Posted Thu Jan 8th by Christopher Hart
April may be several months away, but there is no better time than now to kick-off what will be the best NFL Draft coverage in regards to the Broncos on the internet. As many of you know, I made my mark in the Broncos blogging community by providing elite content regarding the Broncos and the NFL Draft. The Beat, which is now out of commission, in lieu of a bigger and great cause (BroncoTalk!) was my way of taking my love for the NFL Draft and Broncos and meshing them together. In case you didn’t know, the passion and dedication that I had there will be exclusive to BroncoTalk and will be the centerpiece to my contributions on this site over the next several months. I hope you the contributions and I would be more than happy to answer any questions you all would have (time and schedule permitting, I’m a pretty busy guy!) and will do my best to satisfy your draft hunger and needs.
To begin my first entry, I thought I would stress the importance of the future coach hiring’s and the impact they will have on the draft. It has been rumored that Josh McDaniel’s is one of the final three candidates to be in the running for the head coaching job here with the Denver Broncos. In my humble opinion, I believe he would be an excellent hire for several reasons. (A) He’s an offensive minded guy who will undoubtedly get the best out of the wealth of youth and talent we have on that side of the ball. (B) It has been rumored that he would bring in Dom Capers as his defensive coordinator. Coach Capers has had a tremendous track record in the NFL in his time as a defensive coordinator. The catch is that Capers would more than likely bring his 3-4 defense here to Denver, and the question is whether or not we have the talent right now to adequately make that switch.
I think we have pieces of the puzzle, but are obviously far from finished. I worry as to whether or not Robertson would be interested in the NT role in a 3-4 defense, and do have concerns as to where this places a player like Marcus Thomas. Does Thomas have the skill-set and ability to play DE in a 3-4 front? I’m not sure if that is best for him, and I am absolutely positive his game would not translate well to a NT in such a front. Thomas, is undoubtedly suited best for an undertackle role in a 4-3 scheme. However, the wildcard in this situation would be Carlton Powell, who has flexibility for either of the mentioned base schemes.
I do think that Denver has some possibilities at end. I think that Kenny Peterson would have the ability to play end at a decent level in a 3-4. Despite Tim Crowder’s epic face plant (for whatever reason) this year, I believe he holds some value here in Denver as an end option in a 3-4 scheme. It is dead obvious that Jarvis Moss and Elvis Dumervil do not have the size, characteristics or ability to play end in such a scheme. If Capers were to come with McDaniels to Denver, I would suppose that Moss and Dumervil would be strong considerations for outside linebackers; and I’m not so sure how effective they would be. I think they have the talent to play there, but whether or not they’d be able to adapt is a different question. As a fan, I think it is natural to have these concerns and questions – as I’m sure most of you do.
We’ve already discussed Moss and Dumervil as options at ILB – but do we have what it takes for players on the inside? I do not believe that Wesley Woodyard and D.J. Williams have the ability to play inside in a 3-4 scheme, thus I am not encouraged by their futures there. In regards to Williams, I just question whether or not he is the kind of leader you want to have calling the shots in such a complex defense. Not to denigrate Williams in any way, but his football IQ has been challenged ever since he came out of Miami, and the monikers of “mental midget” certainly do have validity. Secondly, Woodyard is extremely small for a linebacker and his size was questioned in a 4-3 scheme. His heart and intensity on the field shouldn’t be questioned, as he displayed a great feel and passion during his opportunities this past season.
However, many scouts and talent evaluators believed he was in need of a position switch to strong safety in a 4-3 scheme prior to the NFL Draft, and indisputably was a reason he went undrafted. Moreover, Woodyard did not seem to garner much attention from teams who ran the 3-4 for the very same reasons. This makes me believe that if we do indeed switch to a 3-4; Woodyard’s future would be at the safety position and not as a linebacker.
Where does the oft-injured Boss Bailey fit into all of this? Quite honestly, I do not know. I have been sour on that signing since the day it happened, and had it not been for Champ Bailey being on this team, Boss would have never been here in the first place. In summation, I don’t see much hope for Niko Koutivides or Nate Webster in a 3-4, and it is my firm belief that Denver would have to make some strong moves via the draft if they wanted to be serious about making such a switch.
Last but not least, we arrive at the secondary. It has been rumored that Dre Bly might receive his walking papers in Denver this year, but I’m not sure if I buy that. If we could trade away Bly, the cap hit would be worth it – but either way, Denver will swallow millions. At any case, what kind of compensation would or could we receive for a cornerback whose best years are obviously behind him? Secondly, how will Champ Bailey fair next year? Will he recover from his groin and elbow injuries? Has he hit a wall? I’m not so sure.
The Broncos got good use and experience out of rookie corners Jack Williams and Josh Bell this season, but are the long-term solutions to Denver at cornerback? The team also has Karl Paymah who is a free agent, and as of right now I do not know if he will be retained. Who we bring in as a defensive coordinator and a head coach will obviously have strong input into what talent we keep and release from the defense, and with Paymah’s status as a free agent – even more questions loom over to his future role with the squad.
Finally, we come to the situation at safety. I can’t recall the exact number, but the Broncos used at least five or six guys at either of their positions over the season. I think this speaks volumes about the lack of talent we have at the position and the desperate need we have for an upgrade. Barrett and Woodyard are young and intriguing possibilities, but these guys aren’t sure bets. Regardless of what scheme Denver runs on defense in 2009, the Broncos could stand to add quality prospects to both the free and strong safety positions.
Bottom line, whether it is the 4-3 or 3-4 in Denver next season, we have a lot of questions and concerns to address on the defensive side of the ball. I am a firm believer that every position from the front to the back could use an inflation of talent. No exceptions. The biggest thing for myself, and what I hope for the most – is the hiring of a coach or a defensive coordinator who has a proven track record of success in coaching his side of the ball. The scheme doesn’t matter to me. As long as he has the ability to light a fire under those who we have, and has the ability to evaluate and acquire talent who fit into the long-term plans of this franchise.
In accordance with all of this is the discussion of the talent available in this draft. In all my years of following the draft, I have never seen such an inflation of underclassmen talent; and there is still a week left until the deadline arrives. In fact, the Underclassmen Advisory Board needed extra help due to all the paper work that was filed by draft eligible players this year. Ain’t that somethin’?
Usually, the high declaration of underclassmen usually signals a weak senior class. However, I thought that this senior class wasn’t particularly bad from the get go. There wasn’t a whole lot of top tier talent, perhaps maybe fifteen to twenty guys who carried legitimate first-round grades, but there have been a lot worse drafts. In fact, I thought the draft was shaping up well for us at the positions we desperately need help at. Better for us, that there are a myriad of youngsters coming out who will have an extraordinary impact on the value this draft brings – and let me tell ya’ll there is a lot of it!
So you might be wondering where the draft is strong and where it is weak – have no worries, I’m here to let you know – but I’m going to do it in a unique way. Enjoy!
Why Denver is Prime for the Picking | Strategy and Discussion
Offensive Tackle – An Epic Class, A Skew in Value
Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris (whom I like to call R&R) had superb seasons for the Denver Broncos. Clady played like a seasoned veteran and after one year of grooming, Harris looked like a future stalwart on the right side of the line for the Broncos. (Both still need work, primarily in run blocking – but I am confident they’ll get there.) So you readers might be wondering, “Why should we care if this class has good offensive tackles?” - Which is a good question, so I hope to give you a great answer.
Offensive Tackle is a high demand position in the NFL. After the success of players like Joe Thomas, Ryan Clady and Jake Long – teams will be salivating at the prospects of getting the next best thing to protect their quarterback, and if you thought last years class was good – this year is even better.
The senior class at offensive tackle was already exceptional. Players like Eugene Monroe, Michael Oher and Jason Smith have been considered legitimate first-round talents since the college football season opened up. On top of that, prospects like Phil Loadholt and Jamon Meridith were carrying high grades as well. Loadholt has character questions that need to be addressed, but his talent is undeniable, and it’s likely that with the wealth of talent available in this draft, Meridith will become a fine option for someone in the second round, perhaps even a little lower – and he deserves to get much higher.
Things look even better for Denver when you factor in the declarations of sure-fire first round picks in Andre Smith and Eben Britton. If you couple those two in with the aforementioned players, that is seven offensive tackles who will be selected (in my opinion) in the first two rounds. These are players that Denver will obviously have on their boards, but likely won’t consider due to the quality of players we have now.
In short, what I’m saying is that the offensive tackle talent and the need for offensive tackles league wide will push the value of other positions around, and give us a better chance to draft players at positions of need. Denver currently holds the #12 and #48 picks on Day One, and if my assumptions are right – the selections of offensive tackles will account for more almost 15% of the picks before we’ve selected twice. That bodes well for us, pushing defensive talent down our way and other skill-position players towards our selections.
The Underclassmen Runners – We Should Be Interested
This year’s senior crop of running backs was weak with top end talent, but had interesting value outside the first round with players like James Davis, Javon Ringer, Andre Brown and Jeremiah Johnson – all of which have legitimate pro potential and have the ability to make a quality contribution on an NFL team. However, the underclassmen have started to jump in bulks and there is now legitimate first-round talent on the board for running backs.
Beanie Wells, Knowshon Moreno and LeSean McCoy have all declared for the NFL Draft. They are widely considered first-round talents from scouting services across America. Toss in high caliber players like Shonn Greene and Donald Brown and Denver has legitimate options to gain the running back they need to take their offense to the next level. I’m confident that other names will follow.
I am not a strong proponent of drafting a running back at #12 this year, due to the immense amount of value elsewhere and the pressing needs we have on defense – but players like Wells and Moreno should be considered if other options are exhausted. They are the types of backs you can build franchises around, and would be excellent additions to a Broncos running backs stable that became an infirmary this past season.
Say we take a pass on a back early on and address a defensive position. It is quite possible that players like McCoy, Greene and perhaps C.J. Spiller (who has yet to declare) are available at our second round choice. We still have needs elsewhere on defense, but we have the opportunity to add another explosive player to our offense. I think it is something we consider. The real question is, will any of those guys be there? I think so, but I expect a run on running backs to happen in the second round as it happened with receivers last year – so we better be prepared. All of the aforementioned (outside Brown) in my eyes carry low-first round grades. They produced very well this year and have the explosive talent and attributes to succeed at the NFL level.
Many fans will mistake the call of drafting a running back early on as a mistake, and a choice that would show a blatant disregard for the needs we have on defense. I don’t like that ultimatum; I do not enjoy the false dilemma. Denver would still have seven other selections after the fact to address their needs as they see fit. I am a strong believer that a more stable, healthy and potent running game would have benefited the Broncos in many ways. I believe it’d of lessened the pressure off Jay Cutler, decreased his mistakes – and indubitably a solid running game would have helped with clock and ball control. Furthermore, the better the running game – the more options and success you can have in the passing game.
Denver can still draft defensively and make headway in that regard and get a running back at the same time. With Mike Shanahan gone, I expect the ignorance of low-round choices being able to give us success to have gone out the door as well. A simple look at the guys we have now and the results from this season should tell any fan that we need a long-term option in the backfield. Players like Young, Torain and friends who were riddled with injuries and have been injury prone since their college careers do not translate into realistic or smart long-term options for this team. As role players, sure – but Denver needs more than role players at running back. They need a stud – and they are in perfect position to get one in this years NFL Draft if they play their cards right. Let’s hope they do.
The Safety Net – Great Class, Address Outside Round One
The name being tossed around like a hot potato on internet forums and Broncos blogs is Taylor Mays, the underclassmen safety from Southern California. There is no doubt that Mays is a fantastic prospect, but do you really want to see Denver use a top twelve pick on a safety? What good does drafting a safety do at #12 when you don’t have the players up front to get pressure on the quarterback to help the defensive backfield out? It doesn’t do any good. That isn’t to say that we can’t draft defensive lineman with our other picks, but draft history and trends show that it is much harder to find lineman who pan out in later rounds than opposed to safeties – who generally make an impact in the NFL regardless of where they are drafted.
I fully expect Mays to declare, but one must realize the options outside him that exist. William Moore from Missouri is one of them. A reach at #12, Moore would be an excellent option for the Broncos if they decided to move down the draft board. Outside those two, there aren’t legit first-round options, but there is a wealth of options that should be available to the Broncos from that point on into the second day. A popular name and quality prospect who would make a fantastic second-round selection would be Oregon’s Patrick Chung. Playing “rover” for the Ducks, Chung’s production in college rivals any other safety in this class. At 6’0 – 210 and an estimate 4.55 forty, Chung has the size and speed to do well at the NFL, furthermore – his read and reaction skills are strong as well – which make him a legitimate Day One prospect.
Other players who merit consideration within the top four rounds would be Rashad Johnson from Alabama, Louis Delmas from Western Michigan, Michael Hamlin from Clemson, Courtney Greene of Rutgers, David Bruton of Notre Damn and L.S.U safety Curtis Taylor. All of these players would be upgrades over who we currently have – and Denver should have the opportunity to net one of them within their top four choices. The answer to Denver’s safety problem isn’t complex, and it is my strong belief that any of these aforementioned would do just as well in Denver as Mays or Moore – and it is very likely that some of them will outperform them as well.
Despite Defensive Deficiencies – Draft Playmakers
If there is one thing to be excited about in this draft it is the playmakers that are available, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Denver has a quality core of young players, but you can never have too much offensive talent. I’d like to think that if someone like McDaniels is hired, he’ll be interested in getting more options to make our offense even more potent.
Denver could stand to use a return specialist. It’s quite obvious that Eddie Royal became much more than many of us anticipated. People have mentioned a healthy Anthony Alridge as an option for kick-offs and people have also discussed Andre Hall. These are players I quickly dismiss. Why settle for a Ford Focus when there can be a Ferrari in your garage?
Denver wouldn’t even have to be obligated to spend a high choice on a return specialist. A guy like Arizona’s Mike Thomas or one of similar sorts should be available in the mid-rounds. With a selection of a player like Thomas, you get an electric return specialist – and a player who can learn the ropes from a veteran like Brandon Stokley and assume the slot role in the near future.
Want to talk more about receivers? How about those underclassmen declaring: Jeremy Maclin, Kenny Britt, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Hakeem Nicks and Kevin Ogletree would all be wonderful additions to this offense. You can never have enough weapons; and while these guys are likely early picks – the depth of this draft could push talented names like them down. I haven’t even mentioned some of the quality senior receivers that are available as well, and we’ve already talked about some of the running backs available.
Case in point, Denver needs more playmakers and this draft is full of them. We have nine picks, and will likely find ways to get more. We can afford to look for a few options to make this offense one of the most consistent and deadly in the league. Lets hope we do!
Trench Support – Building Lines, Building a Foundation
The Broncos seem to be set at offensive tackle, and have good options on the interior with Chris Kuper, Ben Hamilton and Kory Lichtensteiger. However, with the retirement of Tom Nalen and the possibility of Casey Weigmann retiring – the Denver could use another guy on the interior who can play center or guard to groom. I’m confident Lichtensteiger can be a starter in this offense, but injuries happen and Denver doesn’t have the greatest depth on the interior. Unfortunately, this draft is not very strong on the interior line. There are several quality prospects, but I’m not sure if that is the right route for Denver to go with the other needs we have.
On the defensive side of the ball, Denver needs help everywhere on the line. The players have been discussed earlier, and as mentioned – whatever scheme we go with will have a profound impact on how our draft goes. Regardless, there are a few names you should be aware of. It’s unknown whether or not (RS) Sophomore Gerald McCoy from Oklahoma will declare for the draft – but if you watched the National Championship Game against Florida, you can see why he’s a special player.
He commands double and triple teams, can drop back into coverage and pick off a pass, and he is a stalwart against the run and the pass. He is easily one of the most impressive players in the Nation, and perhaps one of the best players eligible in the draft. If I was drafting for the Broncos and he was available at #12, I wouldn’t think twice. He is an impact player in the NFL, despite his youth and raw talent. He will get better in time. He will grow into that Tommie Harris mold we’ve been coveting here on the interior since the days of Trevor Pryce. Keep that name in mind.
Other defensive tackles the Broncos should take a gander at are seniors B.J. Raji and Peria Jerry. Raji is a legitimate first-round talent, and can fit in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. Jerry is a borderline first-round prospect, but has the ability to defend the run and rush the passer well. A nice second or third round option would be Missouri’s Ziggy Hood, who has the measurables and work ethic to succeed at the next level an the college production to back it up.
When it comes to ends, there is some talent – but I believe the bust factor with the prospects is awfully high, just as they are every year. Brian Orakpo and Tyson Jackson are legitimate first-round options in this years senior class, but underclassmen Everette Brown trumps both of them in terms of pro potential, pass-rushing ability and scheme versatility. He is likely a top fifteen selection, and would be an attractive option for the Broncos at #12. Georgia Tech end Michael Johnson has first-round talent, but his production doesn’t equate to it. He will likely be around when the Broncos select in round two, and he might be worth considering. With the right coach and with proper motivation, Johnson is a player who could really make noise in the pros.
In conclusion, I believe that the Broncos could use a few more players on the defensive line. Hopefully a scheme adjustment will help us get more pressure on the quarterback, but this has been a problem for around five years now and it is about time we get it addressed. Perhaps we’ll get a highlight reel free agent to come to Denver, but don’t bank on it. We have to keep all our options open.
The Signal Caller Factor – They’re Interested, We’re Not
The Captain Obvious statement of the article will be the one I’m about to write. Denver won’t be drafting a quarterback early. Shocker right? Nah, but we can be put this into a good perspective. The declaration of Josh Freeman and Matthew Stafford means that there will be at least two quarterbacks taken early. We can only hope that Sam Bradford makes the same decision and another quality or player two makes the same leap.
This factor doesn’t need to be elaborated on as much as the others, but should be mentioned because it too helps in the same ways as the offensive tackle wealth does. Obviously, this class isn’t as deep at quarterback as other years – but there are teams who need quarterbacks desperately and #12 could become an interesting position for a team to try and get to if there is a prospect of interest there.
Well folks that is all I have for now. I hope four-thousand plus words of analysis are good enough for preliminary draft discussion and I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to post any questions you have or e-mail me and I’ll do the best I can to get back to you.
Thanks for the opportunity to serve you all and lets have a great off-season!