The Denver Broncos' 2011-12 season is finally over after 22 games, pre-season, regular season, and--yes--post season. I could not be happier for this team to have had a 9-9 record this season, and though my personal preference would have been 19-0, I think the Broncos showed more heart this season than a lot of teams, even with a bad collapse down the stretch.
Winning a home playoff game was absolutely great to watch, and watching a home playoff victory was even sweeter. The Broncos were no match for the mighty top seeded Patriots on their home turf, especially when Tom Brady turned his difficulty level from All-Madden to Rookie for this game.
The Denver defense had no answer for Brady, Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez (the RB), or pretty much anyone else who Brady threw a pass to since he basically had his pick of the lot. You simply cannot bring three man pressure on Tom Brady and expect it to work, it's as simple as that.
But, from the win against Cincinnati, to the win against Pittsburgh, I think Denver's nine victories have inspired enough confidence in the fan base for a good amount of people to believe we can make the playoffs next year and be a contender coming out of the AFC West.
As for the offseason, I think there are some pretty clear, glaring needs that the Broncos need to fill. If Brian Dawkins has played his last game as a Bronco, that leaves a huge hole at safety. I think Quinton Carter did a decent job, but he and Rahim Moore certainly looked out of place at times. It was really concerning to see Rafael Bush, David Bruton, Kyle McCarthy and others get playing time over a healthy Rahim Moore, who was one of our second round picks.
I think the Broncos need to seriously consider paying top-dollar for a safety on the free agent market. Don't give up on your own guys, but if you bring a guy in to help in the secondary, it needs to be a veteran who can bring this defense to the next level, not a rookie who is going to take time to develop again. Using a high draft pick on the safety position doesn't make a lot of sense to me right now, specifically because we used a 2nd and 4th round pick on that position last year.
I also don't think drafting an inside linebacker early would be beneficial, because we just spent a third round pick on one. If you buy a batch of bananas green, you have to wait for them to get ripe before you can eat them. If you can't wait a week or more for the bananas to ripen, then go to the store and buy some that are already ripe, don't buy more bananas that are green.
Where the Broncos need young talent is at running back, cornerback, defensive tackle, and wide receiver. The offense is seriously lacking for playmakers, and that was evident against the Patriots. The Broncos couldn't get open against the 32nd ranked defense in the league.
Here's my first crack at helping this team out with my own mock draft based on third party rankings. I'll use NFL Draft Scout/CBS Sports.
1. First Round, 25th overall: Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami
Lamar Miller is a rare combination of size, speed, power, vision, receiving ability, and all of the above for a running back. Even some of the best running backs get overlooked on draft day, and I think he has a ton of talent and is a great value at the bottom of the first round. With the Broncos moving to a run-oriented offense, we can't be relying on guys like Lance Ball or Jeremiah Johnson to carry the load if and when Willis McGahee gets hurt. Oh, and by the way, McGahee won't be there forever. Miller is a top notch talent at running back who would instantly impact this team.
2. Second Round: Orson Charles, Tight End, Georgia
We all know how important having a top notch tight end is to a young quarterback, and I think the Broncos would be doing really well to add a guy like Charles to the fray, a pass catcher who can split out and make plays. He definitely needs to work on blocking, but as talented as he is catching passes, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him be an impact player right out of the gates. He provides another mismatch down the middle of the field that other teams have to worry about, taking that much more pressure off the quarterback.
3. Third Round: Josh Robinson, Cornerback, Central Florida
Really emerging cornerback prospect with great speed and decent size. Ability to contribute on special teams early. Can get beat deep but has the recovery speed to be able to make up for it. Really good at making plays on the ball. I think in a zone scheme, he is probably an ideal fit. Decent tackler with room to improve in that area for sure. Nose for the ball and a guy that you can develop into an ideal #2 cornerback. Not great height, but well-built overall as a corner.
4. Fourth Round: Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Wisconsin
If Wilson were two inches taller, he'd probably be talked about in the conversation with guys like Robert Griffin III as the second best QB in the draft to Andrew Luck. He will fall on draft day because of his height, and we need to take advantage. Wilson has the intangibles that you look for in a quarterback, he has a strong arm and has greatly improved accuracy. He knows how to move the chains on third down whether because of his arm or legs, and he is a coaches dream in terms of work ethic and being a great teammate. Great value in the fourth round, in my opinion.
5. Fifth Round (from St. Louis): Jordan White, Wide Receiver, Western Michigan
Big, physical wide receiver prospect who led the nation in receiving yards in 2011 and caught a ton of passes. He knows how to find his way into open space, and despite the fact that his speed isn't great, he has good quickness and runs really good routes. He's got big hands and could really be a gem in this draft.
6. Fifth Round: Derek Wolfe, Defensive Tackle, Cincinnati
Big defensive tackle prospect with surprising athleticism. Excellent pass rusher this past year and though he's battled injuries, could be the kind of guy who is very impactful in a short amount of time developing. Hard worker with a great motor, I think Wolfe is a good value pick in the late fifth round.