Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox
With the NFL Scouting Combine over and the NFL draft approaching fast, the Denver Broncos possible draft selections are becoming clearer.
The top need for the Broncos is obviously to start rebuilding a defense that ranked 32nd in points allowed (Worst in NFL), 32nd in rushing defense (Worst in NFL), 29th in point differential, and 27th in turnover differential. Collectively the 2010 Denver Broncos defense was possibly one of the worst defensive units I can remember ever seeing.
Though John Fox wasn't an immensely successful Head Coach in Carolina, Fox's experience is the reason the Broncos felt he was the best man for the job of rebuilding Denver's defense.
Defense has been Fox's bread and butter for 31 years (He started coaching in the NFL as a DB coach for the Steelers in 1989). Even though the Panthers went 2-14 last season, the shortcomings fell more on the offense and an inability find a quarterback who could keep the team in games than on Fox's defense.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the players who I believe Denver will target to improve their league worst defense in the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft.
*** NOTE- I predicted no trades. Not that I don't think the Denver Broncos will trade around because it's a virtual certainty they will, I just prefer to look at the picks we have now and make my decisions from fact not fiction or unrealistic hope ***
Though some feel the Denver Broncos biggest need is Defensive Line, Patrick Peterson is the type of once every few year's talent that's almost impossible for the Broncos to pass on.
Built like a safety, faster than most of this year's WR prospects, great hands, excellent recovery speed, solid tackler, great closing speed....Peterson has all the tools to be elite. He has the talent needed to become the next Darrelle Revis in the NFL and having Champ Bailey as a mentor will only help him transition to the NFL faster.
The only knock on Peterson is his backpedal which can easily be fixed with coaching. The Denver Broncos hope to not be selecting in the Top 5 picks again anytime soon and need to ensure they find an impact player who can produce for the team right away, Peterson is definitely that type of player.
Possibly the thinnest position on the Denver Broncos roster is at Linebacker. With Robert Ayers and Elvis Dumervil both switching from LB to DE in Fox's new 4-3 defense, the Broncos need to find an impact Linebacker to pair with D.J. Williams (Who will likely move back to OLB).
Martez Wilson absolutely broke out at the combine. At 6'5'' 250 pounds Wilson churned out an amazing 4.49 40 yard dash, 23 reps of 225 pounds, and a 10'4'' broad jump. Wilson displayed shocking athleticism for a man his size and solidified his status as the top ILB prospect in the draft.
The Denver Broncos have lacked a true impact MLB since Al Wilson left the team several years ago and Broncos fans would love to see another Wilson flying around making big plays for the next few years.
No matter what the Broncos have to improve their depth at LB and Martez Wilson would be a great start.
With Robert Ayers and Elvis Dumervil listed as the starting DE's the Denver Broncos need to find a player who can come in and compete with Ayers for the starting DE spot or use as a rotational lineman. Allen Bailey fits the mold of exactly the type of player the Broncos are looking for.
Allen Bailey (6'3 288) is a big powerful DE/DT hybrid who can play inside or outside. His versatility would allow him to get on the field as a rookie and help the Broncos keep their lineman fresh. The most amazing thing about Bailey for being his size is his speed (4.77 40 yard dash) and strength (27 reps of 225) combination.
Consistency is another key facet of Baileys game having tallied 7 sacks and 11 tackles for a loss in each of the last two seasons.
Not a dominant pass rusher as a DE much better at setting the edge and stopping the run which was the Broncos biggest downfall in 2010. As a DT he is an excellent bull rusher, controls his gap, gets up-field quickly. His ability to play outside on 1st and 2nd down and inside on 3rd downs should definitely intrigue the Broncos brass on draft day.
The kind of versatile Defensive Lineman the Broncos currently don't have on the roster that would help to fill either hole at DE or at DT. I personally think Bailey is underrated and should garner more first round interest headed to the draft for his versatility to play in any defense.
Allen Bailey is by no means a dominant lineman but with proper coaching he could be. Sometimes has problems getting off blocks, needs to advance his repertoire of pass rushing moves. Overall though, he would help the Broncos with depth across the line without using several draft picks they just don't have this year.
With the possibility of starting RT Ryan Harris not returning the Denver Broncos need to look at possible replacements in the NFL draft.
Benjamin Ijalana (6'3'' 320 pounds) is a small school prospect from Villanova who dominated opposing defensive lineman all season. A mauling run blocker who has superior power and excels at driving people backwards off the snap, Ijalana (Spell that three times fast) is the type of lineman that John Fox loves.
With long arms, quick feet, and surprising athleticism for a man his size; Ijalana may wind up going even higher then this in the NFL draft if offensive lineman start going fast.
Some teams view him as more of a guard than a tackle but he can play either position. Though extremely raw, Ijalana's potential could be too much to pass up in the 3rd round for a Denver Broncos team that had 2 rookies starters last season and lacks depth across the board. His versatility to play inside or outside is also an added bonus that will only improve his draft stock.
The Denver Broncos have no true fullback currently on the roster. Marecic would certainly fix that.
While the possibility of switching Lendale White to FB (Who is still a Bronco even though he spent the season on injured reserve after being signed) has been discussed, the Broncos would likely prefer to keep him around as a short-yardage bulldozer of a running-back.
Owen Marecic is a true FB and warrior, the last of his kind in recent memory. A true two way starter for Stanford University, Marecic played as both the FB and MLB (Offense and Defense) and excelled at both positions. Best projected as a FB at the next level, Marecic's versatility only highlights his additional value on special teams.
An absolute workhorse, Marecic is built like a small tank (6'0'' 248 pounds) and excels at spotting the blitz and leveling his assignment. Great at using leverage on taller defensive lineman, true impact blocker who is willing to do whatever he can to help his team win. Marecic's intelligence and overall football intangibles are off the charts as well, just a one of a kind player in today's game.
Owen Marecic is the kind of selfless player coaches love and reminds some of Mike Alstott which is a very flattering compliment for any player.
Terrell McClain (6'1'' 297 pounds) is an underrated defensive tackle who may or may not be available this late in the draft. Some analysts project him going as high as the 4th round while others say the end of the 7th round.
One of the true standouts at the East-West Shrine game, McClain earned himself an invitation to the Senior Bowl after an injury caused Oregon State's Stephen Peae to back out. McClain however suffered a hamstring injury in the second quarter of the Senior Bowl and was unable to return.
Todd McShay made a lofty claim that McClain may go at the end of the second round but I highly doubt that happens.
McClain earned a combine invite and posted a 4.98 second 40 yard dash to go along with 29 reps of 225 pounds. Though his stats at USF weren't remarkable, McClain earned first-team All Big-East honors in his senior season while tallying 3 sacks and 4.5 tackles for a loss.
OTHER 7th Round Options Include:
DT Colby Whitlock, TTU
ILB Scott Lutrus, UConn
FB/TE Charles Clay, Tulsa
DE Markus White, FSU
DE Charles Johnson Free Agent Defensive End
I do personally believe that John Fox will try to get both OLB James Anderson and DE Charles Johnson to come to Denver in free agency. Fox is familiar with both players and knows how to best utilize their abilities. Both Anderson and Johnson are familiar with Fox's defense and could help ease the transition from the 3-4 to the 4-3 by helping the other players get acclimated to Fox's system and terminology.
Other free agent defensive lineman who may intrigue the Denver Broncos are recently released DE/OLB Andre Carter (Redskins), Jacob Ford (Tennessee), and Ray Edwards (Minnesota).
Mikel Leshoure is my sleeper in the 2nd round. If John Fox doesn't like what he sees from Knowshon Moreno (Once he can watch him practice) then he may pull the trigger on LeShoure as insurance. Leshoure set Illinois records for most yards rushing in a season (1,697) and also tied the school record for Td's (17).
Another stat that's overlooked is that LeShoure had ZERO, that's right ZERO, fumbles in three years at Illinois. Knowing your back can hold onto the ball when it matters is important, just ask another Illinois running back by the name of Rashard Mendenhall.
Hope you all enjoyed, look forward to hearing your comments and thank you for taking the time to read my article.