As many of you know, I am also a contributor on the staff over at Mile High Report, one of the premiere NFL team blogs on the globe. The Denver Broncos-centric blog is operated by John
“The Sports Guru” Bena, and his partner in crime is Jeremy Bolander. Jeremy is a fantastic story-teller, and in my opinion could be an NFL front office head or a scout in the league. He knows the game inside and out, and knows exactly what to look for in a prospect and how they can help a team. In other words–I would want him in my team’s war room.
I had the opportunity to ask Jeremy some questions about the coming 2011 NFL Draft, and about the Denver Broncos specifically. Are the Broncos looking to trade down? What four picks could help the franchise return to prominence? Who is the team’s best and worst draft pick over the last five years?
1. What are the Broncos’ 3 biggest needs this year?
#1 need by far is interior DL. The Broncos are short on both bodies and talent there. They also need to add to the LB corp where the bodies are present but the talent needs upgraded, and I would consider offensive tackle and safety depth to come in tied for 3rd, with starting bodies but a need for depth at both spots. There are a number of young developing guys like Big Vick and Marcus Thomas on the DL, so it would be nice to get either a top rookie at the #2 spot or a top free agent once the CBA dust settles. A couple of value signings in free agency to replace the overpriced Williams and Bannan would be wise moves as well. In the LB corps the Broncos need to add a run stopper who can shed blocks. Coverage ability will be a nice bonus and speed would be icing on the cake, but to get all of that in one package will be expensive, or cost a very high draft pick. A SAM or Mike would be ideal. It remains to be seen whether Ryan Harris’ RFA status will hold up with a new CBA, but if it doesn’t, OT moves up the priority list, and a top 50 rookie that can grow with the current line would give the Broncos the makings of a dominant line in a few years. I like the Broncos current stable of safeties enough to be content not adding anyone in 2011, but I feel that by the time training camp rolls around, one of the current group may very well fall by the wayside, so competition would be nice.
2. Who–if the draft was tomorrow–is your gut telling you the Broncos will draft and why?
My gut is telling me the Broncos will trade down from #2, and will accept a fair deal as long as they don’t have to move too far down, and get at least one more excellent pick in return. A lot of the Broncos’ prepwork may come across as confusing,and I believe that is because it is all in the service of the idea that the Broncos are happy to move down and take a top ten player. Also, don’t discount the ability of an Elway-Fox led warroom to swing some deals to where there is more than meets the eye. What if the Broncos were to trade the #2 overall to Arizona for the #5 and #38 overall, and then after the CBA is approved work out a trade of Orton for, say a 2012 2nd round pick? One trade has the potential to lay the groundwork for the other, and vice versa.
3. Why do you think the Broncos are looking at so many quarterbacks?
I think the
“so many” part of the question is overblown, but I also believe that the Broncos are doing more than just due diligence for a draft. The QBs that they are looking already have extensive files with the Broncos, and have been tracked by their regional scouts for the better part of at least the last two years, like many of the best players in the nation. Those files get expanded on during the draft, and then extended even further throughout that player’s NFL career, and QBs are more important than most. The more info the Broncos have on the future QBs of this league, the better they will fare in competition against those QBs. But regardless, it is not odd for any team to do research on the top QBs in the draft, and it is only the existence of a young QB controversy in Denver that makes it appear as anything more than due diligence.
4. Does the potential of a rookie cap make the 2nd overall pick harder or easier to trade?
Frankly, I think it makes it easier to trade, but I also believe the Broncs front office will make being approachable and reasonable a hallmark of its future draft dealings, so I don’t think there will be a huge difference for the Broncos regardless of whether the rookie cap is approved in time for the draft. I will say that if there is a rookie cap (and I don’t believe there will be one for 2011) any trade of the #2 pick should get more value in return. So in a sense, I don’t believe that a rookie cap makes Denver’s #2 more tradable, but I do believe it makes it more valuable.
5. Who is the Broncos’ best draft pick from the last five years?
First off, thank you for giving a five year window within which to make this decision. I really hate to judge a class too harshly or favorably in its first two years or so. Also, I will treat the question in terms of solely the player, rather than the overall impact of the use of a draft pick, which can start to get complicated, such as the Jay Cutler trade. In that light, I would have to pick Elvis Dumervil for the best pick. He already has a sack title under his belt,and he has been in the running 3 out of five years. I see him as having a Charles Haley-like career, consistently producing, and while he may at times be hard to hang onto, he will always be worth every penny.
Despite not wanting to judge a second year player too harshly, I would put this as a tie between Jarvis Moss and Richard Quinn. Both were big time investments, and both have cost the Broncos more games than they have helped them win. The worst part about both picks is that Moss contributed almost nothing over 5 years, while sapping resources of time, coaching,roster spots, gameday activations and opportunities for other players, and Richard Quinn looks to be heading down the same path. I have a small glimmer of hope that a new coaching staff will equal a fresh start for Quinn, but than I have to remind myself that I had a small glimmer of hope for Moss for the exact same reason… My guess is Gronk beats out Quinn in 2011, and it really won’t be close.
7. There has been a lot of negativity about the last two draft classes. How are they progressing and who are a couple of players you like?
I really like our last two classes, and I can’t wait for them to emerge from the long shadow of the Josh McDaniels era, which is the source of the negativity. I really like McBath and Bruton from 2009, and I am a HUGE supporter of Moreno, and am thrilled to see what he can do in a John Fox system. The 2010 draft has highpoints all over, and I am fond of Thomas, Decker and Tebow. However, I can’t stress how important it is that JD Walton pan out for the Broncos. He improved markedly throughout the year, but they really need him to improve significantly.
8. The Broncos have four very high picks. What four picks could put this team back into the AFC West title race, if any?
I really don’t think of the draft in these kinds of terms, preferring to view even the top picks in terms of long term impact, but it is a fun question, so I think I will have some fun with it.
* #2 overall: DT Nick Fairley. His nasty fire and attitude earn him consideration for DROTY as he racks up 13 TFL 4 sacks and becomes a key cog in one of the biggest defensive turnarounds the league has ever seen. Of course, he becomes a key ingredient of locker room strife for the Broncs in 2012 and beyond…
* #36 overall: DT Stephen Paea. OMG. Perhaps the most stunning thing about the Broncos new DL is how much backfield pressure is created in the running game. The team leads the league allowing only 87.1 yards per game through the first 10 weeks of the season.
* #46 overall: HB Ryan Williams. Stays healthy all season and leads Denver RBs in rushing TDs with 11. Between him and Moreno Denver averages 140 yds per game ranking 5th overall.
* #67 overall: ILB Greg Jones. Surprise team captain on opening day, the mature leader raises the overall play of the entire Denver LB corps. Denver allows only 87.1 yards rushing per game through the first 10 games of the season, leading the league. By the end of the year,running on the Broncos is out of the question, and rushing TDs allowed drops from 26 in 2010 to 6 in 2011.
9. For the draft in general, who is the most overrated player, and who is the most underrated player?
I’m going to stick to the top of the draft class for this one. For overrated, I will list Patrick Peterson. No doubt a great player, but there is a good reason why CBs aren’t selected first overall, and never get player of the year honors: impact on a play to play basis. For underrated, I will list Von Miller. The guy might be the safest pick in the draft, but he is treated by analysts as a big risk.