2011 NFL Draft: Grading the Denver Broncos' Draft Needs Post Hoodie-Era
There has been speculation that the Denver Broncos are considering trade offers for the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. Trading down and adding extra picks sounds like a winning plan. The Broncos want to get back to winning football games this season, but they have multiple needs on both sides of the ball (with major emphasis on the defensive side).
Trading down too far risks losing out on one of the so-called “blue-chip” guys. Players like Marcell Dareus, Patrick Peterson and Von Miller—who draft experts say are three of the most polished and relaible choices—suggest that the Broncos should stay within the top-five to seven range.
Gambling on players such as Marvin Austin or Stephen Paea in the second round can pay off if either turns out to be a real impact player and if the Broncos take Patrick Peterson in the first round.
Here is how I see the Broncos' draft needs stacking up:
1 – Interior lineman on defense
Is there a guy out there who can finally solve Denver’s problems in the trenches?
The Broncos just can’t seem to find that guy to control the line of scrimmage, stop the run or get some pressure on the quarterback.
By all accounts, Marcell Dareus would be a wonderful fit here. He has the size and ability to be a dominant force. Might he be the next Rubin Carter? Would he help restore the famous Orange Crush defense? Maybe.
The Broncos can try their luck in the second and third rounds—and this draft is deep with talented DT players—but choosing the right guy will take both good scouting and tremendous luck. These guys are big and talented, but there is no guarantee that they will work hard and live up to their talent level. History shows it’s a very risky position to draft.
The Broncos could also use more than one interior lineman.
Denver needs to solve this interior lineman problem. Jamal Williams and Justin Bannan were only the last of many failed experiments. If Denver can find the right combination of talent at this position then its defense could be exponentially better next season.
2 – Safety position
Who will replace Brian Dawkins, and possibly even Renaldo Hill?
I think we may be able to just give Brian Dawkins a pass for last season. He was awful in coverage, but he was also hampered by injuries. He didn’t look dominant, but he showed more than flashes of greatness in his first season with the Broncos. That season he showed that he still has a lot of passion, intensity and talent that can make him a dominant safety.
However, there is a big question mark next to his name at this point. Will the Broncos pay him what he’s owed or let him walk? The other safety, Renaldo Hill, may be another player that won’t be back. This leaves an obvious problem: Who will be the safeties? Josh McDaniels used draft picks on that position—David Bruton and Darcell McBath—but I’m guessing that John Fox sees them more as depth and special-teams guys, not starters.
This makes safety the second biggest draft need. The problem? This draft is not very deep with skilled safeties. Most draft experts rank UCLA safety Rahim Mooreas the top guy, with Oklahoma's Quinton Carter at a distant second. But Moore doesn’t appear to be a solid tackler and last season his production dropped significantly.
Apparantly, the Broncos chose a bad time to need a safety. Maybe they just pay Dawkins and draft a safety in a much later round. Dawkins would be owed his $6 million base salary, according to Rotoworld.com.
3 – Linebacker
We know what we got in D.J. Williams, but is Joe Mays really a starter?
D.J. Williams seems like a good fit as a weakside linebacker in John Fox’s 4-3 defense. And Joe Mays and Mario Haggan certainly gave Broncos fans hope when they started to make plays.
Mays seemed to always be around the ball last season. Although he only started five games, he did manage 40 tackles for the season (but no sacks, fumble recoveries or interceptions).
As much as I love an underdog story (Mays certainly is one at 5'11" and 246 pounds) the Broncos should consider these names: Martez Wilson (ILB), Illinois; Quan Sturdivant (ILB), North Carolina; Greg Jones (ILB), Michigan State; Akeem Ayers (OLB), UCLA.
If they do not go with Von Miller in the first round, the Broncos should look at one of those top linebackers. Miller is a hot name that hasn’t lost any steam so far, and the Broncos will need to stay in the top five to have a realistic shot at getting him. He is considered a blue-chip guy. But isn’t there always some risk?
The bigger risk is not adding one or two big names to this defense. If we can’t do it with free agency first and the draft second, then it makes sense to seriously consider Von Miller in the first round.
4 – Tight end
Tim Tebow has a 95 percent chance of being next year’s starter. What does every young quarterback need?
A tight end who the quarterback can dump the ball off to. Right now, the Broncos have Daniel Coats, Richard Quinn and Dan Gronkowski on their roster. Coats is the journey-man type. Quinn is a Josh McDaniels’ guy who was initially thought to have the potential to develop into a terrific weapon, but he has been plagued by injuries and other issues. Gronkowski may be the best bet for the No. 2 tight end on this roster, but that still leaves the Broncos needing a true number one.
The experts seem to think that the Broncos will draft Kyle Rudolph (Notre Dame) with one of their second-round picks. Rudolph is the most complete tight end in this draft, but he had a terrible hamstring injury last season, where the muscle completely tore from the bone.
Does this sound like Demarius Thomas Part II to anyone else? Some other names to consider are Charles Clay from Tulsa, Lance Kendricks from Wisconsin, and Luke Stocker from Tennessee. Stocker could be had in the third round and is considered the second best tight end in the draft. Kendricks could be a steal even later in the draft.
Yet another name to watch is D.J. Williams from Arkansas. Williams put up the big numbers and is considered a tenacious blocker, but he is being written off by many because he is viewed as too small to be as productive in the NFL. Maybe he is too small. Maybe he converts to an H-Back—the tight end and fullback hybrid position—but would that be so bad? Couldn’t the Broncos use a Chris-Cooley type on their offense? Williams; is a good athlete and has a great attitude, so he may be an absolute steal if the Broncos choose to spend a pick on him.
5 – Running back
Knowshon Moreno is on the bubble and Corell Buckhalter has lost more than a step. Does John Fox have any interest in bringing back Laurence Maroney and Lendale White?
This is the year that Knowshon Moreno proves that he can be a featured back in this league. Flashes of brilliance—if anything he did last season can really be described as such—will no longer cut it.
So far this offseason, all the talk has been about what kind of future Tebow can have in this league and whether or not the Broncos should draft a quarterback. That’s kind of surprising if you consider that Tebow performed well in the game he started—if you consider that he was a rookie playing behind a rookie center within a very bland offense.
The and concerns might better be aimed at Knowshon Moreno. Never mind drafting a quarterback. Maybe the Broncos should draft Mikel LeShoure from Illinois in the second round.
Lendale White may be the best of the rest on that roster. I may be in the minority on this, but I liked what I saw from White in his limited time with the Broncos last year. There will be tons of value at this position in much later rounds, and the Broncos may be able to sign someone who goes undrafted—once free agent signings are again allowed. DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), Daniel Thomas (Kansas State), Jordan Todman (Connecticut) and Jacquizz Rodgers (Oregon State) are all good candidates.
If the Broncos are looking for speed and explosiveness on offense, then look no further Jacquizz Rodgers.
Those are just the top needs. Please leave me feedback and let me know what you think the Broncos should do.
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