The 2009 season was full of ups and downs for the Broncos. They played with the best teams, and fell apart against the worst.
When evaluating their roster though, it's hard to deny that this team is mediocre at many key positions. It's a team full of players that aren't that bad, but they just aren't that great either.
Looking to the past, and planning for the future, I decided to put together a little slide show for you.
Kyle Orton is consistently average. He isn't going to have any meltdowns that cost his football team. He's a cerebral quarterback that showed a little heart down the stretch in trying to will the Broncos to victory. He seems to be a great leader.
Tom Brandstater could blossom under coach McDaniels, who has a knack for developing young quarterbacks.
Kyle Orton is average. While he has showed flashes of heart and determination, the talent seems to be lacking. He could be destined for a Doug Flutie type of career...good, but never good enough.
Brandstater shows potential, but it's had to put much stock in a sixth round draft selection leading the Broncos in the future.
Orton will be McDaniels' starter next season, but I think we will either draft a quarterback or trade for one. The player I can really see Denver pursuing is Kevin O'Connell of the New York Jets.
Last summer, when the Jets were pursuing Brandon Marshall, they made the smart move of trading for Kevin O'Connell, whom McDaniels tried to claim off waivers from New England.
HE was a third round selection of the Pats a couple years ago, and he seemed to have limitless potential. He's a tall athletic quarterback in the mold of Joe Flacco who just happens to have a couple years under his belt in the Patriots system.
It was thought that the Jets traded for O'Connell in order to entice Denver into sending Brandon Marshall their way last summer. When the Jets fail to win it all this season, look for them to revisit trading for Marshall again this summer.
Knowshon Moreno has all the potential to be a special back. In my mind, he is a quicker, less powerful version of Marion Barber. He's gifted, but has struggled to adjust to the speed of the NFL.
In Correll Buckhalter, the Broncos have a career back-up that would probably be a franchise back if he weren't dogged with injuries his entire career. He's a very fast, one cut and go style of running back who in all honesty, out-shined Moreno this season.
Peyton Hillis was a very effective runner for Mike Shanahan.
While Buckhalter has been a great addition to the Broncos, he is also an aged one, as far as running backs go. The injuries persist and you just can't trust that he will be on the field week after week.
Moreno struggled in finding open space most of the season. He tries to do too much by himself, and hasn't been a very patient runner, and has done his offensive line no justice by rushing things.
Hllis doesn't get any playing time, and I expect him to find a new home, possibly with Shanahan in Washington.
I have every reason to believe that Moreno will pan out and become a reliable running back. The Broncos can however, look to a huge crop of free agent running backs for help.
One guy that really sticks out to me is LenDale White, a kid from Denver that has found himself in a struggle to get any blow behind Super Star teammate Chris Johnson. He'd fit perfectly in McDaniels power running offense, and be a great goal line option for any team.
Daniel Graham has been a consummate leader and all around good tight end for the Broncos. He can block like few others, and he has some very reliable hands in the receiving game.
Richard Quinn was highly coveted by the Denver Broncos in last years draft. He was thought of as the nations best blocking tight end in college, and has apparently showed off some good receiving skills in practice and pre draft workouts.
Tony Scheffler is a huge play-making tight end in the passing game when his number is called.
Graham is getting up there in age, and he has never been the type of tight end the quarterback can look for in te passing game. While his hands are top notch, his speed leaves something to be desired.
Scheffler appears to be on the outs in Denver. I always had high hopes for him, but he never broke out as a legitimate every down tight end. I expect him and his me first attitude to find another suitor next season. A shame considering the talent he posesses.
Quinn, though highly touted, didn't have any impact as a rookie.
Expect Graham to continue to be a leader and great teammate as a starter next season. Richard Quinn should see his role increase, as he was a second round pick last year.
Denver may look to draft a tight end in the latter rounds for depth/potential.
The receiving corps. as it is now, is one of the best in the NFL. Brandon Marshall continued to impress on the field and is a genuine top receiving talent. Jabar Gaffney proved to be a valuable third option, and Royal continued to be a reliable and potentially explosive threat in McDaniels system. Brandon Stokley gave Orton another great outlet in the slot position as well.
Royal was vastly under utilized in the passing game and seemed to be the forgotten man for Kye Orton for much of the season. Not sure if Orton was focusing to heavily on Marshall, but Royals numbers plummeted this year.
Brandon Marshall, for all his talent, appears to be another "me first" guy in the mold of Terrell Owens. I think that is 50/50 that he returns to Denver next season, but if he doesn't, Denver will be armed with another first round draft pick, which would enable them to replace him.
If Marshall leaves, I think Denver will look to draft Dezmond Bryant. He's got a great combination of size, speed, and explosive play-making ability that will make hm nearly impossible to pass up, unless a QB falls in Denver's lap at the 10th overall pick.
Eddie Royal's role will increase next year if McDaniels has anything to say about it.
Denver has it's bookend tackles in Clady and Harris. hey also have a couple young guards with the potential to pan out in Chris Kuper and Seth Olsen.
Casey Weiggman's career is coming to an end. He's been an elite center in the NFL for the last decade, but his lack of size is starting to get the best of him. Even in his prime, he was always more suited to play in a zone blocking type of scheme. Denver's inability to run effectively has exposed his weakness against the pass rush.
Kuper and Olsen, while young and very big, both have a lot to prove. Olsen may slide over to center in the future with Kuper playing guard, but no matter how you slice it, Denver is still short one offensive lineman in the interior.
Denver will undoubtedly look to get bigger in the middle. I think hat Josh McDaniels will look to bring Logan Mankins to the mile high city to fill one of the guard positions. Mankins has been a standout on one of the stoutest offensive lines in the NFL and McDaniels has showed a strong desire to bring in former Patriots who are familiar with what he is trying to do offensively.
The defensive line didn't stand out for much of anything this season. They certainly didn't disappoint, as expectations were very low, but nobody stood out as a key cog in Denver's newly implemented 3-4 defense. Sometimes thats just the way it is in a 3-4.
They have a lot of youth and a lot of size on the roster. Chris Baker, Marcus Thomas, Ryan McBean, and Ronald Fields are all pretty young, and all of them weigh in at over 300 pounds.
Nobody is bad, but nobody stood out for a good reason either. There's a whole lot of mediocrity along the defensive line.
I think McDaniels will continue to shop for a monster defensive tackle and some difference makers up front.
I'd like to see Denver use their potential second first rounder on either Mount Cody or Brandon Spikes.
Free agent wise, their are potentially many very talented players out their to be had. The crop includes Richard Seymore, Casey Hampton, Jonny Jolly, Vince Wilfork (extreme long shot to hit the open market), Marcus Spears, and Ryan Pickett.
I think it would serve Denver well to go out and sign at-least one of these guys.
Elvis Dumervil emerged into the spotlight as one of the best pass rushing linebackers in the NFL in his first year as such. He's only going to get better as an overall linebacker from here. Robert Ayers saw his playing time increase week after week, and there is reason to believe that he will move into a starting role next season, opposite of Elvis Dumervil.
DJ Williams made a seamless transition to the 3-4 and continued to play at a near all pro level. Andra Davis came in and played some good hard nosed football for the Broncos as well.
Not many hear, as this could be the broncos best position. I do think they could use some more dynamic play making from the middle linebacker position though. Davis was serviceable and a great leader, but he has never been a dominant force in the middle, and he isn't getting younger.
As I said in my previous slide, I would like Denver to look at draftin Brandon Spikes if they end up losing Marshall. Spikes has a nasty side that would be a welcome addition to the heart of Denver's defense.
Not lot of free agents to be had this season. I do like Thomas Howard from the Oakland Raiders though. He could be a solid pickup for the Broncos, even if it is just for depth.
Employing two future hall of famers in Dawkins and Bailey, the secondary did not disappoint, and may have been the best in the NFL.
Andre Goodman and Renaldo Hill were both brilliant pick-us by McDaniels, and Ty Law played well at nickel back.
It's reasonable to expect this group to decline next season due to age.
Sooner than later, our young, promising safeties will need to be able to step up, as will cornerback, Alfonso Smith.
Denver is set with their starting secondary for the moment. I look for them to play the wait and see game with their young safeties and cornerback prospects. I also expect them to inject a little youth at the cornerback position through the draft.