Broncos Draft Analysis

The Broncos had some holes to fill, and generally accomplished their goals, though it was hardly a flashy draft. Read an analysis of Denver's draft along with notes, quotes, anecdotes and the latest personnel news in today's edition of Broncos Update Inside Slant.

The Broncos had some holes to fill, and generally accomplished their goal, though it was hardly a flashy draft. They got an impact linebacker in the first round, Miami's D.J. Williams, who could step in if Ian Gold leaves via free agency as expected and John Mobley has trouble coming back from a spinal cord injury.

Two months after trading away star running back Clinton Portis, they drafted a lightning-quick back - Oklahoma State's Tatum Bell - that resembles him in some ways.

Though Denver didn't get one of the so-called premiere wide receivers in the first round, it did pick up a guy, Marshall's Darius Watts, who is a big-play threat because of his speed and size.

The big question remains whether Denver has found a return man in the mix of draftees. Denver traded away punt returner Deltha O'Neal, and allowed Chris Cole to leave via free agency.

Second-year pro Adrian Madise is the favorite to handle at least the kickoff job, but Michigan cornerback Jeremy LeSueur and San Diego State's Jeff Shoate will see if they can contribute there.

The Broncos had three picks in the final round, and used two of them on quarterbacks. LSU's Matt Mauck and Colorado State's Bradlee Van Pelt may be nothing more than developmental prospects under the new expanded practice squad rule, but one might surprise and fill the need at No. 2 QB behind Jake Plummer.

Unlike last year, when Denver's draft picks saw very little playing time, up to a handful of 2004 prospects may have to contribute right away.

"You're always looking for these young guys to come in and help you," coach Mike Shanahan said. "Can you count on them? No. Are you keeping your fingers crossed that some are a little more mature than others and can adjust to the National Football League quicker than most? You're always keeping your fingers crossed."

A closer look at the Broncos first-day picks:

Round 1/17 -- D.J. Williams, OLB, 6-0, 247, Miami

The Broncos had four players targeted after moving up to the 17th pick, and Williams was the only one left. He fills a big need, with the likely loss of Ian Gold and John Mobley's uncertain health.

Round 2/41 -- Tatum Bell, RB, 5-11, 212, Oklahoma State

Some had him rated much lower, but the Broncos liked his speed, and his toughness, and he will compete for starting job once held by Clinton Portis.

Round 2/54 -- Darius Watts, WR, 6-2, 181, Marshall

The Broncos thought about trading up to No. 14 to grab Michael Clayton, but Tampa Bay's price was too high. And they knew Watts would be there in the second round. What coaches like most was ability to gain yards after the catch.

Round 3/85 -- Jeremy LeSueur, CB, 6-0, 197, Michigan

He brings depth to the cornerback position and also may be the guy to replace Chris Cole on kickoffs. He has good speed, and likes contact.

NOTES, QUOTES AND ANECDOTES

--Michigan cornerback Jeremy LeSueur is a cousin of former Bronco safety Mike Harden.

--There was talk of releasing reserve quarterback Jarious Jackson, but coach Mike Shanahan said Jackson has decided to stay with the team and make the switch to safety.

"When he came back this offseason, we thought he was such an excellent athlete and such a great leader, that we thought he would fit into that free safety mode, very similar to what happened with (John) Lynch (in college).

"When you go from the quarterback position to the safety position, you understand the game and understand coverages, so I don't think it's as tough an adjustment as some people would think it is."

QUOTE TO NOTE

"I think we've done some good things in the offseason. We've had a few additions in all different areas to try and make our team a little stronger and hopefully it'll pay dividends once we start the season. I feel pretty good about where we're at right now. I think we've probably got a little more depth than we have had and hopefully we'll play at he level we're capable of playing at." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Broncos got official word that Shannon Sharpe is returning for one more season, which wasn't entirely unexpected since he waited so long to make an announcement.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (4): OT Blake Brockermeyer; LB Ian Gold; S Ryan McNeil; LB Johnny Rutledge.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (1): OG Ben Hamilton.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: FB Reuben Droughns; TE Patrick Hape; DE Reggie Hayward; CB Kelly Herndon; TE/LS Mike Leach; CB Jimmy Spencer; LB Donnie Spragan; CB Scott Turner; LB Al Wilson; S Chris Young.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: CB Champ Bailey; DE Marco Coleman; DT Luther Elliss; OT Cornell Green; RB Garrison Hearst; WR Willie Jackson; DE Raylee Johnson; S John Lynch; QB Mike Quinn; TE O.J. Santiago; CB Reggie Stephens; TE Jed Weaver.

PLAYERS LOST: DE Bert Berry; LB Keith Burns; WR Chris Cole; OG Steve Herndon; CB Deltha O'Neal; RB Clinton Portis; OT Ephraim Salaam.

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