When you think of Josh McDaniels, there are three absolutes that come to mind.
1. He is one of the best offensive minds in the NFL. Before Denver, Orton had a reputation as being a smart QB with limited arm strength, and Brandon Lloyd was a free agent whom few people had interest in.
Now, Orton is being talked about as a top 10 QB, and Brandon Lloyd is having a break out season and could make the pro bowl if he keeps it up. I think it's fair to say Josh has resurrected the careers of at least 2 players. Thanks to McDaniels, Denver has the No. 1 passing offense. A feat that no scout, insider, or analyst predicted.
2. Josh likes high character, versatile players. Since the moment Josh arrived in Dove Valley, he has preached about versatility. Josh values players who can play multiple positions. That is one reason why Dan Gronkowski is being played ahead of Richard Quinn. Gronkowski is a better fullback then Quinn is. So when draft season rolls around, you should look for the most versatile players when scouting for potential Broncos.
3. Lastly, McDaniels values Tight Ends as blockers, not receivers. In New England, Josh used players such as Daniel Graham to help protect the QB, not catch passes.
However, things could be changing soon.
Before you read anymore, it is important for you to watch the video of McDaniels most recent press conference: http://www.denverbroncos.com/multimedia/videos/Week-5---Friday-McDaniels/a5156463-c7e3-4131-bb12-9c9bc623535b
Start watching at about 10:58. One reporter talks about the evolution of the Tight End position and how Tight Ends are like the queen on the chess board in that you move them all around.
Josh responded by talking about how the Tight Ends these days are used for match up problems. He specifically pointed out New England's Aaron Hernandez who is a Wide Receiver, but is a tight end.
Josh said, "The problems that those players are creating defensively, not only where they are and how you match up with them, but it's who do you even put in the game. You have to play nickel in the two Tight End set now more then ever because if you don't, you're going to end up with a big linebacker with a guy who runs and catches like a receiver and we don't really have that here, but it's an issue that you have to contend with a number of times in the season."
If you watched the video, you could see it on McDaniels' face. He really likes Aaron Hernandez. He likes how he plays and how New England is using him. Aaron is a tough player who can block, but his real use is when he is matched up against a slower linebacker. Aaron already has 18 receptions for 240 yards. I would bet Josh would jump at the chance to add Hernandez to the Broncos.
The current Tight Ends on Denver's roster are Daniel Graham, Richard Quinn, and Dan Gronkowski. None of these players are going to be able to stretch the field like Antonio Gates, Dustin Keller, or Aaron Hernandez. They are big players who are best when they are on the line blocking. They can catch a pass when you need them to, but they won't be able to beat a LB who is covering them.
I firmly believe Josh is going to try and get a receiving tight end in the near future. His own Aaron Hernandez of sorts. A guy who can block well, but is athletic enough to stretch the field and create mismatches for Kyle Orton to utilize, especially in the red zone.
The question is, what Tight End would McDaniels go after?
Well, there are a number of players he could target in free agency.
Tight Ends Owen Daniels, Marcedes Lewis, Zach Miller, Anthony Fasano, Tony Gonzales, and Jerramy Stevens are of the best "receiving" tight ends who will be free agents in 2011.
Additionally, there are a number of tight ends McDaniels might go after in the Draft.
Kyle Rudolph is the consensus No. 1 Tight End. If he declares, he will be a top 25 pick. He is a Jason Witten-esque player who is a master of stretching the field. He is a great red zone target for the Fighting Irish. His blocking technique will need some work.
DJ Williams is an undersized tight end(6 ft 2, 250lbs) out of Arkansas. He has over 100 receptions, 1400 yards, and six TD's in his career. He is a very strong blocker, but he is a bit slow, which makes his ability to beat NFL linebackers in question. If he can afford to drop 10 lbs and maintain his blocking ability, he will be an attractive option.
A player I really think McD will take a look at is Lance Kendricks, the tight end out of Wisconsin. Kendricks is 6 ft 4, 240 lbs. He has 55 receptions, 800+ yards, and six TD's in his career. He is also a good blocker.
Rob Housler is a tight end out of Florida Atlantic. He is 6 ft 5, 220 lbs. He runs a 4.55 40 yard dash. He recently stepped up when his team played their toughest game of the season against Michigan State. Housler caught seven passes for 75 yards, including several acrobatic catches. He is a long, quick player with above average strength. He is a mismatch waiting to happen.
One of the most difficult things about playing teams like the Chargers, Jets, and Patriots is that their Tight Ends are capable of big plays. It's much easier to play against teams like Tennessee, who don't have receiving tight ends.
So will Josh get a tight end and add Denver to the list of teams who have a big play tight end? Time will tell. I believe he will before the 2011 season begins. It just seems too odd that one of the best offensive minded coaches would rather use tight ends as blockers instead of utilizing their unique ability to create mismatches.