Posted Mon Apr 21st by Monty
After a busy week last week, we still have a lot to do to get ready for Friday’s final report. The rest of these (week-) daily breakdowns are C/G, CB, WR, and S. Today we’re breaking down the interior offensive line – why we should and shouldn’t draft one in the first round, and then ask you to tell us what you think. Enjoy!
Mike Shanahan has called Denver Broncos center Tom Nalen the greatest center he’s ever coached several times. In my relatively short lifetime, born the year after John Elway was drafted, I scratch my head at trying to think of someone I’ve seen play it better. Nalen’s dominant present on the offensive line, both physically and mentally, was sorely missed last year and will be missed again in the years to come. He’s 36 years old now, and it’s common opinion that he has only one or two years left in the tank.
It’s well known that Nalen was drafted the year before Shanahan’s coaching debut in Denver, and that he was drafted for a mere 7th round pick. Some would say that the Broncos can again dig into the depths of the draft to find his replacement… I’m inclined to disagree. You can’t “count” on drafting someone of Tom Nalen’s caliber in the later rounds of the draft – most first round centers don’t live up to Nalen’s credentials.
However, the Broncos do feel like they’ve found his replacement, at least for a few years, in current LG Ben Hamilton. Hamilton is underappreciated among most fans, but his experience at both guard and center in college make him a valuable asset on the offensive line. He was brought in to replace Nalen in the future; ironically he’s already getting up there in age, and so the Broncos started grooming the next generation of interior o-linemen through recent drafts.
Chris Myers was brought in for this very reason, along with current LG Chris Kuper. Kuper showed improvement last year at LG, but he still struggled, and I’m not sold on him as a left tackle. Myers, of course, was traded earlier in the offseason.
At right guard the Broncos brought in Montrae Holland, who, in my opinion, was the best offensive lineman on the field last year. As depth, the Broncos also brought in long time veteran Casey Wiegmann a few weeks ago. This largely addresses the need of depth Mark Fenton is another guy worth knowing – he might develop into a player for the Broncos down the road. Other than that, the roster is full of depth fillers.
To recap our C/G roster: two guys up there in age, both coming off season-ending injuries. Holland, who played well but no one is certain he’s a long term player. Behind them we have a hybrid tackle-guard, another aged veteran as depth, and a young practice squadder with some promise. Not horrible, but it could be improved.
The only guard or center with a first round grade is Branden Albert, whose stock has simply skyrocketed as of late. Count me among those not buying it. I’ve watched the films Josh posted pretty closely; I’ve read the different scouting reports on him. Just because one of these “expert analysts” suddenly grades him Top 5-10 doesn’t mean he is Top 5-10. It’s funny how every other expert is now following suit.
He does offer experience at tackle, however, and the Broncos are always on the lookout for versatile lineman. A lot of fans are really high on this guy – would you approve us taking him in the first round?
In a bit we’ll tell you the arguments against it.