Five things we learned from the Broncos’ 2012 draft

Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler once said, "Trust only movement.  Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement."

Later (1987 to be exact), the philosophical musings of glam-metal poets Def Leppard went like this: "Action, not words."

Put most directly: "You can shut up now, cuz I saw what you did."

Last night, John Elway told us the 2012 draft was awesome, saying, "When we look at it, it's probably as good as it could have gone."

This statement may or may not be true (even those that drafted Ryan Leaf said, "For the next 15 years, he's our man."), but one thing is not in doubt--the Broncos' actions in the draft said more than any contrived and trite soundbite ever could.  Like an after school special, the lessons are there for us to see, standing in plain view - as long as we stay off drugs, close our ears, open our eyes, and stick around until the end.

1. The Broncos are a one-gap defense  

When the Broncos' only two draft picks on the defensive line are a 3-tech penetrator (Derek Wolfe) and a tweener DE/DT hybrid (Malik Jackson), you know the last thing the Broncos are going to do is to try and play two-gap football.  Jack Del Rio's days of two-gapping with the likes of Marcus Stroud and Big John Henderson are a thing of the past.  Those kinds of players are rare in this league anymore, and the last time I checked, Vince Wilfork plays for the Patriots.  Even if Wolfe and Jackson were to only play on passing downs, there are serious doubts that an aging Ty Warren (who in his prime could play two-gap football) and Justin Bannan would be effective two gappers on running downs.  Look for the Broncos, as we have speculated for over a month, to employ the NFL standard formula of a 4-3 NT and a 3-tech undertackle.

2. The Broncos do have a "Plan B"; it will begin in 24 to 36 months from now

Shipping Tim Tebow off to New York was interesting theater. Part of that theater was Elway's assertion the team was all in with Peyton Manning and that there was no backup plan in place.  Clearly, that's not true, after seeing the Broncos draft Brock Osweiler in the second round on Friday.  Elway asked Osweiler if he was comfortable sitting for two or three years.  Osweiler said that he was.  I'd say that's about right.  The original idea floated out into the media was that Manning planned on trying to play another four or five years.  A week ago, Manning's father said he was taking it year to year.  The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, and John Elway knows that.  Expect to see Osweiler in 24 to 36 months.  Let's hope he's a diligent student.

3. Knowshon Moreno's time as a Bronco is nearing its end

At first blush, Knowshon Moreno might seem like a good fit running stretch plays in a Manning-led offense, but the Broncos didn't trade up in the draft to grab Ronnie Hillman with the idea he'd be splitting carries with Willis McGahee and Moreno.  They already know what they have with McGahee--a tough runner with burst and a guy who always falls forward.  With Moreno, they've never been able to determine what they've got.

Immediately after the Broncos drafted Hillman, I thought he'd be a perfect 3rd-down complement to McGahee.  Now that I've had a day of reflection, I'm sure we'll see a lot more of him on 1st and 2nd downs.  That's because the Broncos will run no huddle.  In these situations, Hillman is a better fit than McGahee to remain on the field as the Broncos transition between 2nd and 3rd down.  In short, they won't want to take the time to sub out McGahee for Hillman in passing situations.  Hillman is essentially the Broncos' answer to Joseph Addai (this is where I remind everyone that Addai was two inches taller than Hillman and twelve pounds heavier, while still maintaining the ability to run a 4.37 40-yard dash).

It's too bad, really.  Moreno's career has been marked by injuries and a change in coaches, so he's really never had the chance to get going in these parts.  And when he did, it turned out the combine speed he showed (4.5 40-yard dash) was a true reflection of his ability to run.  Those Barry Sanders comparisons were both cruel and inaccurate.  Blame McDaniels, I suppose.

4. J.D. Walton and Zane Beadles must improve--immediately

The fact that Pro Football Focus rated J.D. Walton the worst and Zane Beadles the fourth-worst at their respective positions in 2011 should concern everyone.  Why?  Because in 2010, Walton was fourth-worst, while Beadles was 18th-best.  That's not what one would call progress.  One might provide Beadles with an alibi--he's switched back and forth between guard and right tackle.  Walton, on the other hand, has struggled without such concerns.  This might be the time I talk about how badly I wanted the Broncos to draft Maurkice Pouncey two years ago, but suffice to say, the Broncos don't plan on letting another year pass in which Walton puts up the same numbers (last year he gave up four QB sacks, four QB hits, and 15 QB pressures).

Philip Blake is a player--some had him rated as the second-best center in this year's draft--but of course, J.D. Walton knows this. Blake went to Baylor, too.  Expect a furious competition in training camp.  Luckily for Walton, he's had some reps with Peyton Manning already.

5. The Broncos believe in their wide receivers more than the pundits do

Notice what position the Broncos didn't draft?  No, not kicker.  It's wide receiver.  They had multiple opportunities to take a big-play wide receiver (outside of the top two) and didn't pull the trigger.  Their actions tell you everyone you need to know about how they feel about Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, and Andre Caldwell.  Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a duo of beasts like Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen (Houston is not happy to see him go), but you get the drift.  The Broncos are more than happy to put out a 113 package that includes Ronnie Hillman, Jacob Tamme, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Andre Caldwell.  And they're happy to do this while employing the no huddle.  Expect this package a lot, although sometimes you will see McGahee subbing for Hillman and Dreessen for Caldwell if they want to go 122, which they will.    

5a. Cornerback is still in flux

The Broncos drafted Omar Bolden, who they believe is an elite cornerback.  That opinion is very much in doubt.  Bolden missed almost two seasons at ASU due to injury, and although I keep reading reviews of Bolden's world-class man-to-man coverage, it didn't show up on the tape we have from 2010.  He appeared to love to play off-man coverage.  Either way, the injuries are a concern.  Further, Tracy Porter is only signed to a one-year deal, and Champ Bailey isn't getting any younger.  Look for the Broncos to address this position again next year in the draft.

This is the year for Chris Harris, the Broncos' rookie nickel cornerback in 2011, to make his move if he wants to be a starter in this league.  He played exceptionally well in coverage last year.  Look for this trend to continue, even if the Broncos want to tag Bolden with "elite" status going into camp.

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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