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Horse Tracks: Denver’s running game needs some work

It’s time to draft a young stud RB and I’ve got stats to show you why

Samuel R Gold

Everybody has an opinion on who Denver should draft first. Today, I'm making a case for a RB. After looking at some statistics, one item stood out in glaring neon. Only two teams with a worse rushing rank than us, made the play offs.

Of the twelve teams who went, only the Packers, Giants, Lions and Seahawks made it with a 25th or worse rush attack. All four had superior quarterbacks, three were drafted first round. The lone team with a rookie QB, had the best RB to lean on. A rookie Running Back.

Tennessee almost limped in with the tandem of Marcus Mariota and #3 Demarco Murray, but Marcus was sidelined by his injury. Teams on the cusp, had running games that petered out when they most needed them.

It doesn't matter if your last name is Rodgers or Manning, it may be a QB driven league, but without a top 15 run game, odds are, you're not making the Big Show. Only Pittsburgh with a top RB and top QB, missed the SB. Had Le’Veon Bell not be injured, chances are Atlanta would be the SB champions.

PO Running Back Ranks

7 1872 New England 8 LeGarrette Blount 1,161
5 1928 Atlanta 9 Devonta Freeman 1,079
14 1760 Pittsburgh 5 Le'Veon Bell 1,268
20 1701 Green Bay 41 Ty Montgomery 457
8 1859 Houston 10 Lamar Miller 1,073
25 1591 Seattle 36* Christine Michael 469
15 1748 Kansas City 16 Spencer Ware 921
2 2396 Dallas 1 Ezekiel Elliott 1,631
6 1922 Oakland 21 Latavius Murray 788
29 1412 NY Giants 27 Rashad Jennings 593
9 1824 Miami 4 Jay Ajayi 1,272
30 1310 Detroit 55 Theo Riddick 357
---------------- ------------ ----------------------------- ----------- --------------------- ---------
---------------- ------------ ----------------------------- ----------- --------------------- ---------
27 1484 Denver 26 Booker 612

Now, check out where the Play Off QB’s ranked.

PO QB Ranking

1 Matt Ryan, ATL 73 83.1 83.1 83.3
2 Tom Brady, NE 56.5 71.4 82.8 83
3 Dak Prescott, DAL 62.9 71.2 82.6 81.5
4 Aaron Rodgers, GB 67.7 75.9 78.2 76.9
8 Matthew Stafford, DET 46.8 61.5 71.6 70.5
10 Ben Roethlisberger, PIT 29.5 53.8 67.4 66.3
11 Alex Smith, KC 23.2 44 63.4 66.1
15 Russell Wilson, SEA 26 47.7 62.9 63.2
16 Derek Carr, OAK 20.4 58.9 60.6 62.1
22 Brock Osweiler, HOU 9.2 23.8 55.5 55.3
24 Ryan Tannehill, MIA 7.4 25.5 55.5 54.6
27 Eli Manning, NYG 10.1 49.7 55.4 51.8
----------- ---------------------------------- ---------------- --------------- --------------- --------------
----------- ---------------------------------- ---------------- --------------- --------------- --------------
21 Trevor Siemian, DEN 7.3 30.9 54.4 55.8

If you had a poor QB and a poor RB, you missed the show completely or your defense saved you. This chart really illustrates how a run game saved a team’s offense or the reverse. The Giants are the lone exception. Their defense limped them into the PO’s.

QB to RB Rank Comparision

2 New England 7 8
1 Atlanta 5 9
10 Pittsburgh 14 5
4 Green Bay 20 41
22 Houston 8 10
15 Seattle 25 36
11 Kansas City 15 16
3 Dallas 2 1
16 Oakland 6 21
27 New York 29 27
24 Miami 9 4
8 Detroit 30 55
--- --- --- ---
--- --- --- ---
21 Denver 27 26

Which brings me to Denver. We’re either having a new QB starter or an often injured Siemian. Neither choice will be aided by a below average RB. Elway is making moves like he did in 2014 when he rebuilt the team (defense). That leads one to assume improving the OL (please, for all that’s good) must be on that list.

Without a bell cow RB or at least two semi-studs to share the load, an improved OL is only going to do so much. It seems fairly clear cut that the better your running back, unless you have an elite arm, the better a QB does. Pundits credit Dallas’s OL for Dak’s success, but I say remove Zeke the Freak and he’d have struggled, great OL or not.

Neither of our RB’s fit the bill. I’d rather draft a top RB than pay one. That money should be spent on OL and DL players.

CJ Anderson status is iffy. With cartilage damage and a history of limping through games, he's not a back we can depend on. Nor has he been an every down back, not the bell cow Gary Kubiak was planning on.

Devontae Booker has speed and power, but so far he has shown a lack of vision or the ability to be more than a straight ahead rusher.

The top three backs in the draft seem to be Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette and Joe Mixon (issues included). These are agreed upon players who are every down, bell cows. After them, everyone's board goes in wild directions.

Based on alphabetical order: D'Onta Freeman, Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara,  Sammy Perine, Jamaal Williams also have the potential to be an every down back for limited success depending on the play calls. Christian McCaffrey is the change of pace guy which is where I see Booker.

For me, if we can't get Cook, Fournette or even Mixon (yikes), then we take OJ Howard in the first and Hunt in the second. I know Broncos Country wants CMC, but if we remove his last name, he's not the best fit for us. Plus, first round is a reach for a luxury guy. If we already had a very good RB and he was our razzle dazzle guy, woo, sign me up in the second! But his real role should be as a slot who can run. If he's taken as a slot in the second round, three cheers!

One more item about lil Mac is that we have Full Back, Andy Janovich. Unless we trade Janovich to the Jags, who have stated they want a FB, having a RB type like CMac is overkill for a team that appears to be moving away from a run heavy scheme to a more aerial one. Using him as a slot, drafted in the second round, makes more sense.

Samuel Gold makes the case for me, in this excellent write up of Booker. Coincidentally, he also shows that our OL wasn't given as much credit as they should've. I saw some good size holes.

Here’s the link. It's worth a read.

I know its a popular refrain to chose an OL in the first; however, our own Joe Mahoney pointed out that in the past 10 NFL seasons there have only been 20 instances of a team starting two rookie offensive lineman for more than 8 games. (I am copying him word for word, thanks Joe!)

The team with the most starting rookie offensive lineman (8 or more starts as rookies) is the Colts with 10. The Bengals and the Jets are tied with the least instances of starting rookie offensive lineman over the past decade at 1.

We've only used three rookie offensive lineman as regular starters in the past decade: Walton and Beadles in 2010 and Franklin in 2011. (End of my copy and paste from Joe).

Folks, that's pretty bad odds. Looking at the teams that used several, it didn't work out so hot for them, either. Obviously, the overwhelming amount of rookie OL sit and learn for a year or see limited action. The last thing anybody should want is a rookie on our OL with either Lynch or Siemian. Siemian will barely have his strength and mobility back from surgery by August.

What we should do, is bring in a FA LT and give him a two year contract. Based on the odds, any OL drafted will need a year or two to be starter ready. This year's crop of tackles isn't great, maybe two are LT material. Next season, several good players will be available, that's when we should strike in the first round. Get a real tackle and let him learn for a year.

That's my pitch. Draft a RB, then next best available on the remaining rounds. Hopefully that includes a TE, ILB or OLB, a slot, DL and a CB. Sign two or three OL, a NT and maybe an DE and let's rock and roll. I'm sure Broncos Country has something to say, so post your comments below.

Bring on the combine! For a breakdown my position, go here for an easy guide.

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Have a great week all.