NFL Draft 2011: What Draft Philosophy Should the Denver Broncos Have?

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NFL Draft 2011: What Draft Philosophy Should the Denver Broncos Have?
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If Josh McDaniels were still in town, running the show, we could expect controversial picks, a lot of movement up and down the draft and more than a few disappointed fans (although his top draft picks all deserve more time on the field before we come to any final conclusions).

His draft philosophy never included winning the approval of Mel Kiper Jr., that’s for sure. 

Yes, we know the old draft philosophy, but what about the new one? 

Thankfully, we won’t have to wait very long to find out because what the Broncos do with the No. 2 choice tomorrow night will go a long way in explaining the philosophy of John Elway, John Fox and Brian Xanders. That’s no law firm; it’s a new supergroup, plotting the rebirth of a once glorious football franchise, and it has a lot of fans on pins and needles waiting to see what the first move will be.

Well, what if the first move is to draft Von Miller? 

Easy! That would mean that the Broncos plan to have a very straightforward approach to the rest of the draft. Team EFX (yes, I know, terrible acronym) would basically be saying, “We understand that this team has pressing needs, some more than others, but finding players to fill vacant positions is not sufficient any more. The Broncos need guys who inspire their teammates and the fans—guys who make the Pro Bowl, excite the crowd and bring back pride to the Mile High City.”

Miller looks like a special player. He can easily become the face of this defense. 

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Broncos general manager Brian Xanders was on The Mile High Club, AM 1510 with Eric Goodman and Mark Kiszla this morning and was asked which two or three players from this draft are most likely to be perennial Pro Bowlers in five years from now. The first two names out of his mouth were Patrick Peterson and Von Miller. He gave those names with confidence. Later he mentioned Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley, but only as guys who could potentially fit that category.

Picking Von Miller would not be that much of a “luxury” pick, nor would it be controversial. Miller can help the Broncos defense immensely, and many draft experts have him ranked at or near the top of any list that focuses on overall talent. He certainly is viewed as a better pick than the top two quarterbacks, Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert.

The Broncos could then continue finding the best talent available, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and especially in the second round where a whole host of highly rated players should be available. Rahim Moore is considered the best overall safety, so why not take him in the second round? That would certainly be a nice pairing with Miller. 

What if the Broncos select Marcell Dareus? 

Another easy one. That should mean that the Broncos are taking a more conservative approach to the draft. They don’t want flash; they just want guys who will consistently give effort, make plays and make the team better.

Adding Dareus would undoubtedly add a run-stopping presence to the interior line, which would have a profound impact on the team. The Broncos struggled against good rushing teams last season, and their divisional opponents all boast great running games. The Broncos will have to address this position in the draft, so why not start early, and why not start with the safest possible pick?

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Broncos could then continue to focus on need areas: safety, another defensive tackle, linebacker, running back, tight end and help on the offensive line—probably in that order.

Sure, the Broncos may not wow anyone with their choices. Mel Kiper Jr. would be happy though.

What if the Broncos draft Nick Fairley?

This should indicate that the Broncos are willing to take chances. Fairley has the most upside of any defensive tackle and could end up being a dominant player. He has long arms, a tremendous burst and the frame to really bulk up

Fairley also carries the risk of being another problem child for the NFL, but while his stock tumbled initially, there seem to be a lot of rumblings now that his character issues were overblown. Thus, it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if the Broncos did draft Fairley, especially if they are able to trade down to get him. But the pick would still be controversial for a Broncos team still reeling from the Josh McDaniels School of Team Wrecking.

Might we expect more controversial picks down the line? A running back taken too early, too much focus on offense instead of defense or even another player or two with huge upside but lots of downside? That may be a stretch, but taking Fairley still signals that the Broncos are not going the conservative route. They would essentially be telling us that the team has been set back too far and has to take some chances to help make up more ground.

What if the Broncos draft Patrick Peterson?

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Patrick Peterson is either the best or, at minimum, the second-best athlete in this draft. The Broncos have also shown considerable interest in Peterson.

But taking Peterson would be the biggest luxury pick of them all

If Von Miller, Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley were not in this draft, then it would make a lot of sense to just go with the best overall athlete. And sure, Champ Bailey and Patrick Peterson would be a dream defensive backfield...

...but only if the Broncos also had the personnel to apply pressure on the quarterback.

That should really be the top priority for Denver. Whether it be a guy who can make plays up the middle and make the rest of the defense better—which in turn leads to pressure on the quarterback—or if it’s by way of a pure pass rusher like Von Miller, the Broncos, simply put, need to establish a pass rush.

It’s not enough to assume that all will be well once Elvis Dumervil gets back on the field. Dumervil is a wonderful athlete who had his best season as linebacker, but he is undersized at defensive end and almost a liability on plays where he is not let loose on the quarterback. The other end, Robert Ayers, will be moving back to his natural position but is still unproven at the NFL level.

It will look great on paper having Peterson and Bailey on the same team, but great cornerbacks can cover great wide receivers for only so long. The Broncos will have to hope that they can find a defensive tackle and linebacker in the second round, which can easily be accomplished. Finding two starters who can have an immediate and significant impact is less of a given.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Essentially, taking Peterson means that the Broncos will be doing a little bit of what Josh McDaniels did when he was running the show: spending high draft picks on potentially great players who can have potentially little impact until other pressing needs are met.

What if the Broncos draft Cam Newton?

Easy.

Then I quit and will have to find something better to watch on TV. Maybe old episodes of Lost or bowling tournaments on ESPN.

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