Wednesday, February 26, 2014
A combine recap for Broncos
By Jeff Legwold
INDIANAPOLIS -- With the NFL's scouting combine having wrapped up Tuesday afternoon, the Denver Broncos have had an up-close-and-personal look at 335 or so of the best prospects in this year's draft.
And as they collate all of the information they obtained in and around Lucas Oil Stadium from the workouts, medical exams and interviews from those prospects, here are some things they likely took away from the past week's work:
- They can find much-needed help for their defense on this draft board but will likely have to use earlier picks to get it. It is a deep draft overall, but many scouts believe the depth is far greater, as a whole, on offense. So to get the impact players on defense, the Broncos may have to move more quickly do it. That's especially true among the defensive backs. As a group the wide receivers in Indy ran faster and were, on average, bigger than the defensive backs in attendance. The Broncos have six defensive backs scheduled to be restricted or unrestricted free agents, so they have some things to address in the secondary. That's especially true at cornerback, where Chris Harris Jr. is not only a restricted free agent but he's also returning from ACL surgery. Both Broncos head coach John Fox and executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said at the combine they're optimistic in Harris' recovery because the ACL was not completely torn. But with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie set to hit the open market to go with Champ Bailey's $10 million salary cap figure and a coming discussion with Elway about Bailey's future, the Broncos certainly will have to give the position attention in the draft. And they'll have to do it in the first three rounds to have a chance at the bigger cornerbacks on the board who have the kind of speed the team wants.
- With Von Miller coming back from ACL surgery and Shaun Phillips headed for free agency, the Broncos will need more presence on the edge in the defense. And the pool of potential rushers who look to be ready to come in and contribute significantly as rookies looks fairly shallow. Phillips' signing in free agency during last year's draft weekend turned out to be one of the league's best value signings. Phillips finished with a team-leading 10 sacks in a one-year deal with no signing bonus. But that kind of good fortune is not a given. The Broncos will feel at least some incentive to look both in both free agency and among those early picks for an edge rusher. Fox said during the combine he believes Quanterrus Smith, a fifth-round draft pick in last year's draft, will be ready to contribute after Smith spent this past season on injured reserve. But he's a question mark, and the Broncos don't even open their conditioning work until April 21 and won't have conducted any of their on-field OTA work until after the draft.
- The Broncos were highly interested in the linebacker class at this year's combine. They need more physicality at the position, but they need it from a player who can drop into coverage when asked. So don't think old-school thumper, but rather an attempt to find someone who plays with the same kind of versatility Danny Trevathan has shown since the Broncos selected him in the 2012 draft.
- The Broncos have a glaring need at running back, but the run game is going to get plenty of attention in this offseason from offensive coordinator Adam Gase. The Broncos want, and need, to take some of the pressure off quarterback Peyton Manning and the team's passing game to do the heavy lifting as well in the offense in short-yardage situations. Knowshon Moreno is an unrestricted free agent who will get a bigger offer elsewhere than he can get from the Broncos. And after years' worth of running back classes filled with undersized runners, many running backs coaches in the league consistently referenced the size of this year's group at the combine. Many teams will be looking to dive in during the second, third and fourth rounds. There were 17 running backs at this year's combine who weighed 218 pounds or more. Last year there were 10 running backs at the combine who weighed at least 218 pounds and 14 in 2012 .
- The Broncos want more speed in the defensive formation. If there was one lesson they took away from this past season, including the Super Bowl loss, it was that they were not nearly as fast as they need to be in the defensive formation. That speed deficiency showed up on special teams as well, notably down the stretch and into the playoffs. Look for the Broncos' draft class to have more fast clockings than "try hard" guys when the picks get made.