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Published on 04/29/2012 at Sun Apr 29 13:22.
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Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway (middle) and second round draft picks Derek Wolfe (right) and Brock Osweiler (left) and third round pick Ronnie Hillman (second from the left) pose for the media at Broncos headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

The 2012 NFL Draft left many of us Denver Broncos fans wanting more.  To understand the vision and focus of the three-legged stool of John Elway, John Fox and Brian Xanders, we must look at the entire picture.  That vast portrait that is Elway’s grand plan for returning the Broncos to Super Bowl glory.

There is a method to this madness and we should try to see the forest through the trees.

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Pre-Draft Analysis

The Broncos, in spite of Elway’s misdirecting comments, knew that Defensive Tackle was their biggest need after letting both of their starters go in free agency.  Broderick Bunkley and Marcus Thomas were not part of Elway’s Championship vision, which means pass rushing trumps run support.  This makes sense given that it is now a passing league and stopping a good rushing attack is somewhat easier than limiting a high octane passing attack, given all of the rules changes in recent years in favor of the passing game.

Another area of need turned out to be quarterback.  Tim Tebow was too much of a risk for Elway, since Tebowmaniacs proved to be unruly and disruptive to the Broncos organization.  I can respect that, even if I disagree with it.  We have to move on and getting a future franchise quarterback was a necessary need.

After those two positions, it came down to offensive line help, defensive backfield and running back.

2012 NFL Draft

Derek Wolfe is a player that gives everything he has on every play and he can get after the quarterback.  The Broncos will do well shifting him from tackle to end in order to keep the opposing offensive line guessing.  Pairing him with Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller should make the Broncos pass rush one of the most feared in the league.  Shortening the amount of time a quarterback has to get rid of the football makes the pass defense that much better. This might be the best draft pick the Broncos made from the entire draft.

Waiting until 2013 to draft for the future was not ever going to be an option, since the Broncos reached in the second round to ensure Brock Osweiler would be theirs.  He is “Plan B”, so we better get behind it as fans. The guy is young at 21 years old, so by the time Peyton Manning hangs it up he will roughly be Elway’s age when he started his first NFL game.  I question Osweiler’s long term ability to be a franchise quarterback, but we’ll be married to him for at least the first three to four years he plays.

The Broncos rounded out their draft filling holes all along their areas of need, with Ronnie Hillman being the most explosive offensive player the Broncos picked up, along with several talented players who suffered various injuries in their final collegiate season.

College Free Agents

When you look at who the Broncos picked up after the draft, you will see that Special Teams and depth at certain positions is something that concerns John Elway and John Fox greatly.  Three linebackers, a safety and a tight end would immediately compete for a spot on special teams, while four offensive lineman proves what we all knew last year that the depth on the line was nearly nonexistent.   Many of those guys won’t make the roster, but history has shown that at least one will become a significant part of the roster in 2012 and beyond.

The Forest

The forest to see here is that the Denver Broncos intend to be explosive on offense, have a top notch pass rush and a dangerous special teams.  Naturally all teams would love to be that way, but for the first time in a great many years I am starting to see a forest among the trees.  I sort of saw that with Josh McDaniels, but he missed on his picks by drafting mostly failures and a big part of those players becoming failures was McDaniels’ own coaching style that may have stunted the development of younger players.  With Mike Shanahan, I never felt like there was a forest – no rhyme or reason at times.

Whether this strategy pays off is obviously unknown, but it is nice to know that the guy in charge knows what he wants and is going to get it.  However, I think combining Elway’s desire to draft with the forest in mind and John Fox’s ability to develop the younger players on the roster could be the perfect situation for us fans.  We should all play the wait and see game now that we have gotten our kneejerk reactions out of the way.

Go Broncos!

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  • Anonymous

    I think McDaniels’ draft was ruined by three picks. Those picks being Moreno, Ayers, and Alphonso Smith. 

    Besides those three blunders, he drafted pretty well.

    However, those three blunders were huge and almost irreparable. 

  • Broncs-rocker

    Good point.  But Josh also guessed wrong about Tebow.  yes, he was not ready to play NFL QB.

  • crazykid

    I feel the exact same way. I was a fan of the 2010 draft. 

  • http://twitter.com/TimLynch1978 Tim Lynch

    How many all-pros/pro bowlers so far?  I think the only one that might make the pro bowl one day is Demaryius Thomas.

    Tebow not incuded, since he’ll make the pro bowl as a Jet. :P

  • http://twitter.com/TimLynch1978 Tim Lynch

    I think Tebow was the one player McD wants to develop real slowly.  He saw Tebow as a long term franchise QB…Tebow was ruined once McD lost control of the franchise.

  • Anonymous

     are you saying the Tebow pick was a success?

  • Anonymous

    WTH are we doing reading articles by riff raff like T Lynch here at
    Broncotalk?

    What’s the world coming to?

    Well done sir.

  • http://twitter.com/TimLynch1978 Tim Lynch

    Tebow was the QB for 9 of the Broncos 13 wins from 2010-2011. :P

  • http://broncotalk.net Monty

    I’d call Ayers a solid pick at this point, and hopefully he improves even more in his second year in the 4-3.

  • http://broncotalk.net Monty

    Nice piece Tim!

  • Anonymous

    Solid piece man. I’m still confused at why you are referring to the men in charge as mutant poo though. “three-legged stool” :P

  • Anonymous

     Like when he moved up to take the other Quinn?

  • MiKey55

    Robert Quinn in the second

  • Freedomworks

    I liked some parts of our last 3 drafts.  I really like the talent level in terms of talent depth of the past 2 drafts.  I also like the idea of going to free agency this year in an attempt to jump start the Broncos as a winner this year while we continue to build depth and future starters through the draft.   I like the idea of staying away from throwing our money on certain free agents like we did in the early to mid 2000s.   I also like that we aren’t trading our future picks away in an attempt at instant gratification.   Another Manning neck injury and this year’s free agency spend will be examined.  While we picked up some solid starting talent other than Manning, we didn’t seem to sign too many players to expensive long-term contracts.   A lot of the contracts were 1 to 3 years in length so we aren’t blowing a lot of money of people that don’t work out or get hurt.

    I’d like to look at the bright side of our situation because I tend to dwell on the things that I (we) can’t change.  It gets us nowhere, but depressed.

    Existing Starting Talent (previous to 2010 draft/minus FA pickups):

    - Clady (2008 – Pro Bowl (PB) level LT pass protector)
    - R. Harris – (2006 – really good RT/pass protector )
    - Kuper (2006? – Near PB all around pass/run blocking RG). Bad injury
    - Dumervil – (2006 – PB pass rusher who’s gotten better w/run)
    - Champ Bailey – (2004 Trade – PB corner.  Great leader/teacher)
    - DJ Williams (2004 – Excellent OLB, flexible and near PB each year)
    - Woodyard (Rookie FA – great speed. covering/tackling OLB)

    The starters from the 2010 draft:

    - Eric Decker (big/strong and great routes)
    - D. Thomas  (big/strong and fast. Getting better on routes)
    - Beadles (LG – needs work, but learning. Position flexibility)
    - Walton (C – needs work, not really athletic)
    - Ayers (LDE – Big/Powerful bull rush. Good on run.)

    - Reserve: Garland (DT – Heard good things, but we’ll see)

    They aren’t any current pro-bowlers there, but Manning will give Decker and Thomas a shot.  We should let Ayers play his natural position at DT, at least on 3rd downs, if not on all 3 downs.  He doesn’t have the quickness for pass rush moves in space (outside).  Let’s use his awesome straight forward power every down at 4/3 DT.  I think he will be much better there as long as we have someone to replace him at LDE (maybe M. Jackson on 1st/2nd and Miller on 3rd).  

    The starters from the 2011 draft:

    - Miller (PB OLB and 3rd down pass rush)
    - O. Franklin (Great run blocking RT, Working on pass protect)
    - Q. Carter (part-time starter.  Should start this year)
    - C. Harris – Undrafted RFA CB.  Will right to keep nickel job.

    The 2010 and 2011 drafts have yielded 8 young current starters. The lack of a real off season killed these guys last year.  Let’s see what happens with a full camp and more competition this year.

    Also, don’t give up on these due to injury and abbreviated 2011 off season:

    - Nate Irving – 2011 3rd round MLB with short off season last year.
    - J. Thomas – 2011 big/fast tight-end.  He was doing awesome in abbreviated camp last year before ankle injury.  Just had surgery.
    - R. Moore – 2011 2nd round safety – very talented center fielder. Needs to study more.
    - S. Thompson – 2010 Talented CB who would have been nickel DB last year if not for injury.  Nose for interceptions.
    - C. Vaughn – young and very fast CB.  Player CB and Nickel CB before injury.
    - M. Fannin – Rookie FA – hurt in training camp last year. Speed/Size
    - K. Mareno – 2010 1st Round – Too many juke moves when running inside.  Lots of injuries.  Great pass blocker and great hands and moves in the open field (screens/swing passes).   If healthy, he could be awesome in Manning’s offense on 3rd down.

    Add in the competition from current and new 2012 free agents and new 2012 drafted and non-drafted RFAs and we should have one of the most competitive off seasons.  This year’s starters will have to really earn their spot.  As always, pray that the injuries are minimized.

    Thoughts?

  • Freedomworks

    I liked some parts of our last 3 drafts.  I really like the talent level in terms of talent depth of the past 2 drafts.  I also like the idea of going to free agency this year in an attempt to jump start the Broncos as a winner this year while we continue to build depth and future starters through the draft.   I like the idea of staying away from throwing our money on certain free agents like we did in the early to mid 2000s.   I also like that we aren’t trading our future picks away in an attempt at instant gratification.   Another Manning neck injury and this year’s free agency spend will be examined.  While we picked up some solid starting talent other than Manning, we didn’t seem to sign too many players to expensive long-term contracts.   A lot of the contracts were 1 to 3 years in length so we aren’t blowing a lot of money of people that don’t work out or get hurt.

    I’d like to look at the bright side of our situation because I tend to dwell on the things that I (we) can’t change.  It gets us nowhere, but depressed.

    Existing Starting Talent (previous to 2010 draft/minus FA pickups):

    - Clady (2008 – Pro Bowl (PB) level LT pass protector)
    - R. Harris – (2006 – really good RT/pass protector )
    - Kuper (2006? – Near PB all around pass/run blocking RG). Bad injury
    - Dumervil – (2006 – PB pass rusher who’s gotten better w/run)
    - Champ Bailey – (2004 Trade – PB corner.  Great leader/teacher)
    - DJ Williams (2004 – Excellent OLB, flexible and near PB each year)
    - Woodyard (Rookie FA – great speed. covering/tackling OLB)

    The starters from the 2010 draft:

    - Eric Decker (big/strong and great routes)
    - D. Thomas  (big/strong and fast. Getting better on routes)
    - Beadles (LG – needs work, but learning. Position flexibility)
    - Walton (C – needs work, not really athletic)
    - Ayers (LDE – Big/Powerful bull rush. Good on run.)

    - Reserve: Garland (DT – Heard good things, but we’ll see)

    They aren’t any current pro-bowlers there, but Manning will give Decker and Thomas a shot.  We should let Ayers play his natural position at DT, at least on 3rd downs, if not on all 3 downs.  He doesn’t have the quickness for pass rush moves in space (outside).  Let’s use his awesome straight forward power every down at 4/3 DT.  I think he will be much better there as long as we have someone to replace him at LDE (maybe M. Jackson on 1st/2nd and Miller on 3rd).  

    The starters from the 2011 draft:

    - Miller (PB OLB and 3rd down pass rush)
    - O. Franklin (Great run blocking RT, Working on pass protect)
    - Q. Carter (part-time starter.  Should start this year)
    - C. Harris – Undrafted RFA CB.  Will right to keep nickel job.

    The 2010 and 2011 drafts have yielded 8 young current starters. The lack of a real off season killed these guys last year.  Let’s see what happens with a full camp and more competition this year.

    Also, don’t give up on these due to injury and abbreviated 2011 off season:

    - Nate Irving – 2011 3rd round MLB with short off season last year.
    - J. Thomas – 2011 big/fast tight-end.  He was doing awesome in abbreviated camp last year before ankle injury.  Just had surgery.
    - R. Moore – 2011 2nd round safety – very talented center fielder. Needs to study more.
    - S. Thompson – 2010 Talented CB who would have been nickel DB last year if not for injury.  Nose for interceptions.
    - C. Vaughn – young and very fast CB.  Player CB and Nickel CB before injury.
    - M. Fannin – Rookie FA – hurt in training camp last year. Speed/Size
    - K. Mareno – 2010 1st Round – Too many juke moves when running inside.  Lots of injuries.  Great pass blocker and great hands and moves in the open field (screens/swing passes).   If healthy, he could be awesome in Manning’s offense on 3rd down.

    Add in the competition from current and new 2012 free agents and new 2012 drafted and non-drafted RFAs and we should have one of the most competitive off seasons.  This year’s starters will have to really earn their spot.  As always, pray that the injuries are minimized.

    Thoughts?

  • Freedomworks

     I’ll add that the following 3rd down pass rush alignment looks pretty good:

    - Dumervil
    - Wolfe
    - Ayers
    - Miller

    Hope that Garland and M. Jackson can come along quick and provide some inside/outside pass rush too.  This would give us good depth.

  • http://twitter.com/TimLynch1978 Tim Lynch

    haha, their words, not mine!

  • AtomicLeo

    Outside of Ayers, who might work out, the 2009 draft was a complete disaster. One of the worst drafts in the past 10 years. The 2010 draft was much better.

  • Freedomworks

     Sorry all, I caught a mistake.  Ayers and Mareno were 2009 draft selections.

  • Rcsodak

     I agree.  Just because he doesn’t garner many sacks, he does do a good job at run containment off the end.  That is also a requirement of a DE.

  • RG

    This draft aside, can anyone tell me about Adam Weber?  With drafting Osweiler, will the Broncos release Weber, or can he compete with Hanie for the 3rd QB spot on the team?

  • http://twitter.com/wc_ben Benjamin DeRita

     don’t forget trading up for blocking TE Quinn who i believe caught 1 ball for 2 yards or something equally absurd, Ayers / Moreno were ‘A’ picks compared to Richard Quinn  

  • http://twitter.com/TimLynch1978 Tim Lynch

    P.S. I bet.

  • Fan From Spain

     I’d like to see Webber take some reps during pre season, he did OK last time

  • AtomicLeo

    We’ll probably go into camp with 4 QBs. If he beats out Hanie, I would not be surprised to see him on the PS again. Hanie’s contract isn’t guaranteed. Word is (i.e. blogs I read) he’s been running the scout team well, he could continue to do that on the PS. If Brock’s the clear #2, he’ll run the 2nd string offense against the #1 defense in camp. I don’t know if that continues once the season starts, because the backup needs to learn the game plan in case the #1 goes down.

  • Anonymous

    Tebow was the worst pick in the history of this franchise.

  • http://twitter.com/TimLynch1978 Tim Lynch

    I hope you are exaggerating.  Tebow was 9-7 as a starter and 1-1 in the playoffs.  I can think of dozens(maybe hundreds) of draft picks that NEVER contributed a down for the Broncos.  

    Then again, it’s always one extreme or other with people when it comes to Tebow. lol

  • http://twitter.com/TimLynch1978 Tim Lynch

    By that I mean – either a G.O.A.T. or a goat.

  • Anonymous

    Great post Tim

  • Anonymous

    I’m not going to get all into it again, but it was the worst first round decision that’s been made in the history of the franchise.  

    You draft a guy and he doesn’t pan out for whatever reason?  Oh well.  It’s all in the game.  It’s happened to every team in the league.  A guy gets hurt or he’s got a ten cent head or he simply wasn’t that good to begin with?  It happens.  

    McDaniels, however, put on his clown-shoes and intentionally drafted a circus in what I’m still convinced was a job security move.   A circus that was as bad as any QB I’ve ever seen, regardless of his W-L record.

  • http://twitter.com/TimLynch1978 Tim Lynch

    We can disagree.  The Broncos have had far more major busts than Tim Tebow.  We got a playoff victory out of him and a 4th and 6th round pick.  How much did we get from Marcus Nash?

  • Anonymous

     Ted Gregory was worse.

  • sooth

    You are consistent moron with nothing of interest or value to say. please go far far away.

  • NMBronc

    This draft will be judged by four decisions.

    1. Pass on Hightower – he would have solidified our middle for years
    2. Wolfe over still and Worthy – I like Wolfe, great pick.
    3. Osweiler in the 2nd over Cousins in a later round – Osweiler is very raw and his release is slower then TT.
    4. Hillman over miller, Taylor, flemming, thompson, hosely – he is fast, on the track, but palys slow and hits the hole scared. Sproles he is not.

    Really like some of the later round picks, but the goal was impact and I am not sure we will see it.

  • Anonymous

    Like I said, it’s not really about “production” w/ Tebow.  And the debate on how “productive” he really was will go on until Tebow is long gone from the league.  That’s not what I’m talking about.

    It’s the side-show atmosphere. The divisiveness in the locker room and w/ the fans, the over-the-top jesus stuff and all of the insanity that goes along with it, etc. 

    To me that’s a lot worse than whiffing on Marcus Nash, Ted Gregory, Willie Middlebrooks or whoever. 

  • Anonymous

    One thing Elway mentioned about Osweiler is his quick release. But slower than Tebow’s? LOL!!

  • Anonymous

    Tim, we’ve been through this before, but Tebow wasn’t 9-7 alone. The TEAM was 9-7, and the likes of McGahee, D. Thomas, and Mays have been very prompt in pointing that out. Tebow wasn’t any kind of star, IMO. He was the #32 ranked QB in the league, and the team was last in the league in passing. He was a bad QB, IMO.

    Nonetheless, that is really taking it over the top to say he was the “worst pick in the history of this franchise.” Denver has had some pathetic picks, and Tebow was not one of them . . .

  • Anonymous

    Kind of ironic that, after replacing the other QB for his 1-4 start, Tebow finished 1-4, isn’t it?

  • Anonymous

    Actually, I think at least two of those picks weren’t so bad. Ayers is developing into a solid DE after finally returning to his natural position, and Smith reportedly hasn’t been all that bad since his trade. It doesn’t seem to me that we know even about Moreno’s future yet. He just has to get healthy . . .

  • Tom9798

    Well, Jiminy Crickets . . . 90% of Bronco Nation is still in shock; hardly anybody can understand why we didn’t take a pick when we should have.  So, I’ve had time to think about it. I will always love my team, but I’m none to happy. I guess it’s easy to say that everybody had one or two people that they wanted drafted. So we get a grade C-/D+ and Elway is considered a Wizard.   Tripe. I don’t blame the ‘stool.’  They did what they had to. I believe this was pure economics per Mr. Bowlen.   Just consider the possibility that Mr. Bowlen told the ‘stool’ to trade out of the first and find me 20 guys at minimum wage. Sure their all good, sure they all have upside to be ‘diamonds in the rough’, sure the last 13 didn’t have a choice. Done deal.    Could tell you that taking Hightower and trading up to take Doug Martin, dump the Osweiler, Hillman, Miller trio, and still three of the last four would have been there.  Although, I would have found a way to get Mike Martin. Grade; B+/A-; but we were not going for ‘best available’ or high grades.   Somebody said that Hightower didn’t ‘fit.’ See how he fits in a Patriot uniform. Everybody line up for the tripe-faced boogie.  Happy-faced cutouts, left hand on the shoulder in front of you, assume the ‘Mr. Natural’ stance and keep in step to the music; don’t forget to shake that right hand.  We deserved a C-/D+.

  • 12508

    I don’t think the Tebow pick was that bad. He won some games for us. I’m sure Mr BOWLEN would do it again. Put plenty of money in his pocket. I say Moreno was worse. He has been a mess. We can’t count on him. A total bust so far. Ayers ranks up there too. I think Payton can work his magic and get the most of Moreno now. I didn’t know who Hillman was so I went to YouTube. I have to be honest. Not impressed at all. I agree that he hits the holes scared. Again I hope Payton can coach him up and get something out of him. We can’t expect Willis to have another monster year. He will need help. I know we needed help on defense but I would prefer the Te from Stanford in the 1st. Give Payton another toy. Get a dt in the second.

  • http://twitter.com/TimLynch1978 Tim Lynch

    Yeah.  Ironic.  :)  I know where you stand, but here is something.

    Combined Wins in 2011 (inc. playoffs) for Orton’s 1-4 opponents: 49, with no playoff wins. (9.8 wins per team)  That 15-1 Packers record really makes that figure large.

    For Tebow’s 1-4 finish: 55, with 4 playoff wins.  (11 wins per team)  

    Orton’s lone victory against the 9-7 Bengals.  Tebow’s lone victory against the 12-4 Steelers.

    Orton lost 3 games to non-playoff teams.  Tebow lost 2 games to non-playoff teams.

    The 1-4 stat is convenient for those who have always despised Tebow, but it doesn’t hold much water when weighed equally.

  • http://twitter.com/TimLynch1978 Tim Lynch

    Yeah.  Ironic.  :)  I know where you stand, but here is something.

    Combined Wins in 2011 (inc. playoffs) for Orton’s 1-4 opponents: 49, with no playoff wins. (9.8 wins per team)  That 15-1 Packers record really makes that figure large.

    For Tebow’s 1-4 finish: 55, with 4 playoff wins.  (11 wins per team)  

    Orton’s lone victory against the 9-7 Bengals.  Tebow’s lone victory against the 12-4 Steelers.

    Orton lost 3 games to non-playoff teams.  Tebow lost 2 games to non-playoff teams.

    The 1-4 stat is convenient for those who have always despised Tebow, but it doesn’t hold much water when weighed equally.

  • http://twitter.com/TimLynch1978 Tim Lynch

    We disagree.  Tebow had more to do with it than those who don’t like him will ever admit.  He’s gone though, Peyton Manning shouldn’t divide any of us too much. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/TimLynch1978 Tim Lynch

    We disagree.  Tebow had more to do with it than those who don’t like him will ever admit.  He’s gone though, Peyton Manning shouldn’t divide any of us too much. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/TimLynch1978 Tim Lynch

    I enjoyed the ride.  haha

  • betterthan.gregg

    Hillman hits the hole scared?  Huh?  You never see him hitting the hole because he is through it before you can blink.  This kid is a home run and if you don’t see this you are trolling or used to bad news.  Wolfe is better than the fat Devon ‘Standing’ Still or Jerrel ‘un’ Worthy  any day.  Faster and more aggressive, than both of those stiffs.  The Brock pick I will disagree with only because we are primed to win now, and another DT or weapon for Manning gets us a better chance to be Super Bowl champs in 2013, which is within reach. He may become  great but the team may just be great right now.

  • NMBronc

    I was joking about TT, but go watch some tape. He has a decent arm, but the ball is low in his drop and he cocks it back before throwihing. Not saying he can’t fix that in two years, but I would have preferred Cousins later and a different pick there.

  • NMBronc

    I read that in a review and went to the tape. If they drafted him just for returns, then he would be good. Clearly that was not the intent.

  • Anonymous

    The “AZ” in my user name stands for “Arizona.” Ergo, I’ve seen a bunch of Osweiler and hated him for some time since I’m a UA fan. So I know about his quirky delivery. :)

    But regardles of how he cocks the ball, his delivery is quick. Nonetheless, he has been working on it, and successfully, apparently, since Elway expressed that he was pleasantly surprised when he & company made the visit for that special workout.

    Cousins will be a very good backup QB, IMO. But EFX was not after a backup QB. They were after a star. And it is my opinion that Osweiler is a star in the making. That kind does not grow on trees . . .