The 2010 draft wasn't as bad as most analysts and draft pundits want you to believe, and many of the holes filled last year will allow the Broncos to draft heavily on defense this year instead of reaching for other needs.
This is particularly important given the latest NFL vs. NFLPA legal wrangling that will leave (temporarily, I hope) the previous rookie pay structure in place, making the cost of signing top-10 players prohibitive. Nobody will want to trade up with the Broncos and pay the $40 million-plus it will take to sign any player selected that high—they are stuck at two!
Last year the draft saw a lot of trades go back and forth, but in the end only one drafted player, Jammie Kirlew (seventh round), didn't make the team and all six players in the first five rounds either started or contributed on special teams.
A quick review of the players picked and how they contributed:
-Demaryius Thomas WR (first round) – showed promise when healthy
-Tim Tebow QB (first round) – started the last 3 games
-Zane Beadles OL (second round) – started all 16 games
-JD Walton C (third round) – started all 16 games
-Eric Decker WR (third round) – special teams contributor
-Perrish Cox CB (fifth round) – started at right CB when Andre Goodman was injured
-Eric Olsen C (sixth round) – reserve OL
-Syd’Quan Thompsen CB (seventh round) – nickel and dime back and special teams contributor
-Jammie Kirlew DE/LB (seventh round) – didn't make the team
The Broncos started with a first-round selection at No. 11, and after several trades ended up with two first-round picks. Josh McDaniels got a lot of heat for trading three picks to Baltimore for the draft slot to draft Tim Tebow, but a review of what Baltimore did with the picks it acquired in return shows the Broncos ended up with the best of the deal:
-43rd overall: Baltimore selected Sergio Kindle - career likely over after falling down stairs
-70th overall: Baltimore selected Ed Dickson - 11 receptions, 152 yards, 1 TD
-114th overall: Baltimore selected Dennis Pitta - 1 reception, 1 yard, 0 TD
Think Ozzie Newsome would like this trade back?
Kindle’s accident is part fate but also partly attributable to the the high-risk Kindle was known as prior to the draft. Kindle was arrested with a DUI in late 2010 for being twice the legal limit (wonder how many drinks he had when he fell down the stairs?). He might make a comeback, but his return is highly doubtful. The other two players are roster-filler type TEs and do not project as impact players. It is safe to say that Tim Tebow, for these three players, was well worth the gamble.
For the late first-round trades that Denver made, it can be argued that the trade from No. 24 to No. 22 with New England for Demaryius Thomas was more costly than the one for Tebow. Even though Thomas shows promise, Bill Belichick picked up a Pro Bowl cornerback and a good receiving TE after trading down with Denver and then trading down again with Dallas:
-27th overall: New England selected Devin McCourty
-113th overall: New England selected Aaron Hernandez
The trade was a little more complicated than this, but in the end the Pats ended up with two good players and the Broncos got one WR who now will miss half of the 2011 season (at least) with another injury after already having a history of injuries. Advantage Pats.
At the worst, the 2010 draft gives the Broncos a solid nucleus on the OL (Beadles, Walton), a QB with an upside (Tebow), two possible starters at WR (Thomas, Decker) third receiver prospect and some depth on the OL and defense (Cox, Olsen, Thompsen). Cox may also turn out to be a future starter, if he can beat the rap in court.
For this year's draft, the Broncos would have to trade down two or three slots and still pick up an impact player, while adding a few extra draft picks in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Unfortunately, there aren't any players this year that rate high enough at QB to make teams give up the value to move up, and the latest injunction issued yesterday in the courts mandate a return to business as usual (a stay of the injunction and appeal are pending).
This leaves open a real possibility that the rookie wage scale will remain ludicrously high and make trading the No. 2 pick nearly impossible.
The only chance of trading down is if there is a reasonable chance that there will be some kind of rookie pay scale reform.
If there is a belief that the issue of rookie pay will be addressed prior to the signing period, the Broncos are almost certain to try and trade down. If there is no change, they will be stuck and will take either Marcell Dareus or Patrick Peterson. They can’t go wrong either way, and as the draft is deeper at DT than at CB, Peterson is probably the better pick given Goodman is on his last legs and Cox may be behind bars finding out that terms like "slot coverage," "nickel" and " dime back" have other meanings.
It isn’t the second pick in the draft that is the concern. If they are unable to trade down, they'll get a good player. It is their other three picks in the second and third rounds that they have to hit on. The goal this draft should be to pick up at least two solid players on the defensive line and at least one good linebacker while avoiding the panic that McDaniels was known for when he overpaid to move up and grab players that didn't pan out; i.e., Alphonso Smith, Richard Quinn, etc.
The 2010 draft gave the Broncos a good nucleus of talent on offense, allowing the team to focus on defense this year. The upcoming draft will help, but will not solve, the lack of depth and talent on the team. The NFL draft is exciting, but like most things new and unknown, they seldom live up to the hype. The Broncos will be happy to come up with three starters on defense, while adding some depth to their special teams and backup positions. With four picks in the first 67 spots, the Broncos' brass will be active trading down in Round 2 as teams panic to grab one of the available QBs (eight are projected in the first two rounds by some analysts) and will try to stockpile more picks for later rounds.
We wish them luck!