On April 28th, less than three weeks from now, in a conference room at Dove Valley, the space will go from quiet and empty to loud and frenzied. It will become a “war room”.
But what vision will John Fox, John Elway, and Brian Xanders reveal on day one, two, and three of the draft?
Will the Broncos have the kind of luck/success that the Green Bay Packers did when they selected both Clay Matthews Jr. and B.J. Raji in the first round of the 2009 draft?
Will they find a starter, perhaps the next great hard-hitting safety, with one of their late round picks?
We can only speculate at this point, but we can certainly also try and clarify exactly what this team needs if it is to successfully rebuild itself in the mold of the great Broncos teams of old. Here are the biggest questions and concerns leading up to April 28th.
1) What is all this fuss about Tim Tebow and John Elway’s view of him?
Enough has been written and said for most Broncos fans to have serious concerns, if not about Tebow, than about what John Elway thinks of Tebow.
Do the Broncos need to find a franchise quarterback in this draft, since according to Elway, there is just too much talent and potential with this crop of quarterbacks?
I have already written that based off what Tebow has already done in the NFL, never mind his college resume, and also because of the overwhelming needs on the defensive side of the ball, drafting a quarterback with the first few picks would be a huge mistake.
Still, this issue will not go away, not until the draft comes and goes.
I understand that the top-tier NFL teams all have great quarterbacks. Manning, Brady, Rodgers, and so on. Having a top-tier quarterback is an absolute need for any team that wants to be consistently good.
But don’t the Broncos have more pressing needs, and more importantly, what has Tebow done to make the Broncos think that he is not deserving of an opportunity to prove himself?
My guess is that the majority of teams around the league would love to have Tebow as a quarterback, not as a tight end or H-back, and especially those teams that have the luxury of grooming Tebow for a year or two.
True, the Broncos don’t have that luxury.
They need a guy for the 2011 season, but this is their reality: The Broncos drafted and invested time, money, and effort in a guy who by all accounts is an outstanding leader, a passionate teammate, and a truly good football player who wants more than anything to prove people wrong about his ability to play pro football as a quarterback.
So, really, what’s the problem here?
2) The real concern is finding starters for that defense, and then looking at offense later, right?
We all know how far the Denver defense has fallen in recent years. Nobody seems capable of transforming it into a reliable and formidable unit.
So, John Fox was hired to help address that, and there is now a lot of optimism that he, and his new defensive coordinator, will be successful.
Yet with the lockout mess seemingly ruining their start, Fox now has to rely solely on the draft, at least until free-agent signings are again an option.
This is how things stand now.
On defense, the Broncos signed Champ Bailey and Kevin Vickerson, but released Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams.
That leaves us with this breakdown of team needs:
Primary needs: defensive tackle, defensive end, inside linebacker, strong safety, free safety.
Secondary needs: tight end, running back, cornerback, offensive guard, outside linebacker.
The suggestion here is to first concentrate on finding guys to fill primary needs, and then to look at secondary needs with undrafted free agents and veterans, once a new labor agreement is worked out.
Also, it’s important to note that the Broncos really could use at least two new defensive tackles out of this draft, since they are more than lacking at that position, as things stand now.
Tight end was left out of primary needs because I truly believe that defense should be the priority. The Broncos may be able to find a capable blocking and pass-catching TE after the draft.
The point is that the Broncos need to look at defense first. The year before last we all thought the Broncos would go defense, and instead we got Knowshon Moreno, and last year instead of two early defensive picks there were Demarius Thomas and Tim Tebow.
Let this be the year that the Broncos stick to the plan.
3) What will happen to Elvis Dumervil, Robert Ayers, and Wesley Woodyard in the Broncos new-look defense?
Reports have surfaced recently that Dumervil and Ayers will be the Broncos two new DE players under John Fox’s new 4-3 defense.
Fox has said previously that he wants speed, versatility and guys that can create turnovers. Dumervil is automatic. And while Ayers is on the bubble, defensive end may be his natural position, the position that made Josh McDaniels think that he could be a disruptive, edge pass-rusher.
Dumervil may be a little small for the position, and he also may be a liability on running plays, so Fox may have to use him sparingly.
Couple that with the uncertainty around Ayers, and the Broncos still need to focus on defensive end in the draft and/or free agency, when the latter happens.
As for Woodyard, he may be an ideal candidate to switch to safety. He has the size, speed and ability to do so, and he’s a fan favorite around here, so a lot of people will be pulling for him to make that transition.
Should Woodyard make the conversion, It would help address at least one need position on the team.
These are just a few of the pressing issues for the Denver Broncos before the draft. I hope to update this primer as we get closer to April 28th.
Please leave me your feedback, and let me know what you think I missed or got wrong.