You may have heard about a prominent free-agent quarterback that signed with the Denver Broncos. On March 24, the Broncos signed Caleb Hanie, who started four games at quarterback for the Bears last season.
Of course, I’m not really talking about Hanie. The Broncos also signed four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning, a future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback, to a five-year, $96 million contract.
Manning is coming off of a serious neck injury, and Tim Tebow, who has since been traded to the New York Jets, led the Broncos to the postseason last year. That said, if Manning is healthy and returns to anywhere near his prime form, he is an upgrade over Tebow and gives the Broncos the chance to be a major Super Bowl contender.
In order to contend for a championship, however, the Broncos needed to fill remaining holes on their roster to round out their personnel. Did they do that successfully in the 2012 NFL draft? Read through the following slides to find out.
Derek Wolfe (left)
Round 2, Pick 36: Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 121
Wolfe was a very productive defensive tackle at Cincinnati, and he has intriguing athletic ability for a defensive lineman. He is undersized for the position, but he is an effective interior pass-rusher who can be a disruptive presence on the defensive line.
Round 2, Pick 57: Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 117
Osweiler is a physical prototype for the quarterback position with a strong arm. However, he only has one full year of starting experience, and has been inconsistent with accuracy and decision-making. But while Osweiler is mistake-prone, he is in a perfect position to develop his game learning from one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.
Round 3, Pick 67: Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 113
Hillman has very good speed and quickness, and is an effective receiver out of the backfield. He was very productive at San Diego State, but he is a short back who is a raw runner and may not be much a factor between the tackles. At the least, he should be a very solid third-down situational back.
Round 4, Pick 101: Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 240
Bolden is an athletic, fluid cover corner, but he needs to become more consistent and a better tackler. He is coming off of a torn ACL, with which he missed the entire 2011 season. He has potential, but he is a raw talent who is likely to be a dime cornerback and special teams player.
Round 4, Pick 108: Philip Blake, C, Baylor
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 165
Blake is a solid all-around center with good size and quickness off the snap, and also has the versatility to play guard. His stock rose with a strong Senior Bowl, and he could develop into a starting center or be a solid three-position backup.
Round 5, Pick 137: Malik Jackson, DE, Tennessee
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 171
Jackson was a solid collegiate defensive end, but there is nothing that stands out about his game. He is a solid run defender who can be a rotational player, but he lacks the athleticism to be an impact pass-rusher.
Round 6, Pick 188: Danny Trevathan, OLB, Kentucky
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 159
Trevathan is undersized and not a great athlete, but he was a productive linebacker in the SEC. He is a solid tackler, instinctive linebacker and drops back into coverage well. He is unlikely to be a starting-caliber linebacker, but should provide solid depth and a special teams contributor.
The Broncos traded Round 1, Pick 25 to the New England Patriots for Round 1, Pick 31 and Round 4, Pick 126. The Broncos later traded those picks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Round 2, Pick 36 and Round 4, Pick 101.
The Broncos ended up with an early fourth-round pick for moving down just 11 spots, while there were no players taken between No. 25 and No. 36 who would have been great picks for them, so these were good trades.
The Broncos traded Round 3, Pick 67 to the Cleveland Browns for Round 3, Pick 87 and Round 4, Pick 120.
Giving up a fourth-round pick was a high price to move up in Round 3, especially to draft Ronnie Hillman, who was a reach in early Round 3 and not one of the top running backs available. The Broncos could have stayed put at the No. 87 overall selection and still had the opportunity to draft Miami’s Lamar Miller, who was tremendous value in Round 3 and the second-best running back in the draft class.
The Broncos received Round 4, Pick 108 and Round 6, Pick 188 from the New York Jets for quarterback Tim Tebow and Round 7, Pick 232.
Tim Tebow prove last year that he is a true winner, tremendous leader, and a quarterback capable of starting in the National Football League and taking his team to the postseason. While trading Tebow made sense following the acquisition of Peyton Manning, they should have been able to get more than two Day 3 picks in return.
In perspective, the Broncos traded a quarterback who already has a playoff victory under his belt, and received less in return than they used to draft Brock Osweiler, an unproven quarterback with many deficiencies to work on his game. Osweiler is a great fit to develop behind Manning, but this trade was giving up value for the Broncos.
The Broncos received Round 5, Pick 137 from the St. Louis Rams in October 2011 for wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.
The Broncos did not receive very good return value for a very talented wide receiver. He was in the last year of his contract, so they received something for a player they likely would have lost for nothing at the end of the season, but was it really necessary to trade him?
Lloyd is a favorite of Josh McDaniels, who was the Broncos’ head coach prior to last season, was the Rams’ offensive coordinator last season and is now the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, the team he signed with this offseason. Nonetheless, the Broncos may have gotten more out of Lloyd the rest of last season than they will get out of a fifth-round pick, but this trade is tough to evaluate.
The Broncos traded Round 5, Pick 160, their 2011 sixth-round selection and running back Peyton Hills to the Browns in March 2010 for quarterback Brady Quinn.
This trade was a waste of resources for the Denver Broncos. Quinn is a decent backup quarterback, but trading for him was not worth two draft selections and a running back who ended up starting for the Browns for two seasons. Ironically, both Quinn and Hillis signed as free agents with the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason.
The Broncos traded Round 6, Pick 194 to the Philadelphia Eagles in July 2010 for inside linebacker Joe Mays.
Mays is not a standout, but he was a solid starter at middle linebacker for the Broncos last season, and should continue to be a solid starter or be a key member of the linebacker rotation. He was well worth a sixth-round draft pick.
The Broncos did not do an effective job of drafting value, as they did not select a single player ranked inside the top 110 prospects, even though they had five selections within the first 110 picks.
The Broncos needed to draft a defensive tackle, but Derek Wolfe was a reach in early Round 2. Two first-round talents at defensive tackle, Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy and Penn State’s Devon Still, were still available, and either would have been a good selection over Wolfe. Wolfe is an athletic defensive tackle who was productive, but he lacks the power and strength that Worthy and Still have.
Hillman should not have been selected ahead of Miami running back Lamar Miller, and was not worth trading up for. Bolden was also a reach in Round 4, especially with cornerbacks including Georgia’s Brandon Boykin and Iowa’s Shaun Prater still available.
Osweiler was a reach in Round 2, although his value was increased as a quarterback, and he may have been the best choice as a developmental prospect behind Manning, so he was not a bad selection.
The Broncos did not get exceptional value with any selection in this draft, and seemed to be reaching on players throughout.
The Broncos’ biggest need coming into the draft was at defensive tackle, and they addressed that need with their first selection in Derek Wolfe. While the Broncos could have gotten a better player in Worthy or Still, Wolfe has the upside to develop into a difference-maker at the position.
Another need for the Broncos was to bring in a young backup quarterback to develop behind Manning, and they drafted a player who was a tremendous fit for that role in Osweiler.
The Broncos also needed to add more playmakers at the skill positions, especially at running back, and they did that with the addition of Hillman. Cornerback and interior line were also areas where the Broncos needed depth, and they addressed those needs with Bolden and Blake.
The Broncos did an effective job of filling all of their most significant needs with their draft class.
The Broncos drafted on need over value. Four of the most important positions for the Broncos to address were defensive tackle, running back, backup quarterback and cornerback, and they addressed all of those positions in the first four rounds.
Derek Wolfe could be a difference-maker at defensive tackle, and they traded down twice before selecting him, so although Jerel Worthy would have been the better selection, that pick is difficult to knock..
Brock Osweiler may have been the best quarterback they could draft as a long-term developmental prospect behind Peyton Manning, so he was another solid second-round addition. Ronnie Hillman should also be an asset to their offense as a rotational running back.
While the Broncos added players who fit them well and filled their needs, they also missed out on better talent throughout the draft, which hurts their final grade.