Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Preparing for the 2009 NFL Draft; pars prima:

Step one is to determine need. Here we are prior to '08 training camp. What was the situation at the inception of the current year and what, if anything, has been done to address it? We inventory the current roster.


QB: No need to address here; Cutler, Ramsey, Hackney going into camp; no new faces; How Cutler responds to medical treatment for diabetes will be a question;

RB: A moderate area of need; Subtract Travis Henry; add Torain, Alridge and Pittman; They go into camp w/Young, Bell, Hall and Sapp; The TC battle will be intense and "the pack" will require study to detect the emergence of one or most likely two to carry the load; RB is a possible area of interest in '09;

FB: Didn't really have a true FB (what is a true FB?); Add Hillis; If Shanahan has an offensive position called 20/FB, then Hillis, Sapp and Bell (who have played the spot) and Pittman might be candidates; This is an area which requires close scrutiny from this point until the end of the season;

TE: Not considered an area of great need in an offseason w/out many FAs and promising rookies; Scheffler and Graham make a strong pair with each trying to improve in opposite areas (blocking & receiving); Three will most likely be on the roster; Mustard tore a hamstring in spring practice and Jackson is returning from an injury; These enter training camp w/Brett Pierce; The lack of depth is a concern, but only if Graham or Scheffler can't go; Look for the acquisition (not inquisition) of a TE in '09;

WR: With the retirement of Rod Smith and the unhappiness of Javon Walker, this was an area of great need which Shanahan elected to address mostly through FAs (Jackson, Colbert, Parker, Russell and Shepherd); Two rookies were added (2nd round pick, Eddie Royal and CFA Lorne Sam); Martinez and McDaniel (PS) remain from last season; Brandons Stokley and Marshall return as the starters from '07; As of this post, eleven WRs are going to TC; Even after inevitable cuts, starting quality and depth look very good; With many new faces, this position will be observed closely to see how many and which are retained and how they do in '08 season;

OL: With season ending injuries to Hamilton and Nalen followed by a subpar season by Matt Lepsis (who retired), the OL was in need of repair if not a rebuild; Former Chief, Casey Wiegmann, was brought in to provide a vet at C in the event of the apotheosis of Tom Nalen, the modern Herakles; Likewise, a younger but experienced G, Dylan Gandy (Colts), was acquired just in case Ben Hamilton has not recovered from "spinal cord concussion" (which only full contact will reveal); It surprised most of us when Chris Myers was traded after filling in first at G, then C and playing well; There were some seviceable OL left from '07 (Holland, Kuper, Pears and Harris with PJ Alexander providing depth); The obvious, glaring need at LT was addressed w/1st round pick Ryan Clady (moving the Broncos closer to having an O w/just a few first names-Ryan, Brandon, Mike); The inevitable retirement of Tom Nalen and Wiegmann's longevity made the 4th round pick of C, Kory Lichtensteiger, make sense; Tyler Polumbus and Mitch Erikson were added as CFAs; Thirteen OL are going to TC; This unit will be watched to see if chemistry and interchangeability come quickly; The performance of this group, as a unit, is the key to the '08 offense; At this time G seems a definite '09 need;


DE: Was not considered a critical area of need with Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder entering their second season and Dumervil his third; The return of Ebenezer Ekuban from injury and the addition of three low profile young DEs (Birdine, Clemons and Carrington) as well as the return of John Engelberger, Kenny Peterson (also DT) and Josh Mallard (is he a DE or a DT?) make a group of 7-10 players considered for DE; Moss and Crowder were drafted to start and we will all be watching for that; Elvis Dumervil is a rare talent as a PRS, but will get beat up playing every down including run D/as a PRS he could be close to 20 sacks annually; all DL must rotate regularly;

DT: After the poor run D of '07, this position took a lot of heat and was in need of help; The only DT left from last year who truly looked promising was Marcus Thomas (and he almost got busted, whew!); Adding DeWayne Robertson from the Jets was seemingly masterful; Drafting Carlton Powell, in the fifth round, was clever and indicative of the direction DL play will go in '08; Josh Mallard (a DE at Georgia) was a PRS from the DT position in '07, but his status for '08 is a mystery/more on him in ST; For most of the '07 season, Alvin McKinley just didn't look good, but it may have been Bates' pseudo-defense (which is actually a bag of rune stones mixed with I Ching sticks and coins); Kenny Peterson and Nic Clemons may be considered as DTs with versatility being a marketable skill; Entering his second season is Thomas Harris (not to be confused with Marcus Thomas or Ryan Harris, who in turn, should not be confused with Ryans Clady and Torain), a teammate of Moss and Thomas at Florida who has his opportunity now; DeWayne has been guided carefully through mini-camps, but contact is on the way, and how his knee does during the season will be observed carefully with much rotation being necessary because his presence on the DL at least half of the time will be crucial; How Marcus Thomas plays in his second season, how Carlton Powell does as a rookie and whether or not someone can beat out Alvin Mckinley are issues which will be resolved;

LB: Since the end of his days as a Bronco, finding a replacement for Al Wilson (a hitting machine whose body just ran out of ammo) has been, perhaps, the most pressing need of the whole D; In '07 the talented DJ Williams was needed to play MLB, but now he is finally returning to WLB (aka "the wrath of the gods" to opposing offenses); At the close of '06, Nate Webster was tried at MLB, but it didn't go well, so in '07 he was given a shot at SLB (is the jury in yet?); Must be because the Broncos have reunited the Bailey Boys with Boss at SLB now; Nikos Koutouvides (Seahawks) and Spencer Larsen (All-PAC 10, 6th round pick) have been brought in to compete with Webster at MLB; Jordan Beck excelled as a Special Teams player and that would seem to be his best chance at a roster spot; Jamie Winborn is an extremely experienced and versatile LB who is a valuable player on ST; Louis Green has played mostly ST during his time with Denver; Rookie free agent Wesley Woodyard is listed as a LB, but it is possible that he will be groomed as the next box safety to replace John Lynch in a D that may be more split-six/4-4 than 4-3; Including Woodyard makes nine of which six may be kept; The biggest concern is at MLB with the questions being, can Nikos play the position well and can Spencer Larsen make the team even as a 1st & 2nd down guy?

CB: When neither Domonique Foxworth nor Karl Paymah had been traded prior to the draft, picking up Jack Williams in the 4th was a surprise; CB was not regarded as an area of need; With Denver's D inclined in the direction of a 4-4, five CBs may be needed for nickel/dime/cover 1 & zero vs. multiple WR sets; With seven headed for training camp, most expect five to make the roster (Bailey, Bly, Foxworth, Paymah and Williams); '08 will reveal this position as a bona fide strength or not;

S: The departure of Nick Ferguson and Curome Cox, the age of John Lynch and the questionable play of Hamza Abdullah made many feel that S was such a critical need that using a 1st round pick was contemplated; Two veterans with playoff experience (Marlon McCree and Marquand Manuel) were brought in to bolster the position; Rod Rogers remained from the '07 PS; Josh Barrett inexplicably fell to the Broncos in the seventh round; It remains to be seen if the Broncos want one box S/LB and one FS/center-fielder; As mentioned previously, Woodyard may be considered as a box S in the mould of John Lynch; Probably the biggest question surrounding the Safety position for the Broncos is, what kind of Ss in what kind of D do they want?


PK: Jason Elam's departure to Atlanta as an UFA came as a shock to many Bronco fans, but his inability to kickoff from the -30 beyond the +20 necessitated having the punter KO which doesn't need to be a big problem (his FG range seemed to be shrinking, too); This was obviously an area of significant need prior to the draft, but it usually isn't necessary to use the draft to address PK; Surprisingly, the Broncos only brought in one CFA, Garrett Hartley, to compete with Matt Prater who was with the team at the close of '07 Season; Expect the Broncos to keep a PK on the PS; How long it takes to gain stability at this position will determine if and how much need in '09;

P: Todd Sauerbrun's attempt to return to Denver was spoiled by unfortunate off-field behavior as well as some nightmarish punting/KO performances (especially at Chicago); This position was very unsettled at the close of the '07 season and was also an area of critical need; Again, the Broncos are entering TC with two Ps, Sam Paulescu (from the end of '07) and Brett Kern ('08 CFA); It wouldn't surprise to see the Broncos also carry a P on the PS; P/PK is a priority in '08 which may warrant draft picks in '09 as there are some interesting looking PK/P or P/PK guys who combine both both skills as well as sufficient size to be tacklers on P/KO;

LS: Each NFL team actually needs more than one long snapper and if you peruse the depth chart you will see the backup LS who is usually an OL sometimes a TE (e.g., Clark Harris, Packers); LS must be able to cover punts which means running and tackling; For years Mike Leach has done an excellent job as a LS for the Broncos; Word is Josh Mallard, a DL three years younger and 20lb. bigger than Leach, will try to displace him at the spot; I don't think we often see battles for roster spots extend to LS, but if Mallard can show consistent skill (absolutely necessary) with the ball, his ability to play DL may incline Mike Shanahan to prefer him over Leach who has pretty much been a specialist LS; With the limited number of roster spots and the long season (especially if playoffs are included), my own interest has been the possibility of one guy kicking and punting and have the LS just be one of your other guys on the roster, not necessarily a specialist;

ST PLAYERS: During the past two offseasons the Broncos have acquired about 24 players who look as if they may be good at ST (KO/KOR/P/PR) and 11 of those are '08 rookies; It is an opportunity for a physically talented and eager youngster to gain attention and make his mark and beat out a veteran for a backup spot at position; All ST situations will therefore have implications for O and D positions; Guys like Woodyard, Alridge, Barrett, Larsen and Sam don't need to be good enough to start if they can light it up on ST.


Positions which will definitely need to be addressed in the '09 NFL Draft or FA/Trades are TE, OG and FS; Positions which will probably need to be addressed are RB and MLB; Positions which might need attention are WR, FB, OT, PK, P, DE, DT, OLB and SS depending on what happens in the meantime with Free Agency, injuries and retirements; It would be an understatement to say that the Broncos needed help everywhere after the '07 season; The OL was in complete disarray (you know, run disarray not datarray) and fortunately has been reassembled; WR and RB were total questionmarks, but now look deep and workable; DL and LB have been completely reorganized and have potential (a term repugnant to many coaches); Overall, Shanahan and Co. seem to have done an excellent job of acquiring personnel who may be able to help, given the limitations with which they had to work; From this point forward, it will be a matter of following the current roster keeping in mind that each move is indicative of what the new Bronco Coaching Staff has in mind for each position in their O, D & ST schemes.

1 comment:

Ian said...

All that with one arm behind your back!?