With the playoffs safely out of reach for the Denver Broncos, it is time to look ahead to the 2011 draft.
The Denver Broncos have many glaring needs, specifically on the defensive side of the ball.
The Broncos' aging secondary, combined with its inexperienced defensive line, is cause for concern and will most likely be the first issue addressed.
Lets take a look at the possible options Denver will have at improving not only their defense, but their team as a whole as well.
This explosive defensive end out of Alabama fits in with just about any defensive scheme and would give Elvis Dumervil help right away, alleviating some of the pressure on him and doubling the pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Dareus is versatile enough to play both defensive end and defensive tackle, so taking him early in the first round would give us the maximum bang for our buck. The Denver Broncos have lacked any kind of pass rush for most of the season, and combining Dareus with Doom would be an instant force to be reckoned with.
Dareus is quick enough to rush the passer and powerful enough to stop the run, something the Broncos could not do in 2010.
If Prince Amukamara out of Nebraska is available to the Broncos, he would be an excellent pick, especially if CB Champ Bailey does not re-sign. Even if he does, Prince would benefit from the mentoring that Bailey would no doubt be expected to provide.
The Broncos' secondary is not getting any younger with Bailey, Goodman and Dawkins patrolling it, and Cox might be watching the games next season from a prison cell. This pick would surely be a much needed upgrade at the CB position, regardless of whether or not Champ Bailey goes.
If Denver can't get to the quarterback in the same manner that we couldn't during the 2010 campaign, shutting down the wide receivers is our next best option.
The Broncos don't have a fifth or a sixth round pick in the 2011 draft, so they are going to have to get maximum value for their early round selections.
Very few seventh round draft picks have ever gone to warrant an article about how great of a steal they were in round seven, so I'm not even going to attempt to do so here.
The fact of the matter is, the Broncos needs to sure up its defense.
The QB position right now is borderline overpopulated with Orton, Tebow and Quinn.
Our WR position is set for years to come with Lloyd, Thomas, Decker, and Royal.
Moreno (when healthy) shows you what a number one back looks like.
Our O-line is young and will only get better.
If the Broncos take this draft to give the D some new life in the form of these young and talented rookies, allowing them to develop and mature under the veterans already on the defense, will ensure a tough D for years to come.
Denver has a few solid options for the second round as they will have two picks: One from the Brandon Marshall trade and their original pick.
Jared Crick is another possible DE/DT candidate from Nebraska to come in and give this Denver defensive line the much needed muscle it has been craving. Much like Dareus, Crick is fast enough to provide an adequate pass rush, but still good at stuffing the run.
This pick is more likely to happen if the Broncos have Amukamara fall into their lap, but the odds of that happening are relatively small. As slim as they are on the defensive line, it would not be out of the question for Denver to draft Crick to go along with Dareus, just in case one of them doesn't live up to their potential, or fall victim to an injury.
One thing worth noting is the fact that Crick and Amukamara have played together at Nebraska, creating immediate team chemistry.
Having Dumervil, Dareus, and Crick on the line would surely take the worst rushing defense in the league and easily make them respectable in time, along with creating a dangerous pass rush right away.
Rahim Moore is a FS out of UCLA that is incredibly speedy, although not very big. He is small for a free safety, though his interception numbers are worth looking at.
Playing in the PAC-10 as given Moore the chance to showcase his talent against a number of different offenses, proving that he has the tools to be successful in an NFL system.
If The Broncos grab Dareus in the first round, and don't end up grabbing Crick with their first pick in the second, look for them to snag Moore to serve as Dawkins understudy. Dawkins is getting older by the minute and has lost a step since the Broncos inked him to that multi-year deal.
Moore will not be able to step up and fill the leadership void that Dawkins' absence will eventually create, but he has all the tools to replace his physical presence in the backfield. Although Dawkins is much needed in his run stopping ability, Moore gives the Broncos secondary an advantage in pass defense, something that Dawkins has been slowly regressing.
Bruce Carter is an OLB out of North Carolina that possesses ridiculous awareness and explosiveness, as evidenced by his six blocked kicks last year. Carter is fast enough to not only get to the quarterback on blitzes, but agile enough to drop back into coverage and possibly cover a running back or slot receiver.
The speed he possess would sure up the outside, giving DJ WIlliams some help at that next level. Carter would prove to be an excellent pick if the Broncos use their first 2nd-rounder on Moore, giving them a fresh face at every level of the defense.
Having Prince (first) on the outside with Champ, Moore (second) studying the position under Dawkins, and Carter wrecking havoc on the outside as DJ Williams controls the middle, would set our defense in the right direction for years to come.
Jimmy Smith is a CB out of Colorado that is not your typical corner when it comes to size. Smitty is a remarkable 6'2" and can also run a 4.4 40-yard dash.
If Denver can't land Prince in the opening round and takes Dareus, look for them to draft Moore and Smith to sure up their secondary for the aging Dawkins and declining Goodman for the next few years.
Smith's size gives the Denver secondary the ability to shut down the bigger defenders as well as to step up and stop the run in the same manner that Champ Bailey does. Smith is a bright young defender that understands what the offense is trying to do, and playing alongside Champ Bailey will only make him better.
This scenario would again give Denver a top tier rookie defender at every level of the defense, as well as a veteran at that position that would allow them to become acclimated to the NFL
Steven Friday is a DE/OLB out of Virginia Tech and would play a similar as Elvis Dumervil. His ability to rush the passer is his biggest draw, and as of right now would be an upgrade over the under-performing Robert Ayers.
Friday is 6'4" and 250lbs, with the speed to be able to get around defenders. Working next to Dumervil should prove to be incredibly beneficial, as Friday has the physical tools to be successful in the NFL.
If Amukamara were to fall into the Denver Broncos lap in round one, Denver might look to Crick early in round two, Carter late in round two, and Friday in round three.
This scenario would give the Denver defense maximum speed and pass rush while still maintaining excellent coverage.
Mason Foster is an OLB that has flown below the radar for most of his college career at Washington. His size and speed make him a great outside run option, as well as adding to the Denver depleted pass rush.
Foster has forced a multitude of fumbles this year, and his powerful hits would be welcomed by the Denver rushing defense that cannot stop the run or seem to force any turnovers.
If the Broncos are unable to snag Carter in the second round, look for them to grab Foster to help out DJ Williams at that second level.
Mikel Leshoure is a RB out of Illinois that would come in and compete for the job behind former first round pick Knowshon Moreno. Many critics have been on Moreno since he was drafted about not living up to his draft position, mainly because he has been unable to stay healthy.
Leshoure would at the very least serve as a replacement to the aging Correll Buckhalter if he was unable to win the starting job in training camp. If anything perhaps a little healthy competition would motivate Moreno to show up to camp in better shape.
Leshoure is a runner with good instincts and patience, allowing his blocks to become established before he makes his cut. He has great overall vision, and he isn't a terrible pass blocker.
The motivation he might give Moreno may be more than what he actually does on the field in terms of his value.