About the Author
Recent posts by Matt Feminis
Second-year Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels must feel really, really secure in his position because through eight draft rounds during his tenure, it's very possible (likely?) the team botched Round One in back-to-back years. First-round success is essential to sustaining competitiveness over several years, as the quickest way to torpedo a franchise is to string together first-round failures. The overall talent level of your roster falls off, you're forced to overspend in free agency and personnel mistakes are magnified. Generally speaking, the most stable franchises are the ones that consistently draft well, develop talent and make fiscally responsible decisions. In short, they understand value and how to manage it. Thus far, the jury is out on the Broncos' ability to do that.
The McDaniels era began with the Jay Cutler fiasco. On the surface, jettisoning a Pro Bowl quarterback entering his prime seems illogical, but given the circumstances, a wait-and-see approach is understandable; if McDaniels was not confident Cutler was the best man to run his sytem (for whatever reason), you can't blame a new coach for wanting "his guys" to execute the system. Further, they netted a solid haul: Kyle Orton, a pair of first-round picks and a third-rounder. A year later, the Eagles were not able to get a first-rounder in exchange for Donovan McNabb.
So there the Broncos were in April 2009 armed with the quarterback McDaniels wanted (Kyle Orton), and a pair of first-round choices in each of the next two drafts, the second of which was long viewed as rich in talent. As soon as the team went on the clock last April, the head-scratching decisions commenced:
- At No. 12, the Broncos reached for RB Knowshon Moreno (who clocked in the 4.6s prior to the Draft) one pick ahead of Brian Orakpo. Moreno should have been a luxury pick for a team at the back end of the first round or a value pick at the beginning of the second, not a back you choose to saddle up 12th overall, especially given the state of the Broncos at the time (a .500 team).
- At No. 18, Robert Ayers was the pick. He produced 19 tackles and zero sacks as a rookie. Meanwhile, players such as Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin and Clay Matthews came off the board soonafter. The team was in a position of strength and did not capitalize. Not only did they not trade up to grab an elite talent, they did not trade down to pick up selections in bulk and the players they settled on are not inspiring rampant optimism.
- They capped a puzzling first-round performance by surrendering their own 2010 first-rounder to jump up in the second round and take CB Alphonso Smith, a good prospect whose tape and production was encouraging. However, at 5-9 with speed in the 4.5s, his ceiling is a No. 2 corner — not the type of player you sacrifice a first-round pick for, which is what the Broncos did. Smith also disappointed in his rookie season, as he did not take ownership of the nickel position and forced the team to sign Ty Law off the scrap heap.
Fast forward. . .
- Sitting at No. 11 yesterday, the Broncos opted to trade back twice (Bill Belichick influence?) rather than taking Brandon Graham, Earl Thomas, Mike Iupati or Maurkice Pouncey, among others. Not necessarily a bad strategy, particularly if you're able to end up with the player you've targeted while adding valuable picks later in the draft. Finally content to select at No. 22, Demaryius Thomas was the pick, a need pick to fill the void created by Brandon Marshall's departure. Further, Thomas is a risky selection, given his shaky hands, build-up speed and presumably slow learning curve related to limited route variety in Georgia Tech's triple-option offense.
- It went off the tracks at No. 25, however, when McDaniels, inexplicably smitten by Tim Tebow's squeaky clean intangibles and determined work ethic, sent second-, third- and fourth-round selections to Baltimore (one can only imagine Ozzie Newsome's reaction) for the right to draft the Florida "quarterback." Tebow is a project. There's no way around it. In effect, McDaniels has hitched his wagon to a guy who likely won't be a competent NFL quarterback (best-case scenario) for three years. It's hard to process.
The Belichick influence — wheeling and dealing to preserve flexibility and maximize draft-day value — is palpable, but early reviews do not suggest the pupil is as proficient as the master. Ultimately, the Broncos subtracted Cutler and Marshall in favor of Orton (serviceable and nothing more) and Thomas. Did the impact of Moreno and Ayers offset that talent/production discrepancy? Will McDaniels even be around when Tebow takes the reins? And what if Tebow is a bust?
In the short-term, who on the Broncos offense is scaring defensive coordinators this fall?
It can be dangerous to confuse activity with productivity. . .