Broncos NFL Draft: Is GM John Elway locked into an offensive lineman in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft? History says no way…
Broncos NFL Draft —
If history is any indication, the Broncos will most certainly not be taking an offensive player with their top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Since John Elway started pulling the triggers in Denver, it has been defense, defense, defense…you get the idea.
The Broncos have used their top selections in John Elway orchestrated drafts on Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, recently re-signed stud defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, rising star defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, nickel corner Bradley Roby, and pass rusher Shane Ray.
It wasn’t until 2014 that Elway even considered someone outside the defensive front seven for a top selection, but the talent of Roby warranted it. He immediately returned to the front seven with the selection of Shane Ray in 2015.
There’s going to be plenty of debate over the next couple of months, but in a defensively gifted group, the 2016 NFL Draft should be no different for the Broncos, right?
Not so fast…
It was abundantly clear that the Broncos’ most significant weakness in 2015 was along the offensive line, where different combinations were constantly used, quarterbacks were sacked far too often for our liking, and the running game wasn’t anything like what we had been promised it would be.
Still, in a year when Broncos QBs were hit more than most, they managed to win the Super Bowl while the year they had the least number of sacks allowed, they were torched in the Super Bowl by the Seattle Seahawks’ vaunted 2013 defense.
But I digress…
Getting some stability on the offensive line will be critical, and the Broncos will almost assuredly use a pick (or two or three) on linemen in the 2016 NFL Draft, but is Elway locked into one with his top pick? Is it that big of a need?
Say what you will about the injury history of Ryan Clady, but getting him back on a hopefully significantly re-structured contract is likely the Broncos’ best option at left tackle. He has had two season ending injuries in the last three seasons, but players coming back off of ACL injuries for the Broncos have been seemingly re-born into an even better version of themselves than they were before, if that’s possible (see: Chris Harris Jr., Von Miller…)
Clady’s ACL injury could have also been a blessing in disguise for his foot, which was clearly not at 100 percent in the 2014 season when Clady played probably the worst we’ve seen from him since he was a rookie in Denver. Getting an additional year of rehab, albeit for a different injury this time, could bring a rejuvenated and reborn version of Clady.
The Broncos will also be getting back 2015 2nd round selection Ty Sambrailo, who was getting worked at left tackle prior to his season-ending injury. Sambrailo is best suited at the right side or inside as a guard at the NFL level, and that’s where the Broncos will probably pencil him in with the starting unit over the offseason.
The team was so high on Sambrailo, they basically handed him the left tackle job when Clady went down with an injury last offseason.
Of course, Clady’s injury history is a concern and Sambrailo’s injury/youth are reason enough for doubt, but sometimes you have to make projections based on what you have on paper, and the Broncos have a pretty decent starting five on paper going into next year of Clady, second year player Max Garcia, whom the team loves, center Matt Paradis, right guard Louis Vasquez, and then Sambrailo at right tackle.
Should the team draft a lineman in the first round? Will anyone they select be better suited to start in 2016 than the guys I just mentioned?
That’s the question they have to answer. A possible successor for Clady or Vasquez could be picked, but it wouldn’t shock me to see the Broncos again wait until the second or third round of the draft to address the offensive line and once again hit the defensive side of the ball.