The Josh McDaniels era in Denver is mercifully over, as he did nothing but get rid of the majority of the talented players on the roster.
I think the team is now headed in the right direction, and I expect an improvement in the win column next season. The Broncos must continue to develop Tim Tebow, as he looks like he can become the new face of the franchise.
Tim Tebow looked pretty solid in the games that he got to play in, but he still has a lot of work to do before he becomes a good starting quarterback. The new coaching staff needs to continue to develop him, unless the team decides to go with Kyle Orton as the starter for next season. Knowshon Moreno looked much improved last year compared to his rookie season.
He should continue to get better next season, but the Broncos need to improve the depth behind him. The receiving corps is the strength of the team, as Brandon Lloyd had an incredible season last year, and Jabar Gaffney and Eddie Royal are solid number two and three options. Demaryius Thomas is the future No. 1 target at this position, and he’ll have more responsibilities next season.
The tight end position needs work, as Daniel Graham is a solid blocker but he isn’t much of a receiving threat. The offensive line is pretty young, but also very talented. Ryan Clady is a pro bowl left tackle, and Ryan Harris is adequate on the right side. Chris Kuper and Zane Beadles are both very talented young guards, and J.D. Walton played very well at center in his rookie season.
The defensive line has a ton of question marks heading into next year. Elvis Dumervil is a stud pass rusher, but he missed all of last season and will be moving back to the defensive end position. Robert Ayers may get the opportunity to start on the other side, but he’s unproven.
Ronald Fields, Justin Bannan, and Jamal Williams will all likely be elsewhere next year, so the Broncos need to find multiple replacements for them at the defensive tackle position. D.J. Williams will most likely start at one outside linebacker spot, but the other spot could go to a number of guys. Mario Haggan and Wesley Woodyard will most likely battle for that starting spot.
The middle linebacker spot will probably be addressed in the draft, as none of the current linebackers on the roster are good fits for the inside in a 4-3 defense.
Champ Bailey is still one of the top cornerbacks in the league, but the other spot has some questions. Andre Goodman is getting older and he may end up being released. Perrish Cox looked good last season, but he has some legal issues that may keep him off the field. Renaldo Hill and Brian Dawkins are still adequate starters at safety, but both of them have lost a step and will need to be replaced in the not so distant future.
1. (22) WR Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech: He had some injury issues, but he flashed the potential to be a number one receiver moving forward. 10 GP/ 2 GS
1. (25) QB Tim Tebow, Florida: He looked very impressive with his three game stint as the starting quarterback at the end of the season, and I think he is the franchise quarterback. 9 GP/ 3 GS
2. (45) OG Zane Beadles, Utah: He looked pretty good after becoming the starting offensive guard early in the season. 16 GP/ 14 GS
3. (80) C J.D. Walton, Baylor: Walton played very well last season, while starting all 16 games at center in his rookie season. 16 GP/ 16 GS
3. (87) WR Eric Decker, Minnesota: Decker was a solid return man last season, and he should get more of an opportunity next season as a receiver. 14 GP/ 0 GS
5. (137) CB Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State: He looks to be a very talented player, but his off the field issues could derail his career. 15 GP/ 9 GS
6. (183) C Eric Olsen, Notre Dame: He didn’t get much of a chance to play, but he will likely remain a backup player next season. 1 GP/ 0 GS
7. (225) CB Syd’Quan Thompson, California: Thompson played pretty well in a limited role, and his play will likely earn him more opportunities next season. 13 GP/ 0 GS
7. (232) OLB Jammie Kirlew, Indiana: He was cut by the Broncos before the season, and ended up on the Bills’ practice squad. 0 GP/ 0 GS
Summary: This looks to be one of the more impressive draft classes of the 2010 NFL draft.
However, the key is Tim Tebow, as he must continue to develop into a solid starting quarterback for this class to be considered a success.
Beadles and Walton will be long time starters on the line, and Thomas and Decker will both make big contributions in the passing game.
This is by far the teams’ biggest need heading into the draft, especially since they are moving back to the 4-3 defense next season.
Jamal Williams, Justin Bannan, and Ronald Fields will all be elsewhere next season, so the Broncos have basically nobody at the position on the current roster. They will need both a nose tackle, and a defensive tackle who can rush the passer.
This position will likely be their first pick, and they have two very good players to choose from at number two overall in Nick Fairley and Marcel Dareus.
Round 1: Nick Fairley, Marcel Dareus
Round 2: Jurrell Casey, Marvin Austin, Christian Ballard, Stephen Paea, Drake Nevis
Round 3: Jarvis Jenkins, Kenrick Ellis, Terrell McClain
Round 4: Lawrence Guy, Cedric Thornton, Jerrell Powe
With two picks in the first two rounds, I expect to see the Broncos take at least one defensive tackle.
Don’t be surprised to take two tackles in their first three picks, as they need two new starters for next season.
Marcel Dareus is likely to be the first pick, and he is a perfect fit for their defense.
Since they are moving to a 4-3 defense, it is very likely that D.J. Williams will move to an outside linebacker position, which will leave a big hole at the middle linebacker position.
All of the rest of the linebackers on the team are better suited to play on the outside in a 4-3 defense, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Mario Haggan starting there next season.
This position will also likely be a top need in the upcoming draft, and I think they’ll use a second or third rounder on this position.
Round Two: Martez Wilson, Kelvin Sheppard
Round Three: Greg Jones, Quan Sturdivant
Round Four: Casey Matthews, Akeem Dent
Round Five: Nick Bellore, Mario Harvey
Wilson and Sheppard will be likely targets in Round 2, especially considering that the Broncos have multiple second round picks.
Jones and Sturdivant would also be solid options in Round 3, but the Broncos have to take an inside linebacker early on in the draft.
Both Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill are on the downsides of their careers, so the Broncos must find some long term answers at the safety position.
Both of these players will most likely enter next season as the starter, but I think that the Broncos need to take a safety of the future that they can develop into a starter over the next season or so.
This will most likely not be a position that the Broncos target high in the draft, but I expect them to take at least one safety in the draft this weekend.
Round 3: DeAndre McDaniel, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Tyler Sash, Ahmad Black
Round 4: Jeron Johnson, Quinton Carter, Robert Sands, Deunta Williams
Round 5: Joe Lefeged, Da’Norris Searcy, Will Hill
Round 6: Jermale Hines, Jay Valai, Tejay Johnson
The Broncos don’t have many mid round picks, so a lot of these guys will only be available to them if they make a trade.
However, they may even consider someone like McDaniel or Black in round three who can take over for either Brian Dawkins or Renaldo Hill after next season.
The Broncos have re-signed Champ Bailey so one cornerback spot is set for next season.
The other spot isn’t so certain, as Andre Goodman could be cut and Perrish Cox could end up going to prison for his off field issues. Syd’Quan Thompson provides decent depth, but he isn’t ready to become a full time starter for next season.
The Broncos still have Bailey who is one of the best corners in the game, but they need to find another reliable starter to play alongside of him.
Round 1: Patrick Peterson
Round 2: Aaron Williams, Brandon Burton, Curtis Brown, Ras-I Dowling, Johnny Patrick
Round 3: Jalil Brown, Davon House, Rashad Carmichael, Kendric Burney, Curtis Marsh
The Broncos won’t likely take Peterson in round one due to the immense immediate need at defensive tackle, but he’ll be given a good look there.
Carmichael or Dowling would be good fits who could possibly challenge Perrish Cox and Andre Goodman for the starting position.
Ryan Clady is one of the best young left tackles in the game, but the right side has some question marks. Ryan Harris didn’t really play well last year, and there is a good chance that he leaves as a free agent this offseason.
The Broncos may not want to bring him back, as he also has some injury concerns.
Harris is an adequate right tackle, but I think that the Broncos could upgrade the position this offseason to better protect Tim Tebow.
Round 2: James Brewer, Derek Sherrod
Round 3: Lee Ziemba, James Carpenter, Orlando Franklin
Round 4: Joe Barksdale, Chris Hairston, DeMarcus Love, Jason Pinkston
Round 5: Derek Newton, Jah Reid
This may not be a need for the Broncos if they truly believe that they can re-sign Ryan Harris, but that is a question mark at this point.
Ziemba and Carpenter would be nice picks in round three, as I think that both of them could play right away if needed.
Defensive End: Elvis Dumervil will likely fill one spot, but the other is uncertain as Robert Ayers hasn’t shown the ability to be a productive starter yet in the NFL.
Tight End: Daniel Graham and Richard Quinn are solid blockers, but neither of them offers much in the passing game.
Running Back: Knowshon Moreno showed some improvements last season, but the depth behind him is almost nonexistent.
The main focus of this team heading into the draft will be defense, defense, and more defense. Switching back to the 4-3 under new coach John Fox will mean that they will have to undergo a major overhaul of the personnel that is currently on the roster.
The biggest need lies at defensive tackle, where I almost think it’s a certainty that the Broncos will take two tackles before the draft is over on Saturday.
The Broncos also have some questions about the secondary and the linebackers at this point in time, and I expect multiple players will be taken for those units.
The one possible target that the Broncos may have on the offensive side of the ball is at offensive tackle, where they could look to upgrade over current starting right tackle Ryan Harris.
Broncos fans should be ready to see a majority of defensive players taken in this draft.