Written by: Barry Lewis on April 23, 2011
The Denver Broncos have been due to have a season that it had last year in part because of some bad personnel decisions, bad coaching and injuries that significantly hampered its ability to win games. Toss in a head coach that let significant talent to go to South Beach (Brandon Marshall) and it was a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, the Broncos addressed a number of issues that it had as it ended the 2011 season.
The top areas that needed to be addressed with its personnel started with its ability to stop the running game. To address that area of need, the Broncos picked two of the better defensive interior lineman with Nick Fairley and Phil Taylor (foot). If these two guys can stay healthy, they can be the middle of the Broncos defense for the next 10 years.
Joe Lefeged, SS, Rutgers is an up-and-coming prospect from Rutgers who played alongside 2010 AFC Rookie of the Year Devin McCourty and was originally projected to be a 5th round pick but is moving up the draft boards. He looks like he is the heir to the job being held by Brian Dawkins.
To continue to shore up the defensive backfield, the Broncos selected FS Robert Sands, who played OLB at West Virginia, in the 5th round and should seen as a value proposition because he was the 5th rated free safety in a weak class.
Additionally, the Broncos was able to get an inside linebacker in Nate Irving in the 5th round. Irving is a good sleeper prospect in part because of a slew of injuries sustained in 2009 only to rebound and get 20 1/2 tackles for a loss in 2010. He is a bit undersized but with Fairley and Taylor in the middle, he is a perfect fit for this defense to get in a lane and make the stop.
From the offensive side of the ball, the Broncos need Demaryius Thomas, Knowshown Moreno and the combination of Kyle Orton/Tim Tebow to improve or continue their development, as was the case with Tebow. Thomas was a bust last year and Moreno simply needs to be more consistent in his play. Additionally, they could use an upgrade on the offensive line outside of Ryan Clady. They achieved a piece of that puzzle by drafting OT Nate Solder, from homestate Colorado, without addressing the interior line.
Another set of quality picks included RB Ryan Williams from VA Tech who has been rated anywhere between the #1 and #3 tailback in the draft and USC FB Stanley Havli, who was a value pick in the 6th round. Additionally, the Broncos added WR Niles Paul at pick 186 and could become a quality #3 wideout.
The Broncos did quite well by addressing a number of their needs. While it would have been preferable to address the interior line some more as well as potentially get one additional inside linebacker in a draft that lacked depth at that position, it is possible that coach John Fox will attempt to address these two other existing areas of need through free agency.
With that in mind, the Broncos receive a grade of A- because there was no attempt to address the interior line, while continuing to get quality players at positions where adequate talent exists at WR and RB.