Broncos could brew historic draft with 5-pack
The Denver Post
Denver, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” There was a time not so long ago when Pat Bowlen said Josh McDaniels would coach the Broncos, not decide which players were on their roster.
Back then, in the early days of 2009, the owner decreed that Jim Goodman would be the team’s de facto general manager. How’d that work out, Jimbo?
Goodman is gone, along with his son, assistant GM Jeff Goodman. And the Broncos’ Southeast region scout has left too. His name? That would be Tyler Goodman, another of Goodman’s sons.
They aren’t alone. West region scout Bobby Beers left the organization before all the recent tumult, leaving the Broncos’ scouting department short on numbers.
This is McDaniels’ reality as he heads into his first-ever draft as the keeper of the Broncos’ competitive flame. The Broncos, in the aftermath of the trade that sent Jay Cutler to Chicago, may have more draft-weekend resources than any other NFL team. The key is to cash them in.
Denver for the first time in franchise history will have two first-rounders, the 12th and 18th selections. Not only that, the Broncos will have a second-rounder and two third-rounders, giving them five selections among the first 84 picks for the second time in franchise history.
“First of all, it gives us a lot of flexibility,” McDaniels said. “As a football team, going into the draft, the more you have, the better off you are. Because if you need to maneuver to try to get some players you really feel good about, you have the ammunition to go do some of those things.”
The Cutler saga, by McDaniels’ own admission, didn’t turn out the way the Broncos wanted. But in his absence is an opportunity to create a more balanced team than the one-trick pony the Broncos have been in recent seasons. Fact: Denver was second in the NFL in total offense last season, 29th in defense. The gap between the two, 27 notches, was the widest in the league, ahead of New Orleans, which had the No. 1-ranked offense and the No. 23 defense.
“That’s going to be the goal all the time, to try to be as good defensively as you are offensively, or vice versa,” McDaniels said. “I’ve said from the first moment I landed in Denver that our goal was to improve the team. We have significant improvement to do on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game.”
The Broncos obviously will address that 29th-ranked defense during the April 25-26 draft. Question is, would they consider a possible long-term successor to Cutler at No. 12?
“As far as it being a defensive or offensive draft, it’s going to be the best players at a position where we need players to help our team win,” McDaniels said. “As far as a quarterback is concerned, we’re evaluating all those players just the same. If one of those players, whoever he may be, whenever it may be, is somebody we would like to have on this team, then we would consider drafting a quarterback.”
It figures to be a moot point by the time the Broncos’ first selection rolls around. Georgia’s Matthew Stafford and USC’s Mark Sanchez, the two highest-ranked quarterbacks available, are expected to be long gone by No. 12. But if so, it would increase the Broncos’ chances of landing a top-flight linebacker or defensive lineman.
“They need front seven on D,” said Denver-based Cecil Lammey of Draftguys.com . “For this draft to be successful, three out of those five (among the first 84) have to be impact players. There’s a lot of good stuff there for the Broncos. They’re in a very good position to fill positions of need.”
As usual, the outlook of the first round is a work in progress. But dramatic changes have come in recent days, the likes of which could well impact the Broncos’ selections. Case in point: Boston College’s B.J. Raji, the best nose-tackle prospect in the draft, tested positive for an unknown substance at the scouting combine, according to Sports Illustrated. That could drop him from the top five down to No. 12. If so, McDaniels would have a dilemma on his hands.
“That’s got to be Raji if he’s there,” Lammey said. “That’s the ultimate dream for the Broncos, if he slips to them at 12. The nose tackle is the anchor of the 3-4 defense. He can push the pocket and rush the quarterback. When you look at the tackles in this draft, it’s Raji and a bunch of other guys.”
Further complicating things, USC outside linebackers Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews are rumored to have tested positive for steroids. The rumors are so rampant, USC coach Pete Carroll recently went public to deny them. We’re left to wonder how, if at all, the rumors will affect each player’s draft status, but both could be candidates for the 18th pick.
Other candidates at No. 18: Cincinnati defensive end-outside linebacker Conner Barwin, who led the Big East in sacks, and Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, who, like Raji, has had a private workout for the Broncos. Another candidate, Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo, has a private Broncos workout scheduled, according to NFL.com.