Throughout the offseason, we've heard from Johns Elway and Fox that the Broncos plan to have Nate Irving, Steven Johnson, and Stewart Bradley compete for the starting middle linebacker job.
As always, actions speak louder than words.
So does Denver's decision not to draft an inside linebacker (they instead signed CU's Doug Rippy and BYU's Uona Kaveinga as undrafted rookies) mean they're happy with what they've got?
We shouldn't read it that way, no matter what Elway and Fox say about Irving, Johnson, and Bradley going forward.
For some insight into the Broncos' mindset during the draft, let's consider some recent reporting from Peter King and Mike Klis.
Baltimore had the 62nd pick overall, late in the second round. In the first round, they'd gotten the safety they liked most, Matt Elam. Now as the picks ticked by, they knew they risked losing the linebacker they liked most at this point, Kansas State's Arthur Brown. So the Ravens dealt the 62nd pick along with fifth- and sixth-round picks to Seattle for the 56th pick. They picked Brown.
Sources tell me Brown was going to be Houston's pick at 57, and he was a strong consideration for Denver at 58. Brown's a potential captain, the kind of leader the Ravens hope two or three years down the road will start to fill the void left by Ray Lewis. Great trade.
Today, PK is back to reinforce that thought:
The Ravens, as I wrote last week, heard reliably that Houston (drafting 57th) and Denver (58th) were interested in Brown, so they traded ahead of them to get Brown.
Later on, King responds to a reader question about just how this sort of information leaks out:
Lots of front-office people have lots of friends -- in and out of the game. How does it happen? Think of how many people the average GM comes in contact with: scouts, coaches, other GMs, writers, network officials. Let's say a GM is dying to know what another team is going to do, and he knows two or three people in the NFL circle who don't work for that team. What's to stop him from calling those people, who don't work for that team, and saying, "Gut feeling: What do you think they're going to do when their spot comes up?" I think that happens. And I think sometimes those gut feelings are right. Now, I don't know that this is the way it happens, but I do think in the days before a draft and during the draft, smart NFL people reach out to try to find out information any way they can.
Does this mean that Houston or Denver absolutely would have taken Brown, had Baltimore not jumped ahead of them?
Of course not. This chatter could even be originating out of Baltimore, in a bid to justify the trade up to draft him. But that doesn't seem likely.
If you, like all of us here at IAOFM, were caught off guard by the selection of Montee Ball at #58, the context of potentially having had a starting Mike stolen from under their noses might serve to clarify the Broncos' decision to take Ball.
What about Georgia's Alec Ogletree, whom TJ was hoping the Broncos would take in the first round?
Here's what Klis has to say about Denver's selection of Sylvester Williams over Ogletree:
They did have Georgia’s Alec Ogletree rated No. 1 on their inside linebacker board and LSU’s Kevin Minter was No. 2. Ogletree’s past character issues off and on the field, though, caused the Broncos to take defensive tackle Sylvester Williams with their No. 28 overall pick. Ogletree went No. 30 to the St. Louis Rams, whose coach Jeff Fisher has never shied away from character problems.
Klis's wording suggests the Broncos considered Ogletree the better player/fit than Williams, but that the linebacker's character issues dropped him below Sly.
FWIW, Minter went to Arizona at #45, with Manti Te'o having gone to San Diego seven picks prior to that. Two more inside linebackers were taken between Minter and Brown - Kiko Alonso at #46 to Buffalo, and Jon Bostic at #50 to Chicago.
Again, it's impossible to know just how accurate King's and Klis's representations of the Broncos' draft intentions and evaluations are, but for now, they're all we've got. And even if the Broncos were fond of Brown, we don't know where he ranked in Denver's linebacker evaluations, or if they saw him as a starter.
From the Baltimore perspective, Albert Breer says the Ravens had Brown ranked equally with Te'o, and ahead of Ogletree.
Still, residents of Broncos Land will surely keep an eye on Ogletree and Brown, especially while measuring whatever impact Williams, Ball, and the winner of the Irving/Johnson/Bradley competition have in Denver.