Mile High Mailbag: Osweiler and Beyond

In this week's edition of the Mile High Mailbag, MHH Lead Analyst Chad Jensen answers questions about Brock Osweiler's future, Denver's priorities in the upcoming draft and which young Broncos linebacker has the most potential.

Welcome to the Mile High Mailbag, where we answer your burning Denver Broncos questions via social media. The following questions come from our members on Facebook. If you have a question, make sure you’re following MHH on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

With the NFL free agency frenzy in the books, we now have a better picture of where the Broncos stand personnel-wise and what their needs are heading into the NFL draft next month. There’s still plenty of time to sign more free agents, but the Broncos biggest free agent moves have come to pass.

The first question comes from Joseph Michael C. via the MHH Facebook Page: Q: Will the Broncos draft another quarterback, in case they can’t keep Brock Osweiler?

This is a topic on the brains of many inside Broncos Country. After taking a $4M pay-cut, Peyton Manning is back with the Broncos for 2015. But many surmise that this is the last ride for the Sheriff, which triggers questions about the future.

Brock Osweiler was a second round pick in 2012. He is entering the final year of his rookie contract. If he plays out his contract year, without signing an extension, he will likely have gone all four years in Denver without playing a meaningful down, because as we know, Manning does not leave the field, unless he’s hurt (which is rare), or if the team is in the midst of a second half blowout.

Because of Osweiler’s limited experience, it makes it difficult to assess his monetary value in a contract extension. It is true that General Manager John Elway envisions Osweiler as the heir apparent post-Manning, but at what cost?

By the time 2015 is in the books and Osweiler is on the brink of unrestricted free agency, you can believe that he’ll be champing at the bit to get some playing time. He’ll be in the prime of his career and some quarterback-needy team will likely be willing to pay him a sizeable contract, simply because of his draft pedigree, his experience with Manning and the sizzle of the Broncos organizational reputation.

If Elway truly believes Osweiler is the future, he’d be wise to get an extension done now, on a relatively team-friendly deal—one that would keep him in Denver for the next 2-3 years. From that point, if Osweiler shows that he's more in the vein of Aaron Rodgers and not Matt Cassel, the team can choose to really pay him. But as Joseph’s question intimates, what if they’re unable to keep Osweiler?

They still have 2013 seventh round pick Zac Dysert under contract. Elway likes Dysert and in the limited preseason action he’s received in two years with the team, he has flashed NFL potential, but he’s been plagued by inconsistencies and technique issues.

Will the Broncos draft a QB next month? Yes, I believe they will. Not high, but in rounds five through seven I think they’ll pull the trigger on a signal caller, one who can come in and compete with Osweiler and Dysert. Elway knows this is a QB-driven league and whether Osweiler stays or goes, the team has to be prepared for either eventuality.

Colorado State QB Garrett Grayson is a backyard option, although he’ll likely be off the board by the end of the third round. Other developmental possibilities include South Alabama’s Brandon Bridge and Colorado State-Pueblo’s Chris Bonner. Both players will require NFL coaching and direction before they’d be able to impact a starting unit.

The bottom line, however, is that although I believe the Broncos will draft a QB, I don’t see them using a high selection to do it, which likely rules out guys like UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Baylor’s Bryce Petty and the aforementioned Garrett Grayson.

The next question comes from Jerry M. via the MHH Facebook Page. Q: Since we haven’t addressed it in free agency, is it safe to assume the Broncos will go O-line in the first round?

Although I wasn’t overly impressed by the move, the Broncos did sign O-lineman Shelley Smith to compete with Ben Garland at left guard, and with whomever else the team installs. Many were underwhelmed by the Smith pickup, but the upside is that he has experience in Gary Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme, having been drafted by him in 2010 in Houston.

Most expected the Broncos to sign a center in free agency, whether it meant bringing Will Montgomery back, or bringing in former Bronco and Texan Chris Myers. Either option is still on the table and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Broncos sign one of these players, but their reticence to do so early on implies that they’re looking for help in the draft.

Kubiak has had some encouraging words for last year’s sixth round pick, Matt Paradis, but he spent his rookie season on the practice squad and has zero NFL experience. At the end of the day, I think the Broncos will roll with whomever wins the training camp competition at left guard between Smith and Garland, but I do think they’ll draft a center and a right tackle.

I would be shocked if they didn’t take a tackle at pick No. 28 in the first round. Possible options include Florida’s D.J. Humphries, Oregon’s Jake Fisher and Texas A&M’s Cedric Ogbuehi. Colorado State’s Ty Sambrailo could sneak into the conversation, although some have him as low as a mid-round pick.

The top two centers who fit the Broncos ZBS are Auburn’s Reese Dismukes and Oregon’s Hroniss Grasu. Both players are projected as early as the second round and could be an option there when the Broncos go on the clock.

The last question comes from Brian G. via the MHH Facebook Page. Q: Who has the most potential to be a quality starter from our sophomore batch of linebackers?

This is a tough one. Going off of scheme fit, I’d have to say Lamin Barrow. But if I were to base it strictly off of merit and what my eyes told me from 2014’s game tape, I’d have to say Corey Nelson. At 6-foot-0, 231 pounds, Nelson is best suited as a weakside (Will) linebacker in a 4-3 defense, but he could excel at the “Mo” slot in a 3-4, which is the RILB position.

Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan project as the day one starters at ILB and they both have an inch on Nelson. Other than that, the three linebackers are very similar players. As a rookie in 2014, Nelson saw 109 snaps on defense, earning a -2.6 cumulative grade via Pro Football Focus.

However, in the game he saw his season high in snaps (36), Week 6 vs the New York Jets, Nelson earned a +1.6 game grade via PFF. He has real in-game speed and a nose for the ball. His instincts and physicality make him a player with a high ceiling, although I worry about his place with the Broncos because of scheme fit.

But with how plagued Danny Trevathan was by the injuries to his knee in 2014, it’s no sure thing that he’ll return to form and stay healthy in 2015. If his health becomes an issue, Nelson is a guy who has the potential to step in next to Marshall and get it done.

Chad Jensen is the Publisher and Lead Analyst for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen and on Google+.

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Offensive tackle | Offensive guard | Center
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