A certain Denver Broncos topic has received more coverage than all other Broncos-related topics combined, and I know this because many of you have commented, point-blank, “Please pick a new topic already.”
Point taken. So I will refrain from mentioning a certain Denver quarterback’s name for the duration of this article. Not even once.
You know, Tim T…
Or how about: Mister-Massive-Glossy-Arms-Swinging-A-Golf-Club-Guy.
The truth is that we don’t need to talk about THAT guy because there are plenty of other issues that I think are deserving of our time and attention.
Eric Decker is expected to be a break-out player in 2011, but how often will he see the field with so much competition at the wide-receiver position?
Eric Decker’s skill set is very noticeable. He has good hands, runs good routes, is a smart player that gives great effort, and is drawing comparisons to Ed McCaffrey.
Broncos fans hope that he can come on big in 2011, but where exactly does he fit in this offense?
When Josh McDaniels drafted him the thought seemed to be that he would play the slot, but like so many things that McDaniels did, it was still a perplexing move considering that Josh was simultaneously converting Eddie Royal to the slot position. And honestly that may have been the best move for Royal, but that leaves Decker having to play as an outside receiver, or compete with Eddie for the slot.
Royal or Decker? Decker or Royal?
In college Decker made himself into a household name among Minnesota Golden Gophers fans by catching a gazillion short slants and screen passes, and rightly or wrongly, has been labeled as a “possession receiver”, who has medium to short range, not a burner, and not a guy who is going to get a whole lot of yards after the catch.
Now, he may prove us wrong, and I hope he develops into an even better pro receiver than college one, but that makes him questionable as a player on the outside.
Keep in mind that Brandon Lloyd has the number one WR spot neatly tucked away in his back pocket, and while its possible that Jabar Gaffney could be the odd-man out, remember that John Fox prefers veterans, and Gaffney is quite a polished veteran. Then there is Demaryius Thomas, who will be returning to the team at some point next season. Thomas is in a similar position to the-Broncos-quarterback-out-of-Florida since he’s also a first-round pick that the Broncos would like to start sooner rather than later (to find out if he is truly a first-round caliber player). In other words, he will get his snaps, just as soon as he is healthy again.
Plus there is one more name to consider: Britt Davis. Britt Davis? Yes, Britt Davis, the player that likely built a strong rapport with Tim Taser last season as the two worked together, taking second- team snaps. Remember that recent report about Massive-Glossy-Arms flying out his receivers to Florida to work out? Well Davis was included in that trip, but not Decker, so that has to mean something.
So with a receiving squad that includes Lloyd, Gaffney, Thomas, Royal and even Britt Davis, where does that leave Decker? We can only guess at this point, but all this speculation about Decker being a likely starter in 2011 seems a bit premature at this point.
Here's another question.
How many rookies will be starters in 2011?
Speaking of “we can only speculate at this point”, we can only speculate at this point, but this has to be among the top two or three biggest questions going into 2011 and beyond. The reason being that the Broncos' new brain-trust (Elway, Fox and Xanders) had no margin of error in their very first draft as a new management team. The Broncos, simply put, have been awful at drafting and developing young players into reliable starters and pro-bowlers, and this goes back well before Josh McDaniels.
Poor drafting has led to desperate free agency moves, and if the Super Bowl-winning Green Bay Packers have shown us anything, its this: To be successful in this league you must build from the ground-up through the draft. Free agent signings should be used to bolster your roster, not to create it. The Packers got their star quarterback, star defensive tackle, and star linebacker from the draft. Those three men were three biggest reasons why the Packers won the Super Bowl.
Following this year’s draft the Broncos leadership group swore that they had found quite a few first-year starters among their draft picks, and the consensus among experts is that they truly did. Maybe five, six or even seven starters from the bunch?
Von Miller has to start: You don't draft a non-quarterback that high to let him slowly develop. Rahim Moore is a starter. Quinton Carter could be a starter, but at minimum will see a lot of snaps to spell Brian Dawkins, if Dawkins is brought back. Nate Ingram is projected as a starter. Mike Mohamed is also a potential starter, though keep in mind that both Ingram and Mohamed starting would mean that D.J. Williams is the odd-man out. (There is quite a controversy brewing as to whether or not Williams is as good as his numbers might indicate, and don't forget that he has had off-field issues, which stripped him of his captaincy at one point last season.)
Jeremy Beal, a defensive end with a lot to prove to the Broncos, and a ton of upside, has some chance of beating out Robert Ayers at the second defensive end position, though that’s quite another story.
On the offensive side of the ball, Orlando Franklin is also a likely starter at right tackle. Julius Thomas has a lot of work to do before he can be considered a starting tight end, but Virgil Green, the other rookie tight end, has freakish athleticism and is more NFL ready than Thomas; judging by how Richard Quinn has played so far, Green might be more NFL ready than Quinn. Quinn is a prototypical “blocking tight end”, and had only a single reception all of last year, so can we just pencil Green in as a starter?
Finally, there is also a chance that once free agency starts, the Broncos may sign one or more undrafted defensive tackles, and who knows, maybe we have a rookie starting next to Kevin Vickerson, especially if the Broncos cannot sign Brandon Mebane or the like.
That puts us in the area of five to eight rookies starting for the team in 2011, plus a second-year player likely under center, that being Tim..err.. I mean, Mister-Already-Written-My-Autobiography-Before-Age-24.
But here’s the big question: How many of these players will stick?
Well for our sake, we Broncos fans should hope that they all do. This team needs to catch up, and surpass, the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Diego Chargers, and to some extent, even the Oakland Raiders (who have had back-to-back reasonably, good drafts). Those teams have begun to stockpile young, athletic players, and while it appears that the Broncos are finally pointed in the right direction, getting back to the playoffs means gathering a whole new slew of Broncos greats vis-a-vis the draft.
Seeing the 2011 draft class in action this season is the first step.