Now that we are getting closer to the 2013 season the Broncos have a number of players entering their 4th, 5th and 6th seasons. Many of these players are commonly discussed but we too often misunderstand what type of players they are now. While few players make big strides in years 1-3, by a players 4th year they should have progressed overall. Having said that I wanted to approach my study of these players like an NFL scout would a rookie, looking back on the most recent years game film and then write up a scouting report. By doing this I feel the Broncos fan base can create a more up-to-date picture of what these players strengths and weaknesses are instead of relying on what we remember from their early careers.
The players I choose to scout were:
- Knowshon Moreno (4th year)
- Eric Decker (3rd year)
- Demaryius Thomas (3rd year)
- Zane Beadles (3rd year)
- JD Walton (3rd year)
- David Bruton (4th year)
- Robert Ayers (4th year)
- Wesley Woodyard (5th year)
I had planned to do Willis McGahee with his release that is largely a mute point now.
I'm going to be using CBS Sports player profile outline since it's so robust and even used by NFL.com now. They break the players skills into a variety of categories and then give them a grade for that category. For applicable areas I'll include a statistic just for fun. For each draftee I'll try and do my scouting with either a member of the Broncos staff or a member of a reputed scouting site. For Knowshon Moreno I was honored to work with Scott DiStefano a member of the Broncos college scouting staff over the midwest area. This is not his scouting report since that would be inappropriate but he did assist me in my film study.
Athletic Ability: Moreno might lack explosion in his initial step, but he runs with a fluid stride and shows steady acceleration to reach his top speed in the open field. Moreno has very good balance and has the foot quickness to redirect on the move. Has a nice foot plant and above average balance in his initial burst. He keeps on his feet after contact and even when he loses his footing he has the skill to keep crawling on his toes and hand before going down. Greatest athletic ability is his ability to hurdle opposing players with ease, though that could lead to an injury on the off-chance. Doesn’t have a great second gear but in space he can out run most defensive players. Has very loose hips which allows for a quick change of direction.
- GRADE: 7.3 (Regression)
Football Sense: Moreno has proven he’s a quick learner, having played in both the zone and power blocking systems, as well as different passing schemes. Has the football knowledge to now be able to read defenses and relay that info to his quarterback and adjust as needed. Shows the vision to locate the weakness of a defense, whether as a receiver or as a runner. One unique area of Moreno’s game is he’s acutely aware of down and distance and all his running reflect that. If it’s 2nd or 3rd and short he will purposely avoid the high-risk/high-reward play, instead taking the safe run that will get the 1st down. This benefits the team greatly since he won’t cost you on 3rd and short but he also isn’t taking those big risks/reward plays often.
- GRADE: 8.4 (Improvement)
Character: Moreno is a highly competitive player who is easily hyped, getting excited often in game. While quiet off the field he’s shown a willingness to lead as he’s aged. A solid teammate who seems willing to learn from those more experienced (Buckhalter, McGahee) and teach those younger than him (Hillman).
- GRADE: 7.9 (Improvement)
Competitiveness: Moreno has proven his mental toughness and will take on defenders and doesn’t shy away from a tackler. Not afraid to stay in and block or take it inside as a runner. Known to sacrifice his body as a blocker, seems especially confident as a blocker.
- GRADE: 8.3 (Push)
Work Habits: Knowshon is a hard worker whose doesn’t need special motivation or attention from coaches. Naturally talented, he seeks to improve in a variety of ways, taking up Cross Training in 2010 and developing a broader training regime. Able to get past mistakes in-game and learn from them in practice. Gained weight in 2009 to be a better every down back and in 2011 and 2012 he worked to lose weight and fit the role as the 3rd down back behind McGahee. Highly respected by his teammates.
- GRADE: 8.5 (Improvement)
Acceleration/Burst: There is little burst to Moreno’s game, rarely accelerating to a second level of speed rapidly. What he does do well is that constant acceleration, even after being hit he continues to drive, never stopping his legs. Where does accelerate well is laterally, able to stop and go fairly well. Combine this with a slow but steady acceleration vertically and he is solid though not spectacular.
- GRADE: 7.4 (Push)
Instincts/Balance: Moreno has developed his natural ability to find holes as well as noticing incoming tacklers that if given the chance to get to the line of scrimmage he will quickly find the best place to run. With that quick decision making he is able to rarely lose yards due to poor decision making. A very patient runner he almost deliberately avoids small holes that he could run through to wait for the designed play to develop, which usually works out well but can occasionally cause him to get caught from behind. This, combined with his understand of where the 1st down marker is usually means he won’t go big, but it also means he’ll likely get the 1st down.
- GRADE: 8.4 (Improvement)
Inside Running: Knowshon is a very tough inside runner who has both the strength and agility to get the extra yard up the middle. Moreno relies heavily on following his blockers on natural inside runs, often getting small behind them, pushing them forwards and then when a hole develops he hits it with determination. This does lead to some slow plays if nothing develops though. While he hasn’t shown he can break out of tight areas well, his ability to turn when hit and churn his legs backwards almost always ensures extra yardage. And while he doesn’t fit in a crowd well he has great body lean, both forward to get more yardage as well as to the side to slide away from tacklers. While his lack of great burst and speed is already recorded, his short area quickness has been vital to his ability to run in the middle.
- GRADE: 8.7 (Improvement)
- Stat: In 2012 Moreno’s time to break the line of scrimmage led the team but he averaged 0.8 yards more per carry when he took longer than the team average.
Outside Running: Lacks the speed to break away outside, but with sharp cuts and a good eye, usually finds and hits the lane. Not a dancer in the backfield, he’ll find the seem outside and follows his blockers. A decisive runner he's very successful when he’s able to run behind a tight end, especially Joel Dreessen last season. Rarely makes it to the second level but if he can find open space has the strength and agility to get going.
- GRADE: 8.1 (Improvement)
- Stat: In 2012 Moreno averaged 5.2 yards per carry when behind Joel Dreessen.
Elusiveness: Moreno has never shown himself to be a shifty player, he does have enough lateral agility to make the occasional player miss. Not able to make multiple moves in space due to average acceleration but is able to make small adjustments well to avoid tacklers. Though when he does cut it tends to be boom or bust, with weak knees he can tackle himself but when his knees hold out he can make linebackers miss.
- GRADE: 7.7 (Push)
- In 2012 Moreno had 15 missed tackles on 160 touches, a rate of 9.4%, leading the running backs.
Tackle-Breaking Strength: A very low runner, Moreno isn’t easy to purely knock over like some high angle runners. He can push the pile on a consistent basis and is a savvy, hard-charging runner with good body control. Has the balance to do what he wants after that first contact, that second effort has lead to most of his big plays. Has an exceptionally strong stiff arm, knowing when and where to use it so he doesn’t expose the ball to a fumble and allowing himself to break away. When he does run high though he is very easily tripped up.
- GRADE: 7.9 (Improvement)
- Stat: In 2012 Moreno averaged 2.1 yards after contact last season, second best of the backs behind McGahee.
Tendency to Fumble: Rarely enters a highly crowded area without two hands on the ball. Biggest issue with fumbles tend to revolve around his strong stiff arm which has been shown to leave the ball less protected. As a runner you can see the mental conflict in his mind when he's hit to use his hand to balance himself and fight off the tackler or to use both hands to protect the ball.
- GRADE: 8.6 (Improvement)
- Stat: In 2012 Moreno only had one fumble on 160 touches, best fumble rate of the Broncos backs with more than 20 touches.
Receiving Skills: With soft hands and a good eye Moreno shows he can catch the ball away from his body, making catches you’d expect of wide receivers. While he does tend to watch defenders while running routes, he doesn’t shy away from the catch to avoid being hit often. Will put his body away from traffic to get to the ball and not get tangled up easily.
- GRADE: 8.5 (Improvement)
- Stat: In 2012 Moreno only had one drop on 26 targets, fewest per target of the backs.
Route Running: Runs a fairly crisp route with sharp cuts but only decent acceleration off the snap. Has fluid hips to make quick adjustments to attack the soft zone, which help him after the catch getting away from defenders. Seems to have developed a more complex route tree than most running backs, running routes from the back field as well as lined up as a WR on the outside. Shows a tendency to avoid traffic inside.
- GRADE: 8.0 (Improvement)
- Stat: In 2012 Moreno averaged 8.0 yards per reception but 5.7 of those came after the catch
Blocking Ability: Moreno is a willing blocker who has a keen sense of the defenders and is able to easily adjust, rarely whiffing on a blocking assignment. Shows no fear of larger lineman or quick blitzers and seems to have grown to enjoy blocking, pumping his fist and getting excited after a big cut block or when he gets to knock someone down.
- GRADE: 8.7 (Improvement)
- Stat: In 2012 he gave up only one sack and one hurry, which lead the running backs in blocking efficiency.
OVERALL GRADE: 8.16 (Improvement)
Moreno is a very balanced back who can play on all three downs. While he lacks natural athletic ability in relation to his speed, size and quickness, he makes up for it with the ability to read and react to defenses rapidly and good running technique. Since entering the league his most improved his abilities surround his skills as a receiver and his inside running, no longer dancing behind the line. He doesn’t make as many big plays since he doesn’t make as many risky decisions but he’s become a more reliable runner. A very good receiver and blocker, Moreno has the flexibility to be successful. His biggest weakness continues to be injuries to his lower body, which have impacted his ability to cut in the open field and are becoming progressively worse. Combined with a lack of big plays, his consistent but non-explosive run style stay may keep him as a very good backup should Montee Ball or Ronnie Hillman get injured.
Overall Moreno's progression in certain areas comes from working in a variety of offenses and being a very smart RB while his regression in other areas seems to stem from his injuries.
Thanks for those who took the time to read this and if you have any suggestions for players we should scout let me know in the comments section. We won't be scouting and players with two or fewer years of experience since there isn't expected to be much change from college.