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Broncos strategy and needs in the 2014 NFL Draft

10 days to the Draft and the more I think about what the Broncos will do, the less I figure out.

Up to some days ago I thought that Denver would go after an Olineman or CB or maybe a WR in the first round but right now, while I’m quite finishing looking at prospects and I’m also thinking on Broncos draft strategies in the past three years, these my thoughts became blurred.

So I put on the paper the ones I identified as Broncos roster needs, knowing that in the past three years they went drafting trying to cover roster needs with one eye on the best player available on their board.

In my opinion they define the area of the roster they wanted to upgrade or needed to replace and they build a board in which they weighted in the best player available depending on the importance of the roster need they defined.

Being this the starting point of my analysis, the following would be the result at 10 days to the draft (still have to watch WRs, some late rounds DTs, TEs and QBs).

The roster needs I found are the following, graded each one with a weight (from High to Low: here high has to be interpreted in terms of Denver 53 men roster, indeed not absolute value; under that vision I’d say that the Broncos have low draft needs, the starting team is pretty, darn good already):

Roster Need

Need weight

Rounds

Historic Record (2011 - 2013)

Interior Offensive Line

High

1st, 2nd, 3rd

N/A

Change of pace RB

Medium High

2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th

2nd, 3rd

Depth at DT

Medium High

1st, 3rd, 4th

1st, 2nd

KR - PR specialist

High

1st, 2nd, 3rd

N/A

Pass Rushing DE

Medium

2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th

1st, 5th

WR depth

Low

4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, CFA

5th

Run stopping DE

Low

2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th

2nd, 5th

CB depth

Medium

1st,2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th

3rd, 4th

FS depth

Medium

1st, 4th, 5th, 6th

4th

Interior Offensive Line depth

Low

3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, CFA

4th

Crossing the need weight for the 2014 team with the draft historic record for the actual Broncos FO (in order to find patterns) my guess is that, for each selection in the 2014 NFL draft, Broncos FO would look at:

Round

Selection

Position in play

1

31

DT, ST, OL

2

63

DE, RB, OL, ST

3

95

DT, CB, OL, RB, DE

4

131

CB, DE, FS, WR, RB

5

171

RB, WR, DE, CB, FS

6

207

OL, WR, FS, DT, DE

7

246

ST, OL, WR, FS

Now I know that the most popular talk between us is about if the Broncos will select a MLB or a CB or a G/C in the first round and so what in the second round….and from my proposed matrix is looking like I think we are losing time. It isn’t true, at 31st the best talent available should be divided between WR, CB and OL for sure.

IMO Broncos FO will not think that way because they have another way at looking at the draft and these are the reasons why I built my table this way (trying to simulate what Broncos FO consider while looking at the draft opportunities in 2014):

MLB à The Broncos and Del Rio play a lot of Nickel defense these past two years with only 2 LBs the most of the times, one is Von Miller (I’m not counting when they play Prevent here) and the other is Trevathan. There is not a huge need at MLB because the position is not so important and a team should not spend a high draft pick on a 2 downs player. Plus Nate Irving played pretty decently in place of Von Miller, he can also drop in coverage some if the Broncos plays 3 DL and Von + two LBs (Trevathan and Irving, indeed).

I’ll add that Johnson was first listed as MLB and that Denver signed a lot of street free agents LBs: Jamar Chaney (6’0’’, 242 lbs); Jerrell Harris (6’3’’; 242 lbs) LJ Fort (6’0’’; 230 lbs) in addition to tendering RFA Brandon Marshall (6’1’’; 238 lbs) and being Lerentee McCray (6’3’’, 249 lbs) Von Miller backup in art.

I think Denver is stocked at the LB position and only if somebody they really like falls to them in a round where they have them rated 1 or 2 rounds higher, Broncos FO will pull the trigger on this position, but not in the 1st round.

Last consideration here, IMO, and I’m not any expert, there are a lot of developmental MLB listed as CFA that could interest the Broncos more than actually drafting one (Brock Coyle from Montana, Keith Smith from San Jose State, Cqulin Hubert from Southeastern Louisiana, Jack Tyler from Virginia Tech to name some).

CB à Here I think Denver would like a player to fall to them in the 1st round (Darqueze Dennard). I have also Roy and Fuller graded with a 1st round grade for the Broncos but Roy a part playing pretty bad in 2013 also had a personal issue a week ago or so (and Elway is the kind of boss that select mainly strong character guys with the first pick, see Wolfe and Williams in back to back years). About Fuller Broncos FO could think that a similar player could be found later in the third or even fourth round, not as NFL ready as Fuller (that anyway is not ready to start right away) but still very coachable and probably ready to start next year (see Webster and Bolden: here truth is the jury is still there to say, although I liked the rookie Webster and I’m a little concerned by Bolden).

So Dennard will not fall to Denver at 31st, no way he’ll even drop to 20th overall, plus the Broncos think that they could get a really promising developmental guy later in the 3rd round or in the third day of the draft (4th – 5throunds). They already did it and I’m quite sure they’ll do it again.

Why I think that Broncos FO is looking at DT, OL and ST in the first round?

OL à is the most glaring need on the roster.

At Guard the Broncos list: Vasquez, Garland and street free agent (cut by the Browns) Ryan Miller, a former Colorado Buffaloe.

Vasquez is an All-Pro, Orlando Franklin is being tried at LG but next year he’ll be a FA. In addition Manny Ramirez and Montgomery can play some G, as backups.

At Center Manny Ramirez played admirably through the season and playoff but then the SB meltdown happened. Montgomery is another experienced veteran and could compete for the starting job with Ramirez, with the loser backing up at C and some at G too. Ramirez was not spectacular at G when he replaced Kuper in 2012. Both of them will be FA in 2014.

I think the Broncos need to get more young players at the interior line this year and try to develop them in order to be ready for next year.

In the 1st round they could select either G David Yankey from Stanford (Elway Alma Mater) that IMO is really underrated, or G/T Joel Bitonio from Nevada (that would need more time to develop into a really good G). I don’t likeG Su'a-Filo because IMO he’s great in the running game but quite a developmental guy in pass protection. Plus he’s an UCLA guy; do we see Elway going with a UCLA guy instead of a Stanford guy? No way.

Ok Kiddin’…but not that much.

In this way the Broncos will have their new starting LG and Franklin could stay where he played well for the Broncos: at RT.

If the Broncos want Franklin at LG because they want an upgrade at RT either Painter and Winston showed to coaches something that we don’t know or Denver is gonna draft the upgrade (2nd round), because for as good Clark played last year, he won’t be an upgrade over Franklin at RT, he is not enough powerful to be as disruptive in the running game as Franklin was paired with Vasquez….it was awesome to see these two guys running into the face of unfortunate defender that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong moment when the off-tackle right run was called and executed last year……. Awesome!!!

ST à this is related with any WR that could be there at 31st with 1st round grade that also played ST returnerman in college. Still have to watch WRs videos, I don’t know yet who could be listed here, but certainly this is a need that the Broncos FO is looking to address early on rather than later because I don’t think that Sanders and Welker will be offered to the NFL gods on any given kickoff and punt.

Denver signed street FAs Norwood (WR), Palmer (WR) and Wilson (WR) that have some return skills (Norwood especially) but I think that the Broncos will try to find a competent Holliday replacement.

Since the team does not have holes, ST returnman will be one of the most pressing need for Elway & Co.

DT àI felt crazy too at the beginning, but since a couple of days I made my mind up and I think that the Broncos FO sees here a big need.

Vickerson, Knighton and Unrein will be FAs next year.

Diggin’ more, the Broncos are looking for someone that could replace Big Vickerson, a 6’5’’ – 6’6’’ type of presence in the middle that is able to stop the run and also to create some pressure in passing defense. It does not have to be a pass rusher, it has to be somebody that is huge.

Vickerson is coming back from a tough injury and will be 32 next January, I’m not even sure he won’t be cut this season to create some cap room.

This draft class will probably give Denver the opportunity to draft one between Louis Nix, Timmy Jernigan and RaShede Hageman at the back end of the 1st round.

RaShede Hageman is 6’6’’, 310 lbs and has room to get even heavier. I think the Broncos had evaluated him as well as they can because they are big time in the market for this kind of defenders.

What I saw on Hageman is that he hasn’t the strength and power to succeed right away, he needs to develop his movements; has explosion and quickness at the snap that nobody can teach but he does not use them the most of the time, he has been too many time blanketed in one on one in his videos, especially the ones from 2013. And he’s been owned too many times in the running game too. I hope Denver will not select him in the 1st round. If he’d fall to 63rd he could become a steal for us, playing one year behind Vickerson, getting stronger and learning movements, he could then be a very successful player in the NFL.

Jernigan (6’2’’; 299 lbs) is a Sly Williams size clone, a little bit quicker and powerful but less explosive at the snap. Quite the same player (size, skills) at the top of the draft two years in a row? I don’t see Denver going after him, because of Sly Williams (that actually played quite good down the stretch for the Broncos).

Louis Nix is my favorite between the three of them, is actually the only one I like, and I’d be happy with Denver selecting him. He has been far to criticized for his play in 2013, just check the video against Michigan and you’d see him running around like he weighs 100 lbs less and being heavily disruptive every time he isn’t double teamed. He’s good but does not have the size Denver would like to replace Vickerson. He could play some right away and develop in a great player undr a coach like Del Rio.

Will Nix be there at 31st? If San Diego makes the Broncos a favor and select Hageman instead of Nix at 25thoverall, I think Nix will drop to the Broncos, unless a smart team (say the Ravens) will trade up from the 2nd round to select him just before Denver could. New England would select Tuitt or even Jernigan in the first round instead of Nix because DE is for the Patriots a bigger need than NT.

Let’s see what it will happen, for the moment, thanks for the reading and let me know if you think that I’m a fool!!

This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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