Rejoice Broncos fans, the time has almost arrived.
After a rough ending to the regular season, three months of the offseason, and a particularly cold winter season, spring is here and so is the 2010 NFL Draft. I can always tell that I'm excited because I find it impossible to sleep in the days prior to the draft.
In addition to my increased coffee consumption, my excitement for the draft stems from all of the possibilities that it presents. Even if you've been living in a hole since your team collapsed or disintegrated into dust last season, when the draft rolls around all of that frustration is lifted off of your back. Every team gets a clean slate and anything can happen.
Will the Rams get their franchise QB in Sam Bradford? Will Mike Shanahan invest in Donovan McNabb's protection by drafting OT Russell Okung? Will teams go for a safer pick like LB Rolando McClain or will they roll the dice on a guy like Tim Tebow? It's been said on this website before, but the drama alone makes the NFL Draft one of my personal favorite sporting events.
The Broncos, on the other hand, have already had a full helping of pre-draft drama mostly due to Brandon Marshall. After signing his tender last week, the Broncos shipped their superbly talented and troubled wide receiver to the Dolphins for two second-round picks.
Marshall, who played college ball at Central Florida and had been vocal about his disdain for being in Denver more than once, couldn't have been more thrilled. The Broncos didn't stop there, as just this morning they sent Tony Scheffler back to Michigan in a three-team trade with the Lions and Eagles, acquiring a fifth-round pick in the process.
There's a lot of numbers involved in this, but since you are appeasing me by reading my column, I'll do the math for you. Through these trades, the Broncos gained three draft choices and increased their flexibility to move up and down in the draft. Not to mention there will be no more issues with Marshall, unless he scores during the next Broncos-Dolphins game.
What did they lose? Approximately 465 receptions, 5,915 receiving yards, and 39 touchdowns, as well as the two most consistent receivers on the Broncos over the past four seasons. That's a lot of production to lose and try to replace in just one season.
A lot has been said about Marshall and Scheffler since they were benched by Josh McDaniels in the season finale against Kansas City, but these are two very good young players who will go on to long and productive careers. I wanted those careers to be entirely in Denver despite the fact that they would probably continue to cause trouble.
But that's the point. The Broncos had to trade them because they were more than aware that it would never be a perfect situation. McDaniels was committed to keeping his team-first concept intact and punishing any player who violated it. But did he trade those two because he didin't want them here? I don't think so.
McDaniels has admitted that he got along with Marshall fine, which I believe despite the fact that he suspended him and benched him in the same season. I remember the man-hug they shared after Marshall's winning touchdown against Dallas and it was one of my favorite moments of last season (don't judge me).
However, I also believe that Marshall was never going to be happy in Denver unless he got the contract he wanted with all that guaranteed money, but there was no guarantee that he would remain happy even after that. The risk of Marshall acting out again off the field was just too much to reward him for his accomplishments on the field.
McDaniels must've felt the same way. As soon as he found out he wouldn't get a first-round pick in return, he found the next best deal and traded his human highlight and headache reel to a team that was more than happy to show him the money.
As for Scheffler, receiving tight ends with poor blocking skills aren't thought too highly of in McDaniels' New England-based offense, especially ones who piss off the coach. He's a good player but his skill set was meant for Mike Shannahan's offense. As soon as Scheffler signed his tender I knew he was long gone.
Unlike other recent trades around the league, everyone got what they wanted. The Broncos got the two second-round picks and the fifth-rounder (Pittsburgh could only get a fifth for Santonio Holmes) and Marshall and Scheffler went home. Everyone wins and everyone is happy. For now.
Even though McDaniels has made good so far on his promise to build a team that buys into his system, it will only matter if he finds better players than the ones who didn't buy into it. I'm sure there are plenty of small offensive tackles out there who will gladly pass themselves off as tight ends, but McDaniels likely isn't going to find a better receiver than Brandon Marshall.
That's the harsh reality of this situation. Other than his attitude problems, Scheffler got the boot because he didn't perform in McDaniels' system, but wasn't Eddie Royal just as disappointing? Marshall had a great season stat wise, but the other players were so inconsistent that it really didn't matter.
The absence of Marshall and Scheffler only adds to the holes that were already present. If the New England Broncos are going to win more than eight games next season, they need to address the issues that plagued them last season in this year's draft.
I'm talking about getting a new center to strengthen the interior of the offensive line. Florida's Maurkice Pouncey is the most ideal possibility, but the Broncos would probably move down to select him. In any case, I expect that they will draft at least one other lineman in addition to a center.
I'm talking about finally replacing Al Wilson at middle linebacker. If McClain is available at No. 11 I think the Broncos would be crazy not to take him, but what if another team swaps spots with Jacksonville and steals McClain at No. 10? McDaniels has raved about Missouri's Sean Weatherspoon and maybe he is the guy the Broncos really want.
I'm talking about having more than one guy as a dependable receiver. I'm confident that Eddie Royal can bounce back, but Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Stokely aren't No. 1 receivers. Does that mean the Broncos should take Dez Bryant at No. 11, a player with similar talent and maturity questions to Brandon Marshall? Or do they find that guy in the second round?
I've been in the McClain camp since day one and I don't necessarily like drafting an unproven Brandon Marshall to replace a proven Brandon Marshall, so I'd look for the Broncos to make a safe first-round selection and get a receiver later on.
In addition to offensive line, linebacker, and receiver, I think secondary is another position that McDaniels wants to add some depth at. It's the strength of the team, but Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins can't play forever. Of course that hasn't stopped Brett Favre.
And for God's sake, can the Broncos finally get a punter who can, you know, actually punt? More than 20-30 yards per punt? That would be oh-so swell.
Anyway, those are my predictions and I'm sure you have made yours, but the one thing everyone knows about the NFL Draft is that no one knows anything. I don't care if that's a cliche, because no one knows anything.
One thing I do know is that I will miss watching Marshall and Scheffler play for the Broncos. The only question for the players who take their spots is will they drive "Broncos Country" crazier for their play on the field or off of it?
Like I said, no one knows anything.
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