Excuse me, but "HUH?"
Enough has been made of these trades and free agency pickups, to the point that I really don't feel like piling on and forever losing my credentials for Invesco Field (and by association, losing 70% of my meals in a given week), so we'll focus on things that can make this team better. Everyone knows that the quickest, easiest way to get better in the off season is through the draft, but it's also the quickest, easiest way to find mediocrity. And with very little middle ground, one choice can either set your franchise, or set it back.
The Broncos defense was the weak link last season; everyone knows this, and my announcing it (as I have for the past three years, by the way) isn't going to change that. The key is to get some solid rookies in the draft and free agency to contribute down the road. Guys taken in the first and early second rounds have to be guys that can play the game at that very moment; guys that can contribute in their first season (i.e.: NOT Deltha O'Neal or Willie Middlebrooks, who couldn't contribute if you gave them a million seasons).
That said, the Broncos will focus on defense in the first round, then try to find a solid third receiver (a position that has been surprisingly bare since the retirements of Ed McCaffrey and Shannon Sharpe) who would be able to emerge in a few seasons as a one or two guy.
I would imagine that trying to find the right draft pick in the first round is a lot like those internet dating sites that I've been hearing about - lots of women, most of them are probably not the right choice, and only one is really going to fit with your particular offensive or defensive scheme. So what do I do?
Write personal ads for the guys Denver is considering in the first round, of course!
After watching Peyton Manning dismantle the Broncos' defense in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs for the second straight year last season, Denver's main priority is defense, and they've shown that this off-season. The draft will be no different, and the Broncos' first chance to show they mean business comes with the 25th pick, where they'll most likely take a cornerback to help their charred pass-coverage.
Cornerbacks Seeking Teams:
Pacman seeks fun, right fit for long-term relationship
5-11 Cornerback/Return man seeks defense to lead to promised land. Smart, physical corner with a flair for the dramatic. Interests include: robbing wide receivers of touchdowns (only two allowed from '03-'04) and returning kicks and punts. Turn offs: being forced into run defense and tall wideouts with leaping ability. Contact the University of West Virginia and ask for Adam "Pacman" Jones.
Mr. Right hoping for harmony, interceptions galore
5-10 CB from Midwest looking to make a long term impact/commitment to right team. I won't be fooled by play-action, and I feel that concentration is the most important component of the intercepted football. Turn ons include smooth hip transition and breaking towards the ball. Turn offs are stopping large, strong running backs. Contact the University of Nebraska and ask for Fabian Washington.
Real Tiger in coverage seeks room to run
5-10 CB that loves the color orange looking to make the big plays on a regular basis for the right team. Doubling as a return man, I own school records for kickoff return yards and touchdowns (5) in three years as a starter. I play tough defense in coverage and can come back to defend the run when necessary. I'm not as flashy as my counterparts from West Virginia and Nebraska, but I'll contribute right away and be a mainstay in your plans for years to come. Contact me at Clemson University. My name is Justin Miller.
Miller is the pick here, as I don't think either of the other players will be on the board (Jones is a top-ten pick, and Washington will be gone in the top 20, if not the top 15), but all in all, I don't feel that he's a consolation prize. The guy can flat-out play and it would be a mistake to pass him up at this point in the draft.
Miller brings all the components that you look for in a solid corner: speed, a good break on the ball, and smooth transition from backpedal to all-out run. He's a little smaller than you might like, but so are most of the cornerbacks in this draft. As a freshman at Clemson, Miller was fifth in the nation with eight interceptions. Opposite Champ Bailey, he could be a huge addition to a defense that really is only missing a few parts.
In the second round, there are a few cases I could make for what the Broncos "should" do. Personally, I think everyone's estimation that they really need a wide receiver in the second round is too chicken little of an argument, but the chances of getting a really solid wideout in the third round are not good, so second round it is.
Vincent Jackson, the biggest wide receiver in the draft at 6-5 and 241 pounds, is a good selection and someone who can come right in and compete. With his size, he'll be a terrific slot receiver and a real benefit to have in the huddle on third down. Plus, the kid from Northern Colorado catches everything and will love playing in his home state (he's a native of Colorado Springs).
In the third round, the focus returns to defense. With so much talent in the LBC (that's Linebacker Corps, Snoop fans) it's kinda hard bein' a dude named Sammy D, as I can't really put a finger on who Denver should draft here. A quality linebacker to learn from the best LBC in the business would be a good pickup, but with rumors swirling about Denver switching to the 3-4, a sturdy two-gap lineman is a concern.
With two picks in the third, the Broncos should be able to add everything they need to make for a successful first day. With their third pick (the 98th overall) they should take a D-lineman who is big but raw, somewhat of a project. In the 3-4, the key is size, and Wisconsin's Jason Jefferson would be a terrific pick. He lacks the height you'd desire at the offensive tackle position, but he's strong and physical and can get off the blocks. Plus, he's going to get better with more time and coaching.
With Denver's second pick in the third round, the 102nd overall, Shanahan should select Eastern Washington's Michael Roos, a 6-6 offensive tackle who is a project but has tremendous upside for a team as well-versed in coaching O-linemen as the Broncos are.
Day One Tally: Very balanced, with two players for both offense and defense, and some important needs addressed. All in all, this could be a huge draft. Miller is underrated in my opinion, as is Vincent Jackson, and with two projects in the third round (right where projects should be), Denver will be showing a lot of promise.
I'm off again. See you after draft day, when I write my play-by-play of day one.
Sam DeWitt is a columnist for BroncosUpdate.com and has been writing his own columns about life, entertainment and sports on his own website for the past two years. Email him at BUMoose@gmail.com.
Voice your opinion on our Broncos Hardcore Message Board