Final Analysis of the Denver Broncos 2011 Draft: Very Good but Not Great Draft?
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The Denver Broncos entered this year’s draft with a lot of media attention. The questions surrounding the team revolved around who would be the No. 2 overall pick, what trade might take place and what immediate impact players would be drafted to fill the biggest needs.
With the conclusion of the draft, we now have a better understanding of the team’s new vision. Then again, no, we definitely do not have a full understanding of what’s going on over at Dove Valley.
Here is what we do know.
The Denver Broncos did not want just a very good player (someone like Marcell Dareus, for instance), but instead they wanted a possible superstar. So they drafted Von Miller and passed on other elite prospects. That made a lot of sense to a lot of fans and observers. The Broncos may gotten the face of their franchise, at least on defense and Champ Bailey finally has another star to help him shoulder the responsibility of turning things around.
That left the Broncos with a very strong A.
In the second round, they managed a trade with the San Francisco 49ers, accumulated extra picks and still got one of the top players a lot of draft experts had pegged to the Broncos. That would be the top rated safety in the draft, UCLA’s Rahim Moore. Moore is not an elite prospect, but he is thought to be an excellent playmaker and an immediate starter.
At this point, many Broncos fans should be doing back-flips. (Just watch the coffee table please!)
The Broncos drafted Moore with the 45th pick, and still having the 46th overall pick, were again on the clock. Marvin Austin and Stephen Paea were two highly rated defensive tackles, so the assumption was that the Broncos might grab one of the two and make it a clean sweep of top defenders.
The Broncos drafted offensive lineman, Orlando Franklin instead. Franklin is a massive guy and a mauler. He was born in Jamaica, but raised in Canada and brings with him to Denver the nickname “Big O”. Welcome aboard Big O!
While this was the first curveball of sorts, it’s still a very solid pick because it addresses an area of need...even if it was a need that a lot of experts were overlooking before the draft.
So up until this point, we had learned that it’s very possible that the Broncos will be replacing tackle Ryan Harris, that Franklin may be protecting Tim Tebow’s blindside for years to come and, at minimum, the Broncos found a guy who's mean, physical and capable of playing different positions along the line. Sure, he won’t be returning punts any time soon, but he’s still very versatile.
Next, the Broncos drafted another possible starter, linebacker Nate Irving (third round), then went with another top safety in Quinton Carter (fourth round), but then traded back into the fourth round to get Julius Thomas. Irving and Carter represent great value for the Broncos and leaves the Broncos with two very promising safeties.
Julius Thomas is a project player. He’s raw, having played basketball at Portland State for four years, but football at the school for only one year. He has wonderful size and athleticism, so if the Broncos can develop him properly, he could end up being a mid-round gem.
The Broncos finished up the draft by selecting another linebacker (Mike Mohamed, sixth round), another tight end (Virgil Green, seventh round) and finished things off with a defensive end (Jeremy Beal, seventh round).
In sum, the Broncos drafted perhaps the most elite defender (Von Miller), may have found their starting tandem at safety (Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter), got a blocker who is a mauler and can help redefine the offense (Franklin), continued focusing on linebacker concerns (Irving and Mohamed),and drafted two tight ends with a lot of upside (Julius Thomas and Virgil Green). The final pick (Beal) seems to indicate that John Fox wants a backup plan just in case Robert Ayers doesn’t live up his potential, now that he is being moved back to defensive end.
We now realize that any interest in drafting a quarterback was mostly just smoke. The Broncos had plenty of opportunity to get one if they really wanted one.
Here is what we don’t know following this draft:
The Broncos clearly saw linebacker as a major need area. Safety was an obvious position to address, considering the price tag to bring back Dawkins and also considering his age. But was linebacker that much of a need? It’s likely that John Fox is not a huge fan of Joe Mays and Mario Haggan. I still see both players as reliable backups and special teams players, at minimum. Von Miller and Green should be your starters. But does this mean the end of D.J. Williams in a Broncos uniform?
Williams is a steady player and he has been more than willing to be moved back and forth, from inside to outside, from 3-4 to 4-3. Yet he consistently puts up good numbers. Maybe is this related to his off-field issues? Let’s not forget that he was stripped of his captaincy last season following his second arrest for drunken driving. This is purely speculation, but maybe the Broncos want to distance themselves from players with those issues.
The other question is what do the Broncos plan to do with Franklin. By going after a tackle instead of taking a player like Marvin Austin, the Broncos are sending a clear message...I’m just a little foggy on what that message might be. Does it mean that he will just rotate in and out of different spots, or could it mean that Tim Tebow will be the starting quarterback and the Broncos want a mauling right tackle to help him succeed in his first full season as the starter? It’s a terrific plan, if in fact that is the plan, because it could mean a much improved running game, which will in turn help out Tebow immensely.
Does the move to draft Franklin mean a return to old-fashioned Broncos football? Was that a classic John Elway move?
Lastly, yet most importantly, the Broncos did not draft a single defensive tackle in this draft. Even at the bloody end, the Broncos went DE over DT when a few names were still available. So what exactly is the plan for defensive tackle? The Broncos have Mitch Unrein as a projected starter right now, so that is not going to work. Free agency does not look promising. The Broncos did resign Kevin Vickerson and he is the one DT on the Broncos roster that I am familiar with, so maybe Fox thinks very highly of him. But that still leaves one interior lineman to go, so maybe do the Broncos think that they have a good selection among the guys who went undrafted? That would mean waiting until the NFL allows undrafted free agent signings, but here are a few names that they might consider: Cedric Thornton (SO Arkansas), Ian Williams (Notre Dame), John Graves (Virginia Tech) and Brandon Bair (Oregon). Perhaps the Broncos know something that the rest of us don’t, but this has to be the biggest remaining question post-draft.
Well, that is my final analysis. What does everyone else think of how the Broncos fared?
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