Clady was flat-out who we wanted and the best choice for us. I’ve got three browsers open in adjacent virtual desktops with SN’s analyses of Jake Long, Ryan Clady, and Chris Williams, the order in which most experts ranked them, although SN actually has it Clady, Williams, Long. Even if Long is the best of the three he’s not the best for Denver’s system. His strength is straight-ahead drive blocking, his weakness mobility and pass protection. In run blocking SN grades him at 8.0, Williams at 8.0, Clady at 7.5, but both Williams and Clady are better at the kind of blocking Denver’s system demands. In pass blocking Clady ranks 1st, Williams 2nd, Long 3rd, but their grades are Clady and Williams 8.5, Long 7.0. Since the next person down, Otah, is also 7.0, it suggests that Clady and Williams are head and shoulders above the other OTs in pass blocking. In strength Long grades out at 8.5, ranking 1st, Williams 7.5, ranking 4th, and Clady 7.5, ranking 10th, so Long has a clear edge and Williams and Clady are about even. In mobility Clady is 8.5, ranking 2nd, Williams is 7.5, ranking 3rd, and Long is 6.0, ranking 9th and suggesting how relatively unsuited he is for Denver’s system. I’ved saved initial quickness for last because I think it might be especially significant. Clady is 9.0 and ranks 1st, Williams is 7.5 and 2nd, Long is 7.5 and 7th, suggesting Clady is head and shoulders above all other OTs. For reasons given in my post Information Processing Speed I suspect that this category suggests how well a player will adapt to the next level. Even if Clady was middle of the pack in the other categories this ranking might have tabbed him as a potential mid-round sleeper. But he’s not middle of the pack in the other categories. In my opinion he’s the best tackle in this year’s draft. Period.
It's been noted that we got not only a good returner in Royal but also stocked up on STers. This is encouraging but what is even more encouraging is that our coverage improved fairly dramatically from beginning to end last season, notwithstanding the Chicago debacle. The O'Brien experiment, unlike the Bates experiment, was a success, as noted here. He did this without an upgrade in personnel. If in addition to the upgrade in coaching we get better STers we're going to be uncharacteristically solid. Question: I know it's customary to protect key starters by exempting them from ST duty, but do we protect all of them? Koutouvides was Seattle's best STer.
In grading the draft, however prematurely, it occurs to me a distinction should be made between how well a team drafts and how good a draft that team has. The first indicates how well a team did with the picks they had. A team with few picks or a lot of late-round picks might do a better job and still not have as good a draft as a bad team with lots of early picks (KC) that doesn't obviously screw up. Trades for draft picks also have to be taken into account. Even if one of the extra picks (the ones they already had don't count) the Chiefs got for Jared Allen becomes an all-pro, not a certainty or even a probability, it'll be several years before he plays at that level. The trade hurt them short term, it might or might not help them in the long run. The Broncos appear to have drafted well, given that a lot of our picks were in the later rounds. If enough of those late picks pan out, it might turn out to have been a great draft.
Speaking of great drafts, one or two of them can set a team up for a decade of dominance. (Any draft that lands a Montana or Brady, even if no one else, is also a great one.) Pittsburgh's 1974 draft is the classic example. With four potential all-pros, one of them that all-important franchise QB, 2006 might turn out to have been that kind of draft for the Broncos. If in addition the 2007 and 2008 drafts turn out to have been solid we might be headed for our own period of dominance.
One aspect of a dominant team is character and the ability to play one's best in big games and at key moments, not just with one or two superstars but from top to bottom. That's been the nature of recent New England teams, and Shanahan now seems to be looking for those kinds of players. If 2006 was a turning point in landing us a nucleus of future stars, 2008 was a turning point in the Broncos' philosophy on building a team. Use the draft to find your future elite players, use free agency to shore up your weaknesses, and look for high-character, high-motor, clutch players at all levels of ability. If that's the case, given that the other key ingredient (the one the Chargers have been missing), an elite coach, is already on board, the next decade might be a storied one for this franchise.