaked havoc against SEC offensive lines using a combination of size, speed and strength. As a projected second-round pick, Brantley is projected to cause the same disruption at the next level.
Brantley has the ideal body structure that NFL teams look for in college prospects along the defensive line. At 6-foot-3, 307 pounds, Brantley at times looks more like a linebacker than a defensive tackle due to most of his weight coming from muscle, not fat. He also uses his muscle on the field as he consistently has his way with offensive lineman, overpowering them at the point of attack and driving them through plays.
Even as a defensive tackle, Brantley consistently disrupts the backfield in both run and pass situations and holds his own against double teams. Although he had just 5.5 sacks in his college career, Brantley proved he is one of the best interior pass rushers in the draft. His 8.5 tackles for a loss in 2016 were a team high.
He is also able to quickly disengage from blockers, making it hard for the ball carrier to run by him. In college, when he timed the snap properly he was nearly impossible to stop. Brantley also plays every down with passion and doesn’t take a play off.
Although Brantley is incredibly strong and can bullrush defenders effectively, he too often relies on this one move. If he wants to be successful in the NFL penetrating the backfield, he will need to add additional moves to his arsenal besides pure power. Additionally, too often he tried to guess the snap count, leading to too many offside penalties.
While he was excellent at creating pressure in the backfield, he struggled to finish plays resulting in a decreased sack total. Finally, although he was a starter, he never played more than 50 percent of the defensive snaps at Florida because they had such a deep rotation on the defensive line. There are questions about whether Brantley can maintain a high motor and drive when he is asked to play a significantly higher snap count.
With his ability to both stop the run and rush the passer, Brantley could be used all over the Broncos’ defensive line—from defensive tackle to both end positions. If he wanted to eventually be Denver’s full-time nose tackle he would need to put on additional weight, but he could still see significant playing time while he was adding that weight at both tackle and end.
Since Denver doesn’t pick until later in the second-round it is questionable if he will be available for them at pick number 51, however if he is it would help bolster the defensive line while also be a best-player available pick. Brantley could likely start his rookie season at defensive end opposite Derek Wolfe and along side Domata Peko. He would allowed to be eased in with a potentially deep rotation on the line with Jared Crick, Zach Kerr and Adam Gotsis.