An overview of needs and likely targets for free agency and the draft.
We’ve been through what the Denver Broncos have in the cupboard at this point which lays the foundation for today’s article. In case you missed my series on all of the position groups, feel free to reference them here:
Defense: Safeties, Cornerbacks, Outside Linebackers, Inside Linebackers, Special Teams
Offense: Offensive Line, Tight Ends, Wide Receivers, Running Backs, Quarterbacks
We’re just about to the part of the offseason that the Broncos GM John Elway really shines at: the start of free agency for the 2017 season. Not long after that we’ll hit the NFL Draft. Between these two events, the Broncos are going to make changes, additions, and subtractions to their roster.
Let’s dig in though and try to understand from our GM armchairs what the Broncos needs are and then where the best area is to address those needs.
Areas of strength
- Kicking specialists
- Starting Outside Linebackers
- Starting Cornerbacks
- Starting WRs
- Tight End depth
- Running Back depth
One of the biggest holes in our defense last year was at RDE. The Broncos missed Malik Jackson in a pretty bad way. Jared Crick carried a load that he was never meant to handle. This year the team really needs to get a starting quality end in there that is stout against the run to help solidify the defense.
The Broncos have survived the past couple of years with pretty average NT play overall. There is a very good reason that they didn’t pick up the 5th year option on Sylvester Williams: he wasn’t that good. While the team has some young talent here, I can easily see them bringing in a guy who can handle the middle of the line. Keep in mind that this defense is flexible and can use either a 1-gap or 2-gap player at NT.
The team really has no answers at either Tackle spot on the team right now from what I’ve seen out of Donald Stephenson, Ty Sambrailo, and Michael Schofield. Schofield looks very good at guard and is only mentioned here because he’s got a lot of experience at playing
fence post tackle.
Denver really needs two players here that they can rely on to start. If they are forced to use even one of the three options I listed above, the line is in a compromised state.
I think Michael Schofield or Connor McGovern can handle one of the guard positions, but Max Garcia looked like a train wreck last year. Look for Denver to find an answer for one of the guard positions.
Running Back (1 of 2)
C.J. Anderson can’t make it through a season, let alone be a workhorse back. The other guys on the team either have injury issues or haven’t shown enough in their short time with the team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Denver find an option as a 1A or 1B type back which will help balance the workload with Anderson.
Emmanuel Sanders could own this position, but probably doesn’t want to as it means more hits from bigger players in the middle of the field. The depth the team does have isn’t really slot material outside of possibly Khalif Raymond.
While I’m a big proponent of rolling with the two young guns the team has, I find the idea of Denver bringing in a guy like Romo or Taylor plausible. Paxton Lynch was always going to be a project and if the team isn’t ready to really commit to him, bringing in a veteran is a good option if you don’t think Trevor Siemian is a guy that is going to add wins to the team.
Party of me is really torn here. I do think Schofield has value as a swing tackle, but he’s not a guy you want to see out there for a 4-5 game stretch. Same thing goes for Donald Stephenson, but he isn’t likely to stay on at his salary to be a depth player.
We have some guys on the team that are “good enough” in Todd Davis, Corey Nelson, and Zaire Anderson. None of them have really separated themselves as more than a “decent” linebacker. Denver could use a guy that can start developing into the inside linebacker of the future.
As we get closer to free agency, I am believing less and less that the team is going to bring back DeMarcus Ware. We’re set for starting talent even if they don’t bring him back, but that means that there’s definitely an opening for a guy you can develop for the future.
There are only two years left until you have some very big questions at CB in the No Fly Zone. The more I see from Bradley Roby, the less I think he’s an answer to one of those spots. From what my eyes tell me, this is a great year to bring in a young guy in preparation for the future.
We have two very expensive WRs on the team right now and soon there will be very real options available to Denver to let one or both of them go. That flexibility won’t be there unless you bring in more talent though and honestly the depth behind Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas isn’t exactly stellar.
I’m a big proponent of looking for a dangerous weapon in this draft that you can develop this year. We have guys on the team who can play TE well, but most of them have injury questions. We can limp through another season with them and develop a guy for the future at the same time though.
Free Agency Targets
Here’s the positions I think John Elway should target this year in order of importance in free agency assuming good fits are available:
- Left Tackle - We don’t have one on the team and the pickings are slim. I still think bringing back Russell Okung is a viable option if no other team picks him up on an expensive contract.
- Right Tackle - I think Denver may roll the dice on some of the guys we already have on the roster and that is in my mind a huge mistake. If we can bring in a RT, we should.
- Right Defensive End - It isn’t likely that we’re going to be able to get a DE high enough in the draft that will be an impact player right away and that is what we need.
- Nose Tackle - This is a position where I think Denver can find a reasonable veteran to hold down the fort that won’t break the bank. This defense doesn’t require a stud 2-gap guy.
Likely Draft Targets
Early Rounds (1-2):
We’ll go best player available for sure early on. Elway really has shown that there is no “drafting for need” early in the draft. If a good player falls to them, the Broncos will take them (see Roby, Williams, Ray).
Positions I think the Broncos would value highly in this draft early on:
- Tight End
- Running Back
- Tackle (if we don’t find answers in free agency)
Middle Rounds (3-5)
Here’s where Denver may be a little more likely to target areas of need. Look for these positions to be likely targets:
- Inside Linebacker
- Tight End
- Defensive End
- Nose Tackle
Late Rounds (6-7, UDFA)
This is where one of Denver’s strengths really can shine through. We have some really awesome scouts that uncover talent late in the draft or after it is over. This isn’t really about need at all and is more of a discovering guys that most other teams are overlooking. Don’t write off guys that Denver takes late who may be head-scratchers.
You have my No Bull thoughts. Hit up the comments with where you disagree with me and be sure to add why. What angles do you see that the Broncos should cover? What specific Free Agents do you think are great targets for us? Can the draft get here soon enough?