At this point in the offseason, it's no secret that there are a lot of unknowns about the Broncos heading in to the 2009 season. Denver added two first-round players in this year's draft, but their 2009-2010 team has seen radical changes at quarterback, the defensive secondary, running back, and defensive end.
While this is dually an exciting and trying time for all Broncos fans, one thing can be surmised: There is a method to the madness, even when it seems that new coach Josh McDaniels has no rhyme nor reason.
With the first Broncos' first round pick, Josh McDaniels opted for explosive running back Knowshon Moreno. Moreno is an all-around backfield player who can block, pass, and run effectively reminding Broncos fans of the best of Mike Anderson and Terrell Davis.
Though Moreno was a solid pick with plenty upside, McDaniels and the Broncos did not address their obvious need for better pass rushers and defensive ends. It could have been a "best player available" pick, or McDaneils may have thought the player the coveted would still be there at 18, their second first-round pick.
McDaniels must have though that Moreno would provide the secondary scoring punch needed with the absence of Cutler. This selection has been a cause of great criticism for the fledgling coach.
With their second first-round pick, a much less, but still controversial selection, was made with Robert Ayers out of University of Tennessee. While he showed explosiveness in pass rushing and has the right size for run stopping, it was only in his last year of college that he was truly effective.
Many critics would rather have had BJ Raji, Tyson Jackson, Brian Orakpo, or a USC linebacker at this position, though at 18, Raji, Jackson and Orapko had already been taken. Ayers could end up being a Jarvis Moss or an Elvis Dumervil depending on his development.
Another questionable pick in the Broncos' draft includes Alphonso Smith, a 5' 9'' Corner who looks a lot like Champ Bailey but has a lot of question marks to be taken with next year's first round pick in lieu of promising but character-flaw-abounded Ray Maualuga or Ron Brace.
The Broncos traded their 2010 first-round pick to Seattle in exchange for the 37th pick, which was used to take Smith.
With their third pick in the second round, Denver drafted blocking tight end Richard Quinn, even though they had both Tony Scheffler and Daniel Graham on the roster. Denver also added a promising young quarterback in Tom Brandstater (in the mould of Tom Brady or Matt Cassel), OG Seth Olsen, and two young safeties with potential in Darcel McBath and David Bruton in the later rounds.
All of these selections were very much criticized, and for good reason. None are a sure thing, but all have tremendous upside and all were chosen according to a doctrine to which many have subscribed in the last decade: The Patriot Way.
The Patriot Way, in fact, dictates a particular draft scenario; draft both the players with the highest upside and the players that will benefit most from hands-on, effective coaching.
Obviously, the coaching that comes most frequently to mind is that of the designated staff: The Josh McDaniels', the Mike Nolans, and the Mike McCoys—but just as important, if not more important than the play-callers is the veteran teammates that can teach the true meaning of being a professional.
In this case, the Broncos drafted according to need because they needed everywhere. But they also drafted according to what the free agents dictated.
The Patriots have done an exceptional job of restocking the talent behind strong veterans. Where there's a Jerod Meyo there's also a Teddy Bruschi. Where there's a Tom Brady there's a Drew Bledsoe, and so on. It's no question that there was a lot of luck in the picks, but there was also a reason to the madness.
The Broncos are following this trend. In the offseason they brought in seven running backs, most notably veterans Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan. Buckhalter has come from years of large injury-plagued YPA seasons behind consummate professional Brian Westbrook of the Eagles, while Jordan has been a journeyman that knows the Patriots system.
Both can teach Moreno how to be an athlete on and off the field and can bring out the best in the young running back without the Broncos pushing him into a mentor-less Darren McFadden scenario.
Ayers was clearly a need-based pick and it is my personal belief that there were no strong character DE veterans on the market.
McBath and Bruton will clearly benefit from future Hall-of-Famer Brian Dawkins, one of the greatest leaders that the NFL has ever known. Hopefully one of these promising safeties will fill his shoes effectively and become a franchise anchor for years to come.
Quinn will benefit from the mentoring of former-patriot, leader Daniel Graham so that he can become the other side of the two-pronged tight end attack. He also has surprising hands and may end up being a better player than Graham.
Brandstater is an obviously intelligent quarterback with a strong arm and good instincts. Orton, while not the most physically talented quarterback in the league, is celebrated for his intelligence and leadership and can teach this pick who has more talent how to harness it effectively, manage a game, and lead a team in the future.
Wide Receiver Kenny McKinley will benefit from the great Rod Smith, while not on the field, who worked as hard as anyone ever has to become the greatest undrafted WR ever.
Center Blake Schlueter will replace Wiegmann in years to come as Wiegmann is getting older but is still a Pro-Bowler.
All in all, the Broncos were planning for the future as much as any other team in the draft. They chose players with tremendous upside based on what they could support. The one guaranteed thing is none of these prospects will be "spoiled" by the rough NFL—if any of them do not turn out, it will be because of their own shortcomings, not those of the team around them.