Friday, May 8, 2009

2009 NFL Draft Grades: Denver Broncos

Mike Shanahan is gone. That one really surprised me. He was the head coach in Denver for 14 seasons and won two Super Bowls. Oh well, "what have you done for me lately?" I guess. And the answer to that is not much, at least not since 2005. They accumulated just 24 wins between 2006 and 2008 and haven't made the playoffs since their strong 2005 season, when they lost in the AFC Championship Game to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

It certainly wasn't the offenses fault that Denver won only eight games in 2008. Of course Jay Cutler was at the helm then and he helped get the team to 3rd in the league in passing yards per game and 2nd in total yards per game. Moving the ball wasn't a problem but capitalizing on scoring chances was. Despite appearing to move at will around the field they managed only 23 points per game, just about the league average. Still, 23 points/game and only eight wins? Well when you're defense is giving up 28 points per game its hard to win. The defense was atrocious, ranking 26th or lower in the four main statistical categories. I'd like to say fixing the defense could make them competitive in the AFC West but that isn't really true. Their starting from scratch thanks to the subtraction of Jay Cutler and the rising of a new regime.

That new regime would consist of former New England Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels and GM Brian Xanders, who was with Denver as a cap specialist in '08 after being a personnel evaluator for the Falcons for 14 seasons. The Daniles/Xanders duo, with the blessing of owner Pat Bowlen, traded away young franchise QB Jay Cutler to the Bears and are instituting new schemes on each side of the ball. The biggest change is coming on defense where they will switch to the 3-4.

1/12/12 - Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
1/18/18 - Robert Ayers, DE/OLB, Tennessee
2/5/37 - Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest
2/16/48 - Darcel McBath, SS, Texas Tech
2/32/64 - Richard Quinn, TE, North Carolina
4/14/114 - David Bruton, FS, Notre Dame
4/32/132 - Seth Olsen, OG, Iowa
5/5/141 - Kenny McKinley, WR, South Carolina

Tom Brandstater, QB, Fresno State
7/16/225 - Blake Schlueter, OC, TCU

  • QB - Check!
  • DL - Try again.
  • LB - Check!
  • S - Check!
  • CB - Check!
  • OL - Check!
  • Specialist - Try again.
Like Buffalo, Denver entered the draft with two first round selections. And like their AFC foe they stood fast and spent both picks. I can't fault them for not trying to find a punter or kicker; I wouldn't waste a pick on one. However why did they completely avoid the defensive line? That was possibly their biggest weakness heading in. They used 10 picks, none going to a DE or NT. Unless Ayers bulks up he'll by a pass rush OLB. Despite filling all of their needs save for one, it was a big one and definitely hurts their grade.

GRADE: 80/100

Pick 1 - You can tell the Shanahan Reign is over. He would have never taken a RB in round one. Seriously, he never did. So what does McDaniels do with his first draft pick as the Broncos head coach? Was it the wisest choice though given their massive shortcomings on defense? Wouldn't someone else been wiser, say an OLB? Or anything to help that 'D'? Moreno's going to be a good player but McDaniels also signed three or four guys in the offseason as well. Grade: 6

Pick 2 - So here's some help for the 'D'. Or is it? Where does Ayers fit? His measurables seem to say he is too small for 3-4 DE and that would be a waste of his pass rush skills. But he may be too big to play OLB. If he sheds (or adds) some weight things would be better. A better pick than Moreno? Eh, about the same. Grade: 6

Pick 3 - The Broncos definitely needed some young DB help. But trading up by using your first round next year? Stupid. Smith is a ball hawk and should play in dime and maybe nickel packages this year. After a year in the system he may make his way to starter next to Champ Bailey. That's all well and good but you traded your first rounder next year to move up and get him? No. Wrong. Plus they could have grabbed the premiere 3-4 ILB in Rey Maualuga. Grade: 5

Pick 4 - Reach! McBath over William Moore or Rashad Johnson? No way. McBath was a mid-third round prospect and the Broncos wasted a mid-second on him. Other better options at 48 would have been WR Mohamed Massaquoi, OC/OG Max Unger, OT Phil Loadholt, and DE/OLB Paul Kruger. And a few more. Grade: 4

Pick 5 - The Broncos moved back into the second round when they traded with the Steelers for the last pick on Day 1. Who did they take? Well they should have gone with Jarron Gilbert (or Rashad Johnson had they not taken McBath), who is a prototypical 3-4 DE. They took a TE. OK, not bad. It's a deep class. Of course they didn't take one of the five or six considered solid prospects. Instead they reached for one that shouldn't have gone until round five or six. In fact, Quinn was the second TE taken, before Jared Cook, Chase Coffman, Travis Beckum, Shawn Nelson, James Casey and Cornelius Ingram. Grade: 2

Pick 6 - The Broncos finally got good value with their sixth pick, grabbing FS Bruton in the fourth. After adding a CB and SS, they filled out the rest of their secondary. Bruton was the 8th safety selected. Any defensive help is good but this may be their best pick so far. And that's just sad. Grade: 8

Pick 7 - What are they doing? Olsen over Tyronne Green, Troy Kropog, and Jamon Meredith? No, no, no! Olsen was a fringe 7th rounder and Denver grabs him at the end of round four. There was much better value along the OL than Olsen. Grade: 4

Pick 8 - Though this was a tad early for McKinley I can't argue with what else was available. They really could have used more DL help but no one really ws available. The Broncos needed some insurance at WR because of the unpredictable Brandon Marshall. This was an average pick. Grade: 6

Pick 9 - Waiting for a new QB until round six? Well I guess Orton or Simms will be starting for at least two years. Brandstater was great at Fresno State but he'll need at least two years develop into a serviceable QB, someone like Jake Delhomme. They needed a developmental guy and getting him here was fine. This was a decent pick. Grade: 7

Pick 10 - Blake Schlueter is a bit undersized but would work perfectly in the zone-blocking scheme, if Denver continues to use it. If not Schlueter will be overmatched in one-on-one battles unless he adds 15+ pounds. It's hard to rip on too many picks and this adds some depth at a position of need. Though Darryl Richard, Ricky Jean-Francois, and Clinton McDonald would have been better picks for their d-line. Grade: 6

GRADE: 54/100


The Broncos did a decent job of filling needs but really did it at the expense of bigger ones. They really didn't address their d-line and went overkill on DBs. They reached on numerous occasions and have already traded their first round pick in 2010. That doesn't add up well for Josh McDaniels and his "plan".


WHY: They needed at least one 3-4 DE and a NT. They may have gotten none. There are big questions at LB still. They'll be lessened if Ayers can make the switch to OLB but what if he can't? This was a disaster for Denver, and most people agree on that. Maybe things will be different in a year or two but, right now, this was an utter failure.

NOTE: My "final grade" is weighted and is not a simple combination of "needs" and "talent".

Best Pick: Bruton
Worst Pick: Ayers
Sleeper: Brandstater
Instant Impact: Moreno
Developmental: Brandstater

CBS Sports (Prisco): C-
CBS Sports (Rang): D
ESPN (Kiper): C (Brooks): N/A (as of May 7) (Fan's): B
Walter: D


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