Welcome back to the first Ultimate Fan Guide of 2015! We haven't even started playing yet, and there's a lot of excitement about what this team can do.
As there should be.
Whether you considered Free Agency and the Draft to have been boons or busts, the Broncos will have a lot of different players on the field this season, and now that our rookies have finished their mini-camp, it's a great time to ask our members to evaluate them.
Huge thanks to ADanishMan, Nastyj, lancing_2009, BriRei, j-man and BcDb89 for their awesome contributions to this first Ultimate Fan Guide of the 2015 season.
NFL Draft - 2015
MHR - Of all the draft picks, which player is your favorite?
ADanishMan: Personally, the Ty Sambrailo selection was my favorite. He's a natural leader and a solid, if somewhat raw, option at tackle. I fully expect him to compete for the starting RT spot. If he can't beat Michael Schofield and/or Chris Clark for the job, I could see him maybe getting plugged in at guard due to his shorter-than-average arms. He also has a bit of a jump on most rookie tackles in that he played a pro-style offense that used a lot of the same terminology, etc., as the offense being implemented by Gary Kubiak. At best, Sambrailo is a decent right tackle. At worst, he's a solid depth swing tackle.
BriRei: Darius Kilgo, just for the name. I hope he becomes a dominant NT.... We need him to be a bear wrestler ASAP, and we have just the coach for that.
j-man: Shane Ray.
lancing_2009: I was going to go with Shane Ray here as he is by far the most impactful guy we drafted, but I'll go with Sambrailo as my most favorite player. He has very good pass pro but needs work on his initial punch. He has potential and can start at RT right away. He's a Brian Bulaga-type player.
Nastyj: My favorite player from this draft is probably Max Garcia. I think he really has a legitimate chance to start and own our center position for the future. He was one of only two O-linemen to rank in PFFs top 10 in pass and run block efficiency.
Plus, Danny Shelton was asked who the toughest lineman was that he faced at the Senior Bowl, and he said Garcia. I watched the lineman drills from the Senior Bowl on YouTube and can tell why Danny would say that. Max gave him a really hard time the first time they faced each other, and Shelton eventually broke through. But the second time they faced one another, Garcia absolutely stonewalled him.
I get excited about having a center on board who can handle 350-pound nose tackles!! I know some folks are worried about his fit in our scheme, but as CH74 has pointed out, even zone teams run some man blocking. My brother is a big Cowboys fan, and he said their center, Travis Frederick, is really slow but strong and he does fine when they run zone concepts, so I'm not worried about Max's fit in our system - especially since Kubiak doesn't seem worried about it!
MHR - Of all the draft picks, which pick do you think was the best value?
ADanishMan - Shane Ray, hands down. He was a consensus top 10 pick before his marijuana snafu. We managed to trade up five spots to grab Ray (who will probably be DeMarcus Ware's heir apparent) in exchange for two fifth-round picks and the ghost of Manny Ramirez. Hard to get better value than that.
BcDb89: For both favorite and best value, it has to be Shane Ray, doesn't it? The Broncos got a potential top 10 guy all the way down at pick 23. An explosive edge rusher with bucket loads of potential, this guy has superstar written all over him.
The thought of pairing him with Von Miller over the next few years makes me very, very happy.
Some talking heads in the media think we overpaid for Ray, but as we all know, talking heads don't know everything. And quite frankly, what we paid to move up those five spots was a savvy maneuver that offloaded a large contract we would have dumped anyway (Manny Ramirez) and used draft picks that were in excess of what we required. As you can tell, I love this pick.
BriRei: Shane Ray. Swapping Manny Ramirez for Max Garcia is a plus, so I'm tired of people pointing out we traded away too much. I'm a firm believer that pot will be off the "tested substances" list soon, but if not, I just hope he does not waste his talent like Josh Gordon. But seriously, just let them smoke; pot suspensions are stupid.
j-man: Despite losing him to injury, best value was Jeff Heuerman in the third round. He was listed as the No. 3 tight end in Athlon's Sports' Draft Guide and fit Kubiak's system to a tee. (*update: following Heuerman's ACL injury, the tight ends will be Owen Daniels and Virgil Green; I think Joe Don Duncan has a 60 percent chance to make the team now.)
lancing_2009: Shane Ray is the ultimate value player. A top 10 player doesn't fall like that very often, but the weed issues made it so. Better for him and better for the Broncos.
Nastyj: Shane Ray. It is not often you get the opportunity to get a consensus top 10 talent at the back end of the first round. For three years in a row now, Elway has grabbed us a guy in the 20-30s who most experts (including Elway himself) did not expect to be there. Even with the move up, this was still excellent value, and I thought two fifths and Ramirez (who wasn't going to make the final roster anyway) was highway robbery for a guy who could develop into a top pass-rushing talent.
Last time we drafted a blue chip pass rusher, we had to go 4-12 the previous year I am not saying Ray is as talented as Von, but top shelf pass rushers are usually gone before good teams get them.
This was an utter coup, and this time next year the rest of the league will be cursing Denver's luck and wondering how the rich just continue to get richer!
The Broncos have the best unit of stand up rushers in the league: Von Miller DeMarcus Ware Shane Ray— John Miceli (@JohnMiceli15) May 10, 2015
MHR - Why/why not do you wish John Elway had gone after La'el Collins in a late round?
ADanishMan - I do wish that Elway would've nabbed Collins with one of our seventh rounders, but I believe Collins' reps said if he were drafted after Day 2, he wouldn't sign. Also, the fact that NOBODY drafted him might imply teams were still expecting trouble for Collins. I had said before he signed with the Dallas Cowboys that he'd have his pick of the litter as to where he signs - and that was true.
BriRei: I was furious they didn't. They had three picks to grab priority UDFA. What's more priority than a first-round pick?The only way I would not have taken his rights was if I expected him to be arrested. If I were not sure or didn't have anything but what media reported, I would have grabbed him in seventh. If he plays, Elway would be genius; if not, would anyone care he wasted pick 252? Not me.
j-man: Yes to La'el Collins in the seventh round at 252.
lancing_2009: I sincerely wish Elway would have drafted La'el Collins in the fourth or fifth round. I even vouched for him in the second as well. Collins signed with Dallas and was without a doubt the steal of the draft. Denver could have had two of the top 15 talents in the draft. If Elway would have drafted Collins in the fourth or fifth round and Collins had been involved in the murder, it's no worse than if Max Garcia doesn't make the team. If exonerated, he's a value starter at RT, while moving Sambrailo to LG immediately. It would have been a win-win.
MHR - Why/why not do you like the positions Elway went after in the rounds he did (ie: defense first round, OL second, another tight end in the third, etc.)?
ADanishMan: - The only pick I had reservations about was Jeff Heuerman in round three. I thought we could have addressed the DL at the time, but after going back and looking at the options that were left, Heuerman was definitely BPA. So while the Heuerman crowded the TE position, I'd rather we go BPA and get some youth/talent than reach for a different position.
BriRei: I think he did great. I did a bunch of mock drafts on fan speak, and the talent pools dried up at different intervals. Being able to predict the position runs is key for later rounds if you want to do BPA at a position of need. The OT group seemed deep to me, so I'm really happy to go defense in round one. The tight end pick needs to pan out for me to like it (which will now be a year later). I felt like we were going to be OK at the position before the draft.
Nastyj: I actually entered a mock draft contest on DenverBroncos.com and had them taking those exact positions in the first three rounds, even down to Shane Ray in the first (I might be winning $1,000 because of it!!). I think it was spot on as most the tackles this year didn't warrant a first-round pick in my opinion, and the position group was pretty deep, so second round felt good to get a tackle that we needed. First-round pass rusher was what I wanted the most because even though we have two studs as bookends, you can never have enough pass rushers. DeMarcus Ware is getting old, and Miller is approaching a contract year.
I wasn't super thrilled about a tight end in the third but I get it because that was kind of the cut off point for tight end talent (I wanted them to grab Tyler Kroft, who went a few picks before). This makes sense as well for long term since Owen Daniels is getting old and James Casey is on a one-year deal. If Heuerman works out in 2016, that gives us him and Virgil Green super cheap for a few years in tight end-heavy offense.
I also loved the doubling down on O-line in the fourth. The three defensive backs kinda threw me for a loop, but I trust Elway and the staff. I see Lorenzo Doss as a much cheaper fifth cornerback than Tony Carter. Also glad we got a big DT. All in all I think we covered most positional gaps.
MHR - Following the Draft, what holes do you still think we may have in terms of starting players for the 2015/16 season?
BriRei: If Kilgo isn't good, I think we have issues on the defensive line versus the run.
BcDb89: O-Line has got to be the biggest concern still. The overall lack of depth and the questionable quality of the starters at LG, C and RT is definitely cause for concern. Luckily, we have one of the best O-line coaching staffs in the league, which does give me confidence moving forward. But until I see what the new Zone Blocking Scheme looks like out on the field, I will be worried about this unit.
Free Safety is also a position to keep in mind.
j-man: Nose Tackle.
Nastyj: I think the obvious answer is O-line, but I think we have enough players in the mix that we'll come out with a good starting group. The only other gap I see is experienced ILB depth in case Danny Trevathan or Brandon Marshall can't start right away, but I think we're OK there with a lot of young talent waiting in the wings.
Free Safety has been talked about as a question mark, but I kinda like Darian Stewart and see him as the starter. If they end up doing the Bradley Roby at safety in base downs thing, it even makes Stewart's job easier. We now would have a nickel safety instead of a nickel corner.
MHR - In general, do you agree/disagree with John Elway's philosophy to pick Best Player Available and not go after Need in the Draft - and do you think he did get BPA in each round?
ADanishMan: I think Elway definitely got the best player available the more I go back and look at the selections we - and teams after us - had. BPA is a much better way to elevate the overall talent of a team than drafting for need. Luckily for us, Elway found a way to do both this year.
BriRei: BPA is still just your opinion as a GM; it doesn't exist. I just want my team drafting people who will pan out. I like that Elway drafts highly motivated, highly athletic players in the later rounds. You can't teach those traits. Garcia is a perfect example. If he works out as a player, he will be a team captain and 15-year pivot.
BcDb89: BPA to me is the best draft strategy. If you look at the most successful teams in this league's history, they are built in the draft. When you draft BPA, I believe you increase your chances at picking a player who will develop to the NFL standard by removing the tendency to "fall in love" with any particular player or draft a player that is of far less quality just because it is a need. To be honest, a squad like the Broncos has very few needs and as such, BPA is the way to go.
lancing_2009: Absolutely I agree with the notion of drafting BPA. Our roster is very deep and competitive. If a rookie were to overthrow an incumbent in the starting lineup, it only makes our team deeper and better. If he does't start right away, our team gets deeper while adding players who can potentially add quality snaps to the starters.
Nastyj: I think the philosophy is a sound one, and I think we've seen Elway prove that he's willing to draft a player based on talent and not based on his likelihood to start right away or who is in front of him on the depth chart. That to me is where the "BPA versus Need" talk comes into play. Obviously we already have two great pass rushers, so there isn't an immediate "need" at edge, but the opportunity presented itself and the talent was there so we pulled the trigger. It was the same with Roby last year.
I think Elway does a good job of grabbing guys for the future and uses the draft to keep us winning five years down the road while using free agency to keep us winning tomorrow. He even said himself that they evaluate players based on their ability to flourish in year two, not necessarily year one. So yeah, I think if you go into the draft with a glaring need and expect to fill it with a rookie, you're putting a lot of eggs into one basket if the guy you draft doesn't pan out.
MHR - If you were following each round closely, was there a player available you wish we had picked up?
BriRei: There's always groups of players I follow, mainly the value picks that were falling. I didn't want T.J. Clemmings early, but as he fell and fell, I wanted to grab him. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu from Oregon was another one. Injuries cost these guys so much in draft position, but they heal.
lancing_2009: I wish Michael Bennett or Reese Dismukes were drafted in the fourth round. Garcia is a quality player who has outstanding leadership qualities, but the only reason I don't like him is I think Reese would have been a better fit in the ZBS that Kubiak runs. Bennett was considered a round two or three pick. The value was there.
j-man: Grady Jarrett.
Nastyj: I really wanted us to grab Grady Jarrett in the later rounds. He was expected to go in rounds two or three and dropped to the top of the fifth. I thought he was a perfect fit for our one-gap scheme and was great value in the back of the fourth, but we went O-line, which is hard to argue with, and I really like Max Garcia as I mentioned above.
The other two were ILB Taiwan Jones in the seventh and CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu in the sixth. Olomu was a top CB beforetearing his ACL, and I thought he would have been a steal at the end of the sixth (the Browns ended up getting him a few picks before ours in the 7th) and Jones was a guy I liked as a run-stopping ILB who would have come really cheap. I wish we would've either drafted him in the seventh or signed him as a UDFA.
MHR - Which rookies will start/see game time next season in your opinion - and what makes you think this?BriRei: Obviously Ray is going to be on the field for passing downs at a minimum. I think Ty and Garcia will see a bunch of snaps if not starting. Hopefully one of these late round athletic freaks can return and cover punts and kicks. I wanna see our ST make plays, this will be a welcomed change from prior years.
BcDb89: Of the draft picks, Shane Ray will see time no doubt and will rotate in to the lineup on passing situations. Ty Sambrailo and Max Garcia have the potential to make the starting lineup although I'm not so sure I want that to happen. Depending on how things pan out, Darius Kilgo could see some time rotating in as well. Also, the obligatory UDFA that makes the team every year will no doubt see some time even if it is just special teams.
MHR - Of all the UDFAs, which ones have a chance at making the final roster?
ADanishMan: Zaire Anderson, for sure. He's raw but had a fairly impressive season in 2014 (103 tackles, 3 fumbles caused with 2 recoveries, and 13 TFL.) I think he has the best shot, but that might be my Husker bias poking through.
lancing_2009: Kalon Davis is a quality player who may have some versatility. He has the size to compete at a thin NT position, and may prove better value as a Vince Wilfork type player. as far as a late round pick, i really like Darius Kilgo. his tape shows a player with outstanding potential as a run stuffer. he has some pass rush ability, and shows outstanding penetration ability.
MHR - Since O-Line has been a position of need and was addressed in the Draft, who do you see starting there (other than Ryan Clady at left tackle and Louis Vasquez at right guard)?
|Ultimate Fan||Left Guard||Center||Right Tackle|
|ADanishMan||Ty Sambrailo||Gino Gradkowski||Michael Schofield|
|BdDb89||Shelley Smith||Max Garcia||Chris Clark|
|BriRei||Collins||Max Garcia||Ty Sambrailo|
|j-man||Shelley Smith (now)||Gino Gradkowski (now)||Michael Schofield (now)|
|j-man||Ben Garland (mid)||Max Garcia (mid)||Ty Sambrailo (mid)|
|lancing_2009||Shelley Smith||Gino Gradkowski||Ty Sambrailo|
|Nastyj||Shelley Smith||Max Garcia||Michael Schofield|
(Totally Way Too Early But Still Fun) Predictions:
• Record next season?
ADanishMan: 13-3. We lose the road games at Indianpolis and Pittsburgh, with a surprise loss a la St. Louis last year. (Minnesota?)
BcDb89: 13 - 3
• Which home game do you think will be the best game?
Nastyj: Green Bay on Sunday Night Football
lancing_2009: Green Bay or New England
j-man: Green Bay
• Which away game will be the most challenging?
ADanishMan: Indianapolis. That's all I'll say.
lancing_2009: Pittsburgh (late season and bad weather could be huge factors here)
j-man: @ Indy
• Who will be the starting RB?
ADanishMan: C.J. Anderson. Who else?
Nastyj: Anderson, and he'll be the first back I draft in fantasy this year!
lancing_2009: Montee Ball/ C..J Anderson split carries. Anderson starts and Ball surprises everybody.
BriRei: CJA and the Ball committee
BcDb89: C.J. Anderson
• Who wins the Super Bowl (if you answer anything other than the Broncos at this point, you better 'splain yourself Lucy!?)
ADanishMan: Broncos over Packers.
Nastyj: Denver over Green Bay
lancing_2009: I'll drink the Kool-AidTM and say Denver, but really say Indy. They have way too much magic.
j-man: I am going with Green Bay because they should have beaten Seattle, and they did beat New England. Packers will get a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed in the NFC. Rodgers is in his prime, offense has no weakness and defense is better than most think.
For the AFC pick: New England is out because Gronk will get the Madden 16 cover; Denver is out because I have to see Manning's arm strength in December/January; Baltimore is out because new offensive system, no cornerbacks, too young at WR/TE.
So that leaves Indy. They made it to the AFC Championship game with no o-line, only one wide receiver and a third-down back starting at RB, little defensive pass rush and weak safety. I think they will get home field because Colts only have one weakness - run defense.
How long have you been a Broncos fan and what got you to become one?
ADanishMan: Been a fan since birth. My folks are Broncos fans (along with most of western South Dakota) so I was surrounded by fellow fans growing up.
Nastyj: My grandpa and uncle were huge Denver fans, and I always liked the color orange as a kid (still do!) So I've been a Broncos fan all my life but haven't followed them super close because of lack of cable TV and Internet access growing up until the Tebow season. That year was when I really got deep into the Broncos like memorizing their roster, following every offseason move and storyline, and reading MHR religiously - and I haven't looked back!
lancing_2009: 1997- the helicopter play in Super Bowl XXXII.
BriRei: Forever... My dad.
j-man: Since 1990-91. The mountains, home game jersey colors look good on TV, John Elway. Plus, everyone in my area is mostly a Cowboys fan, and I did not want to be that!
BcDb89: I'm from New Zealand and the first game of American Football I watched was the 1997 Super Bowl between the Broncos and Packers. I told myself I would go for the winner of that game, and so here I am.
Favorite Broncos game memory?
ADanishMan: The Tebow-to-DT touchdown to win the Wild Card game against the Steelers. It was an improbable win in a game that we had no business being in and marked the resurrection of Broncos football.
Nastyj: I'm going to go off the beaten path a bit. San Diego Chargers second-half comeback win on MNF in 2012. Broncos were down 24-0 at half and they ended up winning 35-24 with some great play by Peyton and key turnovers by the D.
lancing_2009: 2005 AFC Champ Game - Todd Sauerbrun annihilates Kevin Faulk on a kick return and causes a fumble.
BriRei: I was barely a teenager when Elway won back-to-back Super Bowls. Hard to say anything else.
BcDb89: That first game (Super Bowl 32), but only looking back and realizing how momentous it actually was, and having no idea at the time.
Favorite current player?
ADanishMan: Oh man, there's so many. I've got to say, Von Miller. He's one of the league's best pass rushers and a genuinely good dude. I hope he's a lifelong Bronco. (Also, the Funky Von Sack Dance is too dang good.)
Nastyj: Von Miller and Chris Harris.
lancing_2009: Von Miller
BriRei: Von Miller. His sack dance is the highlight of my Sunday.
j-man: Chris Harris Jr.
BcDb89: Von Miller. Linebacker is my favorite position.
Favorite former player?
ADanishMan: I was a big, big fan of Champ Bailey. He played with so much heart and was a stud to boot. It was a sad day in Broncos Country when he was let go after the 2013 season.
Nastyj: John Elway, of course, but I was also a big fan of Julius Thomas.
lancing_2009: Hands-down, Terrell Davis.
BriRei: Bill Romanowski. He's mean and was my dad's favorite growing up. No. 53 is still a number I use if I play Lotto!
j-man: Rod Smith or Shannon Sharpe.
BcDb89: Steve Atwater. Just a straight up beast.