2011 NFL Draft: Why the Denver Broncos Got This Draft Right

Rob GregoryCorrespondent IIMay 3, 2011

ENGLEWOOD, CO - APRIL 29:  Von Miller of the Denver Broncos speaks to the media at Dove Valley on April 29, 2011 in Englewood, Colorado. Miller, a projected outside linebacker in head coach John Fox's new 4-3 scheme, was selected second overall from Texas A&M. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos may have just gotten over the hump.

Because when it comes to finding talent, and then developing it, Denver has been down right disastrous. Yes, there have been exceptions – the most notable and recent one being Elvis Dumervil – and the Broncos have high hopes for Tim Tebow, Knowshon Moreno, Demarius Thomas and Robert Ayers, but mostly the Broncos would rather forget about some of their past drafts.

That’s why this year’s draft, the first one led by John Elway, John Fox and Brian Xanders, was so crucial. I don’t mean to put so much positive spin on this draft class, but understanding the context of this draft, and everything that the organization has been through in the past years, it’s hard not to be positive.

Here are a few reasons why I think you should share my optimism.

1 – Von Miller.

Elway, Fox and Brian Xanders understood that they needed to use the No. 2 overall pick on a special player. Good would not be good enough. The NFL is dominated by freak athletes that come up big in big games. Players like Clay Matthews Jr. can completely change the outlook of a game with a few big plays. They also inspire their teammates and the fans. The Broncos recognized the value in finding a potential superstar, not just a very talented defensive tackle that could help stop the run.

Von Miller is confident enough in his abilities to request the No. 58 jersey. He wants to play like the late, great Derrick Thomas. And if he lives up to his own lofty standards then this draft could go down as one of the best all-time drafts in Denver history.

2 – The team has a new offensive identity.

I believe that Orlando Franklin was drafted as a replacement for Ryan Harris. Harris was considered a very good, young tackle at one time, but last year was not his best year, and now he’s a free agent. Franklin was drafted because he is a very big, physical lineman with a mean-streak. And it’s hard not to think that John Elway and John Fox were thinking that this could be the answer to the “Tim Tebow in his second year problem”, since Franklin would make the ideal right tackle to protect Tebow’s blind-side.

Let’s not kid ourselves: I am a Tebow supporter as much as the next guy, but I also understand that he is still a very raw talent at this point. He has great intangibles, wonderful leadership and a knack for finding the end zone, whether it be through the air or with his feet. But we can still expect some poor throws and poor decisions in his first full season, which happens to follow an offseason that was derailed by a lockout. Tebow needs help. Elway and Fox seem determined to help by first restoring the run game, and then making it possible for Tebow to be successful with a good offensive line. Franklin is a huge part of that.

3 – Fox wanted fast, athletic linebackers and he got them.

It was almost a foregone conclusion that the Denver Broncos would come out of this draft with at least one defensive tackle. Personally, I was hoping for two of them. Low and behold the Denver Broncos drafted three linebackers, but not one defensive tackle. If we take Elway, Fox and Xanders at their word, we can conclude that they wanted best overall player instead of reaching for defensive tackles that might not even make the team.

I can buy that.

And I do want the Broncos to go after players that will stick, since this team cannot afford to waste a pick. But the other thing that is missing here, at least in my opinion, is that the Broncos did not like their linebackers. John Fox wanted more speed and he definitely got that. But this group looks better and better the more you watch their play in college.

Von Miller and Nate Irving should be immediate starters, but even more impressive is that the Broncos drafted Mike Mohamed in the sixth round, and he’s also a potential starter. Mohamed is such a hard worker on the football field. He’s just extremely active, instinctive and disciplined. He’s a tough, gritty player, and I would not be surprised if he becomes one of those late round gems that instantly becomes a fan-favorite.

4 – The team filled two of the biggest needs: Safety and tight end.

Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter can potentially be a very good safety tandem for the Broncos. Neither player may end up being a perennial pro-bowler. But Moore is a playmaker, Carter is a big-hitter and both are vastly more reliable in coverage than the combination of Renaldo Hill and Brian Dawkins. I appreciate Brian Dawkins, but at the age of 38 and considering that he is a liability in coverage, the Broncos may need to let him go.

Julius Thomas is the biggest question mark of this draft. He is very raw and has limited football experience, but in time he can develop into an explosive receiver and a reliable blocker. Virgil Green is more polished, and it looks like he could be used immediately as an H-back. He can be very productive with Tebow throwing him the ball. Green has terrific speed and hands, and he is an underrated blocker. The Broncos were very fortunate to find him still available in the seventh round.

5 – Lots of value with this draft, perhaps none more impressive than Jeremy Beal.

Coming out of the Combine, analysts were saying that Beal was not fast and athletic enough to be effective in the NFL. Some called his performance at the Combine “awful”. They were willing to overlook all of production in college because of these measurables. As a result he fell all the way to the latter part of the seventh round.

The Broncos are glad that he did.

Maybe in shorts this guy doesn’t perform very well, but what really matters is how he performs in Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders. And my guess is that we are going to see an explosive player that is hard to block. The bottom line is that Beal was fast and athletic enough to be the Big-12 defensive player of the year. He was considered one of the top pass rushers in college football, so he can’t be that bad.

Nor would this be the first time that the Broncos found a guy in a late round, who had great production in college, but didn’t have the measurables. The same low expectations were given to Elvis Dumervil coming out of college, and I wonder if that’s what Elway and Fox were thinking when they drafted Beal.

Is this Elvis Dumervil Part II?