In this article. I will grade the entirety of the Broncos draft, as well as voice concerns and questions about said draft and finally, will give my personal thoughts on the potential impact that the newest Broncos will have on the roster and the starting lineups.
As I gaze upon the names of the drafted players by the Broncos, look at highlights, scouting reports and consider what I think to be our biggest areas of need, I can't help but smile. For the first time in a long time, I feel like the Broncos did not reach for a player, i.e. Jarvis Moss, and not only trusted their board, but drafted the best player available to them.
They also recognized the fact that they were working with a roster that is lacking not only in talented blue chip guys (read elite), but also in your white chip type of player (pro bowlers, but not elite). Having identified that as a problem, they traded down and compiled more picks. What I really liked was not the fact that they traded down, but when they traded down. They where very selective of when and where they traded down, not only getting more than fair compensation for their pick, but also making sure they did not stray too far from the original goal.
They made sure that they stayed within the top-rated players even after they had traded down. To me, the afore-mentioned level headed approach to the draft, the grace with which they navigated it and of course, the players they selected, not only helped to put my mind at ease about John Elway's start as an executive, but fills me with hope for the years and seasons to come. No more dealing with egomaniacal dwarfs that think that know more about everything than anyone else and no more watching a HOF coach drive his reputation as a player evaluator into the ground under the mounting pressure of ownership and a fanbase that demand immediate results, as well as his own competitive nature.
So having said that, here is the list of the 2011 Denver Broncos draft class:
First–Von Miller LB, second–Rahim Moore S, third–Orlando Franklin OL, fourth–Nate Irving LB, fifth–Quinton Carter S, sixth–Julius Thomas TE, seventh–Mike Mohamed LB, eighth–Virgil Green TE and finally, ninth–Jeremy Beal DE.
Looking at this draft class, I believe that the Broncos' brass not only accomplished their original task of finding at least four starters, but may have found six. So, taking into consideration my opening sentiments and the listed players, I must give this draft class an A.
I, of course, would have graded them as an A+, if they would have addressed the DT position in this draft, which seem to be overflowing with top-end prospects. However, I am aware of how hard it is to accurately predict how well a DT prospect will translate into the NFL. Remember, for every Ndamukong Suh, Warren Sapp, Vince Wilfork and Julius Peppers, there are hundreds of Dwayne Robertsons, Courtney Browns, Jimmy Kennedys, Adam Carrikers and Jarvis Mosses out there.
So while a blue chip DT is someone that can control a game, they very rarely directly influence the outcome of a game. There are obvious exceptions here–Warren Sapp and Suh are two of them–however, there was not a player of that caliber at DT in this years draft. The main job of a DT in a John Fox-style defense is to take up space and blockers, allowing the LB to get to the ball carrier and, by that description, we might already have a couple of DT on the squad. am still somewhat disappointed we passed up on Stephen Paea, because he was someone that I thought could bring a lot to the table, but I understand why this position might have not been addressed during the draft.
Like alluded to before, the Broncos may have found a total of six new starters in this draft alone. Now, with the exception of Von Miller, I am in no way predicting that the other five possible starters will become superstars. I am merely stating that the players I will mention as possible starters, outside of Von Miller, have more than a strong chance at impacting their positions and eventually taking them over. In other words, they represent major upgrades at their respective positions from what we already have.
Lets start with the linebackers.
I believe only DJ Williams is guaranteed a position and based this for our recent additions to said LB corps. Based on their strength and weakness, I tried to decipher how these guys will be used.
I believe that our starting LBs will be as follows: WLB Von Miller, MLB Nate Irving and finally at SLB, the always great and dependable, DJ Williams.
The reason why I put Nate Irving at MLB and not DJ Williams, was based on the two things that set this two LBs apart. Let's face it, DJ Williams and Nate Irving are very similar in size, instincts and play style, but there are two things that set them apart. One, DJ is much better in pass coverage, whether that is man or zone, and two, DJ is much better at taking on shedding blocks. Also, putting Irving at MLB will best utilise his assets and the same can be said of Williams and Miller at SLB and WLB respectively.
Since Nate Irving is serviceable at best in pass coverage, he can be replaced with the likes of Wesley Woodyard or Mario Haggan, especially since Woodyard is much better in coverage than Haggan. This would allow Miller to line up as a DE or rush the QB from a vertical base when we are in our Nickel or Dime situations, giving us one heck of a pass rush in obvious pass situation.
If you look back at some of the preseason games from the past two years, there were instances where we placed Robert Ayers at the 3 technique in obvious passing situations to great effect and this is something we might go back to. There is no question that the DT position is a question mark, but I believe that Vickerson is an ok stop gap for now.
I would also like to see us try and retain Marcus Thomas. This is a guy that has blue chip talent at the DT position and has improved with every season. I think that both Thomas and Vickerson, along with whomever we will bring in through free agency, might be able to do the job.
There is also a rumor that I heard about a certain team in our nation's capital who is QB hungry and did not take a QB in the draft. This team also happens to have a certain disgruntled DT that comes with a pretty team friendly contract at this point. The said HC/GM of this team has some serious ties with our new VP of football operations, that just so happens to have an extra QB laying around not named Tebow. While this is very much a rumor and vague speculation, it might be something worth taking note of as another way we could address the DT position.
But I digress. Whoever ends up being our best DT, one that can hold and anchor the point of attack, might be enough to do the job. Now, think about this for a second. During obvious passing situations, whether on the Nickel or the Dime, we have Elvis Dumervil as the left side DE, hopefully our best DT next to him, Robert Ayers at the 3 technique and Von Miller coming from the opposing QB's blindside?
Now that would be a set up along the DL that will allow us to, hopefully put major pressure on opposing QB's without blitzing. We would finally be able to get to the QB without having to sacrifice coverage on the back end, which in turn will lead to our CB being better and getting more turn overs. This is how I see the lack of a DT being chosen in the draft being addressed and how we might use Von Miller.
This starting lineup would represent two starters out of this year's draft class, for those of us keeping count at home.
Moving on to Orlando Franklin, I have read some articles on these very site, that have posed some very interesting thoughts on the Franklin pick. It appears that most of my fellow contributors believe that what Franklin represents is the future blind side protector of our very own Tim Tebow and, of course, the departure of Ryan Harris.
It is my believe that Ryan Harris, when healthy, represents one of the elite right OT in the league and that is something we can not be so quick to dismiss. While I could see the scenario presented by most of my fellow contributors, I believe that it is in the best interest of the Broncos to keep Harris not only on the roster but as our starting right OT and place Orlando Franklin as our starting left OG, replacing Zane Beadles.
A starting OL composed of Clady at LT, Franklin at LG, Kuper at RG and Harris at RT, gives the Broncos one of the most powerful starting lines around the league, not only in the run game, but also in the passing game.
I did not mention JD Walton in there as our starting center (C), and that is for a reason. While I think that Walton can be an elite C in this league, a notch below blue chip C like the Pouncey twins, he can be a Pro Bowler. He is more comparable to Alex Mack, the starting C for the Cleveland Browns. Walton can get there, but he was suffering a bit from a case of the "rookies" last year. For those of us that do not know what the "rookies" is, it's a a decease that affects a lot of professional athletes during their rookie years in their respective sports.
The main symptoms include but are not limited to, a general sense looking lost, being overwhelmed at times, screwing up things that you have since practically birth and, of course, looking like a fool with your pants on the ground (pun very much intended).
I think that Walton will be better served from some added competition and seasoning in the league that will increase his level of polish and make him more effective. If not, then we still have Eric Olsen whom I still maintain is much better suited to play C rather than G in the NFL.
Getting back to the point, keeping Harris (while making sure he is healthy of course), and placing Franklin at LG, not only gives us an O line to be feared and immediately improves our running game, but gives us much needed depth and versatility along the OL. With the above mentioned starting line, the backups will be Zane Beadles, Eric Olsen and Jeff Byers, provided they all are still on the team when the season arrives.
With Beadles being able to play both G and T, he is more than serviceable at both positions. Olsen being able to handle both G and C and again, he would be more than serviceable in a pinch, while Byers can play all over the OL, this would give us the best and most compelling configuration at the OL. However it turns out, make no mistake, Orlando Franklin will be a starter for us in 2011.
The starter count is up to three
Now unto the defensive backfield.
First and foremost, as much as coach Fox love veterans, it is clear to me that as soon as Rahim Moore was drafted, he became our starting FS, Brian Dawkins moves over to SS and Renaldo Hill is out the door. That is how good I believe Moore can be, every time I see him play he remains me of Nick Collins, FS for the Green Bay Packers, I think he can have that type of impact.
Eventually, the future HOF Dawkins will be replaced at S by one of our young guns. While most people seem to believe that it will be the human jack hammer we just drafted out of OU, I think that there will be some competition there. Quinton Carter is a very promising young player. Watching him play at the University of Oklahoma, he showed John Lynch-type thump, better range than most S of his skill set, size and excellent instincts.
However, we should not forget about Darcell McBath. Yes, he has been hurt more than he has been on the field, but he has a very similar skill set to Rahim Moore, only McBath is a better tackler. In today's NFL, a teams' safeties have to be interchangeable. Gone are the days when a team could afford to have one ball-hawking safety playing center field and one safety that is much more LB than safety.
In today's game, both S have to be interchangeable, both have to be good tacklers and both have to be able to cover in the pass game. In a league that passes a lot more than it runs the ball, I believe that it serves the Broncos' best interest to have have two safeties that each can take away half of the field, forcing QBs to be that much more accurate. Don't get me wrong, I love the Quinton Carter pick. I think that he has a lot better range than people give him credit for and I will be happy either way they choose to go. I just think that this is one competition for the starter's role that we should keep our eye on.
Regardless of which way they go, either McBath or Carter will eventually replace Brian Dawkins as our starting strong safety. It is unfortunate, but our dear Dawkins has lot a couple of steps and he no longer possesses the necessary range to play S in the NFL today. Unless he has some type of career rejuvenation miracle, he will eventually have to sit down this season and I'd much rather have it happen sooner rather than later. In fact, we might be looking at another John Lynch situation.
The starter count is now definitely four and will turn into five sometime during the season.
Now the last four picks, Julius Thomas TE, Mike Mohamed LB, Virgil Green TE and Jeremy Beal DE.
Mohamed and Beal are not guaranteed to even make the team and the only real shot they have at making the team might be as special teams super tars. When it comes to Julius Thomas and Virgil Green, we have a much different story.
They are both TEs, and while Green has better speed and is apparently a bit stronger, Thomas is a bit bigger, has better body control, better hands and much better leaping ability that comes from his basketball background. Both players are projects and out of these two is the possible sixth starter. I like the picks and I truly believe that this might have been Elway's doing, I think that Elway was trying to find our young Tebow a Shannon Sharpe-type of player as a security blanket and we all know that a good pass-catching TE is a QBs best friend.
One of these two young men will hopefully develop into one of the greatest TE in the league, realistically, however, it is more likely, based on their physical tools, that they develop into top tier TE, not elite, not Gates or Sharpe. Think more along the lines of Brent Celek, Tony Moeaki and Jimmy Graham.
Regardless of what happens with the CBA, it is time to smile again in the Mile High City.Today marked our march back into contention, at least, that is what this Bronco fan feels.