We’re deep into the task of opening the doors on TFQ’s NFL Draft Advent Calendar! This is our Christmas – when NFL teams get to decide what sort of new toys they get under the tree to play with next season.
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Door #24-The Broncos
2012 finish: 13-3; lost Divisional Round
TOTAL PICKS: 6
Last Thursday it was revealed that Denver has been given the easiest schedule next season, based on the total 2012 win-loss percentage of their opponents. The problem with that perceived advantage is that the Broncos won eleven straight games through November and December last season, and looked somewhat out of sorts during some big moments in their lone playoff outing. At the end of the day, Denver lost a heart-wrenching double-overtime home playoff tilt to the eventual champ Ravens.
Many Bronco players have been frank about the bitter taste that loss has left in their mouths as they train for 2013, but 2012 shouldn’t be viewed as a disappointment. When team executive vice president of football operations John Elway made the biggest splash of last year’s offseason by signing QB Peyton Manning it placed a hell of a lot of pressure on the franchise to succeed amid questions about the physical ability of its new quarterback, who had undergone multiple neck surgeries to address nerve issues in his throwing arm.
This offseason Elway didn’t outdo himself, but he didn’t sit on his hands either, signing New England free agent WR Wes Welker to a 3-year deal. I’ve analyzed this move in depth in Deep Posts, but suffice it to say that Welker and Manning are tailor-made for one another and shouldn’t take very long to develop chemistry. Welker aside, the offense returns virtually intact, but it could always use another running back. Willis McGahee isn’t getting any younger, and his body has been through a lot. Last year’s third round pick Ronnie Hillman showed some flashes, but it’s hard to envision him as an every-down back. I know this is a Peyton Manning offense, and those tend not to require a decent running game to succeed but even Manning admits that he isn’t the same Peyton anymore. But the emphasis in the Denver war room this year should be on defense.
Elway, head coach John Fox and their players remember all too well the deep bombs that Baltimore QB Joe Flacco burned them with to end their season – especially the 70-yard prayer to Julio Jones on third-and-3 to tie the game with :44 left in regulation. On that play, S Rahim Moore got sloppily turned around while trying to locate the incoming pass instead of playing the receiver. On two other long TD passes, CB Champ Bailey was burned badly, but let’s chalk that up to the worst game he’s played in his career. That shouldn’t happen again.
We can talk all we want about the Moore mishap that allowed OT, but one thing that doesn’t get discussed enough is the lack of pass rush on Denver’s part during the home stretch of their 2012 season that forced the DBs to cover too far downfield for too long. The defense lost DE Elvis Dumervil in free agency after his agent must have gotten disoriented like Moore did in the playoffs when he didn’t fax his player’s signed contract agreement to the Denver brass in time for a deadline. This makes drafting a pass rusher to help take opponents’ focus off sackmesiter LB Von Miller an important goal for Elway. Some people are saying that Florida State DE Bjoern Werner’s stock could be falling as low as Round 2. If that turns out to be true, I’d say it’s a blessing in disguise for the Broncos if he drops to them at 28th overall. UCLA LB Datone Jones isn’t as pronounced of a pass rusher, but he doesn’t have to be playing opposite Miller, and he makes up for what he lacks in explosiveness off the edge with an all-around game that looks great on tape in a Pac-12 conference that demands a lot of out its linebackers. The late 20s are where a number of cornerbacks are slated to fall as well, and since Bailey is in the twilight of his career it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add another corner. But I think if Denver opts for that route, they’d better go with a rusher in the second round.
Everyone in Denver knows that the window for a Super Bowl with Manning isn’t very big. But he and the man who brought him to town have always been up to a challenge – especially at crunch time.
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STAY TUNED FOR THE REST OF THE DAYS LEADING UP UNTIL THE 2013 NFL DRAFT. WE’LL TAKE A LOOK AT EACH TEAM, AS WE OPEN THEM UP IN THE ADVENT CALENDAR. WE’LL ALSO BE DOING A LIVE TWEET-UP DURING THE DRAFT.