Being mired in a hellish quagmire of a work stoppage has its ups and downs. One obvious con is that there is a no football, which for some is worse than death, but on the relatively positive side, there is more than enough time to look ahead at the season to come. As a fan, there isn’t much I can do besides hope that everything will work out, but as a writer I can at the very least share my perspective on the Denver Broncos 2011 season.
Notice: I’m not going to grade these picks because it would be asinine to do so. We won’t get a clear picture of how good or bad of a selection is until at least 4 or 5 years down the road. I’m only going to say why I think the pick was made and what the consequences are.
1st round, 2nd overall pick: Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Arguably the most talented prospect in the draft, the Broncos landed one hell of an athlete with Miller. There is no other linebacker in the 2011 class who has the combination of speed, strength and playmaking ability (I hate that term but when you see some of Miller’s highlights it’s the only phrase that makes sense). He is expected to start at Sam for John Fox in his first year, and with his pass rush ability, he could potentially be slotted in at DE in passing situations. He should be a key contributor his first year, although with this madness between the rich and the richer acclimation could be an issue (not just for him, but for all rookies, and now that I’ve gotten that out of the way I won’t have to say it again!). Nevertheless, he looks like a great pickup so far that will bring some fire and much needed talent to the oft-abused Broncos defense.
2nd round, 45th overall pick: Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
At this point in the draft, I think I speak for a good chunk of Bronco Country when we saw who was left at defensive tackle and just started grinning. With back to back picks in the middle of the second round, Stephen Paea of Oregon State and Marvin Austin of UNC were both on the board. Paea was criticized for being undersized, but he dropped 49 bench reps at the combine, and Austin might’ve gone in the 1st round if he had played at all last year. However, the new power dynamo that is Brian Xanders, John Fox and John Elway decided on Rahim Moore, no doubt with the knowledge that their current starting safeties were both in their thirties and the young backups who were supposed to supplant them both struggled with the injury bug. It’s hard to argue with the choice, as Moore is one of the best safeties in the draft. He will almost definitely play FS in the pros, and this selection possibly starts the timer on Renaldo Hill’s time with Denver.
2nd round, 46th overall pick: Orlando Franklin, OT, Miami
I will be frank, at the time this selection was made I was furious. With two very talented players available at arguably the greatest position of need, how could EFX go with a tackle? A closer inspection into our offensive line’s depth chart revealed the problem: not much depth and Ryan Harris. I have no problem with Ryan Harris at all; I think he’s been a vital part of our line the past few years. However, he struggled last year and would have been a restricted FA in the old CBA. Knowing this, the pick makes a lot more sense. Franklin is certainly a big man, known as a fierce player with a mean streak, which read as “dirty”. I don’t like dirty players, especially when they’re on a team I support; I think it cheapens the game and detracts from the overall experience. Franklin has also had knee troubles, but it’s way too early to know if that was a one time deal or if this will be a recurring story for him.
3rd round, 67th overall pick: Nate Irving, LB, N.C. State
The Broncos get another linebacker in the 3rd round. Irving is projected to play the Mike for John Fox and he seems to be the eventual successor to D.J. Williams’ spot on the Denver roster. Both are similarly sized (about 6’1”, 240lbs.) and both are known for their ability to consistently get to the ball and make plays. Irving is not the explosive beast Miller is, but he is indeed talented. I’ll put it this way: 5 years from now, Miller is more likely to lead the team in sacks and highlight reel appearances, but Irving would be more likely to lead the team in tackles. Irving may not start this year, as Joe Mays bests him in both experience and time on the team, but with Mays becoming a free agent in 2012, I expect Irving to contribute on special teams and spot situations in the short run and to assume a starting job within two years.
4th round, 108th overall pick: Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma
Ah, another safety. Carter may be able to play either safety position, although the earlier selection of Rahim Moore may shift him over to SS by default. He is known as a big hitter and sure tackler, which is very good for those among the Bronco’s fanbase who are plagued by the site of missed tackles in the second level (Hill and Andre Goodman seem to be the biggest offenders here). At the time I figured the Broncos would draft a running back to shoulder some of the load, but I really can’t complain. Carter is an excellent player and may start somewhere down the line. The Broncos seem to have a bit of a logjam at the safety position: Brian Dawkins, Hill, David Bruton, Darcel McBath, Moore, Carter, Nick Polk and Kyle McCarthy. I won’t go into a detailed positional analysis now, but the Broncos will have to make some tough cuts and decisions regarding how many and which safeties they decide to carry on their roster for the 2011-2012 season.
4th round, 129th overall pick: Julius Thomas, TE, Portland State
The definition of a project, Julius Thomas managed to get himself drafted in the 4th round despite only playing one season of football in college. Thomas has the potential to be a play-making TE, but of all of the Broncos draft picks, I think Thomas will be the most affected by the lockout. He would’ve greatly benefitted from a focused offseason with lot’s of interaction with coaches more than any Denver rookie simply because he has the most to learn. He’s an excellent athlete, but there’s no guarantee that he will be an excellent football player. Upside all the way with this pick.
6th round, 189th overall pick: Mike Mohamed, LB, California
Another linebacker? I see Mohamed as riding the practice squad this year. It’s not a knock on him so much as it is a nod to the two previous linebackers picked in this draft and the existing talent already on the roster. He has been described as smart and an excellent locker room presence, but gets points taken off for lack of speed and strength. This is a player who really needed a productive offseason in order to impress his coaches so as to get a roster spot, but he should stick anyways.
7th round, 204th overall pick: Virgil Green, TE, Nevada
The Broncos add another playmaking TE in the latest round. Green is similar to Thomas in that both are fantastic athletes and both are considered “steals” by draft analysts. However, while Thomas faces concerns for lack of experience, Green fell all the way to the seventh round because of medical concerns. He had microfracture surgery on one of his knees in 2007, and that scared a lot of teams away, but not Denver, who are desperate for a talented TE since Josh McDaniels got rid of Tony Scheffler and left us with a corps of Daniel Graham (released), Dan Gronkowski (unproven) and Richard Quinn (worthless). I’m sorry if that seems harsh but when I expect a second round pick to have more than one catch over two seasons.
7th round, 247th overall pick: Jeremy Beal, DE, Oklahoma
The final member of the Denver Broncos 2010 draft class is similar to Mike Mohamed in that while some analysts praise them for their motor and intelligence, the majority wrote them off as undersized and slow. Beal was once a prized prospect but his stock plummeted as more and more media members shook their head and said that they wouldn’t translate to the next level. Beal has playmaking traits, but he doesn’t have the prized athletic ability sought after by NFL teams. This is another potential member of the practice squad, and I don’t think he will get cut simply because of the poor state of the Denver Broncos defense.
Denver’s most recent draft class drew a mixed-reaction from many pundits, with most applauding the selections of Von Miller, but also drew some head scratches because of their decisions to select three linebackers, two safeties, two tight ends and ZERO defensive tackles. Only three men know what will truly happen with this group of men, and while they sit in Dove Valley and plot for the shortened offseason, we as fans can only hope that these rookies are making strides through (Un)Organized Team Activities and that these new pros will make a big impact. Lord knows a franchise recovering from its worst season ever needs all the help it can get.