Now that things have quieted down around Dove Valley, The Denver Broncos have shifted their focus to the 2012 NF Draft.
Denver has already made dramatic changes to their starting lineup by bringing in 6 new players via free agency who will see significant playing time next season. The changes will continue in a few weeks when the Broncos draft a horde of young talent who will hopefully fill the remaining holes on the roster and add much needed depth.
Let’s take a look at where the Broncos stand at each position right now and how they might address those positions in the draft:
- Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few weeks I don’t need to spend much time talking about the quarterback position. However, the signing of back-up Caleb Hanie has been the source of some angst among the fans recently. At this point I’m not even sure Hanie is going to make the team, so I didn’t read too much into his signing. There is no doubt that Denver will take a quarterback at some point during the draft. That quarterback, along with Adam Weber and Hanie, will compete for the backup position and one of those 3 players won’t make the 53-man roster.
- Willis McGahee is still the man at running back going into 2012. Although his age and the fact he wore down as the 2011 season went along means Denver is going to need a solid #2 to help carry the load. Knowshon Moreno is expected to return from injury and compete for that job, but almost everyone is running out of patience with him. It is a near guarantee that Denver will pick a running back in a few weeks, and I would bet it will happen very early in the draft. Some targets for the Broncos are Doug Martin, Boise State; Lamar Miller, Miami; Lamichael James, Oregon; and David Wilson, Virginia Tech.
- At wide receiver and tight end, the free agent additions of Andre Caldwell, Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen have filled the voids at those positions. The Broncos feel very good with the trio of Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Caldwell at receiver and they believe they will excel with Peyton Manning behind center. I tend to agree with that line of thinking. I’m not expecting anyone to get drafted at these positions, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see them add someone late to compete in camp and add some depth.
- The offensive line will look very similar in 2012 as it did in 2011. I feel like Denver has a great pair of tackles in Ryan Clady and Orlando Franklin that will anchor the line for years to come. It is important that Manning has talented guys who can protect him on the edge and these two fit that bill. Where I have some concern is right up the middle (this concern exists on both sides of the ball). Look for Denver to draft at least one interior offensive lineman at some point. At the very least they need to bring in a quality backup.
- The front 7 of the defense is where this team needs the most work, and so far this offseason they have lost impact players from this group rather than add them. They did re-sign middle linebacker Joe Mays, but losing Brodrick Bunkley at defensive tackle was a big loss. As of right now, no one really knows who will start at tackle next season. That is not good. I am hoping Ty Warren can return from his injury and assume one of those starting jobs, but there is no mistaking the fact that defensive tackle is the biggest hole on the entire Broncos’ roster. Denver subscribes to the strategy of drafting “the best available player at all times regardless of position”, but they should go defensive tackle with their first pick of the draft. Luckily, this draft is loaded with quality interior defensive linemen. If there was ever a year to be in the market for a tackle, this is it. In no particular order, the best tackles available are Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State; Michael Brockers, LSU; Dontari Poe, Memphis; Jerel Worthy, Michigan State; Kendall Reyes, UConn; Devon Still, Penn State; and Brandon Thompson, Clemson. I expect that the Broncos will draft one of these players with the 25th pick, and by the end of the draft I will be surprised if they haven’t added at least a couple D-linemen.
- Denver has added a few quality names to their defensive backfield during the free agency period. Safety Mike Adams and cornerback Tracy Porter will help bolster a group that was exposed at times last season. I love the signing of Porter. With Champ Bailey on the other side of the field the Broncos now have a fearsome duo at cornerback. Although Denver does have some talented youth in their backfield with Chris Harris and Quinton Carter, there is no doubt that this is an aging group overall, and the possible loss of Brian Dawkins means they will be missing some valuable experience and leadership. I would like to see the Broncos use multiple draft picks on this group to provide some depth and increase the competition. I would also like to see them extend Porter’s 1-year contract if he plays well early in the 2012 campaign.
- As far as special teams go, Denver will be returning all of their specialists this season and don’t need to address it in the draft. Matt Prater and Britton Colquitt were 2 of the top performers in the league a year ago and they will have a big impact going forward.
- At the end of the draft, I would like to be able to report that the Broncos used most of their picks on the defensive side of the ball and sprinkled in a few offensive selections at quarterback, running back and/or offensive line. The Denver defense needs to take the next step and move into the top half of the league rankings, and a strong showing in this draft can help them do just that.
- In the big picture, the Broncos hopefully have as many as 4 seasons with Peyton Manning at quarterback. Every draft class is important for every team, but this draft is more important to Denver than most. The players brought in this year will be integral if the Broncos are to make a serious Super Bowl run in the next couple of seasons. So set your DVR’s and grab some popcorn; this year’s draft is must see TV for all Denver fans. Go Broncos!