Boom or Bust for the Denver Broncos…Again – Part 2
Here we are again.
As I mentioned in Part 1, as the Denver Broncos get ready for the 2015 season, they have to make some roster decisions. And now that free-agency is nearing its end, the Broncos have to consider what then need in the NFL draft.
In Part 1, we took a look at the Broncos Quarterback, Tight End and Wide Receiver position. In Part 2, we’ll take a look at the Running Backs and the Offensive Line.
Filling the Gaps
Kubiak is known for favoring a run heavy offense. As an exampled, during his tenure as the Houston Texans head coach, Kubiak had a hand in in developing the perennial pro-bowler Arian Foster. And in 2010-2012, Foster proceeded carry the ball for over four thousand yards and had 41 rushing TD’s. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that’s a lot of yards. And as a result, the Texans made the post season in both 2011 and 2012.
In the 2015 season, C.J. Anderson (age 24) will likely be the Broncos starting running back. In 2014, Anderson started less than half the games during the regular season, yet still rushed for 849 yards and 8 TDs and added 324 receiving yards from 34 receptions and 2 TDs. Behind him sits Montee Ball (age 24) and Juwan Thompson (age 22).
The running back prospects in the 2015 NFL draft are deep and plenty. If any team needed a running back, not only could they get an elite running back in Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon late in the 1st round, but this would also be the year to draft a potentially good prospect in the 4th or 5th rounds, like Cameron Artis-Payne from Auburn or Karlos Williams from Florida State University. Fortunately, or unfortunately, drafting a running back is not a high priority due to their existing relatively young, and productive, running back core. It might be possible to consider a late round flyer to add more depth, as Montee Ball has continuously failed to live up to expectations, but it might be better to address other more explicit shortcomings in the draft before adding depth.
Combining Mannings spread offense with Kubiak’s zone blocking and run heavy offense, the Broncos might want to consider strengthening the offensive line with an early round draft pick. But, what position should they choose?
Currently, the Broncos offensive line is a work in progress.
With three options, the Broncos don’t need to draft a center early (if at all). Matt Paradis and Gino Gradkowski (who started for the Ravens in 2013, but lost his starting job in 2014 to Jeremy Zuttah), were both picked up during free agency and will be competing with the current center, Manny Ramirez.
With Orlando Franklin, left guard, departing for the San Diego Chargers, the Broncos have signed the Miami Dolphins guard Shelly Smith to a two year contract. Shelly was drafted by the Houston Texans and played under Kubiak’s system for two years. Unfortunately, Smith has been with five different teams (including the Broncos) during his six years in the NFL, which doesn’t bode well for the Broncos (or say much for Shelly’s career). Ben Garland, who spent more time on the Broncos practice squad than on the field (he didn’t start any games in 2014, but did play in 8), will also be competing at left guard. With so much uncertainty at left guard, the Broncos should consider drafting an offensive guard in the 2nd and 3rd round to secure the position.
Louis Vasquez (age 28) has moved between right guard and right tackle, but Kubiak has stated that Vasquez will stand at right guard where he was first team All-Pro in 2013. As Kubiak tries to build a younger team on offense, as I said before, picking up an offensive guard might also provide needed protection for younger skill players.
The left tackle position has been secured by Ryan Clady (age 28), who Kubiak has stated is a staple of the Broncos offensive line. In 2013, Clady got the franchise tag, eventually earning him a five-year contract for $57.5 million. With the Broncos investing that much money, they have to believe he can get the job done in Kubiak’s system. Hopefully, with a full year past coming back from the Lisfranc injury that sidelined him in 2013, Clady will return to All-Pro form, as the one thing the Broncos can ill afford is a line that doesn’t protect its aging quarterback.
Michael Schofield (age 24), a third round draft pick in 2014, is currently the front runner at right tackle, but the Broncos can also pivot to veteran Chris Clark (age 29).
The Broncos could decide to draft an offensive right tackle in the first round so as to potentially upgrade or plan for the future, particularly since standout T.J. Clemings of Pittsburgh (who played right tackle in college) is likely to be available at the Broncos 28th overall pick. Although value may dictate otherwise, it might be best to give the position a pass and continue to develop their third round pick from 2014 (Schofield).
The NFL draft has always been a gamble. Great players in college may or may not be great players in the NFL. There is something to be said about drafting the best player available, rather than the player needed…its a decision every team needs to make.
It’s a matter of what we are willing to risk.
Like jelly beans.
The Jelly Bean Candy Co. deliberately chooses to make some flavors that couldn’t possibly tantalize the taste buds, but people still choose to eat them out of curiosity, like rotten eggs, vomit, stinky socks and skunk spray. If you dare, pick up a pack of BeanBoozled jelly beans which includes a nice assortment of these crazy “flavors”.
With free-agency nearing its end and with the 28th pick in the draft, the Broncos have again set their sights on winning the Super Bowl. Why not? It’s good to have a positive attitude. But will the changes made during the off-season and their upcoming selections in the draft be enough? Like these uniquely flavored jelly beans, the Broncos might be confident, but end up with the bitter taste of sulfur after setting expectations at “Super Bowl or bust”.
Like the Jelly Bean Candy Co., there are always some choices that should never have been made.
Only time will tell.