It seems like only yesterday the Denver Broncos finished 8-8 after blowing a division lead that should have seen them in the playoffs. Since then, King Shanahan has been deposed, Josh McDaniels has been hired, the Broncos have a general manager in Brian Xanders, and a certain quarterback is currently residing in Chicago.
Though the changes have been numerous, this isn't a time to dwell on the past, the NFL Draft has come and gone and it is time to look toward the future. With 10 picks, the Broncos have gained new talent that will hopefully bring in a new era of winning in Denver, and maybe a few championships as well.
Going into the draft, defense was figured to be a top priority for the Broncos. While that issue was addressed, it was the offensive selections that threw many fans for a loop and had some questioning the ability of McDaniels and Xanders to properly add to their team.
With the No. 12 pick of Knowshon Moreno, it was apparent that the method of drafting for Denver would be different than anything seen before.
By the end of Day 2, Denver added a new running back in Moreno, wide receiver in Kenny McKinley, quarterback in Tom Brandstater, center in Blake Schleuter, guard in Seth Olsen, and tight end in Richard Quinn.
Though perplexing to some, it added depth to the offensive line, a new sixth-round quarterback for McDaniels to groom, a potential every down running back, and other players to give even more depth to an already stellar offense.
It was the defense that many felt needed to be addressed, and it most definitely was, though not in the way expected. Many fans and pundits felt that the draft would be used to address the defensive front seven, and while it was with the No. 18 pick in the draft, it wasn't touched further by the McDaniels/Xanders team.
Following the selection of Robert Ayers out of Tennessee, the only defensive players taken were in the secondary with Alphonso Smith of Wake Forest being one of the more controversial selections.
To move up in the draft and select Smith, McDaniels and Xanders traded away the Broncos's first-round selection in the 2010 draft to Seattle. Using the logic that getting a player that they want now was better than waiting to see what would be available in a year, the trigger was pulled on the selection and some fans were left scratching their heads.
Other defensive picks for the Broncos were safeties Darcel McBath of Texas Tech and David Bruton from Notre Dame.
So what can be gathered from this draft? With the addition of offensive line picks Olsen, Schleuter, the tight end Quinn, and Moreno, it can be assumed that the Broncos will be looking at an offense that is very run oriented and time consuming.
Given the recent changes at quarterback, and an improved but still potentially weak defense, this would work to take pressure off of the defense and the passing game. Though it was a surprise to see so many offensive players taken, it appears as though they are good potential fits to the new system.
Defensively, the secondary will more than likely feature starters Champ Bailey, Brian Dawkins, Andre Goodman and Renaldo Hill, with Smith potentially at the Nickel position. Could you imagine a better starting secondary for a group of rookies to be learning from? Given the skills of the players selected, and the current players, it appears that the defense will go to a turnover-oriented style.
Though it wasn't necessarily the players fans wanted, the team of McDaniels and Xanders put together a solid draft of young players to come in and help rebuild a defense that featured many holes.
So where does this leave Denver in comparison to the rest of the division? The Raiders are still rebuilding, the Chiefs are beginning a new regime and not in a good position to compete, and the Chargers are aging with little done to help in the draft.
Though Denver is in a rebuilding mode of their own, this could lead one to believe that the AFC West is wide open this year, and that any of the four teams could snake it away from the others. Based off of the paper version of the Broncos draft, I give them a solid "B" and, for now, a prediction of a 8-8 finish.
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