How long has it been since the Broncos had a truly great defense? Too long.
In the upcoming draft—just 11 days away—the Broncos should consider finding their next Trevor Pryce and Al Wilson. Those guys could play.
Trevor Pryce, who was selected by the Broncos in the first round of the 1997 draft, helped make the Broncos a formidable defensive unit. Middle linebacker Al Wilson was taken by the Broncos two years later, also in the first round. Wilson was on his way to a remarkable career with the Broncos, but back and neck injuries led to him retiring after eight years.
Wilson made it to the Pro Bowl five times, and was considered one of the fastest and most dominant linebackers in the league. Both of these draft picks proved their worth for the Broncos. Both helped transform the defense in a very significant way.
Can the Broncos find another pair that resembles Pryce and Wilson?
In this draft, Nick Fairley may be the closest resemblance when it comes to style and attributes. Fairley uses his quickness and burst to get into the backfield, disrupt plays, terrorize the quarterback and cause turnovers.
However, Fairley has character issues, and has already begun to slide on draft boards—though he shouldn’t slide too far.
Marcell Dareus is a bigger lineman who can really take up space and help against the run. The Broncos could certainly use that. Dareus can also find his way to the quarterback, though he will likely not be the same kind of playmaker as Fairley.
Or, the Broncos can pass on a defensive tackle in the first round, and opt for someone like Marvin Austin or Stephen Paea in the second round. Marvin Austin had an outstanding Combine, and has great size, speed and strength.
He has an unstoppable burst, and could be another great playmaker for the Broncos. But he is also being tagged as a high-risk, high-reward guy because of character concerns.
If the Broncos pass on a DT in the first round, maybe they look to add a linebacker like Von Miller in the first round.
Miller is a blue-chip prospect, meaning he is a very safe pick. Miller’s ability to get after the quarterback, stop the run and make plays has a lot of teams drooling.
He is also very versatile, so Fox can move him around a bit, but he could be lined up as a linebacker on the opposite side of Dumervil, who will be playing defensive end. This would afford the Broncos the same kind of explosiveness and relentless pursuit that they had when Al Wilson was playing.
Wilson was known as the top guy on defense. He would fly around the field, make plays and play outstanding coverage. I think Von Miller could find a similar role on this new Broncos defense.
He could be the guy.
Or, the Broncos could also focus on linebacker in the second and third rounds. They can look at guys like Greg Jones, who is an outstanding hitter and overall player, or even someone like Quan Sturdivant out of North Carolina.
A winning combination from this draft can help the Broncos defense go from last to among the best in the league. That may sound overly optimistic, but John Fox was brought in specifically to do what he does best: defense.
Between he and John Elway, I think they can find the next great Broncos defenders.