The Denver Broncos’ “leadership” under Josh McDaniels was so poor that owner Pat Bowlen had to fire the alleged offensive mastermind on December 6 of last season. (Bowlen did it on Twitter.)
Left behind was a depleted roster, and hired to replace McDaniels is ex-Panthers coach John Fox. Along with new V.P. of Player Personnel John Elway, Fox will attempt to reestablish a once-proud organization that devolved into a laughingstock under “McD.”
DT: Here’s how Denver’s defensive tackle depth chart reads: Free agent (possibly restricted) Ryan McBean, Kevin Vickerson, Louis Leonard, Mitch Unrein. How many of those guys have you heard of? They’ve combined for 4.5 career sacks, 3.5 of them from six-year veteran Vickerson. It’s easily the worst interior line in football, making Alabama’s Marcell Dareus the Broncos’ obvious choice at No. 2 overall. Value meets need there, to perfection.
LB: The Broncos need help throughout the front seven. D.J. Williams is their only surefire starting linebacker, probably on the weak side. Schematic shift from McDaniels’ old 3-4 to Fox’s 4-3 leaves an abundance of question marks. Is Wesley Woodyard (6-foot, 220) big enough to be an every-down strong-side linebacker? Can Mario Haggan man the middle after playing mostly outside linebacker in a 3-4 the past two seasons? The switch to a new defensive alignment, at least at first glance, has created even more problems.
DB: Denver’s cornerbacks are solid with newly re-signed Champ Bailey at left corner, and Andre’ Goodman battling promising if arrest-prone second-year player Perrish Cox on the right. But Brian Dawkins was one of the poorest coverage safeties in football last season, is entering his age-38 campaign, and has a $6 million salary. We’d have more faith in former second-round pick Darcel McBath as Dawkins’ replacement if McBath could stay off the shelf. To this point, he hasn’t.
OT: The Broncos have one of the league’s better young left tackles in Ryan Clady, and promising interior pieces in Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton, and Chris Kuper. They’re expected to part with free agent right tackle Ryan Harris, however, and replace him with a better run blocker on the strong side.
Overview: Fox and Elway have a hole-filled roster. They could also use upgrades at tight end, running back behind Knowshon Moreno, and arguably defensive end. A traditional, lead-blocking fullback is needed for Fox’s run-heavy philosophy.
And that’s exactly why the Broncos are smokescreening interest in quarterbacks. Elway and Fox realize that the only way teams trade up to No. 2 is if they need signal callers. Denver drafts directly ahead of a franchise quarterback-needy Bills team, and has nothing to lose by feigning fascination with the most important position in all of pro sports. The Broncos have a long, long way to go, and could use lots more picks.