Denver Broncos: Breaking Down the Hits and Misses in Elway's Drafts
With the draft season in full swing, it is the perfect time to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Denver Broncos roster.
There are some positions like middle linebacker that have been spots in need of improvement for quite some time. Other positions have become strengths of the team under the watchful eye of John Elway.
The Broncos came out of the 2010 season without a head coach, as Josh McDaniels was fired with 10 games remaining in the regular season. The team was at a low point for the franchise in recent history, and the Broncos needed to go back to basics.
Enter Elway, who expressed interest in joining the team. He did not want to be the head coach or the general manager at the time.
Instead, Elway was named executive vice president of football operations on Jan. 5, 2011. He was to report to team president Joe Ellis, and Elway was considered the direct supervisor of head coach John Fox.
Elway was to work directly with general manager Brian Xanders on personnel decisions. However, it was Elway who had the final say on such decisions.
The “three-legged stool” of Elway, Xanders and Fox was responsible for the 2011 draft class. Xanders left the team after the 2011 season in a move that gave Elway total control over the direction of the franchise.
Matt Russell was promptly promoted to director of player personnel, but the team moved forward in 2012 without anyone titled general manager.
That was the way Broncos ran things through the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Recently, the Broncos decided to give Elway that title.
Ellis announced Wednesday the team had signed Elway to a three-year contract extension through the 2017 season.
The team sent out an official statement from Ellis after the promotion.
Our organization is extremely pleased with the work John Elway has done in his three years since rejoining the Broncos,” Ellis said. “He has demonstrated great vision and leadership in his role, assembling a championship-caliber team and positioning it for sustained success. We are very confident in the direction of the Broncos with John Elway leading our football operations.
With Elway running the team, Denver has posted the third-most overall wins (37) in the NFL since 2011. The Broncos have gone 37-11 (.685 winning percentage) during that time, winning three consecutive AFC West titles for the first time in club history. They are 1-of-3 teams in the league to win their division in each of the last three seasons.
I am grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given with the Broncos,” Elway said. “Our goal is to continue building on the culture of winning established by Pat Bowlen, and we remain relentlessly committed to delivering a World Championship to our fans.
The Broncos quite frankly have returned to respectability since Elway was put in place.
Elway has constructed this roster in his vision. He has made controversial cuts, and he’s also kept players he believed in.
The Broncos made Super Bowl XLVIII—their first Super Bowl appearance in 15 years—with Elway acquiring or re-signing 58 of the 64 players (90.6 percent) on their active/reserve roster.
Elway has made more than 600 transactions in building Denver’s roster through the NFL draft, free agency, trades and waiver claims.
He is responsible for acquiring seven players who earned Pro Bowl recognition, including guard Louis Vasquez. In 2013, Vasquez became the NFL’s only free-agent signee to earn first-team All-Pro honors from the Associated Press.
Let’s take a look at Elway’s hits and misses in the NFL draft. I will grade each prospect as a “hit," “miss” or “incomplete.” We will also see if there were better/different players to draft when these players were taken off the board.
2011 1st Round, No. 2 Overall: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Miller is the top player here. His talent is immense, and Miller is one of the best pass-rushers in the game today when healthy. His six-game suspension in 2013 didn’t help his grade, and it will be interesting to see how he returns from his late-season knee injury.
2014 is a contract year for Miller. If healthy, Miller could make it a season to remember.
Miller has the speed to get around the edge with ease. He's deceptively powerful, and Miller can use a bull rush to get to the quarterback.
As a run defender, Miller can bring ball-carriers down quickly. He's not a thumper, but Miller knows how to go low and trip up a back.
Grade: Hit (huge if healthy)
Other players available with that pick: Everyone that year except Cam Newton. Miller was the right call for that spot.
2011 2nd Round, No. 45 Overall: Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA
Moore has had his ups and downs during his Broncos career. Many will remember him failing to break up the 71-yard touchdown catch by Jacoby Jones in the 2012 playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Looking closer, it’s easy to find quality play from the veteran.
He’s not quite the ball hawk he was in college at UCLA, but Moore can find his way to the football. Moore was actually playing with a lot of confidence in 2013 before a leg injury caused him to miss the rest of the year.
If he can pick up where he left off in 2014 (and continue improving), then Moore will not be a “miss” to this point of his pro career.
Grade: Incomplete, could go either way
Other players available with that pick: At the time, I wanted the Broncos to select either defensive tackle Marvin Austin or defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. At the end of the second round, wide receiver Randall Cobb was available.
2011 2nd Round, No. 46 Overall: Orlando Franklin, RT, Miami
Franklin has been a starter for the Broncos since day one. He’s a road grader as a run-blocker, and Franklin can overpower opponents with his brute strength.
As a pass-blocker, Franklin has always had problems.
He’s flashed better ability at times during the 2013 regular season. In the game against the Colts, Robert Mathis was first sent to attack Franklin. That didn’t work, so the Colts moved him over to go after Chris Clark on the left side. That move put Manning under duress.
The Super Bowl was a different story. Franklin struggled with the pass-rushers Seattle kept sending after him.
Some fans believe Franklin could be moved inside to guard, specifically the left guard spot which could be vacated by free agent Zane Beadles.
This would not work in my opinion. A left guard is asked to move and pull at times. Franklin has trouble with his footwork, and the Broncos have tried him inside during practice a few times—it didn’t work.
Grade: Hit but barely. There are better right tackles are out there.
Other players available with that pick: If the Broncos wanted an offensive lineman here then Rodney Hudson or Marcus Gilbert were available later in the round.
2011 3rd Round, No. 67 Overall: Nate Irving, ILB, North Carolina State
Irving was selected to eventually be the team’s enforcer at middle linebacker. Here we sit three years later, and that hasn’t happened.
He plays with a lot of heart, but Irving does not play well in the middle. He’s a beat late as a run defender at times, and Irving struggles in coverage.
The failed experiment was accentuated when the Broncos kept adding veteran middle linebackers to the roster before the 2013 season.
As a reserve strong-side linebacker, Irving is a good fit—but that’s not what he was drafted for.
Other players available with that pick: I remember talking to running backs coach Eric Studesville at the Senior Bowl that year. I told him the team should select running back Demarco Murray out of Oklahoma. Every time I see Irving on the field, I think that could have been Murray.
Justin Houston was selected three picks after Irving. He has 26.5 sacks compared to one for Irving. Houston also has 140 tackles compared to just 39 for the Broncos pick.
2011 4th Round, No. 108 Overall: Quinton Carter, SS, Oklahoma
Like Nate Irving, Carter was thought to be an enforcer who could toughen up the defense. That hasn’t quite happened yet.
Injuries and inconsistencies have plagued Carter’s game in the pros. He was put on season-ending injured reserve in 2013 as his left knee injury suffered in 2012 never healed enough.
Early in his career, Carter flashed ability as both a strong and free safety. It’s unclear whether or not he will ever be able to get back to form after his injury.
Grade: Miss (due to injury)
Other players available with that pick: Cornerback Richard Sherman was selected 46 picks behind Carter. He certainly would have been a fine addition to the Broncos secondary.
2011 4th Round, No. 129 Overall: Julius Thomas, TE, Portland State
Here’s a big hit for the Broncos. I had fallen in love with Thomas at the 2011 Shrine Game earlier that year in Orlando, Fla. In a pre-draft piece I penned at the combine that year I put a fifth-round grade on the former basketball star from Portland State.
It turns out the Broncos loved Thomas more than I did, as they selected him with a fourth-round pick.
The Broncos had to be patient with the talented but inexperienced tight end. Thomas immediately flashed in training camp as a rookie. However, an early-season ankle injury cut his year short.
That ankle injury required surgery the following offseason, and that cost Thomas another year in the pros.
Thomas was entering a make-or-break season in 2013. File his 2013 performance under “make.” He quickly became a favorite target of Peyton Manning, catching two touchdown passes in the season opener against the Ravens.
He finished the year with a Pro Bowl nomination, and Thomas solidified himself as one of the best young tight ends in the game today.
Grade: Hit (the grand-slam variety)
Other players available with that pick: The only other tight end who would have been interesting is Charles Clay. He was taken off the board by the Dolphins in the sixth round.
2011 6th Round, No. 189 Overall: Mike Mohamed, LB, California
Mohamed played in 11 games during his pro career, and he compiled only three tackles.
Other players available with that pick: Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith was selected 53 picks after Mohamed.
2011 7th Round, No. 204 Overall: Virgil Green, TE, Nevada
Green has really developed an all-around game as a pro. Coming out of Nevada he was mostly known as a favorite target of quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
He was known for getting open in space, and he had the hands to be a reliable target. Green did not grade well as a blocker.
That has changed as a pro. Green is now a better blocker than he is a receiver. He’s a versatile player who can play tight end or H-back.
Green was a nice find this late in the draft.
Other players available with that pick: I was telling anyone under the sun the Broncos could have gotten running back Da’Rel Scott at this point in the draft (gasp!).
2011 7th Round, No. 247 Overall: Jeremy Beal, DE, Oklahoma
Not much to say about Beal. He was a beast in college at Oklahoma, but his skill set did not translate to the pros.
I was happy with this addition, but it was quickly evident at training camp that Beal may have trouble at the pro level.
Other players available with that pick: Wide receiver Ricardo Lockette was an undrafted free agent that year. His speed and ability on special teams could have come in handy.
2011 Undrafted Free Agents
2011 Undrafted Free Agents, per NEPatriotsdraft.com
Brandon Bing (CB, Rutgers)
Marshall Williams (WR, Wake Forest)
Mark Dell (WR, Michigan State)
Patrick Hill (FB, Miami)
Mario Fannin (RB, Auburn)
James Rogers (CB, Michigan)
Colby Whitlock (DL, Texas Tech)
Deron Mayo (DE, Old Dominion)
Curt Porter (OT, Jacksonville State)
Adam Weber (QB, Minnesota)
Jamel Hamler (WR, Fresno State)
Ronnell Brown (DL, James Madison)
Derek Domino (LB, South Dakota St)
D’Andre Goodwin (WR, Washington)
Adam Grant (OL, Arizona)
Chris Harris (CB, Kansas)
AJ Jones (LB, Florida)
Austin Sylvester (FB, Washington)
Clearly, Harris is the player to highlight here. He was a favorite of former general manager Brian Xanders, and Harris has turned out to be a fantastic pro.
Harris initially started flashing ability as a slot corner. He proved in 2013 that he could be a quality starter on the outside as well.
He went down with a knee injury in the playoff victory over the San Diego Chargers. Harris is a restricted free agent this offseason, but the Broncos should be able to retain him for 2014.
Grade: Hit (huge if healthy)
Other players available: No other undrafted free agent that year could make an impact like Harris can.
2012 2nd Round, No. 36 Overall: Derek Wolfe, DE, Cincinnati
Wolfe showed well as a rookie in 2012. He proved that he could play with stamina and effectiveness as games (and the season) went on. Known as a blue-collar guy, Wolfe worked hard to get up to speed at the pro level.
Entering 2013, things were looking good for Wolfe. His season was cut short by a mysterious illness, and Wolfe was eventually put on season-ending injured reserve.
The cause of his illness is unknown outside the walls of Dove Valley. If he can come back to full strength (and continue to develop), then Wolfe will be a solid pro for the Broncos.
Grade: Incomplete (could go either way)
Other players available: The Broncos held the 28th overall pick (after trading down from 26). That pick became running back Doug Martin. It’s a huge mistake in my opinion.
2012 2nd Round, No. 57 Overall: Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State
This is the pick everyone loves to hate.
I am one of the rare supporters of the Osweiler selection. Had he stayed in college for one more year, there’s a chance Osweiler could have been the top-rated quarterback in the 2013 NFL draft.
In order to get a prospect with upside like Osweiler, a team must spend a premium pick.
Many complain about the lack of an “impact” player with the team in a Super Bowl window. I disagree with this sentiment.
Any quality front office knows it must keep one eye on the present while also building for the future. The Osweiler pick shows the Broncos are planning for life without Peyton Manning.
Osweiler is not the same player he was at Arizona State—he’s better.
I’ve watched Osweiler closely out at Dove Valley, and I see some significant changes in his game.
First, his throwing motion has improved. He has a precise release point over his head instead of the sidearm motion he sometimes fell back on in college.
Second, Osweiler has much better footwork as he’s looking to pass. In college, he was flatfooted before the throw, and that hurt his accuracy. The Broncos have made sure that Osweiler is on the balls of his feet while scanning the field. This allows him to escape pressure in the pocket quicker while also improving his accuracy.
Finally, Osweiler has been groomed behind Manning! There’s no better teacher than watching the way that Manning prepares each week. Manning has also taken the time to highlight important notes for Osweiler to learn from.
Grade: Incomplete (we won’t know until he’s the starter)
Other players available: Inside linebacker Lavonte David would have been a nice fit here. They liked Russell Wilson but decided to go with the larger quarterback instead.
2012 3rd Round, No. 67 Overall: Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State
I feel with Hillman it will always be a tale of “what might have been.”
He entered last offseason as the starter at running back. Hillman spent around 75 percent of the offseason as the lead back on the first team. Montee Ball could not beat him out, and Knowshon Moreno was coming back from another knee injury.
Hillman began preseason as the starter, but he didn’t stay there long. Three fumbles in the preseason opened the door for Moreno to be the lead back.
A fumble near the goal line against the Colts in the regular season sealed his fate. Hillman was inactive for most of the games after that, including the Super Bowl.
Maturity may be a question mark with the young back. Ball security most certainly is a huge problem.
Hillman has the speed and elusiveness to be more than a change-of-pace back. However, it doesn’t matter how good he looks in practice if he doesn’t hold onto the rock and study hard off the field.
Other players available: If the Broncos wanted a back, then Bernard Pierce, Lamar Miller and Robert Turbin (among others) were all available.
2012 4th Round, No. 101 Overall: Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State
It’s not a great sign for your prospects when the team forces you to switch positions a year after it's drafted you. That’s what happened with Bolden.
Coming off a knee injury that forced him to miss his final season at Arizona State, Bolden was selected to be a potential starting cornerback and return man for the Broncos.
He never seemed to get his speed back, and the team moved him to safety in 2013. Bolden struggled on the field at his new position. It looks like a swing and a miss here.
Other players available: I would have liked to see cornerback Josh Norman selected here. He was off the board 42 picks after Bolden. Champ Bailey was his idol growing up, and I liked his size/speed combination better.
2012 4th Round, No. 108 Overall: Philip Blake, C, Baylor
The Broncos received a fourth-round pick from the New York Jets in exchange for quarterback Tim Tebow. With that pick they selected Blake.
It’s another swing and a miss here for the Broncos. When he wasn’t hurt, Blake was unimpressive at center or guard.
Other players available: Offensive linemen like Bobby Massie or Joe Looney were still on the board when Blake was picked.
2012 5th Round, No. 137 Overall: Malik Jackson, DE, Tennessee
Here we have another quality late-round selection by the Elway regime. Jackson transferred from USC to Tennessee and impressed the Broncos enough to take him in the fifth round.
His brute strength and length are the first things to stand out about his game. Jackson doesn’t have refined moves to get after the quarterback, but his raw talent makes him a force to be reckoned with.
Jackson plays with a lot of energy, and he loves to throw opponents out of his way en route to the passer. With his raw ability, there are times Jackson reminds me of former Saints defensive end/outside linebacker Rickey Jackson.
That’s high praise indeed, but Jackson has incredible upside as he continues to learn the nuances of the pro game.
Grade: Hit (with the potential to be huge)
Other players available: Jackson was the right pick at this spot for my money.
2012 6th Round No. 188 Overall: Danny Trevathan, WLB, Kentucky
The Broncos crushed this pick. Going back to the spot they found Wesley Woodyard years ago, the Broncos took Trevathan off the board in the sixth round.
Trevathan showed off incredible athleticism earlier in 2012 at the Players All-Star Classic Game in Little Rock, Ark. I was there for the week of practice, and I felt Trevathan would be a huge steal for some team in the NFL.
I was thrilled when the pick came across the podium at Radio City Music Hall announcing that Trevathan was picked by the Broncos.
The kid can fly all over the field. He’s smart, and Trevathan understands the play as it breaks down in front of him.
He proved in 2013 that he can cover, pick off passes and return them for touchdowns (so long as he hangs onto the rock).
Trevathan played so well in 2013 that he makes Woodyard expendable.
Grade: Hit (a great find)
Other players available: I can’t argue with the value here.
2012 Undrafted Free Agents
2012 Undrafted Free Agents, per NEPatriotsDraft.com
Duke Ihenacho, S, San Jose State
Steven Johnson, LB, Kansas
Austin Wuebbels, OG, Missouri
Gerell Robinson, WR, Arizona State
Coryell Judie, CB, Texas A&M
Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas
Wayne Tribue, OL, Temple
Elliot Coffey, LB, Baylor
Anthony Miller, TE, Cal
Jamie Blatnick, DE, Oklahoma State
Mike Remmers, OT, Oregon State
Eric Page, WR, Toledo
Demario Pippen, RB, Tuskegee
There are three players to highlight here.
Ihenacho is a hard-hitting safety with a nose for the football. He can fly to the ball-carrier, and Ihenacho is always looking to make the big play. Ihenacho needs better discipline in coverage but could be a quality starter.
Johnson, like Chris Harris, is another undrafted free agent from Kansas. Unlike Harris, Johnson is best suited as a special teams player and reserve defender.
Robinson has been moved to tight end, but he’s stuck around on the roster. He has long-established chemistry with quarterback Brock Osweiler from their playing days together at Arizona State.
Grade: Hit (if Ihenacho develops)
Other players available: No other undrafted free agents really stand out. However, I do like the upside of guys like wide receiver Griff Whalen, running back Joe Banyard, running back Chris Polk, running back Jewel Hampton and wide receiver Jermaine Kearse.
2013 1st Round, No. 28 Overall: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
It sure looks like the Broncos have something in Williams. The rookie started out his rookie season rough, but he consistently improved as the year went on.
Early on, Williams was often guessing which shoulder of an opponent to attack. He also looked slow off the snap. After guessing wrong, Williams would try to run around a blocker to the ball-carrier.
Needless to say, that didn’t work.
When Kevin Vickerson went down for the season with a hip injury in Week 12, it was Williams the team called upon.
He responded with better play. Williams looked as if he had gotten used to the speed of the game. He was much more quick off the snap, and he knew how to diagnose blocking angles to get to the ball.
Williams even registered a couple of late-season sacks. He could be the next Trevor Pryce.
Grade: Potential to be a solid hit.
Other players available: Kiko Alonso was a tackling machine for the Bills in 2013. He would have been a nice addition to the Broncos defense.
2013 2nd Round, No. 58 Overall: Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
When Ball came out of Wisconsin, it was with many accolades and records broken. He finished with more touchdowns (83) than any other player in FBS history.
That nose for the end zone was attractive for the Broncos. Ball was drafted with the idea that he could be the lead back ASAP.
Instead, the rookie struggled to pick up the offense—especially the pass protection schemes. He began the season splitting time with Ronnie Hillman as a reserve runner behind Knowshon Moreno.
Fumbling problems put Ball in the doghouse for part of the season.
As the season wore on, Ball became a better pro runner. He stopped wasting steps and was much more efficient with the ball in his hands. Ball looked good as a receiver, and he was more decisive as a runner later in the year.
Heading into 2014, Ball may finally be the lead back for the Broncos.
Grade: Potential is there to be a solid hit.
Other players available: I said it from the time he was drafted; the pick should have been Eddie Lacy. It will be interesting to see how Ball’s career plays out compared to Lacy’s.
2013 3rd Round, No. 90 Overall: Kayvon Webster, CB, South Florida
Webster was a surprise pick by the Broncos. The position of cornerback was not a surprise as it was (and still is) a great need for the team.
It was Webster himself who surprised some draft experts. I was surprised by the pick because I had a fifth-round grade on the big USF corner.
Webster began the season making big hits as a reserve player. He did not wrap up, but he did punish opponents with the football.
The Broncos were forced to play Webster more than originally planned, as Champ Bailey missed most of the season with a Lisfranc injury.
The more responsibility Webster received, the more he struggled.
He’s a tall corner with good click and close ability when the play is in front of him. Forcing him to turn his hips causes Webster to lose ground quickly. He was picked on by the likes of Philip Rivers (and others) in the last month of the regular season and the playoffs.
It’s far too early to call him a bust.
Many cornerbacks struggle their first year in the league. We’ll see if Webster can elevate his play in year two and beyond.
Grade: Incomplete (could go either way)
Other players available: Will Davis was taken just a few picks after Webster. He’s not as big as Webster, but I liked his speed and fiery attitude in college. If the Broncos wanted to add more to the pass rush, then Alex Okafor would have made a good pick here.
2013 5th Round, No. 146 Overall: Quanterus Smith, OLB, Western Kentucky
Smith was known to get sacks in bunches during his time at Western Kentucky. Most will remember his three-sack performance against Alabama in 2012.
He was leading the FBS in sacks (12.5) when he injured his knee. Smith was slowly brought along by the Broncos in minicamp. At the start of training camp, the team wanted to see if he could do more.
Smith never really regained his speed and burst from that knee injury. The Broncos felt it was best to shut him down for the season and bring him back at full strength in 2014.
Grade: Incomplete (with the upside to be solid hit)
Other players available: The fifth round saw players like running back Zac Stacy go off the board. Defensive back Micah Hyde would have also made sense at this point in the draft.
2013 5th Round, No. 161 Overall: Tavarres King, WR, Georgia
I was impressed with King when I saw him during the week of practice for the Senior Bowl in early 2013. He flashed his trademark speed and looked like a better route-runner than he did on film.
King showed the ability to eat cushion when defensive backs played off coverage. He could gain ground in a hurry, cut on a dime and get open near the sidelines. His speed also made him a dangerous deep threat.
Knowing that Eric Decker would be a free agent after the season, I felt King could get a year of grooming to perhaps be a starter in 2014 if he developed.
Instead, the Broncos cut him and put him on the practice squad. They did activate King later in the year, only to cut him a bit after that.
The Carolina Panthers promptly jumped all over him on the open market. He’s now a young receiver with upside for Cam Newton and Company.
Grade: Miss (for the Broncos, upside with the Panthers)
Other players available: I liked wide receiver Ryan Swope at this spot. Other receivers they could have added here include Marquess Wilson and Aaron Mellette.
2013 6th Round, No. 173 Overall: Vinston Painter, OG/OT, Virginia Tech
We don’t know much about Painter yet.
He’s a huge player with the strength to dominate an opponent. Painter is versatile, and he can play any position across the offensive line.
His likely home in the pros is inside at guard, although I could see Painter playing as a swing tackle.
Painter was put on the practice squad after training camp, but later in the year he was part of the active roster.
Other players available: If Painter develops into a quality reserve offensive lineman (or starter) then it’s difficult to argue with the value.
2013 7th Round, No. 234 Overall: Zac Dysert, QB, Miami (Ohio)
Most everyone in the scouting community was surprised to see Dysert fall this far.
I was not impressed with him on film or up close during the week of practice for the Senior Bowl in early 2013. Dysert looks the part and has a rocket arm. However, accuracy and pass placement are a problem. Dysert will also make some head-scratching decisions—when he’s not under pressure.
During minicamp he struggled to impress. That followed in training camp. The preseason was his time to shine.
He didn’t blow me away with his performance in the final preseason game against the Cardinals. Dysert completed less than 50 percent of his passes, and the Broncos lost.
He’s a favorite of Elway, and Dysert is known as a hard worker. His game is rough around the edges, but Dysert will continue to get a chance to hone his skill set.
Grade: Incomplete (developmental upside)
Other players available: He’s a huge value play, so not many other players could have the return on the investment that Dysert could.
2013 Undrafted Free Agents
2013 Undrafted Free Agents, per NEPatriotsDraft.com
Ryan Katz, QB, SDSU
Lerentee McCray, DE, Florida
Ryan Doerr, P, Kansas State
Aaron Hester, CB, UCLA
Doug Rippy, LB, Colorado
Quincy McDuffie, WR, UCF
Gary Mason Jr. DE/DT, Baylor
Uona Kaveinga, LB, BYU
Manase Foketi, OT, West Texas A&M
John Youboty, DE, Temple
C.J. Anderson, RB, California
Ross Rasner, S, Arkansas
Lucas Reed, TE, New Mexico
Lamar Thomas, WR, New Mexico
Romney Fuga, DL, BYU
The Broncos continued their tradition of finding quality talent in the undrafted ranks this year.
McCray was an impressive player in training camp last year. He showed a good nose for the ball, the ability to cover and the athleticism needed to be a solid pro. A thumb injury in the final preseason game cost him all of 2013.
Anderson is the Broncos' only real power back. His lower body is huge, and he can run through arm tackles with ease. Anderson will be in the mix for carries behind Montee Ball in 2014. If there’s an open competition for the starting job, it’s not crazy to think Anderson could win the job.
Grade: Hit (if Anderson turns into a starter)
Other players available: I like what the Broncos did here. A couple of priority free agents I would have targeted include guys like wide receiver T.J. Moe, wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, tight end Chris Pantale, defensive lineman Kwame Geathers, linebacker Will Compton, quarterback Ryan Griffin, tight end Joseph Fauria and defensive tackle Mike Purcell.
Summary, Overall Grade Analysis
As you can see, Elway has put quite a few talented players on the roster through the draft. There are some hits, but there are a few misses too.
At the team’s season-ending press conference both Fox and Elway addressed the media. They talked for about 20 minutes, and after the final question Elway had a personal statement to make.
There are some changes we’ve got to make and we’ll make those. But the thing is, we can use that as a game that, ‘OK, we now know what it’s like to be there, now we’re going to use that as the experience of we’ve been there but we’ve got to start with step one again and start with the offseason program.’ And April 21st—everybody that knows it comes in here and the people that we bring in here when it gets to 85-90 guys on the roster, John [Fox] readdresses this team the first time and again it’s to get back and be World Champions.” Elway continued, “The goal has not changed and it will not change. We will use this as an experience that we went through, be disappointed that we didn’t play better, but the bottom line is this organization and what [Owner & CEO] Pat Bowlen wants from this organization—that has not changed and it will not change. The bottom line is we’re going to work as hard as we worked this year, if not harder, and continue to do that with the mindset that we want to be World Champions and we’re going to do everything we can to get there.
His passion for the Broncos came through loud and clear with that statement.
I’ve often said on my ESPN Radio show Ridin' Shotgun that Elway loves and believes in the Broncos and their fans. He wants to make the team champions again for “Broncos Country" and for Mr. Bowlen.
There hasn’t been a losing team to get back to the Super Bowl since the Buffalo Bills did it in 1993. Twenty years have passed, and no team has accomplished that feat.
With Elway leading the way, it’s unwise to count the Broncos out.
Note: All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos. All contract information for individual players is from Spotrac.com. Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.