Like many Bronco fans, my emotions following this weekend's NFL draft ranged from angry to bewildered. Why on Earth would this coaching staff draft a running back (Georgia's Knowshon Moreno) in the first round? How is it possible that only one pick was used on the front seven? Don't they know how awful this defense was last year?
I was frustrated.
I was angry.
Now I'm breathing a sigh of relief.
That sigh is based on a little noticed signing. Denver brought in Chris Baker—a nose tackle from Hampton University—as an undrafted free agent. Baker is not a big name like BJ Raji, Ron Brace, or even Ziggy Hood, but he is just what the doctor ordered.
Of the tackle prospects available in the 2009 draft, Baker is one of the only players to come out of a 3-4 system like the Broncos will run this year. He played at the nose and at end—demonstrating the versatility coach Josh McDaniels covets.
He has the measurables coveted by NFL scouts. He's 6'2", 326 lbs. He ran 4.94 in the 40-yard dash, did 24 reps on the bench press, and has a 35 1/2" vertical leap.
He was a productive player at Hampton. In his senior season he had 69 tackles including eight and a half sacks and 16 tackles for loss. According to scouts he's quick off the snap, plays with excellent leverage and is able to shed blockers.
So why wasn't this guy drafted...one word: character.
Hampton started his career at Penn State, but was kicked off the team for a series of off-field incidents, which culminated in an assault charge. He resurrected his career at Hampton, but teams remain concerned with the character problem.
Baker will give Josh McDaniels' strategy of adding high-quality, high-character players its first test. If McDaniels' philosophy holds, the large number of "good guys" in the locker room will serve as a positive influence on one or two marginal candidates—causing them to focus and raise their level of commitment.
If Baker can put his "issues" behind him, the Broncos just may have filled the largest hole on their defense. And that should cause Bronco fans to breathe just a little easier.