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No Bull Review: Pre-Draft state of the Broncos offense

Sadaraine takes a peek under the hood of the 2015 Denver Broncos to see where our personnel ranks before we hit the draft and share some thoughts on what Denver may be looking for as we reload for another run at a championship.

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I can't tell you who we are going to draft since I don't watch much college ball, but I do typically have a pretty good handle on where we need help and that's the whole point of this post. So hopefully there's something here for everyone: draft preparation, a better understanding of who's on our team and what we know about them, and ideas on talent levels for different personnel groupings.

Keep in mind, this whole thing is subjective. I'm not going to dig much into stats in this go around, but for the guys that were on our team last year, please feel free to go peruse my roster analysis series from earlier last month. The link here goes to the last article in the series, which it has links to parts 1-5.

For each player, I'll give a grade from 1 - 10. This score reflects my opinion of their overall ability on the football field in their role. 10 = One of the best in the league. 1 = Shouldn't even be camp fodder.

At the end of each personnel grouping, I'll grade the group overall on a scale of 1 - 10. 1 Being "We have no one to play this position" and 10 being "This is the best unit of its type in the NFL". Please note this is from the point of view of "what do we need for our team to get better and have good depth", not "how do we measure up against every other team in the NFL."



Starter - Peyton Manning: 8

Here's our 39-year-old starting quarterback who is going into this season with tons of questions swirling around him about age, health, ability, and ability to win big games. The past two years, I'd give him a 10, but with how last season ended, I can't give him anything higher than an 8.

His performance at the end of last season regardless of the poor coaching, paradigm shift in running, or anything else speaks for itself. It was not superb. It was not inspiring. I think he can totally come back and play great football though. I know I've seen it before as many of you have back in 98-99 and that's ultimately why I still rate him where I do. We still will win a lot of games and have a successful offense because of him.

Brock Osweiler: 4

This is where things get hard: we've seen Brock in flashes here and there, but because of how Manning demands snaps, we are going into this young man's last year of his rookie contract with no serious idea of if he has the goods.

I can tell you that I've seen him do some really really good things on the field (a couple of deep passes in the pre-season come to mind as well as some timing routes). His TD pass last year to Virgil Green in the red zone was total money. There's reason to hope, but it is just hope. As it stands he's an unknown and I give him a 4 because of that.

Zac Dysert: 2

It was pretty funny seeing everyone gush over this QB last year in the preseason as he had some very nice plays against 3rd - 5th stringers. That perspective is very key. Zac is JAG at QB. He's a 2 and probably a camp casualty this year come cut-down time.

Quarterbacks Overall Grade: 7

I'm not a fan of question marks and every year that Manning has been here has been scary to me because I know we are one injury away from a major step back. That being said, it is Peyton Manning. That alone is worth 10 wins and why this unit grades a 7 and probably is closer to an 8.

Running Backs

Starter - C.J. Anderson: 9

This kid has a lot of the skills you want in a starting RB: elusive, good burst, reads blocks at a high level, very tough to bring down, and solid ball security. He rightfully should be our starter going into the season and will hopefully be tearing up a 1,500 - 2,000 yard season for us in 2015.

Ronnie Hillman: 6

I still like the product Hillman put on the field last year before he was injured towards the back half of the season. He's showed us good speed and ability to read blocks last year. I don't think he's ever going to be a starter, but he's a solid back and has shown me the ability to contribute as a #2 or #3 RB.

Montee Ball: 5

This one is hard for me. I remember Montee's performance at the back half of 2013 and it was very very impressive. But last year I really feel he laid an egg. He wasn't ready to play NFL ball and was at the very least held back by his surgery in the pre-season. If it weren't for the potential we've seen from him, I'd have him lower; but for now he's a 5 in my mind.

Juwan Thompson: 6

I'm a very big fan of Juwan Thompson's game. He's not the fastest back, but he runs with power and burst that is only matched by CJ at times. I'm excited to see if we use him at Fullback or just mix him in to give defenses a different style of running to have to deal with. Juwan is a 6 only because he's still light on actual NFL carries.

Jeremy Stewart: 3

Stewart came in for us at the end of last year and took some snaps. They weren't bad, but they weren't eye-popping either. My limited take on him is that he's JAG in the RB corps and probably won't stick this year: 3.

Kapri Bibbs: 4

I like Kapri's running a lot, but he seemed to have struggles picking up the playbook / blocks. That's a really big deal and I hope he's grinding away at it this off-season. He's easy to cheer for because he's a local guy, but until he improves in the mental aspects of the game, I can't put him higher than a 4 (and he's only rated that highly because of the potential I see in him).

Running Backs Overall Grade: 8

I feel good about this group and rate it higher than you might think based off of the ability of the coaching staff we brought in this year. This unit is going to be very good and they will all benefit from a better running scheme and offensive line performance.


Starter - Demaryius Thomas: 10
Demaryius Thomas is one of the top-5 wide receivers in the NFL. He's an elite mix of size and speed that is a huge weapon for an offense.  He's done nothing but get better every year that he's spent in the NFL. I don't know how close you all watch, but when he came into the league his route running was not good at all. Now he's a great route runner and it really shows up in his play.

Starter - Emmanuel Sanders: 8

Emmanuel Sanders added a much needed dimension to our offense last year in a serious burner who is a constant deep threat. He's got the quickness to compliment it though (which is rare to see in the burners across the league and why many of them are the #3 or #4 WR on their teams). My favorite thing about Sanders is his willingness to sell out for a play. He truly leaves it all on the field and battles for every inch. You have to love a guy like that.

His only real weakness is his lack of power and size. He's not a great blocker because of it and he can't really climb a ladder to out jump a guy for a fade. He's definitely a solid 8 though.

At this point, I really wonder about his dedication to the game and how much effort he put into his craft last year as there is absolutely NO reason that he shouldn't have climbed above Caldwell on the depth chart given what I saw on the field of play.  -On Cody Latimer
Cody Latimer: 6

Latimer reminds me a ton of DT honestly. He's big and fast which is a great set of tools to have. He did come into the league a bit sharper looking in his routes than DT did, but the ding on him is his lack of speed in getting into the playbook and moving up the depth chart.

At this point, I really wonder about his dedication to the game and how much effort he put into his craft last year as there is absolutely NO reason that he shouldn't have climbed above Caldwell on the depth chart given what I saw on the field of play. I'd honestly rate him a little lower, but I see a ton of untapped potential in him and I have every reason to think he's going to get it going this year especially since he gets to start off the season by going to the Duke training sessions with Peyton.

Andre Caldwell: 3

I'd love to say that Caldwell provides veteran depth at WR for us, but I can't in any honesty bring myself to do so. I know that's the reason he's still on the team, but his on the field product is not good. For the few attempts thrown his way he had way too many drops last year and just doesn't appear to bring much ceiling to the position group. I'm hoping one of the young guns on the team overtakes him in training camp because I can't see him doing much to help us win.

Jordan Norwood: 4

This is a guy who I thought showed up in his preseason work last year up until he tore his ACL. He looked like our #4 WR and I'm really cheering for him to recover and make an impact as depth for the team. That being said, he doesn't look elite at any one thing, just runs good routes and has enough field speed to get separation enough for catches. I'd rate him higher if not for his recent injury.

Receivers Overall Grade: 7

We have two great starters, a good young backup, and a bunch of guys fighting for a job from where I see things. WR is always a fun group to watch come training camp as inevitably there are some guys that show up who you didn't expect. That being said, this draft has a lot of wide receivers all over who should be able to play. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to see us pick one up.

Tight Ends

Starter - Owen Daniels: 7

Daniels is a very solid starting NFL TE. He's going to really show up as a pass catching option in our offense and while I doubt he puts up super star stats on the sheet, his role is going to be a key part of our offense. Think of him as a bigger Wes Welker from a couple years back. That's how he's likely to be used for us from what I've seen in the past.

Starter - Virgil Green: 8

Across the formation from Owen is going to be another very big part of our offense. Virgil is hands down our best run blocking tight end. I also am in the camp of fans who thinks he should be getting a lot more balls thrown his way. If that does happen and he has any success at all across from Daniels, we're going to see a very dangerous offense. If a defense is unable to key in on Virgil as a run blocker, they are going to be in disarray a bunch.

James Casey: 6

This is another solid football player for our team and he's capable of filling in at TE or FB. I really love the depth he provides as he's shown a couple of years ago that he can contribute to the Kubiak offense in both phases of the game. He may not be as strong of a blocker as VG, but he's a very balanced guy that can come in for either side of the formation and keep the offense rolling.

Joe Don Duncan: 4

I'm really curious to see how this kid develops. By all intents and purposes, his strengths coming out of college appear to be in catching the ball and not so much in solid run blocking. He's a boom or bust prospect that needs some work on technique from what I've read and some development. He's the kind of guy that could surprise us though as he's one of the high-motor-football-heart guys that can over achieve.

Tight End Overall Grade: 7

I thought going into the FA period, this group was one of the weakest on the team, but Elway has completely turned that on its head in short order. I know some fans won't agree with me because Julius Thomas is going to be missed in the passing game, but from my perspective I want solid football players moreso than flashy red zone targets. This group is very well rounded and should be a very effective part of our team.


Manny Ramirez: 4

The best thing I can say today about Manny is that he's a veteran. He really over achieved a couple of years ago and looked like a very good center for us, but since then he regressed to what I saw from him before: below average play. I honestly think he's in danger of not making the team and that's probably to our benefit.

Matt Paradis: 5

Here's the skinny: what I saw out of Paradis last preseason didn't impress me. But that being said, I didn't see a whole lot of him overall and our trainers have had him for more than a year. He's an unknown, but he could surprise us and he's definitely in competition. I by default give him a 5 because he was just drafted and we haven't cut him loose yet.

Gino Gradkowski: 5

This signing had me scratching my head a bit. I see a lot of nepotism and not a lot of upside here, but to be fair in his most recent year of play he was injured. This is a guy I trust our coaches to work up, but don't think it is likely he's a big answer for center.

Overall Grade: 5

I don't feel like we have a starter in this group. I see a bunch of back-up quality guys unless Paradis surprises us in a big way in training camp. The good thing is that we don't need a great center to have a good line. We just need someone who can play above average.


Starting RG: Louis Vasquez: 9

Here's the strength of our offensive line. Louis Vasquez is a great player and he belongs at guard. He'll be our starter this year and we shouldn't need to get a high grade guard on his side of the field.

Starting LG: Shelly Smith: 4

Here's another story of a guy who's had an injury history and played somewhat poorly in his most recent action. I have no idea what Kubiak sees in this guy much like Gradkowski. I grade him somewhere decently because a coach like Kubiak doesn't push hard for a guy who sucks. The thought here is that if Smith can overcome his injury problems, he's got talent.

Ben Garland: 3

I love and respect our soldiers, but this isn't a political function. This is football. Ben brings a superb high motor. He also looked solid last year in the pre-season. He doesn't look as good against starter's though. There's a chance he will develop (keep in mind he's a converted D-line guy), but I don't think it is big chance.

Overall Grade: 6

Keep in mind here that your centers can back up your guards and vice versa. At a glance, this looks like a weak area, but it really isn't that bad. We probably could use a LG if one falls to us in the draft, but if not, there guys here to work with and train up.


Starting LT - Ryan Clady: 7

My fearful hope of this off season that sits 2nd place to Manning not being completely washed up late-season is Clady being able to regain some semblance of his early-career ability. Last year was his worst as a professional and it was not the dominating performance we're accustomed to with him. You have to give him a flyer a bit though, as he is recovering from a very difficult foot injury.

The big thing I'll be looking for come camp is his ability to anchor and out muscle a guy. If he can do that and move his feet (which he showed some of), he'll be a good option at RT. -On Michael Schofield
Starting RT - Michael Schofield: 6

Last pre-season my take on this guy was that he needed to stay in the oven for a year. He needed some beef and some training to get pro-ready and we'll see if I'm right. The big thing I'll be looking for come camp is his ability to anchor and out muscle a guy. If he can do that and move his feet (which he showed some of), he'll be a good option at RT.

Chris Clark: 2

Chris caught lightning in a bottle a couple of years ago when Clady went down with an injury. He filled in well and his shortcomings were easily covered by Manning's quick-release game. Unfortunately defenses have caught up with Manning / Gase's quick game plans and now Manning is more often forced into waiting an extra second in big games. When that happens, you will see Clark get beat early and often. Let's also throw in here that he can't push his man with any consistency in the run game.

Paul Cornick: 1

I don't even know with this...I thought Clark was our worst tackle and Cornick proved me clearly wrong in limited action. He did do decently as a 3rd blocking tight end in the run game, but that's not a big need in the modern era of the NFL.

Overall Grade: 5

I'd rate this higher if we had depth. Unfortunately we do not. If either Clady or Schoefield go out / don't work out we are in a big hurt at the O-Line. This is one of the main focuses I have for our draft. We should be taking a T early.