Quarterbacks, Free Safeties, and Running Backs, oh my! John Elway and the Denver Broncos unfolded their master plan for improving through the draft this past week much to the delight of all of Broncos Country. I can't honestly remember a draft with more hype for fans of the Broncos in recent history.
This isn't going to be the post you want to read to find out the insights on each of these players (I don't watch college ball at all), but what it is going to be is a handful of insights on what I'm seeing from the Broncos with these moves. We're going to "read between the lines" so-to-speak and see what we can deduce from what happened in the 2016 draft.
Let's start off by taking a quick peek at the Broncos draft class for easy reference:
|Broncos 2016 Draft Picks|
|1||26||Paxton Lynch||QB||6'7"||245||Memphis||Scouting Report on Paxton Lynch|
|2||63||Adam Gotsis||DT/DE||6'4"||287||Georgia Tech||Scouting Report on Adam Gotsis|
|3||98||Justin Simmons||S||6'2"||202||Boston College||Scouting Report on Justin Simmons|
|219||Utah||Scouting Report on Devontae Booker|
|5||144||Connor McGovern||G||6'4"||306||Missouri||Scouting Report on Connor McGovern|
|6||176||Andy Janovich||FB||6'1"||238||Nebraska||Scouting Report on Andy Janovich|
|6||219||Will Parks||S||6'1"||194||Arizona||Coming Soon...|
|7||228||Riley Dixon||P||6'4"||221||Syracuse||Coming Soon...|
Reflecting is always fun
For kicks, here's a link to my draft preview. The draft is not some known quantity and it is always fun to look back at what we say prior to the draft and find out how much or how little we know. Here's the high and low lights:
Drafting for need
My opener was an almost consensus statement in Broncos Country: John Elway doesn't draft for need. We'll get into this more later, but I believe Elway pulled the wool over everyone's eyes and zigged when we though he'd zag.
We really are looking at it all wrong though
I will hold to the statement that Elway is using a long-term lens as well as short-term when he drafts though. Adam Gotsis is big time evidence of this.
My only miss on what I thought we should look for was tackle. Every other position I mentioned was a position the front office addressed in this draft. The other big needs I mentioned (QB, Safety) were top picks in the draft.
Let's talk about the offense
One big thing I'd like to point out that should be somewhat obvious to everyone is that this offense is not going to be what we saw last year. Gary Kubiak was missing some pretty big pieces to run his offense last year (namely a QB athletic enough to rock the boot action and a functional full back). It looks to me like he gave Elway some feedback this year on what he wanted for 2016 and Elway has obliged.
We now have an honest to goodness corn-fed beefcake fullback out of the great state of Nebraska ready to kick chef, fader, and sparkler ass and take names. We also got an athletic hoss of a guard in Connor McGovern to help get the offensive line bolstered and ready to run over some poor fools come game time in 2016. Also, don't think for a second that Devontae Booker won't have as good of a shot as any of our other backs at racking up yards this year.
We aren't going to be limited by a pre-snap read QB this year that keeps our play calling restrained to what a pocket-passer can do. This is a really big deal in the Kubiak offense, for better or for worse.
The Kubiak fans are going to be excited to see what happens. I honestly think our team will as the season wears on integrate more modern zone read plays into the offense that will keep defenses on their toes instead of just the same old Kubiak offense we saw in the 90s and 00s. Kubiak (like Shanahan) loves misdirection and creating personnel mismatches with it as well as numbers advantages. I'm not saying we should be playing ball like the Carolina Panthers, but there's no reason not to have those wrinkles in the game plan.
The Kubiak haters should also be excited by this development. If he is truly a limited coach running an antiquated offense with no ability to adjust in the modern age (that trophy should honestly answer this question in my mind), then we'll see another mostly ineffective offense in 2016. At the end of the day, Elway is clearly trying to get Kubiak the chess pieces he wants to have on the field on game day.
Addressing the elephant in the room
The offseason in Broncos Country always is interesting and this year was no exception. We lose Brent (COUGH) Brock Osweiler. We missed out on Collin Kaepernick. We signed Buttfumble. We pursued Sam Bradford and failed. We have NO ANSWERS OHMYGERSH!!!
What I love about Elway is that he is cool, calm and in control unlike most of us with chewed fingernails and tufts of hair missing up top when the shizzle hits the fizzle.
He wasn't going to overpay for Kap. He found a guy that can play NFL football. He didn't overpay for an oft-injured disgruntled Bradford. He also didn't let the market push him off of how much he was willing to spend on the QB position post-Manning.
The other thing we saw in his drafting of Paxton Lynch was a very canny knowledge of his opposition in the NFL for the kid's services and what it would take to defeat their efforts. Elway knew the teams that wanted Lynch were going to trade up into the back end of the 1st round to snag Lynch and he wisely hopped up just enough to get his guy.
Now we have a QB to groom. He looks raw to me for the NFL game, but I absolutely have not forgotten who Gary Kubiak is and what he does with QBs. This is a guy that helped craft an offense that Jake Plummer thrived in. He is a guy that had Matt Schaub looking like a top-15 QB. Bring on the raw kid. If Lynch puts in the work and takes to the coaching that will be provided to him, he's going to be a pick we will be absolutely loving for years.
The one outlier in this draft had to be our 2nd round pick Adam Gotsis. I haven't seen many draftniks talk about this being a great move. Most of them honestly call it a reach.
Here's what I'll say to that: This is all on Bill Kollar. All reports from the Broncos' camp say he was banging the table to get a chance to coach Gotsis. I'm not going to throw shade on a guy as qualified as Bill Kollar is if he wants to draft a raw looking Aussie to come play for the Denver Broncos. Between Kollar and Wade Phillips, we have two of the great minds in defensive football coaching up this player. I'll be absolutely content to sit back and see how it pans out.
Let this kid get to work for a year or two. He's either going to be a long-term starter for us or he's going to wash out. I don't see much of a middle ground here. If this guy can play football at the NFL level, Kollar is going to make sure he becomes a beast since Kollar's name is square on the middle of this project.
Safety first ladies and gents
You know I have to crow about our team picking up a couple of safeties. I've held for years that the safeties of our team have been one of the biggest factors in whether our defense was stout or not. I've lamented the latter years of aging vets (Brian Dawkins and John Lynch) while cheering for their first couple years with the team. I've also called Rahim Moore a bust early and often. I've lamented the career of Dominique Foxworth (I think Manning was the guy that ended his career). I also was throwing a party when we signed T.J. Ward and I made a friggin season out of touting how awesome Darian Stewart was last year.
I absolutely love our moves in signing Justin Simmons and Will Parks. Safety was an area of worry for me leading up to the draft. I'm not a believer in Shiloh Keo and was really bummed to see David Bruton leave. These two young guys are going to have a great opportunity to bolster the Safety corps of the Broncos.
Simmons is a guy we can groom for Free Safety and in the meantime have him fill in where Bruton did for us last year as a 3rd safety in some sub-packages. He's got a lot of versatility and fits into the mold of the kind of safeties this Broncos defense brought to the table in 2015: quick, smart, confident, and impactful.
I don't know as much about Parks other than that he seems to fit the mold more for what T.J. Ward does at SS. If he's going to stick around, I'd hope he puts some weight on his frame this year if Phillips wants to use him in that same kind of enforcer role.
What ILB problem?
Also worth noting is that the Denver Broncos really like their inside line backers. We had multiple opportunities in the draft to snag a some highly rated linebackers when we were on the clock and the team kept on passing them. Some people think this is an oversight on the part of the front office.
I'm not one of those people. Both Todd Davis and Corey Nelson looked very good in limited snaps last year. Davis especially is a guy I think is a likely lock to be starting across from Brandon Marshall this year.
The big deal here is that historically speaking, neither Elway nor Philips seems to value big name players at ILB. From what I've seen over the years, this is one of the easier to fill positions in Phillips' defense. In a draft where it seems like all we did was draft for need, the team passing by the ILBs at draft time speaks volumes to me.
We just got better: No Bull
Let me wrap up by saying that at least on paper our team just got a lot better. There's going to be competition in lackluster areas of our roster (such as punter, safety depth, and quarterback). The players we picked up are going to help our offense move more in the direction of a smart, physical, and effective offense. We honestly don't have anywhere to go but up in comparison to last year's production.
I'd also be tempted to say that our defense has a good opportunity to get better this year. I think too many in Broncos Country are overlooking Wade Phillips' ability to adjust his scheme to fit his players. Yeah, we lost Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan, but what about the guys behind them? What about our coaches ability to coach well? I think the pass rush is still in place and so is the coverage unit. This defense is still going to be very stout.
Hit me up in the comments with insights you have from the draft. What did you read between the lines of Elway's drafting? Is anyone's job on the line due to some of these young pups getting signed?