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Denver's Struggles On Offense The Result Of John Elway's Draft Whiffs & The Coaches' Failure To Develop Players

Why is the Broncos offense struggling consistently? Could it have something to do with how John Elway has drafted offensive talent? Nick Kendell examines.

Once again, the Denver Broncos lost a close and winnable game thanks in large part to the struggles and inconsistencies on the offensive side of the ball. While the Denver defense did not force a turnover this Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, they did only allow 13 points to a team that matched up very well against them offensively.

The Titans offered a unique and challenging battle for the defense, having one of the best offensive lines in football — led by stud offensive tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin — a stable of power runners with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, a very mobile QB in Marcus Mariota, and a great, complete tight end in Delanie Walker

This type of offensive combination has given the Broncos defense fits in the past. However this Sunday, despite not playing a perfect game and really struggling against the Titans rushing attack, the Orange Crush did enough to win in Nashville. As we have seen over the past two seasons, it was the struggles of the offense that led to Denver’s demise and may have just cost them a chance to return to the playoffs for a sixth straight year. Denver is not going to win games consistently with the offensive struggles they have exhibited so far this season. Whether it be issues in the passing game, inability of the offensive line to run block or pass block consistently, running backs missing obvious cutback holes, or the vanilla uninspired play calling, we are a few kneels and miracle plays at the end of a game away from being back to the sad offense when Mr. Tim Tebow himself played under center (or in shotgun behind center, because his footwork was never good enough to truly play under center).

There will undoubtedly be a fair amount of finger pointing for Denver’s anemic play on the offensive side of the ball. Is it the coaches’ fault for the lack of a game-plan that helps put Denver's best players in position to win?

Is it the offensive players themselves for not executing and getting beat consistently in their one-on-one matchups? Is it because the Broncos have an unheralded former seventh round quarterback? It very well may be a combination of all these things. However, Denver’s recent inability to draft and develop offensive talent is the biggest driver of theirr current woeful state on offense.

GM John Elway is well on his way to becoming a double Hall-of-Famer as both a quarterback and a Front Office Executive. He has done a phenomenal job since returning to the Broncos in building a consistent AFC Power.

Elway is the true leader of a franchise that expects nothing but perfection from its coaches and players, all the way down to the intern that brings Mr. Elway his coffee in the morning. I am a giant Elway fan. However, Elway and the front office are not above criticism and are, in fact, a large reason why Denver is currently struggling on the offensive side of the ball.

Since Elway has taken over, Denver has used nine selections in the first three rounds on the offensive side of the ball. In 2011, Elway’s first draft, Denver selected tackle Orlando Franklin in the second round. Franklin now plays for the San Diego Chargers and is a big reason for the Chargers success on the ground this season when he is healthy.

Despite not being able to re-sign Franklin, I would call that a successful draft pick by the front office. Sadly, it just goes down hill from there. In 2012, Denver selected quarterback Brock Osweiler in the second round and running back Ronnie Hillman in the third round. Elway was shown to be brilliant on the free agent market again this offseason, letting the overrated Osweiler walk to the Houston Texans, who likely regret their investment, as Osweiler has shown to be a below average NFL quarterback, if that.

Hillman has now been on three different rosters this season and smells of a player who could be out of the league very shortly. Both offered Denver some value when they were here, but offer nothing to the current state of offense. Given the value of second and third round draft picks, we can call this an overall whiff by the front office.

In 2013, the Broncos selected running back Montee Ball in the second round, only ten selections after Le'Veon Bell was selected — to rub salt in all of our collective wounds. Ball is currently out of the league and has had issues with the law. This was a major miss by the front office.

Denver could have selected a offensive lineman, tight end, slot receiver, or a different running back that would still be on their rookie contract and contributing to the team. Instead, we have another missed pick on the offensive side of the ball.

In the 2014 draft, the Broncos traded up to select receiver Cody Latimer in the second round and selected tackle Michael Schofield in the third round. I, for one, am actually a fan of what Schofield brings to Denver. Outside of a horrible game against the second-best edge rusher in football, Schofield has been nothing but consistent for the Broncos and offers value in being able to play both tackle and guard, while being at least league average at guard.

Latimer is a very effective gunner, but given the talent level of the 2014 draft at wide receiver, and that Denver traded up to select Latimer, we can safely call a spade a spade when it comes to that poor selection by the Broncos. Yet again, an offensive draft miss.

Being only a year from the 2015 draft class, it is too early call any draft pick from that class a complete bust. However, if any players could challenge that line of thinking it would be tackle Ty Sambrailo, whom Denver drafted in the second round, and tight end Jeff Heuerman, selected in the third round.

Both of these players are young and still offer hope towards future contribution to the Broncos, but if they cannot get on the field then they offer practically nothing to this team or this offense.

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Finally, the Broncos 2016 draft and Elway’s first first round pick on the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Paxton Lynch.. While it definitely is far too early to call Lynch a bust, a sense of uneasiness definitely has fallen over the fan base, given how poor Lynch has looked in comparison to other rookie QBs playing fairly well this season.

He has a long way to go before he is a quality player for the Broncos offense, let alone a capable backup. We all should have known this when Lynch was selected. Being just a few years out from playing a Wing T Scheme and hardly ever taking a snap under center, Lynch had as steep of a learning curve as any first round quarterback in the last decade. While I still have hope for Lynch, he does not offer any solutions to fixing the offensive woes this season, or in the near future.

There is no doubt Elway is one of the best general managers and front office executives in the NFL. He turned around a team that was coming off the disaster that was Josh McDaniels as a head coach, an offense led by a QB that is now trying his hand at baseball (thanks for using a first round pick on that guy as well McDaniels) and transformed the Broncos into a team that has won five straight AFC West Titles, two Super Bowl Appearances, and another Championship in the trophy case for Mr. Bowlen.

With all that said, if Denver is going to keep up with the suddenly stacked AFC West and continue to be a Championship-caliber team, Elway and the front office need to start hitting on their early offensive draft selections. Is the real issue that the Broncos are selecting the wrong players, or is it that the coaching staff (looking at you Rick Dennison and Clancy Barrone) have proven to be inadequate at developing and harnessing the talent?

No one can say for sure, but if Denver does not start hitting on early offensive draft picks and developing them to be starters, then Broncos fans are in for some sad, low-scoring football going forward. Fortunately, if there is one individual I would expect to not accept these woeful results and do everything he can to fix the sad state of the offense, it is none other than John Elway.

Nick Kendell is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ndkendell.

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