Little doubt exists that the main issue for the 2017 Denver Broncos is their inability to consistently perform on the offensive side of the ball week in and week out. Outside of their curb-stomping of the Dallas Cowboys in the second game of the season, Denver’s offense has been below-average to downright terrible in regard to production this season. It’s not something that is going to change miraculously overnight, and it will take a monumental effort from John Elway and his collegiate and professional scouting staff’s to find the right players this coming offseason who can turn the wealth of negatives that exist offensively into positives.
If we are being honest with the offensive state of the Broncos offense, it’s self-evident to acknowledge that they are in desperate need of a complete makeover on the offensive side of the ball. Players such as Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas, Ronald Leary, Garett Bolles, Matt Paradis are quality players and provide a solid foundation for the franchise, but it’s safe to say that almost every other position is in need of upgrading or at the very least, could use some reinforcements courtesy of the 2018 NFL Draft, where the Broncos currently have nine selections.
Broncos offense has not been NFL quality for a couple weeks now.— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) October 22, 2017
The Broncos have invested serious draft capital in recent years on the offensive side of the ball, but outside a few players there has been nothing to write home about. It's too soon to judge the long-term prospects of Carlos Henderson and Jake Butt who haven't seen action this season due to injury, but based on their collegiate resume’s, both have the ability to become starters and quality players in this league as long as they stay healthy. Isaiah McKenzie has proven to be a valuable special teams player for the Broncos, but has yet to find his groove on offense.
The same could be said for De'Angelo Henderson, the team's sixth-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, who looked phenomenal in the preseason, but has yet to play a meaningful down on offense for the team. I can’t leave out Mr. Irrelevant, quarterback Chad Kelly, who has been sidelined all year recovering from injuries suffered in his final season at Ole Miss, but I have no doubt he will have the opportunity to compete for a starting job next season given the debacle the Broncos have at the position.
So while the Broncos do have untapped potential and youth on there roster, I believe they need to invest a lot of their draft resources into building an explosive offense for the future. Listed below are some of my thoughts on several directions the Broncos should go in next year’s draft in order to bolster the long-term efficacy on that side of the ball. Obviously, these ideas could be subject to change if upgrades are acquired during the free agency period, but since that is completely variable as of now, I will try to be as comprehensive as possible with my NFL Draft discourse.
Improving at Left Guard and Right Tackle
More often than not, whoever controls the line of scrimmage dictates the pace and outcome of games. For the Denver Broncos, the left guard and right tackle positions are a significant cause for concern and are in desperate need of serious upgrades. Truth be told, you would be hard-pressed to find another team in the NFL whose situations at both positions are worse than the Denver’s.
Despite all the action he has seen three years into his career, Max Garcia hasn’t shown much improvement and seems to be a back-up caliber player at best. While he has shown some flashes in the run blocking department, he continuously struggles to control his area in pass protection and is often blown away by defenders maneuvering and stunting through his gap. It’s time for the Garcia Experiment and the rotating of linemen at the spot to come to an end.
If the Broncos want to strengthen the left side of their line, they would be wise to invest a high selection in a premium prospect such as Quenton Nelson, who is the premier guard prospect eligible in this draft. Nelson is a tough-nosed offensive lineman with flairs of old-school throwback to him. He is a nasty finisher in the running game and is a quality pass protector. Without question, he is a plug-and-play starter from Day 1 and would be an immediate upgrade over Garcia or anyone else the Broncos have on the roster at the position.
No such thing as a can't-miss but damn it's hard to envision Quenton Nelson not being great in the NFL.— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) October 22, 2017
The other major issue in the Broncos’ offensive trench is the egregiously terrible predicament they are in at right tackle. Allen Barbre isn’t a solution to the problem. Menelik Watson, despite receiving a lucrative contract this past free agency period, has proven to be one of the worst starting right tackles (if not the worst) in the entire league. Donald Stephenson, who is battling through injuries and restructured his contract twice to stay on the team, is arguably worse than Watson is. In short, the Broncos don’t have a starting caliber right tackle on their roster.
For several years in a row, it has been a series of swings and misses by Elway and his scouting staff who have failed tremendously in pursuit of acquiring a right tackle who is capable of holding his own on any given Sunday. The 2018 free agency period doesn’t look to have anyone worth a salt at tackle, so the Broncos’ best options would be to trade for a quality tackle or roll the dice once more and hope they finally strike gold in the NFL Draft.
These tackles excelled when in pass protection a year ago. pic.twitter.com/I7GZDCwS0J— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) August 23, 2017
Washington’s Trey Adams and Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey are regarded as the best blindside protectors eligible for this year’s draft, but unless the Broncos tank out the rest of the season, they are likely out of the team’s reach. Texas' Connor Williams was regarded as a fringe first-round prospect, but after suffering a torn meniscus and ligament damage in the Longhorns' game against USC, his draft stock is in jeopardy.
If I were Elway, I’d stay away from Williams early on in the draft and zone in on Martinas Rankin of Mississippi State or Orlando Brown of Oklahoma in the first round if they want to upgrade the tackle spot. Jamarco Jones out of Ohio State and Martez Ivey of Florida should merit consideration on Day 2 of the NFL Draft as potential upgrades at right tackle if they aren’t able to find a tackle in the first round. Mason Cole of Michigan, Brian O'Neill of Pittsburgh and Mitch Hyatt of Clemson are worth an honorable mention and could be Late Day 2 or Early Day 3 prospects.
Bottom line, two of Denver’s first four selections should be on finding long-term upgrades at left guard and right tackle.
Securing a Workhorse Running Back
The loyal readers of Mile High Report seem to be at a stalemate in regard to if and when the Broncos should acquire a running back in next year’s draft. 53 percent of Broncos Country believes that getting a high-profile collegiate rusher who can be a workhorse for the team is a priority on the first or second day of the draft, while 47 percent believe the team can wait until Day 3 or add someone to the stable as a college free agent. I’d place myself in as someone who would be comfortable with the Broncos’ drafting a back on the second day and would prefer much larger needs to be addressed with their first-round pick. But if Saquon Barkley was a possibility for Denver, I would love for Elway to bring him into the fold to help establish a dominant ground game for the franchise.
Outside of upgrading the offensive line, I believe that finding a stud running back is the best things the Broncos can do to improve the offense going forward. Well, finding a franchise quarterback might be nice, but that’s easier said than done and far harder to do than find a quality running back. (I’ll address my thoughts on this year’s quarterback class and where the Broncos go from there in a later installment of this series.)
This 2018 NFL Draft has the potential to be fantastic at the running back position if several underclassmen declare and has a plethora of talent seniors ready to make waves in the NFL. A few weeks ago I covered a lot of those players, so if you missed that article of Future Broncos be sure to give it a read and also check out the comments section where a handful of commenters had some great information on backs eligible for this year’s draft as well.
Upgrading the Long-Term Prospects at Wide Receiver and Tight End
Earlier this month I spent some time discussing some of the better collegiate wide receivers and tight ends available in the 2018 NFL Draft. Based on the responses in the polls and comments section, most of Broncos Country would rather wait until Day 2 or on Day 3 for additions at these spots. Given the issues we have elsewhere, I whole-heartedly agree with the voting majority on both counts. Lucky for the Broncos, they have enough picks to make some magic happen and should be able to add one of each to their roster through the draft come April if they so choose.
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are one of the best duos in the NFL when healthy, but nagging injuries and poor play at the quarterback position have hindered their production this season. I believe that Carlos Henderson will become a very solid pro, but I believe that the team should use another selection (perhaps a fourth rounder) to find another receiver who can perform on a cheap rookie contract. Cody Latimer has been a bust and while I’m thankful for Bennie Fowler and Jordan Taylor’s contributions to the franchise, they aren’t exactly world-beaters out there at receiver and wouldn’t be too hard to replace.
If he can stay healthy, I believe that rookie tight end Jake Butt can be a true number one tight end in this league, but with two ACL tears to the same knee in his football career, I’m a little worried about his durability and longevity. I’ve been a strong critic of the rest of the Broncos’ tight end corps, who have been mediocre at best from a productivity standpoint this season. Obviously, quarterback play has a role in their modest numbers, but don’t kid yourselves into believing opposing defensive coordinators are losing sleep about how to contain A.J. Derby, Jeff Heuerman or Virgil Green in the passing game.
Long-term, I believe acquiring another tight end capable of starting for the Broncos is more important than adding a wide receiver and would feel comfortable with the team addressing their need there as early as the second day of the draft.
So Broncos Country, do you believe that the Broncos should spend a majority of their 2018 NFL Draft selections on upgrading the offense?
As always, thank you for reading. Feel free to give your thoughts on the analysis above, as well as any of your other draft related musings in the comments section.
How many of their 2018 NFL Draft selections (nine as of now) should the Denver Broncos use to upgrade their offense?
This poll is closed
Every pick should be an offensive player!
More than half of them, we need to make the offense great again!
Just a couple of them. I don’t think we are as bad off as Hart thinks we are long-term offensively.
It’s too early to know — I have to see what Elway does in free agency before deciding.