Tebow-mania is hitting all sorts of craziness right now; we beat what was ranked the 3rd best defense in the league, on a 95-yard surgical drive in the last five minutes of the game. We've beaten the Raiders, who have been manhandling their opponents before and after that game. We've beaten the Dolphins, who are on a 3-game win streak. All that being said, I'm still not *quite* sold on the guy as a franchise QB. There are still six games remaining, and I'm excited to see what happens with the Broncos' progression. I'm even more excited to see how we fare up against the Patriots with their beefy O-line, and our two-headed pass-rushin', QB-killin' monster. The rest of the season should be exciting, but I'm even more excited about this coming year's draft and free agency.
Jump with me, and we'll talk a little more aboutFirst of all, let's discuss, in *my* opinion, the needs that we have as a team. For the sake of this post, my goal is to ASSUME that EFX will stick with Timmy T at the reins. Please, let's not detract from this point. :)
The most glaring and obvious needs we have are for a young, solid RB, and a younger corps for DB. Let's take a look at these two spots on our current roster.
At RB, we currently have:
We all know what Willis brings to the table - he's a one-cut, downhill runner with solid hands, great patience, and decent vision. He's a power runner and often moves piles with his momentum.
Ball is more of a versatile back - he can pound between the tackles if he needs to, but has enough quickness to get outside on stretch plays, and can contribute fairly well to screens, shovels, and quick routes.
Johnson is long those same lines, but has shown a little more explosiveness in both his college and pro careers than his combine numbers (4.62 40yd, 35.0" vert).
The guy that REALLY excites me is Fannin. Although he lacks in experience and has been mired with injury, the guy ran a 4.37 (adjusted, 4.38 originally) at the combine. And he weighs as much as Willis McGahee. He's got the rare combination of power and speed, he's good at protecting the ball, and he can catch, often lining up at slot in spread situations to challenge DBs. His only concern has been vision and durability, both being things that McGahee excels at; I think an off-season with a vet like Willis could only improve Fannin's abilities as an NFL starter. I think we have the smaller, more elusive backs in Johnson and Ball, although they are also the bruising type (none as small as Knowshon). This could create major problems for defense; having three or four versatile backs who are big enough to block and hit inside gaps, smart enough to bail out QBs wth quick routes, good hands for catches, and good speed to break a run. The icing on that cake would be having someone like Fannin, who can do it all with authority, be the centerpiece. Just check out his combine workout - he's incredibly quick, surefooted, and can change direction at near full speed. Plus, he showcases his talents as a receiver, with short, medium, and long routes.
All of this being said, I think the Broncos are doing very well running the ball; if they keep winning, the only way to acquire Trent Richardson would be to trade up in the draft. I think, before wasting more valuable picks, we would really benefit from giving our young line-up a chance. I think we have a diamond-in-the-rough in Fannin, and he deserves at least a shot, given his physical prowess and catching abilities.
Draft need - none; keep an eye out for Knile Davis (Arkansas) - this guy was projected as a top 2-3 RB in 2012 before breaking his ankle. Think Decker, who was listed as a top WR prospect, but his stock took a tumble when he injured himself at Minnesota and missed a year. He's obviously a solid receiver that we got relatively cheap in the 3rd round. Davis is back practicing now, but not sure if he'll have much of an impact this season; it's doubtful he'll enter the 2012 draft, probably choosing instead to have another year for scouts to grade.
Free agency need - maybe 1 more back to shore up against injuries -- this is assuming that Knowshon's tenure in Denver is over.
Second, we need to address the issue at corner.
Here's our current staff at CB:
Champ is one of the greatest to have ever played the game, and what a deal we got, taking him away from the 'Skins. He is an incredible locker room and gametime influence, as made evident with his recent, highly publicized conversation with Tebow after the Jets game. There's no better time than now to find a CB that can address our needs immediately. Champ is a prototypical NFL corner; let's analyze some of what makes him great.
When entering the league in 1999, the 6-0 Georgia product weighed 184 lbs, and ran a blazing fast 4.28 40-yard dash. He was the 7th overall pick by the Redskins, and was one of the highest-drafted CBs in the league. Scouts touted his fluidity in coverage, second-nature hip-movement, ball skills, and route-reading ability. As such, the 10-time pro-bowler has proven his scouts correct. Champ has put on a little weight over the years and currently weighs 192; I think this actually works in his favor, accounting for the considerable size advantage many receivers have against DBs.
As of right now, Goodman and Bailey are both on the last few legs of their careers; Chris Harris is showing a lot of promise, whereas Squid and Cassius still have to prove themselves a little more outside of special teams. I think Harris could become special, but it's too early to tell. I think Wilhite can be cut; he's a special teams ace, but whoever we get at CB would be instantly infused into the special teams unit.
The two premier options in the 2012 draft at this position are Dre Kirkpatrick (6-2, 192 from Alabama) and Morris Claiborne (6-0, 185 from LSU). The one immediate connection you'll make is that they are both in the same size-range as Champ. Dre is a bit taller and a hair slower (Low-end projected 40-yd dash: 4.36 vs 4.42) than Claiborne, but both are phenomenal bump-and-run, man coverage quarterbacks. Both have good speed and strength, incredible route-reading abilities, and great movement in coverage. In my opinion, Claiborne has shown a little better awareness in zone plays, and seems to communicate a little better with other DBs in coverage situations. I think having either of these guys would be amazing, but if I had to pick, I would choose Claiborne. He seems to have a bit more as far as intangibles, and he lays out scary hits for being a relatively average-sized CB.
Draft need: 1st round, if either of these prospects are available.
If neither are available, later rounds hold good possibilities for a couple other promising DBs, such as Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina, Johnathan Banks from Mississippi State, and Chase Minnifield from Virgina. All are prototypically built, but projected slightly slower than the #1 and #2 options at about 4.45 for their 40's.
Free agency need: Cortland Finnegan, Carlos Rogers, and William Gay are some of the free agent options in this category. I think that even if we're able to ink one of these guys, a high draft pick should still be used to get a young, dynamic guy in the CB role. I think Goodman would be do quite well as a nickel CB.
As we all can agree, both lines (O and D) are outperforming all expectations.
I also tend to agree with a lot of the sentiments out there that Franklin needs to be moved to guard and we need a solid, Clady-esque tackle on the right side. That being said, we have the second youngest line in the NFL. Kuper, Walton, Franklin, Beadles, and Clady are solid, but really need a little bit of help in rotation. As far as guards, Hochstein is getting up there, but Ramirez has been a god-sent because he can play anywhere on the line. Moving Franklin to Guard would remove the need for Hochstein, as Franklin is just like Ramirez in terms of versatility. As far as tackles, Chris Clark and Tony Hills have been doing rather well in rotational situations for us, but I don't think either of them is capable of taking over a starting role in favor of Franklin. I think we address the Tackle situation in an earlier round as well, if EFX decides to move Franklin. If they decide to keep Franklin at tackle I think we see very little change in the O-line roster except maybe an addition for depth.
DJ Fluker from Alabama keeps rearing his head during this discussion. The guy is simply massive (6-6 335); he's the heaviest and one of the tallest tackles in the league, but is also unbelievably quick on his feet and does great in both run and pass support. He's difficult to throw around, and has solid technique against speedy linebackers and elusive ends. Levy Adcock (6-5 322, OK State) and Nate Potter (6-6 298, Boise State) are other proven tackles that could have a significant impact.
Draft Need: 2nd Round, if Franklin moved to Guard. 4th-5th round otherwise
Free Agency need: Carl Nicks (NO, G) and Ben Grubbs (Bal, G) are both top-tier guards that could complement Franklin if he stays at Tackle. On the other hand, if he moves, Demetrius Bell (Buf, OT), Brandon Keith (Ari, OT), or Anthony Collins (Cin, OT) could easily fill the role, and do it well.
As far as D-tackles go, we are sitting rather pretty, although no one would have said that at the beginning of the year. Oddly, I think the injuries to Vickerson and Warren helped our corps out; Bunk, McBean, and Thomas are all free agents next year, and IMO should be signed to decent contracts ASAP. Bunk needs to become a Broncos lifer, as he is showing flashes of the massive potential that the Eagles wasted. He could easily become the anchor in this young D-line. I think an addition of someone like Brandon Thompson or Devon Still would inject that D-line with massive strength (think Suh+Fairley possibilities), but both are mid-first-round prospect and probably won't garner that much attention from the Broncos. I think picking up someone like Reyes (UConn, DT) or Alameda Ta'amu (Was, DT) in later rounds would help us shore up areas of need. Warren is getting up there in age and may be a contributor next year, and Vickerson started off the year well, but his actual impact remains to be seen.
Draft Need: Rounds 3-5
Free Agency Need: Jason Jones (Ten, DT), or Shaun Rogers (NO, DT) would be awesome pickups if they don't get contracted in the off-season.
*deep breath* OK - that concludes this session of Drafty McDrafterson. Please, respond with your opinions. Let me know whether you think this is the right direction or feel free to bash my ideas as well.
Till next time, ciao, and GO BRONCOS!