Happy Friday, friends. With Doc continuing to work through the offensive and defensive line prospects for the 2013 Draft, today I’m skipping forward to the linebacker group. I spent some time thinking about how I wanted to do this, and what I decided is that I’m only looking at players who fill a traditional linebacker’s role.
That is, I’m leaving the edge rush guys who may play in 3-4 schemes to Doc. I’m interested in all inside linebackers, and also outside linebackers who are more coverage players than pass rushers. The way that some 4-3 defenses now play a lot like 3-4s, and a few 3-4s play like 4-3s, I’ve come to believe that it’s better to call a linebacker a linebacker, and an edge rusher an edge rusher. The distinction between whether an edge rusher is a DE or an OLB is increasingly narrow and irrelevant.
As a side note, on my way into work today, I was thinking about how schemes in the NFL seem to be getting more simplified and homogenized. There are really only about four different offensive schemes, and probably three different defensive schemes being used, if you think about them at a high level. The level I’m referring to breaks on differences in staffing requirements.
Happy Wednesday, friends. Today, we pick up where we left off in our Draft Superlatives series with the tight end position. In the modern NFL, most of the best innovations in the passing game are coming from teams finding creative ways to employ tight ends. Do you remember how Peyton Manning said last year that much of the Broncos' game plan revolved around how teams play Jacob Tamme?
What he meant was that when a team has a TE who can flex out and run routes the way Tamme can, a defense is given an impossible choice; if they play base defense, and try to cover the TE with a LB, they’ll struggle with that coverage. If they play nickel defense, and try to cover the TE with a safety, they may have better success in coverage, but it will tend to come at the expense of their success in stopping the run.
Defenses tend not to have many players who can both cover a TE and hold up in the run game. That’s why a team like San Francisco, which has two such players in Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman, can look so dominant on defense.
Happy Friday, friends. This morning, we received a couple of good questions on Twitter from two longtime readers. Jared Still asked for our thoughts on simply relying on Robert Ayers to be the starting open-side DE, and drafting Margus Hunt from SMU. Kriss Bergethon asked what we thought about signing Richard Seymour and drafting Cornellius "Tank" Carradine from Florida State. This is obviously all about filling the hole left by the departure of Elvis Dumervil.
You've got questions, we've got opinions. The first thing I would say is that we should probably step back for a minute, and think about exactly what that hole is. Dumervil was a starter at open-side DE, which meant that he played on the side away from the tight end, and often lined up wide, with edge responsibilities in the run game, and edge rushing responsibilities in the passing game. Like Jared, I'm very confident that Ayers can handle base downs at that position. In fact, the Broncos will undoubtedly be better against the run with him out there, because he plays with a level of power that Dumervil doesn't have.
Happy Thursday, friends. Today, our positional tour of the 2013 draft class stops in the wide receiver area. This is an unusually strong year at the position, in a deep overall draft class, and there’ll be a lot of opportunity for teams to bring in quality players in the second and third rounds, and not pay them a whole lot of money for about four years.
Whether the Broncos are players in the receiver market will depend a lot on what they intend to do with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Decker is entering the final year of his contract, and Thomas is under contract through 2014. The removal of Elvis Dumervil from their salary structure will help create room to pay at least one of them (presumably Thomas), but it will be tough to pay them both.
If the team doesn’t think that it can retain Decker after this season, then it may be looking for a receiver to replace him after a year. Good teams have to let middle class players walk sometimes. This is the kind of receiver class that lends itself to yielding a quality starter at the 58th pick, so you should consider the possibility that the Broncos do something there.
Happy Tuesday, friends. Today, we get back into the 2013 Draft class with some more superlatives and rankings. This time, we’ll focus on the running back class. I suspect that it will be of more interest to Broncos fans than the QB group was on Thursday.
If you ask some people, (mostly those who take Jeff Legwold’s word for it), the Broncos need a “big, durable power back.” If you ask me, the Broncos have a guy like that, named Willis McGahee. Recency bias may make him seem like he’s not durable, since he got injured last season, but over his career, he hasn’t missed much time due to nagging injuries. A torn ACL (like the one Willis had in college) can happen to anybody, and so can a torn MCL; they’re most often a function of randomness, and not durability.
Beyond McGahee, the Broncos have a versatile pro and good team guy in Knowshon Moreno, a young speedster in Ronnie Hillman, and a backup/special-teams type in Lance Ball, whom the Broncos just tendered at $1.3 million, which suggests that they value him.
Happy Thursday, friends. Over the next couple weeks, I’m going to be sharing some quick thoughts on position groups in the upcoming NFL draft. Isn't it hard to believe the first round is only five weeks from tonight?
The other Broncos-centric sites aren’t running 75-part mock drafts anymore, as far as I know, so maybe our readers haven’t been as focused on stumping for this guy or that other one yet.
Today, I'm going to begin with QBs, and will employ what I hope is an easily digestable format, and use it for every group as I go. While the Broncos aren't likely to be drafting QBs, we want to keep you knowledgeable of the whole draft class. Also, I can see them being a team who could sell off the 28th pick to a team looking to get back into the first round for one of these guys. Check it out, on the other side of the jump.
Happy Monday, friends. I was out of pocket all weekend, watching the Mets get beat in two spring training games down in Port St. Lucie. During my baseball-focused couple days, I gave the Dumervil situation some serious thought.
The first question I’ve been pondering is whether the Broncos really specifically need Elvis Dumervil to play open-side DE. The answer I’ve been mostly coming to is no. Remember, if Dumervil hadn't accepted the pay cut, he was going to be released anyway - drama aside, the Broncos had a plan to move forward without him. They may need somebody to be a threatening pass rusher on sub package downs, but Robert Ayers is perfectly capable of playing there in base situations, and doing a good job.
I think that’s what the Broncos have been thinking, to be honest, and even if Elvis is back in 2013 (which strikes me as less and less likely all the time) I don’t think his stay would be any longer than the one season. It’s probably in his best interest to go find a team that would view him as their primary pass rusher, and invest in him as such.
Happy Thursday, friends. I was already in bed when news broke of the Broncos’ signing of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, so I wasn’t quite as on-the-spot as we’ve been the last couple days. Hopefully, the novelty having worn off overnight doesn’t make this stale.
Rodgers-Cromartie is a tall (6-2), long, and fast (4.33 at the 2008 Combine) CB who is at his best (by far) in press man-to-man coverage. He’s very good at using the sideline as an extra defender, and he’s difficult to beat over the top. There really aren’t very many CBs in the NFL who have a better package of physical attributes and inherent talents.
The issues for DRC start when you ask him to play very much zone. He tends to get a little bit lost, and his awareness of route combinations isn’t the greatest. He’s also not the greatest (or most enthusiastic) tackler in the world.
The Broncos keep on working free agency, and they haven’t even had to cut Elvis Dumervil yet, as far as we know. The signing of Terrance Knighton is another good one, assuming the money is reasonable. As with Kevin Vickerson, Knighton portends to play a key role in keeping the running game clogged up with only seven men.
Knighton is another guy who Tom Nalen would call a fatty, tipping the scales at 330 pounds. I call him a dude who can mash an offensive guard, and who can defend two gaps up front. He’s also an excellent athlete for his size, and he played TE in high school in Windsor, CT. (Shout out to my fellow nutmegger!)
Well, I’m shocked, and I’ve come around to joining Doug in being pretty happy that Wes Welker will be joining the Denver Broncos. The main reason for my shift in opinion is that they got him quite a bit cheaper, and on a shorter-term deal than I thought was possible. Remember, the Broncos are a team that has to pay Von Miller and Demaryius Thomas over the next couple of years, so keeping a deal short is key.
On the field, this move is going to make the Broncos nigh on unstoppable offensively. I expect them to play four guys from the quintet of Thomas, Eric Decker, Welker, Jacob Tamme, and Joel Dreessen, and just grind teams up with the passing game at all levels of the field.
It doesn’t matter who the running back is, because the acquisition of Welker guarantees that the Broncos won’t be seeing base defense much at all. Whoever the RB is will be running against really light box counts, and Welker is an excellent blocker for his size. In the running game, Welker is a sneaky positive, because he mashes the nickelback in front of him way more often than not.