Ok, so I'm back at it after just a few short day. Why? Well partially because I'm an obsessive compulsive. Partially because I had off from work on Friday. And partially because I can't stand watching playoff football that the Broncos are not a part of. I took a lot of your criticisms and opinions and applied them here, but you'll still see a lot of the same faces and scenarios as you did last time. So lets have at it.
Note: I tried very hard not to cheat in terms of draft position. I based such estimations on nfldraftscout.com among other websites. Also, if a particular player was rated as a 4th/5th round pick, I don't have him being available after the midpoint of the latter round to keep things even. Draft day trades are based on ESPN's 2009 Draft-Pick Value Chart.
People love stats, including me, so here are the per game stats of three quarterbacks during the 2009 season
Com Att Pct. Yds Yds/Att TD INT 20+ Yd Plays 40+ Yd Plays
QB1 19.8 31.8 62.3 251.3 7.9 1.7 .9 3.8 .8
QB 2 22.4 36.1 62.1 253.5 7.0 1.4 .8 2.9 .6
QB 3 17.6 29.1 60.5 193.4 6.6 1.4 .8 2.2 .3
Looking at these three quarterbacks, each looks a little more conservative than the last with Yds/Att and big plays decreasing from QB1 to QB2 to QB3. The most tentative (and least accurate) seems to be QB 3. QB 3 is Carson Palmer. QB 2 is Kyle Orton. QB 1 is Eli Manning. Did I cheat a little by dividing Kyle Orton's stats by 15 why I divided Palmer and Manning's by 16? Not really. Orton legitimately missed the equivalent of an entire game between the 2nd half of the Washington game and the 1st half of San Diego game. Now can you argue that Orton 's stats are inflated by more attempts? Sure. As long as I'm allowed to point out that Manning played behind one of the best lines in football and that teams routinely put 8 in the box against the Bengals- making Palmer's Yds/Att and lack of big plays a little perplexing.
The argument over stats can go on forever. My point is that Kyle Orton matches up pretty well against two former #1 picks - debunking, in my opinion, the idea that you need a high-rated quarterback to succeed. The most telling stat? Eli Manning earned 15.3 million dollars this season. Carson Palmer earned 13.3 million dollars this season. Kyle Orton made 0.72 million.
The more I think about it, the more I like Kyle Orton for 2010 and beyond. Here, I give him a "middle tender" of 1.8 million for 2010 which allows us to match any offer made on him or collect a 2nd round pick. I do this believing he could be the future, but also realizing that going too much higher would be bidding against ourselves. I also love Tom Brandstater a year or two down the road and am curious to see if he could push Orton as early as training camp. Regardless, I see Denver's starting quarterback in 2012 already being on our roster.
Not much changes here. St. Louis's Kenneth Darby interests me because he's only 27, doesn't have a lot of miles on him, and was a force for Alabama just a few seasons ago. However, at the end of the day I have to look at what we have. Jordan and Hillis won't be back. Moreno is tough and shifty, but doesn't have break away speed. Buckhalter has speed, but didn't do much when asked to pound the ball in short yardage. I go with Chester Taylor again, because because of his blocking and ability to make plays in the receiving game.
Another repeat here (there will be a lot, so get used to it). With no worth while options in free agency receiver-wise and with only one veteran tight end on the roster, I take a veteran tight end here (I don't think Quinn or Branson are ready to be 2nd TEs yet). Again, I go with Jeff King. Some criticisms from last post were that King wasn't productive enough and that he wasn't a true "receiving tight end". Tony Scheffler was a receiving tight end, and look how that worked. Ben Watson didn't become a threat really until McDaniels left. McDaniels doesn't put much emphasis on tight ends going down field. They're meant as short yardage and endzone threats and in that respect King (25 rec 200 yds 3TDs in 2009) is similar to Graham (28 rec 289 yds 1TD) and is 4 years younger.
If I'm McDaniels, I take this as an opportunity to fix my line. There are no more excuses, no surprises - the line coach with somewhat conflicting philosophies is gone and now its time to rebuild. I'd cut Wiegman, Hamilton, Gorin, and (maybe) Polumbus. I sign Kuper long term because, while Logan Mankins is a better player, the price difference makes such a deal unnecessary. I keep Russ Hochstein to platoon at center with whatever rookie I bring in from the draft, and I pick up Houston's Mike Brisiel (a CSU alum)for depth inside.
This is likely where the big changes will come whether the new DC is Dean Pees, Don Martindale, or somebody off the radar. Remember, McDaniels has a definite idea of what he wants his defense to look like and he will either bring in Pees because he shares those philosophies or project those philosophies on a new-comer like Martindale. Much like the offensive line, I see a lot of cuts here. Ross Tucker's SI article specifically addressed what will come of Ronald Fields and Ryan McBean now that their biggest supporter is in Miami. My guess is that they'll be headed over there too. I also think it's time to cut ties with LeKevin Smith, proclaim that as a waste of a trade, and cut him. Vonnie Holliday would be welcome to come back, but for the purposes of this post, I'm not going to play a betting game with a man's reconstructed knees. That leaves Kenny Peterson, Marcus Thomas, and Chris Baker. I don't see Chris Baker as our starting nose-tackle so we need to decide whether to spend a top pick on Tennessee's Dan Williams or pick up a hulking 330+ pound free agent starter. My love for Rolando McClain at the 10/11 pick and belief that Williams is destined to go in the Top 20 overall leads me to picking up our starting nose tackle in free agency. Last post, I sang the praises of Johnny Jolly and how he was 3 years younger and likely to come much cheaper than Ryan Pickett. The need for a true nose changes that and so I have us picking up Pickett with a 18M/4yr contract. Pickett gets the nod over Patriot Vince Wilfolk due to personal preference, but if Pees is headed to Denver Wilfolk (who is two years younger than Pickett) is possible to follow. Also, last post I had San Diego's Travis Johnson as a possible pick-up, here I have the 6'3 311 pound former first-rounder as a must considering the size we'll need at DE. That brings us up to 5 bodies upfront prior to the draft. Obviously, the maturation of Thomas and Baker will be as essential to bolstering our defensive line as any off-season pick up. (In fairness to both, Thomas has jumped around from 4-3 tackle to 3-4 nose to 3-4 end and Baker was only a rookie).
The first step in that is signing Elvis Dumervil long term. In fact, I'd go as far to say as that it should be our #1 priority this offseason. He needs to improve against the run, but he had 17 sacks this season. Our next best rusher was Holliday with 5. We can't afford that loss in production and I believe the new defensive system will have him less aggressive on 1st and 2nd down - allowing him to be more disciplined against the run. D.J Williams disappointed me this season. I know people love him, but he just seemed too lost - particularly in coverage - for my tastes. The hope is that he finds his groove next season because he's far too athletically gifted to replace. Robert Ayers needs to seize the OLB spot opposite Dumervil plain and simple. I think the key addition here would be to get a run-stuffing inside linebacker to fill a Jerod Mayo-like role...hmmm.
The first thing I thought of when I heard that Nolan was out and McDaniels was going to install a New England-like scheme was "Our secondary is going to be even more dominant." It's true. Whether or not Dean Pees is the man, that scheme held up surprisingly well with Leigh Bodden on one side and Shawn Springs/Jonathan Wilhite on the other. What are Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman going to do? I also think that this philosophical change will save Alphonso Smith's confidence. People are already calling him a bust and I agree that he didn't perform like a mid-first round pick (what he actually cost us) should, but I also think he was poorly utilized. Josh McDaniels probably watched the tape, met with the guy, worked him out and saw a good, bright guy who fit what he wanted in a corner. Not necessarily what Mike Nolan would want. Alphonso Smith was selected so high because of his agility and ball-skills. Blitzing every other play and leaving him on an island exposes his lack of size and experience more than it accentuates his agility and nose for the ball. In a system where the coverage rolls over more and blitzes less (a system we're all assuming McDaniels is favoring), you give Smith the opportunity to run around and make plays - which is the reason he was brought in in the first place. As far as free agency goes, I stand pat, but keep Ty Law in my rolodex in the event that we don't find somebody we like in the draft.
Brandon Marshall to Baltimore for 2nd, 3rd, and 5th picks (57th, 89th, and 152nd overall)
This may be the last time I have us trading Marshall because I like the deal less and less. If he is traded, I think it'll have more to do with him wanting 10 million a year and less about any perceived tension between him and McDaniels - but that may be for Take 3.0. Here, I have us trading him to Baltimore. Baltimore certainly needs a receiver for Flacco to be able to depend on, but I can't see Ozzie Newsome getting rid of a 1st round pick and so instead we get 3 less valuable picks, which I am fine with - in a draft this deep these picks give us more flexibility.
Ronald Fields and Ryan McBean to Miami for 4th Round Pick (107th overall)
Jason Ferguson, Miami's current Nosetackle is 35. I think rather than spending a high draft pick on a rookie, Nolan brings in a guy he likes plus a solid defensive end for relative peanuts. This makes sense on Denver's side because McBean - in my opinion - is too long and not bulky enough for the new defense and Fields would translate as a 3-4 DE - something he isn't particularly versed in so you get a mid-round pick rather than cutting two players.
Tony Scheffler to Cleveland for 5th Round Pick (130th Overall - Through Tampa Bay)
I like the projected Trade of Scheffler and Hillis to Washington for Fred Davis and a 5th Rounder, but just don't see it happening for two reasons. One, you assume Shanny is going to want two tight ends with similar skill sets. Two, it assumes Fred Davis is a Daniel Graham/Richard Quinn type blocker just because of his size. But his M.O at USC and in the NFL has been his receiving ability paired with adequate, but not powerful blocking. I send Scheffler to Cleveland here because Holmgren likes throwing it to the tight-end (see Mark Chmura, John Carlson, etc) and otherwise Scheffler may get cut.
Peyton Hillis to Houston for 6th Round Pick (187th Overall-Through San Diego)
Conventional wisdom has Hillis to Washington, but I doubt Washington would send a 5th Rounder for a guy McDaniels so vehemently disregards and they don't have a 6th. Houston, who's head coach Gary Kubiak likes bigger bodies running the ball (and has Dennison as his new OC), has two 6th rounders and sends the latter to Denver in a slightly better offer than Washington can muster.
1st Round (10th/11th Overall)
Rolando McClain - ILB - Alabama
Talk about drafting Dez Bryant here actually bothers me. When you're in Win-Now mode you can't spend such a high pick on a receiver who hasn't played in forever. I go with McClain atop my draft (again) for the same reasons he was up here before. He's athletic, familiar with the 3-4 scheme, is adequate in pass coverage, and is a run stuffer. If Pees comes in, it'll make even more sense for two Saban disciples (McDaniels and Pees) to pick up Saban's latest defensive star. McDaniels and Pees were in New England when the Patriots spent their #10 pick on SEC run-stuffer Jerod Mayo. How'd that work out? I think such a pick-up instantly improves our run defense and gives Andra Davis the opportunity to be a rotational player with fresh legs rather than wearing down late in games.
Denver sends 2nd Round Pick (45th Overall) to Arizona for Anquan Boldin
I know some of you hate this move, but I'm doing it again because - so long as Brandon Marshall is out of Denver - we need to give Kyle Orton and the rest of this rebuilding offense a fair shot with a legitimate Top Tier receiver. Yes, Boldin is turning 30 in October. Yes, he's missed 9 games in the past 3 seasons. But if you look at the stats (I detailed them in my Take 1.5) I project that Marshall, at minimum will be signed for 48M/6yrs with 18.6M guaranteed. That was the base of his contract demands last off-season and I imagine they grew. Boldin, who is due to make 6 million this season would, at most, get 30M/4yrs with 12M guaranteed. Financially, that 6.6 million can be used on a defensive free agent or two. On the field, Boldin is actually fairly perfect for this offense. He was a pass-and-catch type guy in Arizona who matches Marshall's physicality and hands while also possessing far more refined route-running skills and lateral quickness. Is spending a 2nd rounder on the oft-dinged up Boldin better than spending it on LSU's Brandon LaFell (a projected 2nd Rounder and my favorite WR in the draft)? Maybe. Maybe not. LaFell could be a star, a bust, or anything in between. In Boldin, you get instant production and a top level receiver for the next four years.
2nd Round (57th Overall - From Baltimore)
Mike Johnson - OG - Alabama
I warned about this change last mock, and here it is. This has just as much to do with my wavering good-feelings about Iupati and Asamoah (both are raw and lack agility to pull consistently) as it does for my love for what Mike Johnson would bring to our offense. For one, he can start from Day 1 at left guard. As an All-American he was largely responsible for the dominant running game that made Mark Ingram a Heisman-winner and Alabama National Champions. Alabama regularly featured the power run - a down-hill run behind the tackle and pulling guard - that is a staple in the running game Josh McDaniels wants to install. Mike Johnson often served as the pulling guard. Also, at 6'5 305, he has the size to play tackle at the next level and started a few games at left tackle for Alabama as a junior. Knock on wood, if anything were to happen to Ryan Clady or if Ryan Harris' injuries continue to nag him, Johnson could be slid out to tackle and last year's 4th Round pick, Seth Olsen, can replace him at left guard. His familiarity with the running game McDaniels wants to install, his role on a championship team, and much-needed versatility makes him too valuable for McDaniels to pass up here.
3rd Round (80th Overall)
Tyson Alualu - DE - California
I had him in the 2nd round last draft but, for some reason, his stock has dropped on most sites and so I'm banking on him being available here. I take him over other possibilities because of his familiarity at playing 3-4 end and his ability to get to the quarterback from that position. As mentioned above, Vonnie Holliday was our second leading sack-getter this season and he isn't a guarantee to come back. Alualu instantly makes an impact as a rush specialist and can compete early for a starting spot on our defensive line.
3rd Round (89th Overall - From Baltimore)
J.D Walton - OC - Baylor
3 out of 4 repeats so far. Walton's stock is rising to the point where he'll probably be the 2nd or 3rd center picked in the draft so I take him in the 3rd round rather than the 4th. Most scouting reports depict Walton as a high-motor mauler, the kind of interior lineman that New England boasted during McDaniels' tenure. Walton has the build and athletic attributes suited for a power-running center and experience run-blocking from shotgun formations (albeit predominantly quarterback runs.) I see him sitting behind Russ Hochstein this season before assuming the role as center of the future.
Denver Trades 107th and 111th overall picks to Detroit for 97th and 129th overall picks
4th Round (97th Overall - From Detroit)
Kyle Wilson - CB - Boise State
Devin McCourty was the pick here last time, but it looks more and more like he'll be gone by the end of the 2nd round and, again, I'm trying not to cheat as far as draft position is concerned. Kyle Wilson is my second favorite corner in the draft and, due to the rise of many other corners and the declaration of several juniors, Wilson has been pushed from a fringe 2nd/3rd rounder to a fringe 3rd/4th rounder on most draft boards. Kyle Wilson's shortcomings in terms of size and perceived poor level of competition hurt him because of the plethora of big, physical corners in this draft - but we're going to focus on Wilson's strengths here, to which there are many. Wilson has top-level speed, is agile, doesn't shy away from hits, and plays with the swagger you love to see from a corner. His aggression has come back to bite him at times, but I think McDaniels/Pees/Martindale can make him more disciplined. With controlled aggression, he is the kind of player who can close in on passing lanes in a hurry and join Alphonso Smith and Tony Carter as the future of Denver's secondary.
Denver trades 2 picks (129th Overall - From Detroit and 173rd Overall) to Houston for 115th overall
4th Round (115th Overall - From Houston)
Mike Neal - DT/DE - Purdue
McDaniels showed in 2009 that he isn't afraid to move around in the draft and so I have him doing it again here. In a draft so deep at defensive tackle (Draftscout has him ranked as the #12 DT in the draft) it's possible that Neal could be around early in the 5th round, but if Pittsburgh passes on him midway through the 4th, I expect McDaniels to leapfrog New England, Green Bay, San Diego, and others for his services as a projected 3-4 Defensive End. During this week's East/West Shrine Game workouts he has impressed coaches with a quick initial burst and power at the point of attack. Look for this pick to change in the coming weeks, if Neal shows additional potential as a 3-4 DE, his stock may rise.
5th Round (130th Overall - From Cleveland - Through Tampa Bay)
Blair White - WR - Michigan State
Not exactly Dezmon Briscoe or Danario Alexander but White serves too many purposes early in the 5th Round to ignore. For one, he frees up the possibility that Brandon Stokely's 1.4 million dolalr 2010 salary can be used elsewhere. I for one, feel as though he disappeared too often during the 2009 season and takes plays away from the young Kenny McKinley - a guy I really like. Denver will probably carry 6 WR's on the roster and so White joins Brandon Lloyd as my final two. White isn't particuarly athletic and is less physical than his 6'2 200lbs frame would indicate, but he creates seperation with his route running, has good hands, and his size will make him an upgrade over Stokely in the slot. White was the star in Michigan State's pass-heavy offense and his 2009 production (70 rec 990 yds 9TDs) are too good to ignore. Most importantly, his experience on special teams (he served as both a punt returner and gunner on coverage units at MSU) allow him to contribue instantly and makes him more than a reserve receiver.
5th Round (152nd Overall - From Baltimore)
James Starks - RB - Buffalo
McDaniels strikes me as a "bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" kind of guy so I reach a little for Starks here who I had in the 6th Round last go-around. New running backs coach, Eric Studesville, had to have been watching how Starks turned around Buffalo's program and may indicate to McDaniels that he's worth a little reach. Regardless with Auburn's Ben Tate (my other favorite running back) gone I take a guy with athleticism (he played quarterback and cornerback during his freshman year before switching to running back) and who was a work-horse for Turner Gill. He has good, but not great speed, but can burst and hit the occasional homerun. Also with two running backs 30 and over on the roster, I see Starks as guy who has the potential to match-up well with Correll Buckhalter, is a very good receiver, and can team with Moreno as the 1-2 punch of the future.
6th Round (187th Oveall - From Houston - Through San Diego)
Mike Tepper - OT - California
This pick has a lot to do with my lack of confidence in Tyler Polumbus. He seemed too long and lumbering to engage rushers and drive back on runs. This pick officially makes he and Gorin expendable and so Tepper joins Mike Johnson as guys who can fill in behind Clady and Harris. Tepper isn't likely to challenge for a starting spot (though in fairness Clady and Harris, when healthy, are a Top 3 OT tandem) but is a big body who played both tackle spots in Jeff Tedford's potent offense.
7th Round (204th Overall)
Levi Brown - QB - Troy
This pick is based off my assertion that Orton or Brandstater is the future and that Brandstater is ready to be 2nd in command. Brown has good size, is very accurate, and is considered a student of the game. His lack of arm strength and experience in an unorthodox offense are perceived negatives, but in terms of 3rd stringer to fill Chris Simm's roster spot, Brown is a good fit.
The Final 53 - Rough Depth Chart
1. Orton 2. Brandstater 3. Brown
1. Moreno 2. Buckhalter 3. Taylor 4. Starks
1. Boldin 4. McKinley
2. Royal 5. Lloyd
3. Gaffney 6. White
1. Graham 2. King 3. Quinn
LT 1. Clady 2. Johnson 3. Tepper
LG 1. Johnson 2. Olsen 3. Brisiel
C 1. Hochstein 2. Walton 3. Kuper
RG 1. Kuper 2. Olsen 3. Brisiel
RT 1. Harris 2. Johnson 3. Tepper
LE 1. Peterson 2. Neal 3. Johnson
NT 1. Pickett 2. Baker 3. Thomas
RE 1. Thomas 2. Alualu 3. Johnson
LOLB 1. Ayers 2. Haggan 3. Reid
ILB 1. Williams 2. Woodyard 3. Larsen
ILB 1. McClain 2. Davis 3. Larsen
ROLB 1. Dumervil 2. Haggan 3. Reid
1. Bailey 3. Smith 5. Carter
2. Goodman 4. Wilson
FS 1. Dawkins 2. McBath
SS 1. Hill 2. Bruton 3. Barrett