This time of year always brings speculation on what positions the Broncos should fill using the draft and FA. I've read a few posts on the defensive issues and a few on the offensive problems which mainly focus on the Oline and Beadles free agency. On offense some suggest it will come down to a Decker versus Beadles decision.
Maybe a few stats can shed some light on the problems the Broncos face.
First the defense.
The Broncos rank 23rd in the NFL in overall defense. Currently Denver is allowing 26.6 points per game ranking them 24th in that category. Against the rush they are 11th and against the pass they drop to 28th. Since the NFL is primarily a passing league, being 28th against the pass doesn't create a lot of optimism about winning a Super Bowl.
But all is not lost. Previous Super Bowl winners have varied in their defensive ability.
Last year the Ravens were ranked 17th over all, 17th against the pass, 20th against the rush and 12th on points scored at 21.5. That got them a 10-6 record going into the playoffs.
The year before the Giants were ranked 27th overall, 29th against the pass, 19th against the rush, 25th on points per game at 25.0 and they finished 9-7, only one game worse than the Ravens the year before.
In general, the split between the best defensive teams versus the best offensive teams winning Super Bowls is about even with a slight edge going to offensive ability.
So Denver might be able to plow ahead on just a strong offensive and a so-so defense, but the lack of a strong defense means winning may come down to a matter of luck more than a strong offensive skill set.
There isn't much more analysis of the defense that needs to be done. Being ranked 23rd overall and 28th against the pass is not acceptable and has to be a focus in the 2014 draft and free agency.
On offense things are less clear. The OL has done a good job this year with Manning having one of the lowest sack rates in the NFL. Frequently, Manning's low sack rate is credited to his quick release---hold on--not so fast! Yes, Manning has a quick release at between 2.33 seconds and 2.43 seconds on average. But he is also immobile. He does not run the ball, move out of the pocket much or scramble to save his rear and make the play.
Tom Brady has a release average of 2.54 seconds and is getting sacked at a rate of 25.6, almost double Manning's rate. The one to two tenths of a second in slower release rate is simply not the whole story when it comes to sack rate.
For example, Aaron Rodgers at Green Bay holds the ball 2.76 seconds on average and gets sacked 36.7 times. Roethlisberger holds the ball 2.73 seconds and gets sacked at rate of 39 times a season. If release times were the only major factor in sack rates, Rogers and Roethlisberger should be getting sacked 50 times a game and not 36.
Sack rates depend on a lot of factors including QB mobility, consistency of throwing times, OL interior effectiveness, ability of the LT and RT and QB decision making. In terms of the OL, tackles have a far higher sack rate than interior linemen. If a team wants to cut the sack rate, the place to look is at each end of the line.
While I agree Manning's quick release is a positive quality, his low sack rate of 14.6 a season is also a factor of OL effectiveness, which for Denver is better than Green Bay's, Pittsburgh's and New England's.
Beadles name gets mentioned frequently as someone the Broncos should let go and replace with a magical low round draft pick. Now that's fantasy football for you! Replacing Beadles would not impact wins and losses at all, but improving the defense or getting a better LT would. I expect an NFL team to offer Beadles between $3.5 and $4.5 mil a year over 4 years, especially since he has been injury free for 4 years and possibly a two time Pro Bowl guy.
Here's a list of the FA guards for 2014 and what they currently make. None of them are an upgrade to Beadles, especially when their next salary is compared to any possible improvement in LG for the price. The same is true in the guard draft picks listed below. How much of an upgrade would any of them be compared to the loss of a defensive player that could be slotted into that round or possibly an offensive play maker that can put points on the board? Beadles wins again.
Richie Incognito Dolphins $4,333,333
Charlie Johnson Vikings $3,250,000
Wade Smith Texans $3,000,000
Paul McQuistan Seahawks $2,500,000
Brian Waters Cowboys $1,500,000
Rob Turner Titans $1,500,000
Chris Williams Rams $1,376,154
Mike McGlynn Colts $1,325,000
Chad Rinehart Chargers $1,250,000
Willie Colon Jets $1,200,000
Travelle Wharton Panthers $1,100,000
Zane Beadles Broncos $1,080,250
Garry Williams Panthers $1,020,834
Andre Gurode Raiders $1,005,000
Dylan Gandy Lions $905,000
Kevin Boothe Giants $905,000
Jon Asamoah Chiefs $886,280
John Jerry Dolphins $872,875
Shawn Lauvao Browns $832,500
Matt Slauson Bears $815,000
Mike Pollak Bengals $780,000
Jamon Meredith Buccaneers $750,000
Vladimir Ducasse Jets $741,250
Eben Britton Bears $715,000
Jason Spitz Seahawks $715,000
Geoff Schwartz Chiefs $700,000
Rich Ohrnberger Chargers $675,000
Seth Olsen Vikings $670,000
Mike Gibson Cardinals $665,000
Chris Scott Panthers $630,000
Shelley Smith Rams $533,940
Here are the top college OL draft candidates.
David Yankey round 1
Cyril Richardson round 1 or 2
Zack Martin round 1 or 2
Su'a-Filo round 2
Anthony Steen round 2 or 3
Gabe Jackson round 3 or 4
Chris Watt round 4
Jon Halapio round 4 or 5