The Broncos' offseason has not been quite as active in terms of transactions as a year ago, but there has still been plenty of movement, more than most teams anyway.
We got busy right away, signing on defensive linemen Justin Bannan, Jarvis Green, and Jamal Williams, as well as running back J.J. Arrington and cornerback Nate Jones.
The Broncos obviously still have time to pursue free agents, but where do they go from here? With just over a month left to prepare for the draft, this team's plan should be getting clearer and clearer but it doesn't seem to be that way.
Denver still has some obvious needs along the offensive line, and with the recent release of Andra Davis, there is a pressing need at inside linebacker if there wasn't already before. I am not sold on the fact that Brandon Marshall will be traded, though I do think it's likely that Tony Scheffler will be gone before the draft rolls around.
McDaniels has said on previous occasions that he will not put this team in a position where it is worse off. Every roster move he makes, he vows to make it so that this team can get better.
With the signings so far this offseason, it's evident this team is being built to take over the AFC West right now, and contend for a Super Bowl. I have my doubts that we can do this, but this is the best time of year to believe.
We have a need for another quarterback, whether it be a veteran like Jake Delhomme or Brady Quinn, or a rookie 2nd-7th round pick. I'm not a huge supporter of Jake Delhomme, though he would be an upgrade over Chris Simms. Either way, the Broncos need to upgrade their depth at this position.
The team held a private workout with Cincinnati QB Tony Pike, which is the first reported QB we have held a private workout with officially. Mike Lombardi reported that we are expected to hold a workout with Tim Tebow in the near future, and we can probably be expected to hold private workouts with a few more QB's.
Let me just say that the two options I am most intrigued by at this point are Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow. You all know my stance on Tebow, but I think there might be more bang for our buck if we go after Brady Quinn. Reportedly, Quinn is available for a later round pick. I think we could salvage a 5th round pick in next year's draft, or possibly a 6th rounder next year if they are willing to go that low.
Another option would be to deal TE Tony Scheffler for Quinn straight up. Why should we want Quinn? He's a bust right?
Brady Quinn has had the misfortune of having to adapt to multiple different systems in his three years in the NFL, and he has played well prior to battling injuries. His accuracy is in question, and his decision making has been suspect.
What Quinn needs more than anything is a change of scenery. He needs a coaching staff that believes in him, and a fan base that isn't going to pressure him to win right now. For a late round draft pick, Quinn is better than any quarterback prospect we can get in this year's draft. He has experience in this system, would have the ideal quarterback coaching staff, and would have a great weight lifted off of his shoulders.
Consider this my official campaign for the Broncos to bring in Brady Quinn if the price is indeed a late round draft pick. There is a very low risk, and a very high potential reward.
Running back is an area of this team that I am relatively pleased with. I think we have a solid core developing with Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter, Peyton Hillis, and J.J. Arrington. Still, I think this team could use another speed back. Buckhalter can turn on the jets, but outside of him nobody really has any pop.
The next closest might be Arrington, who could be a gem of this free agent class. The Broncos offered Arrington a generous contract after his NFC Championship run with the Cardinals in 2008, and this coaching staff liked what they saw from him enough to bring him on for another shot at making this team.
I am also intrigued by Lance Ball and Bruce Hall, for whatever reason. I think a late round player could be brought in for competition, but running back probably won't be a high priority for this team on draft day.
Our wide receiver situation is intriguing to me. I would love to have Brandon Marshall back, but I'm not so sure how likely that is. It seems more likely by the day, and Broncos fans have to be pleased with that. I feel like I'm too much on the fence with the Marshall situation, and I've gone both ways. I think there's a chance he will be gone, and a chance he will not.
If the Broncos are offered a first round pick for him, I think they will be hard pressed to reject such an offer, even if it's their own pick from Seattle.
Let's assume the Broncos keep Marshall. Alongside Marshall are Brandon Lloyd, Brandon Stokley, Jabar Gaffney, and Eddie Royal. The Broncos should look to bring in another wide receiver through the draft with the thought that Marshall could potentially be gone in 2011.
My top wide receiver target for this draft is Notre Dame product Golden Tate. Though Tate has not been the subject of many of my Broncos mock drafts, he is easily the most complete receiver in this draft save for his lack of ideal height.
Here is a scouting report from CBSSports.com on Tate that I think you will enjoy:
Tate's path of early entry to the NFL was pretty well set with the firing of head coach Charlie Weis and departure of quarterback Jimmy Clausen. But even if neither of those changes to the Irish roster had occurred, he could have left South Bend as a likely first-round pick had he desired to follow in his father's footsteps; Golden Tate, Sr. was a good enough receiver to be a fifth round pick of the newly-relocated Indianapolis Colts in 1984.
The high school All-American running back transitioned nicely to the outside early in his career at Notre Dame. He started twice in 2007, making only six catches for 131 yards but displaying potential with his speed and hands. His stock took off in 2008, leading Notre Dame with 58 catches for 1,080 yards and 10 touchdowns. Tate, a 48th-round draft pick of Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2007 amateur draft, also played for the Irish baseball team in 2008.
Tate's 2009 season on the gridiron, however, was one to remember even though the Irish finished 6-6 on the year. He won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver and earned All-American status from several different organizations and media outlets after covering 1,496 yards and scoring 15 times on his 93 receptions. He also carried the ball 25 times for 186 yards and two scores and returned 12 punts for 171 yards and another score.
No matter what Tate's height and 40-yard dash time turn out to be at the Combine and his pro day, his strength after the catch and ability to make the big play downfield make him a possible first round and sure-fire top 40 pick.
NFL Comparison: Lee Evans, Bills
Release: Has adequate quickness off the line, but takes time to get to top speed. Most corners play off because he is the team's deep threat. Separates using hesitation move and pure speed once past the five-yard zone. Must be more effective using his hands to fight off the jam.
Hands: Fights for the ball in the air, usually winning with outstanding vertical and want-to despite giving up size. Makes difficult catches in traffic or when being interfered with. Adjusts well to high and low throws, displaying strong hands on high throws. Tracks the ball over either shoulder, good concentration to win in deep balls. Did drop some balls in crucial situations in 2009, and traps the ball against his chest when facing the passer.
Route running: Coached well in this aspect, and is a threat to run any route in the tree. Drops his hips and gets separation on out routes. Sells routes with head fake, getting between defenders down the seam in a hurry. Excellent awareness of the sideline, tapping feet to stay in-bounds. Extends his arms to create space downfield. Makes himself available to scrambling quarterbacks.
After the catch: Runs like a tailback after the catch or when taking the snap in a Wildcat formation, and could be used in both those duties at the next level. Elusive after the catch, displaying excellent vision and balance in the open field. Tough runner for his size due to strong lower-body build; able to push away would-be tacklers and usually pushes forward for additional yardage instead of heading to the sideline. Doesn't have elite acceleration after stopping his route or being hit, and will be caught from behind when defenders have a fair angle. Needs to put the ball in his outside hand to prevent turnovers. Uses his strength, hands and vision to get into the open on punt returns and is tough to track down once free.
Blocking: When reaching his man, Tate uses his aggressive nature to latch on and sustain. Willing to drive his man downfield if needed. Doesn't always get to his target, however; must get more involved on the edge.
Intangibles: Tough player who does anything necessary to score or get the first down. Big personality in a small package, likes to talk on and off the field. No major character concerns.
This is a guy the Broncos can trade down and still get in the first round. I'm not sure of a team who would be willing to move up in round one, but the Arizona Cardinals make worlds of sense. Assuming Tate falls to the Cardinals' pick at 26 (he is rated 27th by NFL Draft Scout and CBS), the two teams could work out a deal.
The Broncos would send the 11th pick to Arizona which would be used on ILB Rolando McClain. According to the trade value chart, the 11th pick is worth 1,250 points. Arizona's 26th pick is worth 700 points. To make up the difference, the Cardinals would likely have to send the Broncos a package of picks, which most likely would include their second round pick or their two 3rd round picks.
If the Broncos are moving down, I think they would gladly accept an additional 2nd and 4th round pick.
Broncos select GOLDEN TATE, WR, NOTRE DAME with the 26th pick in the 2010 Draft
The Broncos can be very flexible with their two 2nd round picks. It has been rumored the team is looking at UMass guard prospect Vladimir Ducasse, who makes a ton of sense in the second round.
Ducasse is ranked as the 56th best prospect by NFL Draft Scout and CBS Sports, and likely will be available when the Broncos are up with their first of two second round selections. Here is a scouting report on Ducasse from NFL Draft Scout:
Despite never playing football until high school, this Haiti native has impressed scouts and opponents with his size and athleticism as a three-year starter for the Minutemen.
Ducasse's story is one not often heard among highly-regarded draft prospects. When he was 14 years old, his parents sent him and his older brother from crime-riddled Port-au-Prince to live with his uncle in Stamford, Conn. Once Ducasse appeared at school, the football coaches sought him out in a hurry.
UMass also thought itself lucky to find the all-state tackle waiting for an opportunity because larger schools has already received their commitments. After starting at right tackle as a sophomore and garnering first-team All-Colonial Athletic Association honors as a redshirt junior left tackle in 2008, Ducasse picked up first-team Associated Press FCS All-American status protecting the blind side last fall.
Despite his physical tools, Ducasse has a ways to go before successfully taking on veteran NFL defenders. Although he engulfed and pancaked smaller FCS players, he wasn't as dominating as some would have you believe. Some teams will project him inside to use his size and mobility without worrying about his raw technique and lack of experience protecting their franchise player.
Pass blocking: Reliable pass protector, using length and size not seen at the FCS level. Uses those attributes to anchor or run smaller rush ends around the pocket. Needs quite a bit of work in his pass protection technique before moving on to the next level. Stands upright and bends at the waist; will lose his balance when extending against better college players, much less NFL pass rushers. Inconsistent with his punch, catching rushers too often and giving up too much ground to less talented players. Will stop his feet after initial contact, shrinking the pocket. Recovery speed against outside-in or spin moves is questionable.
Run blocking: Gets out of his stance with enough agility to seal the edge, get out in front of stretch plays and screens as well as to find the MIKE linebacker at the second level. Controls his body and keeps his feet moving to find and ride smaller defenders out of the play. Will combo block and use his length to knock late blitzers off their approach. Must extend his arms when drive blocking; keeps his hands too low and against his body, and will give up leverage against NFL defenders. Loses his balance and gets tossed aside by smaller ends when reaching for them on the edge.
Pulling/trapping: His foot quickness will allow him to get around trash and quickly move to his target when pulling or trapping. Even though he is inconsistent hitting targets on the move, his athleticism should allow him to improve there and take out linebackers inside.
Initial Quickness: Good initial drive off the snap as a run blocker, getting into the jersey of his man and quickly collapsing the tackle when blocking down. Must speed up his first step in his kick slide, but has the athleticism to do so.
Downfield: Good mobility in space, easily getting to the second level and beyond. Understands angles, and is able to move his feet to create them. Willing to mix it up with anyone coming into his area. Fails to hit his intended target and adjust to players coming from inside at times. Hesitates before getting downfield to help his ballcarrier.
Intangibles: Voted co-captain by his teammates, Ducasse is a good student in the classroom and film room who lets his play do his talking for him. He must prove he can step up his consistency and effort against better competition.
The Broncos' serious deficiency on the interior offensive line should be addressed early in the draft, and I think Ducasse is an excellent addition to this line. The 45th pick might seem early for a player who could be considered very raw, but you park a 6'5" 330 pound man next to Ryan Clady with raw skills, and good things are bound to happen.
Broncos select VLADIMIR DUCASSE, OG, UMASS with the 45th pick in the 2010 Draft
Denver's next area of need is also pressing. The Broncos just released Andra Davis today, and it's hard to expect Spencer Larsen or Wesley Woodyard to fill in as the full time starter. The Broncos will likely continue to use a rotation regardless of who is brought in to fill Davis' shoes, but I don't think they could be staring a more ideal prospect in the face at this point in the draft.
South Carolina's Eric Norwood has been receiving rave reviews as of late from NFL scouts all across the spectrum. Norwood is a 6'1" 245 pound playmaker who has gone unnoticed on many draft boards.
That should change immediately.
Though labelled undersized for his position, Norwood has been extremely consistent as arguably the best linebacker in the SEC over the last three years. His career numbers prove that. Here is a scouting report from NFL Draft Scout:
Norwood averaged 75 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks as a starter for Steve Spurrier. He's the only player in South Carolina history to have earned first-team all-SEC honors three straight years.
With his all-conference production and 38 games played by the end of the 2008 season, including 25 consecutive starts, Norwood considered leaving South Carolina early for the NFL Draft. He returned after receiving a disappointing mid- to late-round grade by the NFL Advisory Committee.
Characterized by some as strictly an undersized pass-rush specialist at defensive end, Norwood's play improved in 2008 after being moved to outside linebacker. He stayed at OLB in '09 and enjoyed career-best tackle numbers (81). His position change was largely in name only, however, as he still typically rushed the passer -- though now from varying angles and from the stand-up position.
While his production was impressive, scouts wonder where to put him in the NFL. Norwood appears to be a classic "tweener" who lacks the bulk to remain at defensive end full-time, the straight-line speed and agility for coverage responsibilities as an outside linebacker, or the experience at inside linebacker.
His production cannot be discounted, especially considering the breakout campaign enjoyed by "too short, too slow" Elvis Dumervil in Denver this season. South Carolina's all-time leader in sacks (29) and tackles for loss (54.5), Norwood only needs a creative defensive coordinator to find a role for him.
Read & React: Much more instinctive than most believe, though he's allowed to freelance a bit. As such, he isn't as gap-disciplined as some teams would like. Often asked to rush the passer, but keeps his head up and locates the ball quickly on screens and draws. High effort in pursuit yards downfield.
Run defense: Lacks the bulk to stack and shed as a defensive end, but flashes an explosive pop and good lateral agility to disengage as a linebacker. Protects his knees well and flows through the trash efficiently on his way to the ballcarrier. Takes good angles to the ball in traffic, but lacks the straight-line speed to catch up in the open field.
Pass defense: Norwood's greatest weakness. Slow, choppy backpedal. Marginal straight-line speed and change-of-direction agility to remain with tight ends and running backs in coverage. Lacks the straight-line speed and fluidity for coverage but shows good instincts and has a knack for being at the right place at the right time.
Tackling: Good strength and lateral agility to slide off of blocks to make tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. Breaks down well in space to make the stop against smaller, quicker athletes. Secure wrap-up tackler who shows some explosiveness as a hitter.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Effective pass rusher either standing up or with his hand on the ground. Thick build with solid overall musculature. Good burst off the line of scrimmage at the snap. Can pressure the tackle's outside shoulder and consistently threaten the pocket off the edge. Natural leverage advantage and good strength to get under the pads of the offensive tackle for an effective bull rush. Only marginal flexibility and balance to dip under and slip around the tackle as a pass rusher. Good closing speed.
Intangibles: High-effort defender and leader on and off the field. Voted team captain for the 2009 season. Earned his degree in criminal justice in 3 1/2 years despite not gaining admittance to South Carolina on his first three attempts. Is the first from his family to graduate. Operated in a defensive scheme tailored to fit his strengths. Allowed to do a lot of freelancing in the South Carolina scheme. Has the instincts, physicality and size for some to project him at inside linebacker. Considered leaving early for the NFL last season, but despite his gaudy statistics only received a fourth-to-seventh-round grade by the Advisory Committee.
NFL Comparison: Tedy Bruschi, New England Patriots
Norwood is described as relentless, and the comparison to Tedy Bruschi is a huge plus for this kid.
Broncos select ERIC NORWOOD, ILB, SOUTH CAROLINA with the 58th pick in the 2010 draft
In the third round, the Broncos don't necessarily have the "luxury" of depth, but in a sense they do. This draft is absolutely stocked with legitimate offensive line prospects, and fortunately for the Broncos, many of those prospects have expertise on the interior line.
One such prospect is the wall known as John Jerry, brother of former first round pick Peria Jerry of the Atlanta Falcons.
Jerry is a 6'6" 328 pound mauler who is considered quite athletic despite his gargantuan body type. The two-time All-SEC performer has started 46 career games at Ole Miss, and has blocked for 1,000 yard backs Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis and Dexter McCluster. Here is a full scouting report from NFL Draft Scout:
NFL scouts are hoping that the success of rookie Michael Oher with the Baltimore Ravens can be duplicated with another all-conference Rebel in Jerry. The 6-5, 350-pounder has the size NFL evaluators are looking for and shows surprising agility for a big man.
The brother of Atlanta Falcons 2009 first-round pick defensive tackle Peria Jerry, John earned second-team All-SEC accolades from the media and league coaches after his first season at right tackle and first-team accolades from both groups this past season. He started the 2007 season at right guard, which is where NFL scouts feel he may project best in the pros.
Pass blocking: Strong punch at the snap as a pass blocker. Sticky hands and can control the pass rusher when he locks on. Can bend at the waist instead of his knees, especially as he wears down. Doesn't consistently place his hands accurately or move his feet actively when in pass protection and too often is left leaning or attempting to recover due to slipped blocks. Has to show more consistent lateral agility and balance to be considered an offensive tackle -- instead of a guard -- in the NFL.
Run blocking: Good initial pop at the line of scrimmage to stun the defender and can overcome his opponent with his strength and mass as a run blocker. Shows some nastiness and looks to pancake his opponent if he senses he's off-balance. Relies on his mass to gain movement at the point of attack.
Pulling/trapping: Surprising agility to get out and around the line. Good initial quickness off the snap, but loses speed quickly and struggles to adjust to moving targets at the second level.
Initial Quickness: Good first-step quickness for the down block, but this is not one of Jerry's relative strengths. Can struggle with smaller, quicker defenders, at least until he gets his hands on them.
Downfield: Intimidating presence at the second level and can wall off defenders from the ballcarrier. Struggles to adjust in space, and too often whiffs at the second level.
Intangibles: Massive man. Not just big, but very strong. Broke the Ole Miss record with 34 repetitions of 225 pounds last year -- a difficult feat considering his long arms. Too heavy and carries unnecessary weight around the middle, which clearly caused him to labor in the second half of games during the 2008 season. Played last season in the 350-360-pound range, but Ole Miss coaches would have liked him closer to 325. The brother of Atlanta Falcons 2009 first-round pick Peria Jerry, a former All-SEC defensive tackle for the Rebels.
NFL Comparison: Leonard Davis, Cowboys
Broncos select JOHN JERRY, OG, OLE MISS with 80th pick in 2010 NFL Draft
In the fourth round, the Broncos can look to address a bevy of needs at positions with a lack of true depth. Tight end comes to mind, or possibly offensive tackle. The Broncos could also use some help in the pass rush department.
As per now, we have very little depth at offensive tackle. Going back to my Iowa roots, there is a kid who doesn't get hardly any publicity who might be the most physically imposing Hawkeye in this class. Standing at 6'7" and 323 pounds is young Kyle Calloway, a versatile performer for Iowa.
Calloway has started primarily at right tackle, but he's kicked over to the left side as needed. Here is a scouting report from NFL Draft Scout:
The Iowa City-to-NFL offensive line early round talent pipeline continues in 2009 with Calloway and junior left tackle Bryan Bulaga. Expect them to join Robert Gallery, Mike Goff, Bruce Nelson, Eric Steinbach, Ross Verba and Marshall Yanda as recent top 100 picks coming from Hawkeye Nation.
Calloway's height and athleticism on the edge is what draws scouts to the film room. The three-year starter earned All-Big Ten honorable mention at right tackle the past two seasons, but has been versatile enough to line up at left tackle in several games in 2007 and play right guard in their January Orange Bowl victory over Georgia Tech.
Although he's not the elite prospect that Gallery, Steinbach or Verba were, Calloway's length, strength, footwork and technique give him a chance for a long pro career -- no matter where he's placed on the line.
Pass blocking: Mirrors and stays low against power defensive ends from his right tackle spot. Sets up quickly in pass protection and uses a good angle on his kick slide, rarely giving up the edge. Absorbs big punches and regularly anchors. Extends his arms to keep rushers at bay but could have a stronger punch to knock them off balance. Works to stay with his man on secondary rushes but will reach more than move his feet. Adjusts to twists but doesn't always recognize or get a hand on inside blitzers. Will get tall and choppy in his footwork against quicker ends.
Run blocking: Attacks edge rushers on run plays, firing his hands into their jersey. Able to move in any direction. Solid combo blocker negates MIKE linebacker or other defenders coming inside-out. Latches onto the numbers and doesn't let go. Keeps a wide base on the edge and keep his hands and feet active to sustain. Likes to keep his man on the ground through the whistle.
Pulling/trapping: Does not pull or trap much in Iowa's zone blocking scheme but has good footwork for his size. Usually under control when on the move. Could trap if moved into the strong-side guard spot but should stay between the tackles.
Initial Quickness: Fires off the ball to run block, often locking down the defensive end on his side. Strong at punching the defensive tackle and quickly getting to linebacker in combo blocks. Quick off the snap into his kick slide for his size.
Downfield: Easily gets to linebackers, finding their numbers with his hands and keeping his feet moving to take them out of the play. Shows good flexibility to adjust in space. Uses angles to keep defenders from running around him to the ball. Typically stays on one block downfield but is agile enough to reach others in his area.
Intangibles: Durable, versatile, tough, and disciplined player with loads of potential. No major character concerns, but was arrested and suspended for a game for operating a moped while intoxicated in June 2009. Took responsibility for his actions.
Broncos select KYLE CALLOWAY, OT, IOWA with first of two 4th round picks
WIth the rest of their picks, I think the Broncos should take a look at Florida wide receiver Riley Cooper, Kentucky inside linebacker Micah Johnson, and New Mexico center/guard Erik Cook. Cooper is projected by NFL Draft Scout as a late fourth round pick, and Johnson is projected as a late sixth, early seventh round pick. Cook is considered a late round pick.
1. Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame
2. Vladimir Ducasse, OG, UMass
3. Eric Norwood, LB, South Carolina
4. John Jerry, OG, Ole Miss
5. Kyle Calloway, OL, Iowa
6. Riley Cooper, WR, Florida
7. Micah Johnson, LB, Kentucky
8. Erik Cook, OL, New Mexico
**Brady Quinn acquired from Browns for future 5th round pick**
If no more free agent acquisitions were made throughout the offseason, which is not likely, I think their depth chart would be very high caliber with a draft like this.
Quarterback: Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn, Tom Brandstater
Running Back: Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter, Peyton Hillis, J.J. Arrington
Fullback: Spencer Larsen
Wide Receiver: Brandon Marshall, Riley Cooper, Kenny McKinley
Wide Receiver: Golden Tate, Jabar Gaffney
Wide Receiver: Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokley
Tight End: Daniel Graham, Tony Scheffler, Richard Quinn
Left Tackle: Ryan Clady, Tyler Polumbus
Left Guard: Vladimir Ducasse, John Jerry
Center: Seth Olsen, Erik Cook
Right Guard: Chris Kuper, John Jerry
Right Tackle: Ryan Harris, Kyle Calloway
Defensive End: Justin Bannan, Marcus Thomas
Nose Tackle: Jamal Williams, Ronald Fields, Chris Baker
Defensive End: Jarvis Green, Ryan McBean
Outside Linebacker: Elvis Dumervil, Eric Norwood
Inside Linebacker: D.J. Williams, Wesley Woodyard
Inside Linebacker: Mario Haggan, Micah Johnson, Eric Norwood
Outside Linebacker: Robert Ayers, Darrell Reid
Cornerback: Champ Bailey, Alphonso Smith
Cornerback: Andre Goodman, Nathan Jones, Tony Carter
Safety: Brian Dawkins, Darcel McBath
Safety: Renaldo Hill, David Bruton, Josh Barrett
Kicker: Matt Prater
Punter: Britton Colquitt
Long Snapper: Lonie Paxton