Posted Wed Feb 8th by Christopher Hart
Editor’s Note: We’re thrilled to welcome Christopher Hart back onto the BT staff as one of our draft experts. Chris will jump in each week with scouting reports of players of interest for the Broncos. To start things off today, Chris looks at what some of the Broncos’ bigger needs are. Enjoy!
It’s great to be back on staff to contributing to the best coverage of Broncos News on the Internet. One of my main focuses over the following months will be to provide information and analysis regarding the Broncos and 2012 NFL Draft. If it has anything to do with the Broncos and the NFL Draft — it will be covered here!
Where Do We Go From Here?
2011 is a year that Denver Broncos fans will remember for years to come. After starting the season with an abysmal 1-4 record under the leadership of Kyle Orton, the Broncos Brass made the dramatic switch to second-year quarterback Tim Tebow who helped spark a rally that ignited the Broncos to their first playoff appearance and division championship since 2005. Sporting the underdog role, the Broncos shocked the football world when they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in an overtime thriller on Wildcard Weekend — only to end up being brought back down to Earth after a thrashing by the New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional Game.
Even with a disappointing end to their 2011 campaign, the Broncos season can be highlighted as positive from a variety of perspectives. First and foremost, the accrual of playoff experience is something that these players needed to grow on the field. Champ Bailey and DJ Williams are the only remaining members left from the 2005 team who lost the Steelers in the AFC Championship. Outside a few free-agent veterans, the Broncos roster was devoid of players with experience and post-season backgrounds. With two games against quality opponents underneath their belt, the Broncos should be battle-tested and prepared with a new sense of confidence for the rigors that will come in 2012.
Additionally, the fact the Broncos were able to make the playoffs with such a young team and new coaching staff is delightful in its own right. There can be no doubt that the virgin years of John Fox’s and John Elway’s leadership tenure in Denver was a tremendous leap forward from The Great Depression endured under former head coach Josh McDaniels. Unfortunately, Dennis Allen, whose coaching and philosophy helped improved the Broncos defense in 2011 has been hired on to lead the rival Oakland Raiders into battle — leaving the Broncos with their seventh defensive coordinator hire in seven years. Allen’s replacement, former Jacksonville Head Coach Jack Del Rio has had success teaming with John Fox in the past — and Broncos fans should be excited about their reunion.
Key performances from young players such as Tim Tebow, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Von Miller (Defensive Rookie of the Year), Orlando Franklin and Quinton Carter are encouraging signs that the Broncos have a strong foundation for the future. Undoubtedly, the Broncos need to get better and most certainly will. If the Broncos play their cards right in free agency and the 2012 NFL Draft, they should have an opportunity to once again make headlines in the coming season. With that said, let’s shift our focus from a synopsis of last season to what the Broncos can do to get better in 2012!
As it stands right now: The Broncos hold the 25th selection in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. This will be out of the range of the blue-chip prospects, but players who can contribute immediately will be available. In addition to that Denver has selections in the second, third, fourth, (2) fifth and a seventh round to bolster their roster. But what areas of the team need to be addressed the most? Listed below are my thoughts on where the Broncos need a talent influx.
- Defensive Tackle— Broderick Bunkley was a consistent performer for the Broncos in 2011, but is a free agent this off-season. Marcus Thomas deserves a call-back as a rotational defender, but he isn’t the kind of player who strikes fear into opposing lineman. Fans have clamored for the use of an early selection on a defensive tackle for years and have been let down consistently. Figuratively speaking, the defensive tackle stable is either bare or broken (I’m talking to you Ty Warren) and an upgrade is necessary. Jack Del Rio wants to get pressure by using his front four and become more stout on run defense. Addressing defensive tackle early is a must. Consider: Devon Still, Fletcher Cox, Jerel Worthy, Brandon Thompson and Alameda Ta’amu
- Cornerback— Champ Bailey is a consistent performer and Hall of Famer and Chris Harris showed promise as a nickel corner as a rookie, but the Broncos need a legitimate option opposite of Champ to replace Andre Goodman, who is long in the tooth and has consistency issues in coverage. Lucky for Denver, this class has quality depth at the corner position and they should have the ability to snag one with starter caliber in the first three rounds if they don’t bring in someone in free agency. Expect to target corners who are able to cover well in zone. Consider: Janoris Jenkins, Stephon Gilmore, Chase Minnifield and Casey Heyward
- Running Back— Willis McGahee proved to be a valuable addition to the Broncos #1 rushing attack, but is 31 years old. Knowshon Moreno has talent, but legal issues and injury concerns may hinder his ability to contribute long-term. Jeremiah Johnson and Lance Ball can easily be replaced with a mid-tier draft talent. If the Broncos want to be successful and keep pressure of Tim Tebow, the rushing game still has to be consistent. It would make sense for the Broncos to bring in another young rusher to keep McGahee fresh. Consider: Lamarr Miller, Chris Polk, LaMichael James and Vick Ballard
The aforementioned positions are three positions where I think the Broncos can find players with their early selections that can make an immediate impact to the team. Linebacker and Interior Offensive Line are also positions where the Broncos should pay close attention to as well, but have recently drafted players who should get another year of development before being replaced.
Draft Wildcard Surprise: Despite drafting Virgil Green and Julius Thomas, the Broncos should consider the opportunity to nab Dwayne Allen or Orson Charles, who have the ability to be dynamic receiving tight ends in the NFL. A tight end is a young quarterbacks’ best friend and Tim Tebow would benefit from having such an option on the team.
What About Quarterback: With Tim Tebow being the only quarterback under contract for the 2012 NFL season, the Broncos have clearly stated they are in the market for a quarterback. Brock Osweiler and Ryan Lindley are two options in the middle of the draft that offer starting potential and would be great value / insurance selections.
Random Musings: The Broncos would be wise to add a utility player on offense who can bring speed and quickness to the offense. T.Y. Hilton, Isaiah Pead, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps are some names to look forward to as the draft process unfolds.
Agree with my take? Where do you think some of our biggest needs lie, Broncos country?
Check back this Friday to witness the kickoff of my 2012 NFL Draft Prospect Scouting Report Database — highlighting South Carolina DE/OLB Melvin Ingram!