With the 12th pick in this year’s NFL Draft, the new Denver Broncos' regime under youngsters Brian Xanders and Josh McDaniels secured the consensus number one pick at running back in the 2009 class, Knowshon Moreno.
More importantly than draft ranking for Denver, Moreno has the tools to fit the new offensive philosophy that McDaniels brings to the Broncos.
Moreno has the size, muscle, and crazy legs to be a dependable between the tackles runner, only lacking home run speed.
But even without that speed, Knowshon’s running characteristics fit well in the prototype New England scheme McDaniels will install this year.
That scheme will try to hold on to the ball, running to secure time of possession while passing, often out of a spread, to secure the lead.
To critics, however, there is a sticking point.
Moreno brings unmatched ability in this year’s draft to catch the ball out of the backfield, an option that was not often used for the No. 1 running back (either Laurence Maroney or Sammy Morris) during McDaniels’ tenure calling plays in New England.
Instead the Patriots chose to use Kevin Faulk as a receiver coming out of the backfield for the past three years while McDaniels was calling plays.
So does Moreno become the receiving option out of the backfield for Denver or the running back that runs on first and second down? Or does he remain a three-down back in that he both catches and runs the ball—which would be a novelty for a McDaniels offense?
For critics of the Broncos’ draft strategy the question isn’t just academic.
Anything short of Moreno seeing the field for all three downs will be considered by the draft know-it-alls to be a blown draft pick.
On a team aching for defensive talent, the Broncos already had a crowded backfield with proven and workman-like, if not spectacular, runners and receivers LaMont Jordan, Correll Buckhalter, and J.J. Arrington on the roster.
Certainly, they’ll argue the team could have selected a higher impact defensive player than Moreno at No. 12.
Because when one looks more closely at what the Broncos had on the roster at the running back position going into the draft, one starts using words like, “if,” “perhaps,” and “maybe” to describe those backs.
If LaMont Jordan can stay healthy, he might provide 4.5 yards per carry and a cloud of dust.
Perhaps Correll Buckhalter can fight Father Time and injuries to be a good receiving option out of the backfield again. The Eagles didn’t think so.
Maybe what JJ Arrington needs is a change of environment, where he can beat the too-dumb-to-play rap he had in Arizona.
With two of the three players mentioned above at 30 years old, they can only be considered stop gaps, not answers to long term roster questions.
And the NFL Draft is first about answering roster questions no matter the round a player is taken.
In Moreno, you certainly have other questions that remain unanswered, but they are the normal questions you have with any youngsters coming into their first NFL camp.
Can he pick up the play book? Can he adjust to life in the NFL? How will being an instant millionaire affect his desire to succeed?
For Xanders and McDaniels there is no time like this first season to get those and other questions settled about the second most important position on the offensive side of the ball.
Perhaps then, next year, unlike this year, we’ll all have more answers than questions going into the season.