One of the things I remember after last year's draft was Bronco's GM Ted Sundquist saying that Denver did not draft a safety because they did not think there were any that could compete for playing time. Of course, Sam Brandon reinjured his knee, Nick Ferguson got hurt during the season as did Lynch, and Curome Cox got cut. But the point is not to look back with hindsight and criticize. Instead I am looking at the philosophy behind the decision and trying to apply it to this year's roster to see what work is left to be done this reloading season. After the recent free agent signings, I think it is most relevant when looking at LB and then to to a lesser extent RB, WR and OT.
(I was thinking about breaking this into multiple parts but decided to throw the whole rambling thing up at once. Sorry for the length)
Current roster - (bold players have their spot pretty much wrapped up. italicized players are gonna have to do something special to make the team. Numbers in parenthesis are the min and max players I would expect at the position - from yesterday's diary)
3 QB (2-4) - Culter, Ramsey, Hackney
Cutler and Ramsey are the starter and backup. Maybe a rookie will be added to compete with Hackney (day 2 pick or college FA)
7 RB (5-8) - Henry, S Young, Andre Hall, Mike Bell, Paul Smith, Marquis Weeks, Steven Johnson
It is Henry's job. Young should be the change of pace back. Hall and/or Bell could get carries. Bell also could be the starting FB since P Smith is mostly a special teams guy. Hall can return kicks as well. The team could add a vet, maybe a rookie, maybe a FB, maybe a speed guy, maybe nothing, but there is not a lot of room to add multiple players
9 WR (5-8) - Marshall, Stokely, Keary Colbert, Glenn Martinez, Taylor Jacobs, Cliff Russell, Derrick Hamilton, Marquay Mcdaniel, Edell Shepherd
Brandon Marshall is the number one. Ideally Colbert or Martinez would be #2 allowing Stokely to be the #3. But right now, Stokely looks like the second most talented on the team. So Denver could still look to add a #2 WR, but anybody they add has to be better than Stokely (or at least have the potential to be). They can also look for a returner who would get the 5th spot.
6 TE (3-5) - Graham, Scheffler, Mustard, Nate Jackson, Brett Pierce, Chad Upshaw
The top 4 are fine. IMO it is doubtful they will add another, but Hoosierteacher has made a compelling argument for Denver's increased use of multiple TE formations so they may want a fifth TE on the roster.
12 OL (8-12) - Nalen, Hamilton, Holland, Myers, Kuper, Pears, R Harris, PJ Alexander, Ian Snell, Mark Fenton, Norm Katnik, Doug Neinhuis
In a perfect world, Kuper could play tackle and the top 7 would be all that were needed. But more likely Kuper will be backing up on the inside leacing the outside a bit vulnerable. At the same time, if Harris and Pears are the tackles of the future then you have to live with their growing pains and there is no point in drafting early another young tackle who will never see the field. That being said, Denver could add a vet, a rookie or both for tackle depth.
12 DE (5-8) - Moss, Doom, Crowder, Engelberger, Ekuban, Kenny Peterson, Paul Carrington, Larry Birdine, Carlos Hall, Nic Clemons, Julian Jenkins, Michael Bozeman
Ekuban and Engelberger are serviceable, but the development of Moss, Crowder and Dumervil are the key. This is probably the most set position on the team from top to bottom. Denver would only consider adding a stud as it will be hard for a player of lesser talent to keep a roster spot (unless Crowder and/or Ekuban get used at DT a lot)
5 DT (5-8) - McKinley, Marcus Thomas, Steven Harris, Josh Mallard, Antwon Burton
McKinley is fine as part of the rotation and Thomas may or may not develop into a starter. Beyond that, the cupboard is bare. Mallard, and DE's Crowder and Ekuban, can play DT in passing situations, but this is the one position where Denver still needs help badly. At least one, maybe two or even three players should be added, (maybe one pure DT and a DT/DE hybrid). I would expect a vet plus a first day rookie (and probably multiple draft picks as this has been the recent Bronco trend).
9 LB (5-10) - DJ Williams, B Bailey, Niko, Jamie Winborn, Nate Webster, Louis Green, Jordan Beck, Brandon Archer, William Kershaw
(really should separate ILB from OLB but with DJ's positional flexibiliy I am gonna treat LB as a giant group) With the recent signings it looks like DJ, Niko and Boss will be the starters. The backups are decent enough and rather plentiful. So I could see Denver drafting a younger guy for the future if Niko or Boss don't work out, but it is much more doubtful today than yesterday.
6 CB (4-7) - C Bailey, Bly, Foxworth, Paymah, Lamont Reid, Chad Morton
Champ and Dre are the obvious starters. Both Paymah and Foxworth have proven capable of playing the nickel (or starting in a pinch. I think Denver wants to let Foxworth focus on CB this year, but I think they felt the same way going into last year. The only way Denver would add a CB would be a rookie who was an oustanding value or could play safety or return kicks or if Foxworth or Paymah get traded
6 S (4-7) - Lynch, Abdullah, Steve Cargile, Rod Rogers, Marviel Underwood, Vickiel Vaughn
Lynch has one more year and who knows if Hamza is really the answer. Probably need a vet as a third safety who can step in and start if need be and a rookie who can develop for the future (and possibly help this year as the nickel safety). If no vet is signed, safety should be a day 1 priority.
1 LS (1) - Mike Leach
Could draft one if the situation is right, but very doubtful. It would have to be someone who could compete with Leach as well as at another position.
2 P (2-3) - Matt Prater, Sam Palescu
The team could add a vet or rookie to the pretty much open competition. So much depends on what is done at kicker and if the team needs a punter who can kickoff.
0 K (1-2) none
If Elam is resigned, then Denver must find a punter who can kick off or they will need three kickers on the roster. If Elam does not sign, at least two kickers will be added to compete on both FG and kickoffs (possibly a day 2 pick)
37 OFFENSE (23-37)
38 DEFENSE (23-40)
3 ST (4-6)
78 TOTAL (50-82)
Summary - If we do not add another offensive player, we have what we need to field a competitive team. We obviously need to address the kicking game. If the season started with this defense, I would be terrified of our DT situation and worried about the depth at safety.
Short version of needs: DT starter and depth, S starter/depth, kicker, OT depth, #2 WR who can stretch the field, returner.
Free agents still needed:
1) DT - a solid, dependable guy for the rotation
2) K - Elam or a replacement
3) OT - a swingman who can start on either side if Pears/Harris don't work out and who will be content on the bench if he can't win a starting job.
4) S - like OT, they need a vet who is not a liability if they have to start or play significantly, but who would also be willing to sit on the bench.
Denver may sign multiple players at each of these positions, but I would be surprised to see them sign someone at any other position (although I do think Bryant Johnson could be the #2 WR the team needs)
Day one of the draft (there is a big gap between numbers 2 and 3):
1) DT - even if the team adds a vet, the rotation is still thin and dependent on young players like Marcus Thomas
2) S - they will need at least one new starter in 2009 and could need a pair.
3) WR - Someone with speed. But they have to be able to beat out Stokely by next year and hopefully return kicks as well
4) RB - Has to be a stud given the depth on the roster and the ability to find serviceable backs late.
5) OL - Even more than RB, this has to be a real stud to be taken in the first two rounds. It would have to be someone who is expected to win a starting OT job this year.