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Player types for '08, Part one (Offense)

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There are going to be some great articles about the draft on MHR.  I enjoy contributing articles on football from a coach's view, but I hold that the real draft experts are the members of MHR who have a passion for college ball or the draft itself.  When it comes to the draft season, I'm just an onlooker.

In this post I want to do something a little different than what the real experts are doing.  While the MHR professionals are doing research and putting together outstanding work on "who" we are looking at for the draft, I'm going to look at the player types  that I think we should be targeting.  I'll give my impression of what type of player we should go after for every position (whether we have a need or not) and what direction I think Denver will ultimately go in.

QB

Denver has no need for a QB in the draft.  Denver has an up and coming superstar with Cutler, and a solid #2 in Ramsey.

But if Denver went after a #3 what kind of QB would they want?  Believe it or not, they would go after a pocket, accuracy oriented guy even though this doesn't match the Denver scheme.  Why?  Because if (God forbid) injuries led to the need for a third string QB, the goal would be to have someone who can hand off the ball and make rare, high percentage short passes to buy time for an injured QB to return.

HB

Here again, Denver is set.  But there are considerations for the draft.

  1. Denver is known for trading away good RBs and getting others late in the draft.
  2. Of all the HBs Denver has, the most endangered RB is Henry, due to injury.
Given these variables, if Denver drafts a HB he should be a power, one-cut back.  The reason is that Young is a speed back, and a good one, but he is better used when he gets less carries.  The same with Hall (though he is more suited for the return game).  The other reason is the requirement in Denver's scheme for a back who can:
  • Run up the middle
  • Wear down the defense
  • Be a change-up RB to compliment the speed backs
Thus, a speed back is NOT what Denver wants in a draft.

FB

Denver will not go after a FB in this draft, nor any future draft.  First, Denver (like most teams) is phasing out the position in favor of the TE position.  Second, Denver likes to fill the roster with HBs, and use the best blocker of the bunch as a FB.

Denver's FB is used on screens as a receiver, and as further bait to help sell the defense to the wrong side of the field when the QB bootlegs the other direction.  Sapp will possibly be resigned to this position.  Denver has not used a true FB in the Shanahan era.

OL

No question here.  Any draft for a Denver o-lineman will require an athletic guy with quick footwork.  Even though several teams are moving to the zone block scheme, Denver can probably get their OL from the mid-rounds because of limited competition.

The only discussion is how many guys we should get this year.  I say a bare minimum of one, two would be best, and three would be icing on the cake if we meet our defensive needs.

Lepsis retired.  It looks like Nalen and Hamilton will return (though this is not yet certain).  Even if they do, there is a heightened chance of injury to either or both players.  Denver claims that Harris is a future star at OT, and he will be bumping Pears to the opposite side.  Hamilton, Kuper, Holland and Myers will round out the OL, while Nalen will take his C position back.

Considering that it takes at least two years (in most cases) to develop into a starter, it seems reasonable to assume that we may need up to three players (in terms of both starting and depth) for '09 and '10.  We should get three players in the next three years, with at least a bare minimum of one right now.  Two would be ideal, and we could get the third in the '09 draft.  The longer we put this work off, the more it will bite us in a critical draft later on (and the less time to develop the players as well).

TE

We have an excellent group at TE.  We have the League's best blocking TE in Graham (who has underrated hands in my opinion), and an awesome up and coming receiving TE in Scheffler.  In the second tier we have Mustard (a blocking TE who proved he can catch toward the end of the season), and Jackson (who can catch, but isn't well rounded enough to start).  We don't really need a TE at this point.  But if we take one, what type do we want?

I advocate the less sexy option; a blocking TE.  He still needs good hands to be a TE and not an o-lineman, but his specialty should be blocking.  Why?

  1. Graham isn't in enough trouble with his arrest to be a suspension threat in the NFL yet.  But his actions may indicate the potential to be endangered down the road if he doesn't straighten up.  If he screws up, we'll want a blocking TE to replace him.
  2. If the new guy blocked well enough, he could be a threat on two-TE sets with Graham versus 3-4 defense formations.  In three-TE sets we could drop off our FB and get a heck of a run formation for short yardage (as well as disguised pass threats).
WR

Amirebram and I have been going back and forth on the type of WR needed in this draft.  He makes a very sound argument for his position, and you owe it to yourself to read his work (as well as the comments section) so that you understand his position.

http://www.milehighreport.com/story/2008/1/11/155320/767

Normaly in a post I would just put down my own opinion and accept other views in the comments section.  But Amir's appeal for a sound WR in the mid to high draft is worth tagging into this article because his view, while different from mine, is just as meritorious.  I'll ask forgiveness in advance if I in any way misrepresent his views.

In a nutshell, I want speed.  Amir favors a good WR.  Both of us have good points, and I would go so far as to say that both of us are right.  It is a matter of what your philosophy is.  Look at me as a coach that wants something for the scheme, and Amir as a manager (or president of football operations) that has several variables to wrestle with in addition to what a coach wants.

Amir's position is based on four points.  All of them are correct.

  • Speed is no good without good hands.
  • In our potential draft positions, we may not have fast WRs with good hands.
  • Speed receivers don't usually truly outrun their coverages.
  • For our scheme, WRs must be able to run block.
I agree with all of these points.  So where's the disagreement?

Consider this.  I hold that the biggest threat to a defense in the passing game is a three pronged attack.  A speed receiver (like Walker) streaks up the field and forces his CB to go after him (and pulls the SS into deep coverage on the strong side).  A YAC receiver (like Marshall) is a perfect midfield threat on the weak side, forcing a CB to cover him.  A third type of receiver, a "possession" receiver (like Stokely) takes the midfield to the strong side.  Now what does the FS do?  He can't cover both Marshall and Stokely.

Walker is iffy for next year.  If he returns I think he will be an awesome WR, and a deep threat.  If he doesn't we face some problems.

  1. Stokely is not an every down receiver (according to Shanahan in his recent conference).  He needs rest in between plays.
  2. If Walker doesn't return, Marshall will move to #1 (meaning his CB coverage will be more difficult to overcome).  
  3. Martinez is a fast guy, but nowhere near ready to play at number #2 (he is better suited to returns).  
This leaves a major void in our passing game.  Our best bet is a speed receiver to stretch the defense out north/south to clear the field for the other players.

My concern with a "best available receiver" option in the draft is this:

  1. Without the deep threat each WR gets man coverage and the safeties can play their own side of the field and not have to commit too early to which receiver they need to go after (as they would if a deep threat was racing down the line),
  2. In a typical zone defense (like a Tampa-2) the midfield will be covered, and that's where all of our threats will be.  Against a zone coverage, three types of receivers cause match-up troubles for the defense.
Now I agree with Amir that a WR MUST have good hands, and we can't settle for less.  I also agree that he MUST be able to run block, and we can't settle for less.  My position is that if Walker doesn't return, and if we can't get a speed receiver with good hands and blocking attributes, then we should skip the draft for WR and fill the position through trade or FA.

I realize that there are a heck of a lot of terrific receivers in this draft, but my position is that we have a specific need for a specific kind of receiver.  That is a valid point.  Amir's view is that we have a golden opportunity to grab a great WR in this draft, and we should take the best one available.  This is also a valid view.  Again, it is a matter of what kind of approach you want to take, and both views are reasonable.

It is to be hoped that Walker returns and the whole issue becomes a moot one.

Conclusion

In my opinion, our biggest need is one man on the o-line, but this can be handled in the fourth or even fifth round.  If we pick up an extra draft pick by trading a player (or trading down) I would be open to getting a WR if a deep threat player was available.  I really think we should address our defensive needs this year before worrying about anything on offense.

On offense, my priority would be:

OL (Need)
OL (Strong want)
WR (want)
TE (extra)
HB (extra)

My strongest guess on offense is that Denver will get at least one o-lineman in the draft, no matter what.  Other decisions on the offense depend on the return of Walker, Henry, and perhaps Graham.

In the next post, I'll take a look at player types needed on defense.  This will be tricky, since we don't yet know the scheme that will be used.  But since my background is defense, and since I've been studying my butt of on Slowik, I'm up to the challenge.

Please chime in with your thoughts, questions, disagreements, and of course compliments!  : )

A special thanks to Amir for reference to his post.  Without his thoughts, my work on the WR position would not have had as much depth.  If anyone wants to start as good of a discussion on another position as I have been having with Amir, let's do it!