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Saturday, April 25, 2009

About Those Broncos and the 2009 Draft

Consider this, unquestionably, a critique. Consider it, too, a series of predictions (of a sort).

Good. Good athlete, good skills, good pick, good guy.

Too expensive. Decent player, potential starter, but not worth trading a first round pick next year to pick up a roll of the dice in the second round this year.

Promising. Potentially a very good player. While there is a lot to pick over this time through, I’m going to give this one some time to grow on me.

I just don’t get it. Why Knowshon Moreno? Last year the Broncos ended up with a surprisingly decent rushing attack considering all of the injuries that they sustained. What was amazing was how productive many of those rushers were when they played--and the kind of injury plague that they had last season isn’t likely to strike again. Aside from that, the Broncos brought in four expensive running backs in the offseason to compete with those guys from last season. So, heading into the draft, the Broncos had JJ Arrington, Correll Buckhalter, Andre Hall, Peyton Hillis, LaMont Jordan, Andrew Pinnock, Ryan Torain, and Selvin Young on the roster. They let PJ Pope and Michael Pittman go in the offseason and Tatum Bell hasn’t been re-signed after stepping in as a last-minute (and damned decent considering the lack of time to prepare for his role) fill-in for all of the injured backs last season.

There is a lot of talent on that list. The Broncos weren’t a team in search of an offense (although a little more scoring and a little less of the red-zone give-aways would have helped); this was a team that was near the bottom in pretty much every defensive category. It wasn’t just bad coaching, either. There was a serious lack of talent on that side of the ball. Every Broncos fan who wasn’t saying a prayer for a trade up to get Sanchez was probably sitting back and hoping that the first few rounds went to shore up that defense. Using a first rounder on a running back--even one who sounds as talented as this--just wasn’t what we were hoping for.

Don’t imagine that I think Moreno will be a bust because I’m guessing he’s going to be a heck of a player. I just think that the team had much bigger needs that could have been addressed with this pick and that their current talent is more talented than McDaniels seems to believe. The comments at the link above are significantly more positive than mine, but I just don’t see it.

As an aside, and speaking of Broncos cast-offs, teams who are looking for quality back-ups might do well to consider picking up Tatum Bell. He played hard and smart last season. Behind a good line with the right scheme, Bell can still be a player in the NFL.

For that matter, Jamie Winborn should be playing somewhere, too. I was surprised when the Broncos let him this off season. He’s a high energy, big effort, smart linebacker who might not have the same physical skills as some of the top names in the league, but who makes a great back-up who showed a talent for big plays and getting himself into good position to make plays. And, not to be unkind, but he was far more productive than a few names on the Broncos current roster. Like Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder, for instance.

In fact, Winborn had more tackles last year (99 with 74 solo) than both Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder had in the last two seasons. Combined.

Now, back to the draft…

This is out of order, but what the hell? Of all the moves and all the picks, this one puzzles and worries me the most.

First, the Broncos weren’t really in dire need of a new tight end. Second, they traded their third round picks to move up to the second round to pick this guy--and I think he would still have been on the board in the third if they had waited. In fact, he well have been available in the fourth round and (by his own admission) he was thinking he might have to go the free agency route to find a team. He wasn’t the only one surprised that he was picked so high.

He didn’t have a distinguished career, he doesn’t have a history of being much of a receiving threat, and, yes, he can block but so can every one else on the Broncos squad. One of the great things about Shanahan was how he preached that everyone blocks in the running game and blocks hard. This just wasn’t their biggest need and they gave up their two picks in the third to get him when they didn’t have to. Let me put this as plainly as I can, even if he is a great pick, they didn’t need to give anything away to get their guy--it was a royally bad decision that leaves them as spectators until the fourth round and watching talent slip away that could have helped with their real needs.

The silver lining is that McDaniels seems to have picked some good citizens, some high-effort guys, and all these guys could all be starters.

But he didn’t plug all the defensive holes that most fans and experts hoped to see filled. Is this a sign of arrogance, bad strategy, or some strange genius that the rest of us will catch onto slowly over the course of the next two seasons?

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