MHR University Special Report - A Profoundly Powerful Draft Strategy (2009)

Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts.

The first part is called "The Pledge". The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course... it probably isn't.

The second act is called "The Turn". The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn't clap yet.

Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back.  That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call "The Prestige".

-From the movie "The Prestige"-

Denver scored on this draft in so many ways it would be difficult to make a credible case against it.  Denver brought in solid players (indeed, players considered the best at what they do), and brought in youth where Denver is thin (where Denver has aging players).  While homemade draft boards are based entirely on who folks want at a given position, Denver followed the successful Patriots strategy of going for best available, a concept that always confounds mock drafts.

Denver not only caused confusion amongst the "my player or it must be a bust" crowd, but doubled down on the type of draft they had last year (where Denver also confused the "need-based" crowd, but scored with solid picks).  If Denver had used the drafting style favored by the Patriots like they did this year and last, Denver would be further along by now.

Read further to see the point illuminated. 

In fact, midway through this epic, long article I promise to share the "meaning of life" I discovered for this team, and I'll do it in giant, bold, easy-to-find print. 

 

It is worth repeating again (a quote I made before the draft started):

People forget the natural progression of draft day.

1) The team likely makes several picks that few people saw coming.

2) Fans are flabbergasted!

3) On further reflection (about 3 or 4 days after the draft) folks research the new players, and find that they were great picks all along.

4) When camp rolls around, reports on the rookies are stellar (for the most part).

5) Everyone now thinks the draft went great.

One thing to keep in mind: for all of the sleep we have all lost trying to mock and analyze the draft, the pros in the war room have done several hundred more times worth of effort and research. I’m prepared to give my opinions tomorrow, but in the context that I trust the coaching / management staff to know more about what’s going on behind closed doors than I do.

When I coached at the HS level, locals sometimes questioned a decision we made as a staff. We had the advantage of years of coaching, an (always) winning program, up front and personal insights into what was "really" going on in the locker room, at practice, and in the private lives of the players. But there were always folks that seemed to "know better" than we did.

Now I’m on the fan side of things. I’m going to question some decisions, but always with the respect that goes with knowing the team’s coaches really do know more than I do.

This is why I avoid making mock predictions, and why I leave draft boards and college players to others with more skill than I have.  I focus on the result of the actual draft, and make my case there. 

A Draft is Not What it Seems... 

The draft is like a lottery, and it is a grand illusion.  Folks think that the purpose of a draft is to build a team through bringing in young talent.  That sounds like it makes sense, but it ignores what a draft really is.

The pledge...

The turn...

The prestige...

The draft is a system of probability.  For example, if we were using money as the base for discussion, the first round is like buying 500,000 lottery tickets, and hoping one of them pays off.  A lower round is like buying less tickets.  You can hit in any round (with any batch of tickets), but you have a higher probability of hitting with a bigger batch.

Most folks look at the draft as if a certain player is the winning ticket.  In their mind, this player is already worth the million dollar payoff.  But this is an error in thinking.  Teams spend picks on a system of probable payoff based on a system of odds.  Those odds dictate (like a lottery) that a pick of a particular candidate (or ticket) may win or lose.  You minimize your odds of winning by picking a ticket based on need, but increase your odds if you pick your ticket based on probable payoff.  What does this mean?

Let's say you "need" a nose tackle.  Many in the media and the fan base immediately look at the "best" nose tackles in the draft.  Each of these nose tackles has a probability of success.  But such an approach limits the pool of success to just one player (or slightly better, one position).  If none of those players has a high-end chance of success, a wise team will pass on the position. 

Here is an extreme example to make a point.  Let's say we still have Jay Cutler at QB.  Let's also say that we have a terrible NT.  Most folks will say, "We need to draft a NT, and the QB position is safe".  The illusion comes crashing down with a misdirection.  What if the team has scouted and found a young LaDainian Tomlinson at the RB position?  NOBODY considered the RB position, because we don't have a need.  The QB position is considered safe, the NT position is considered a need.  The RB position wasn't even considered - at all!  It never entered the discussion!

So folks will take several paths.  Many will complain that the need wasn't met.  That's okay.  Many will complain that the player they penciled in wasn't taken.  That's okay, too.  Many will declare the draft a failure.  That's okay.  Some will result to name calling.  That's okay, if you are on a low-class message board.  It won't fly at MHR.  But many will say, "This player is more of a sure thing, even if he wasn't the pick that was expected".

What has really happened in the example?  The team has picked up the "best" player based on the probability that the player will succeed (a young LT), regardless of the position he plays.  Had the team picked up seven NTs in the draft, though none was scouted as probable for success, would that have done any good?  In the line of thinking that "the team needs a NT", the fallacy enters the thinking when the fan (or expert) assumes that one of these "tickets" will pay off.  The catch is that it isn't likely to.  One "Tomlinson" ticket is more likely to pay off because he is rated as the most likely to succeed regardless of position.  Seven NT tickets are not likely to succeed because they aren't rated on a probability to win, but rated on a desire to see a certain player or position (which limits the pool). 

Let's look at the '09 Denver draft, and apply this principle.

 

Denver's Picks - The Pledge

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Knowshon Moreno - Your new RB

Use the context I have provided, and drop the mental trap of being in a paradigm based on positional need.  This is the best running back in the draft.

This is RB Moreno.  He is something Denver has NEVER had (based on probability).

  1. Moreno had only two full campaigns with his college team as the starter.  Despite that, he averaged 105 yards gained per game, and nearly broke every RB record with the team.
  2. He is an every-down RB, and a one-cut specialist.  This fits Denver's zone-block scheme, but now we are using a high-end talent instead of "just any RB who will gain 1000+ in our system".  Imagine what a true franchise RB could do in the system, instead of a sixth- or seventh-round talent as we are used to.
  3. Is considered so strong at receiving, he can be split out wide as a receiver.  Think about that for a moment.  No, really.  Pause and think about that.

Now go read this page at NFL.com.  Click on both the "overview" and "analysis" buttons.  The first thing you will notice is a storm of positive scouting reports, and a thin, one line negative.

Denver just took the highest-probability RB that they have ever picked since the zone-block system came to Denver.

They also denied that player to the one team that really wanted him - SD (division rival).  Denver now has that player for (likely) a decade.

Some will still argue need, and we can point out that the rest of the RB roster (including favorites like Torain and Hillis) spent last season on injured reserve.  But forget insurance.  This kid is the starter.  Also, consider that the shelf life of Denver's RBs just skyrocketed, because despite having an every-down back, we can spell each of the RBs during a game with a dangerous speed threat over several, bruising-style RBs.

This pick helps to provide cover for our new QBs, because the ground game will:

  • Wear down defenses,
  • Cause defenders to move to the line to stop the run.

It will aid the defense too, because:

  • Denver can now control the clock.

And why does this pick aid our new system, instead of just addressing a non-system-based need?

Denver will be using the 3-WR set as its base offensive-formation (like the Patriots and even the Colts do).  This means no FB as a lead blocker.  This means a need for an elite RB who can catch or run better than most.  Hillis (a favorite of mine) will still be a short-yardage specialist, and an excellent spell for Moreno.  But on typical downs, Moreno is the type of threat that keeps a defense from being allowed to focus on the idea that three receivers are on the field.

This player is likely the face of the Broncos offense for years to come.  Remember the last Georgia Bulldog that played RB with John Elway?  That's right.  Davis was the help that Elway needed to finally win two Super Bowls.

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Robert Ayers - Your new DE

So you want to fix the defense?  The front seven in particular?  Got it.  Denver took the best player available again, and this guy happened to be a LB/DE (I'll be addressing him as a DE, because he is heavily projected to play DE in Denver).

Here's what you need to know.  Depending on who you read or listen to, he has been called "the best defensive player in the draft" or just "the best defensive lineman in the draft".

Let's get the major criticism out of the way.  He doesn't get a lot of sacks.  Fine.  I've written on this before.  "SACKS ARE FOR FANS, PRESSURE IS FOR COACHES".

Let me put on my defensive-coordinator hat and break this down.  Ayers is not intended to be a sack artist, anyway.  His job as an outside two-gap DE will be to occupy an offensive tackle and (perhaps) a tight end (sometime an OT and OG).  What Ayers does is critical.  He creates pressure, which in the 3-4 system that Denver will run (Fairbanks-Bullough) will allow the LBs a lane to the QB.  Moreover, Ayers brings something else to the table - the long lost art of stopping the run for the Denver Broncos.

His is a position that won't shine or get credit (with fans).  He'll be tying up two opposing players so that someone else gets the glory.  Those who are critical of his sack numbers have never coached a down of football.

Pressure leads to turnovers.  It leads to offensive errors.  It leads to bad throws, and it leads to botched handoffs to the RB.  It leads to fumbles and interceptions.  Sacks are nice, and big crowd-pleasers.  But any coordinator or coach will tell you, "I'll take a pocket pressure over a sack any day".  A sack is only the result of good pressure.  But it is the least desirable of many other alternatives (such as turnovers).

Ayers is a pressure machine.  He instantly upgrades the linebackers by tying up the line, and makes the job of the NT slightly easier.

He's also versatile.  The poor guy got moved all over the place at TENN, but can play anywhere on the front 7.  Like the other picks, he's a team leader and has good character.

NFL.com gets the probability matrix:

Could be an ascending player who is just beginning to scratch the surface of his vast potential.

 

Denver's Picks - The Turn

So far, fans were okay with the draft.  But when Denver made the next pick, many fans became confused.  But this pick was what made me realize what Denver was doing.  I closely watched the rest of Denver's picks over the weekend.  It became clearer with each pick.  I had been fooled.  But I was thrilled.  I got it.  I got it, and I understood completely what Denver was now doing.

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Alphonso Smith - Your new CB

What?  A CB?  some fans were confused.  Some became angry.  Some became inappropriate.  Me?  I was shocked too.

A good coach recovers quickly, and tries to find an answer.  Sometimes the answer is ugly.  Sometimes, it is elusive.  Sometimes (as with a couple of picks later in the draft) it is just disappointing.  But what I found after my initial shock were two things.

  1. We got a player that you won't believe (once you've read the following), and
  2. We were now fully embarked on a system of drafting that has kept the NE Patriots on top of a league that is built to maintain parity.

Once again, we got a "best".  Best RB, best defensive player (or d-lineman, depending on whom you read), and now "best intercepting, ball hawker".

Big deal?  Read the following, again from NFL.com:

Smith is just the third player this century to amass 20 or more interceptions in a career, joining Jim Leonhard of Wisconsin (21, 2001-04) and Mitch Meeuwsen of Oregon State (20, 2001-04), and only the second in Atlantic Coast Conference annals to reach that lofty mark (Dre' Bly of North Carolina had 20, 1996-98). Only nine other players in the history of college football (all levels) have produced more interceptions in a career than Smith.

Smith is just the third player this century to amass 20 or more interceptions in a career, joining Jim Leonhard of Wisconsin (21, 2001-04) and Mitch Meeuwsen of Oregon State (20, 2001-04), and only the second in Atlantic Coast Conference annals to reach that lofty mark (Dre' Bly of North Carolina had 20, 1996-98). Only nine other players in the history of college football (all levels) have produced more interceptions in a career than Smith.

That's enough to make a grown defensive coordinator cry.  It's also enough to make a grown offensive coordinator throw up on his play chart.

We could stop there and be in awe of this kid.  But there's more...

What makes Smith even more valuable at his position is his ability to make big plays in the backfield. Few cornerbacks, much less ones that stand just 5-feet-9 can boast having nine sacks, 23.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and eight forced fumbles on those hits during a career. He also adds to his resume as a capable kickoff returner, averaging 20.7 yards for his career, along with using his superb leaping ability and timing to block five kicks during his time at Wake Forest.

I agree with several other MHR staffers.  This kid is the steal of the draft, even if he isn't a "position of need".  But there's more.

Read this link at NFL.com.  The kid also block punts, is a monster in the return game, and is a sack machine from the CB position.

Do you understand why I laugh when people say, "But he's too short"?  Positional need?  No.  Not on a team with Bailey, Dawkins, Hill, and Goodman.  But consider two points -

  1. We can now add an elite, dangerous nickelback to the field.  Now, all five DBs on the field in a nickle are monsters.
  2. Those four DBs I mentioned?  All of them are over 30, and contracts are coming up.

And one more point.  MHR has a soft spot for Darrent Williams, who was gunned down and taken from us and his family.  Darrent Williams gave his time and money to children without hope.  Darrent Williams was going to be the next Champ Bailey.  Darrent Williams had the wit of Shannon Sharpe, the hairstyle of "Pink" (a mohawk), the skills of a young Bailey, and the heart of a gentle lion.  Darrent Williams was a man.

So listen closely, because I'm only going to say this once:

Darrent Williams was short.  At 5'8" he was an inch shorter than Alphonso Smith.  If anyone wants to talk about height when a player clearly performs at an elite level, you'll get little mercy in the arena of debate with MHR members.  From me?  You'll get a can of whooped tail that you'll never recover from.  Don't even step on the field.


Denver's Picks - The Prestige

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Darcel McBath - Your New Safety

This proved it.  Denver threw "need" out the window and took players with high impact.  Dawkins is 36, though still playing at  a Hall of Fame-level.  All of our DBs (as mentioned earlier) are in their 30s.

But many fans see that safety is not a "need", and will not understand the pick.  We already have our starters at safety, right?  I agree.  We need a NT, right?  Yep.  I've even written that all needs beyond NT are a distant second.  I understand.

But a pick on a NT with a low probability of success is a wasted pick.  This isn't MADDEN, where you can increase a player's stat from nothing to legendary overnight (so I'm told.  I confined my coaching to real players).  Denver proved what I was understanding after the third pick.

It is all about probability, and being a "best" at something.  This kid is a ball-hawking safety.  What he is best at is something Denver hasn't had in ages.  This kid is the best deep-coverage safety in the draft.  And anyone who reads my work at MHR (or has read Styg50's thoughts on the safety position) will understand something right away.  Denver has ignored the use of the classic "deep coverage" safety for far too long (two years).  So strong are his deep-coverage, zone skills that the term "center fielder" comes up in more than one site's analysis of this player.

His weaknesses don't matter if he plays as a deep-cover safety.  Height (been there, dispelled that) is an issue that is supposed to move him up close to a box-safety position, where he is unable to play man against anybody well and unable to shed blockers (his two, true weaknesses).  But he isn't a box safety now, is he?

His deep cover skills are excellent: 

  • He keeps the play in front of him,
  • tackles well in open space, and
  • reads the play

Those are all of the skills I look for in my favorite position on the football field.  He also has what I have written many times is the "frosting on the cake" for a safety.  He has good hands, and gets interceptions.  If you read MHR University, you know that fans want good hands at safety, but defensive coordinators are more concerned with the other three skills I just described.  But to have those 3 skills AND good hands?

Jackpot.

From NFL.com:

It's easy to understand how a defensive player can fly under the radar when he plays for a team with one of the most prolific offenses in the nation.

That didn't stop Darcel McBath from being one of the best playmakers in the Big 12. Having to practice against a top offense -- namely sophomore WR Michael Crabtree -- is sure to help any defensive back hone their coverage skills. McBath, a former cornerback, was the Red Raiders' secondary anchor at the demanding free safety position since shifting there as a sophomore, going on to start his final 39 games.

The opposition, often playing from behind and passing on most every day, challenged the middle of Tech's defense last season. McBath more than stood up to the challenge, pulling in seven interceptions that included a school season-record tying two returns for touchdowns. Six of his seven pass deflections came on third-down plays.

A safety that anchors the defense, instead of a left cornerback?  7 interceptions in a season?

That's right, fellow fans.  Denver has moved away from the system-less '08 season, and the failed experiment at "contain" football in '07.  Enter now the Fairbanks-Bullough at the front seven, and a "ball-hawking, interception-prone" attitude at the defensive positions - for years to come.

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>>>>>>No more changing systems from year to year.  We have the best players based on a system, not need....... 

....and that my friends is The Prestige.<<<<<<<

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That is the answer to our draft strategy questions, and the new meaning of life for the Denver Broncos.  Do I like all of the picks?  No.  I'll have some critical comments in a moment.  Do I like the strategy?  Yes.  Hell yes.

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Richard "Big Rich" Quinn - Your New Blocking TE

Again, stunned fans.  "We have Graham, we have Scheff.  In a pinch, we even have Putzier!  What gives?"

Okay, set aside Daniel Graham's age and contract.  People focused on need over "best" will too.  Big Rich (he already comes with an existing nickname, so MHR readers can save a little time) is the best blocking TE in the draft.  Why is this "system critical" for a team focused on system over need?

Because our RB will be running out of 3-receiver sets.  He won't have a lead blocker.  In passing situations, our QB won't have a FB in to pass block.  Against 3-4 defenses, our two TE sets will be the only thing between our QB and the OLBs.

The answer is to pass on other players on the board, and even other TEs.  Denver saw the best blocking-TE was left, and pulled the trigger.  You don't have to like the pick.  You don't.  You just have to recognize the system that the Patriots Broncos are running, and realize that the best player on the board (that fits the system, offense or defense) is still there.

Folks will be critical of his reception ability.  It's the only critical issue of him as a TE.  Fine.  Big Rich is not supposed to go out there and catch the ball.  Like Ayers (who isn't supposed to get sacks) or McBath (who isn't supposed to be a box safety), the criticisms fall away when the player is meant to be part of a team-focused system that eschews individualism.  Moreno is going to be a star.  Smith is going to be a star.  Quinn, McBath, and Ayers are going to make stars out of their teammates.

It doesn't stop with the 5 jewels in the crown Denver got in the first two rounds.

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David Bruton - Your New(er) Safety

The first pick that I didn't like.  That's right; I can love the draft strategy, and love most of our picks, and still not like them all.  And you know what else?  I can dislike the pick, but still understand it.

Bear in mind that our starting CBs and SAFs are all in their 30s, and this pick makes sense.  MHR points out that Bruton makes sense because, "...Denver will have lots of options when it comes to structuring rosters, and more importantly, contracts."

But I dissent from MHR's comment: "Yet another DB to add to the backfield, and it makes you wonder just how much confidence Denver has in the current crop."  I think Denver is very, very happy with the current crop of Bailey, Dawkins, Hill, and Goodman (and nickelback / future #2 Smith).  I think Bruton (like McBath) are for future talent.

But McBath can compete right away to start.  Bruton won't.  Bruton (like every other player we took in this draft) is a character guy and a leader (a team captain, like a few of our other picks).  Like McBath, he is a deep-zone coverage guy that would struggle in the box.  His athleticism is excellent.  But his skills are average.  I don't think he was the best player on the board at this point.  Again, I'm not focused an any position in particular (everyone, including me, would have liked to have seen a NT, no matter how many better players were available). 

I don't think Bruton is a bad player.  I think he would be strong on special teams.  He has the raw ability (in spades) to turn into a beast of a player.  He has a good chance to prove me wrong (and a legendary Dawkins to teach him).  He is a ball-hawking safety, which fits the new scheme for DBs in Denver.

NFL.com agree he has a lot of potential, but isn't there yet:

Bruton flashed as a play-maker in his first season as a starter in 2007, when he had 85 tackles, three interceptions and 4.5 tackles for loss. His production increased in some ways during his senior year (91 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles), but his overall play did not result in Notre Dame's defensive improvement. A team captain, he has the size, speed and athleticism to potentially be a good starter and very good special teams player at the next level.

I just don't see the talent on display enough to justify the pick.  I don't see that he's a "best".  But I understand it.  And (perhaps) the coaches saw something they can develop quicker than I give Burton credit for.

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Seth Olsen - Your New RG

Another pick I'm not fond of.  Does he fill a need?  Yes.  Denver is thin at the the interior line on offense.  Is this guy a great OG?  Yes, I really think he is.

From NFL.com:

When you draft an Iowa lineman, you know he's technically sound and has been well-coached. Olsen has great strength and can step in and play guard right away. He's similar to Marshal Yanda, who was drafted by Baltimore a couple years ago. He's got strong hands.

So why don't I like the guy?  I've read a lot since the pick.  Olsen is a beast.  He loves the rough and tumble of fighting at scrimmage.  He's strong.  He's a good pass blocker.  He's a good kid.  He knocks the crap out of people.  But he doesn't do what I would like for him to do.

He doesn't fit the mold of a zone blocker (in my opinion).  Yes, he's a little lighter and very athletic, but he doesn't block well at the second level.  He has good lateral speed to pass block, but doesn't have the agility to move in closed space and take on a tackle without losing speed.  In other words, he doesn't seem to have "quick feet".

I'm willing to be proven wrong.  It is reasonable to assume that OL Coach Dennison had input on this pick, and he knows a heck of a lot more than me about OL measurables.  TedBartlett905 is the Xs and Os expert on MHR's staff, and might disagree with me as well.

As a straight-up guard, I love this pick.  I just question his zone-blocking skills in the running game.  Perhaps Dennison can fix that.  The kid IS a natural athlete.

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Kenny McKinley - Your New WR

I think this pick is a sleeper.  That's right.  This is my pick for the late-round player that becomes something special.

MHR's take:

This is a pick Broncos fans will learn to dig, just give it a little time.  After seeing the WR board devastated in the third round, Denver waited like a crouching lion to pounce on McKinley.  they just had to knock some other teams out of the way to do it, is all.

...and I agree.

From NFL.com:

The former Gamecock is a productive slot receiver with outstanding quickness. McKinley is a polished route-runner with good hands, and he'll give the Broncos another athletic receiver to add to their spread formations.

The Gamecocks struggled mightily without McKinley in the lineup for a three-game stretch in 2008, when he was clearly the team's most indispensable player. Called the best receiver he has ever coached, head coach Steve Spurrier had more than enough evidence to back up that statement.

McKinley's production stands out, especially when the Gamecocks' instability at quarterback is factored into his output. He set school career records for receptions and receiving yards, while also closing out his career second on the school's all-time touchdown catches list.

McKinley placed his name in the Southeastern Conference record books. His 207 receptions placed third in conference annals, becoming just the fifth SEC player to amass more than 200 catches in a career. He also became the 12th player in league history to record more than 2,700 receiving yards (2,781).

The best receiver that Steve Spurrier ever coached.  You can get a lot of stats from the films, from the combine, and from the "experts".  But there's nothing like the words of a head coach.

Does the kid have some problems?  Sure; that's why he was in the fifth round.  He isn't tough over the middle, had some hamstring problems, and his top-end speed isn't elite.  But he separates well, has excellent hands, and (most importantly, even if other folks always ignore it) runs excellent routes.

He's a solid pick with a decent chance to surprise folks.

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Tom Brandstater - Your New QB

I like this pick a lot.  This is the perfect QB to learn under McDaniels.  He's smart (a rookie who is almost finished with his master's degree?) and looks solid ("According to reports, Brandstater was the most impressive quarterback throwing at the NFL Scouting Combine - SBN's mockingthedraft.com)

Ok, the best QB at the combine, if you will.  But allow me to disagree strongly with a point made by mockingthedraft.com, which says "In the pocket, Brandstater is a statue. He lacks any mobility and struggles to avoid sacks".

That clearly flies in the face of this report from NFL.com:

He's got good speed and athleticism for his size...

...Despite his size, his feet are good enough to be effective on the bootleg and moving within the pocket.

I read that he has terrific speed despite his size at several sites, so that's where I'm putting my chips.

Another disagreement with MTD comes with this statement, "...but regressed some as a senior. He threw only 18 touchdowns, compared to 12 interceptions while completing less than 60 percent of his passes."

According to the official numbers found at (again) NFL.com:

Brandstater arrived back on campus for 2007 fall drills having already earned his degree. It was time for him to also earn some national recognition. He finished 23rd in the NCAA with a 140.49 passing efficiency rating and finished sixth in the WAC with an average of 213.23 yards per game. He amassed 2,654 yards on 211 of 337 passes (62.6 percent), connecting for 15 touchdowns against only five interceptions.

The three-time Academic All-WAC choice topped his previous season's numbers as a senior. He ranked fourth in the league in passing efficiency and total offense, as he hit on 221 of 371 tosses (59.6 percent), generating a career-high 2,664 passing yards to go with 18 touchdowns, as he collected 2,614 yards in total offense.

The MTD numbers are correct, but it was an improvement over the previous year.  The context is also a poor one.  Those are good numbers!  (In fact, 4th in the League good!)

More on McDaniel's new project from NFL.com:

Brandstater is a big, strong quarterback. He's a good football player who was productive in college at Fresno State. He's got good speed and athleticism for his size and comes from a good college system. He gives Josh McDaniels a young signal-caller to develop over the years, like he did with Matt Cassel.

Regards as the premier quarterback in the Western Athletic Conference, Brandstater possesses the range and arm strength that National Football League teams look for in a pro style quarterback. The unquestioned leader of the team put up impressive numbers since taking over the starting position as a sophomore, but has also excelled in the classroom, earning conference academic honors the last three seasons. His intelligence on the field is evident, but academically it is even more impressive, having graduated before his junior campaign and is finishing up work on his Master's degree.

Fresno State has boasted some great college quarterbacks in recent years and Brandstater has placed his name right next to the likes of Kevin Sweeney, Trent Dilfer, David Carr and Billy Volek in the school record books. He closed out his career ranking fifth in school annals in pass completions (584) and fourth in pass attempts (989), while ranking sixth all-time with 6,857 yards passing and 7,006 yards in total offense. His 47 touchdown passes placed him seventh in Bulldogs annals.

And an excellent point is made by mockingthedraft that I couldn't find anywhere else (except for some of the reporting on Brandstater, MTD is the best draft site on the web).  Imagine how good this guy might really be when you read this:
Brandstater showed intelligence and resolve at Fresno State after playing for four offensive coordinators in four years.

How a guy can put up solid numbers under 4 different coordinators is beyond me.  He's obviously smart.  He'll learn under McDaniels.  He may very well be a surprise starter when someone gets hurt, or in 2 to 3 years.


 Blake Schlueter - Your New C

MHR gets it right again.

This is a smart move, even we don't see immediate dividends.

He is a bargain basement fill in at center, with the agility and quicks to make you feel confident in his upside.

An excellent pick.  Another diamond in the rough.  This kid's only negatives don't apply to him in Denver, where he will zone block (not bulky or big enough).  He's fast, he's agile, he's quick, he's ours.

NFL.com:

Schlueter is a football player, plain and simple. He's very mature and has unbelievable quickness and agility as an offensive lineman.

Schlueter opened some eyes and left scouts buzzing at the TCU Pro Day after a solid workout.  He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds, had a 35-inch vertical jump, a 9-foot, 3-inch long jump, a 4.28-second-short shuttle time and a 7.42-second three-cone drill.

And he fits the pattern.  Yet another team captain in college.  He's known for his maturity.  He's a prototypical OL that no other gap block team wants, but Denver knows they can get him in the 7th and he'll rock.  Wiegmann is likely in his last year at center for Denver.  This is a home-run pick.


Overview

Every player filled a need, even if it wasn't a glaring need.

RB - We have great running backs already, but none of was able to start and finish the season with us without being on IR.  Think about that.

DB - We have legendary DB already, all in their 30s.

OL - Our interior OL is thin and aging.

TE - Age and contracts coming due.

DE - Our current DEs are headed to OLB.

Slot WR - Brandon Stokley is the best slot receiver in the game, and old.

Every player matched the system.

Ball-hawking secondary, one-cut runner, blocking TE, zone-block OL (I might quibble with our OG pick-up).

EVERY SINGLE PLAYER IS A LEADER AND A QUALITY GUY OFF THE FIELD.

Note the number of team captains in this mix.  All of these guys have notes at different sites that praise each player's maturity, academic prowess, and leadership.  Our top "star" player (Moreno) is not a "me" player.  In his interview, when asked how he would contribute and what he would bring to Denver's running game, he replied that he would be only one of several RBs who would serve his team with everything they've got.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you were hoping for certain players or certain positions, this clearly wasn't your draft. 

If you wanted very sound players, leaders and playmakers, with every pick...

If you wanted players that match a system and not just a roster spot...

If you wanted hope for a long term dynasty instead of a few quick fixes...

This was your draft.

Yours,

Hoosierteacher

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