AFC West: Lamar Miller

Random AFC West draft thoughts

April, 28, 2012
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Friday was a good draft for the AFC West. The Chargers were stars, the Broncos had a terrific Day Two after bailing out of Day One and the Chiefs have quietly added big beef so far.
  • I give credit to Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie for being patient. Most first-time GMs would get antsy and trade up if they had to wait until the No. 95 pick. But with only the fifth- and sixth-round picks to trade (Oakland’s three compensatory picks cannot be traded), McKenzie likely would have had to dip into future years to move up. He wants to stop the Oakland trend of trading future picks and I don’t blame him. McKenzie is going to get what he can from this draft and move on. Smart move.
  • I wonder if the Chargers will try to move up and get Miami running back Lamar Miller. If not, they might have to sign a free agent.
  • Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins is still out there. He’d be a real nice value for Kansas City in the fourth round.
  • As the ESPN telecast ended, Jon Gruden lauded the AFC West. The former Oakland coach said he believes this is becoming a potent division.
  • Denver coach John Fox said the Broncos' third-round pick, running back Ronnie Hillman, will get a chance to be a returner.

Round 2: Chiefs and Chargers

April, 27, 2012
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The Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers both addressed their greatest needs in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday.

The Chiefs took Memphis nose tackle Dontari Poe at No. 11 and San Diego grabbed South Carolina pass-rusher Melvin Ingram at No. 18.

Let’s take a look at what direction both teams could go in Friday's second round as a result of their work in the first:

Kansas City, No. 44: The Chiefs are looking for the best players available, because they don’t have many glaring needs. I think could consider a quarterback such as Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins or even Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler. We could see them take a look at Midwestern State guard Amini Silatolu, Wisconsin guard/center Peter Konz or perhaps a receiver if a top talent like Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill, LSU’s Rueben Randle or South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery falls to them at that spot.

San Diego, No. 49: I think we can see the Chargers taking a running back such as Oregon’s LaMichael James or Miami’s Lamar Miller. Other possibilities include LSU safety Brandon Taylor and Mississippi offensive lineman Bobby Massie.
The Denver Broncos moved out of the first round Thursday night as they twice traded down.

The Broncos know have six picks in the next three rounds. I think we will see Denver try to get a defensive tackle, running back and quarterback on Friday. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Broncos make more trades in the second or third rounds.

I think Denver decided to move down after all the top defensive tackles were taken. It's difficult to argue with that tact.

Among the players Denver could target at No. 36 with their top pick Friday are Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, Connecticut defensive tackle Kendall Reyes, Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill, Cincinnati defensive tackle Derek Wolfe and Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David..

The Broncos probably were not thrilled to see running backs Doug Martin and David Wilson go in the final two picks of the first round. Among the running backs Denver could look in the second round at include Oregon’s LaMichael James and Miami’s Lamar Miller.

Denver’s new draft order after Thursday night is in the chart above. Here are the trades they made:

Broncos get: 1st-round pick (No. 31), 4th-round pick (No. 126)
Patriots get: 1st-round pick (No. 25)

Broncos get: 2nd-round pick (No. 36), 4th-round pick (No. 101)
Bucs get: 1st-round pick (No. 31), 4th-round pick (No. 126)

Denver mock draft

April, 26, 2012
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We are going to try to a mock draft for each team in the AFC West.

We will go in alphabetical order. First up is Denver.

Summary: Brockers is the key. It would fill the Broncos’ greatest need and allow them to grab Miller and Osweiler. Then they could address other areas with Hayward and Streeter.

AFC West draft primer

April, 20, 2012
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With the NFL draft starting in six days, there are many interesting storylines involving the AFC West. Let’s take a look:

Will the Chiefs make a big move up? The Kansas City Chiefs could become the story of the division with a move up for Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. There has been recent buzz that the Chiefs may be one of the teams interested in moving up for Tannehill. If he is available at No. 7 (Miami may take Tannehill at No. 8), I could see the Chiefs jumping in the mix. Jacksonville, which has the No. 7 pick, probably would be willing to part with the pick or the Chiefs could take a risk and hope he falls to No. 11. Tannehill is the only attainable quarterback who could immediately press Matt Cassel.

Will a second-day quarterback be on the way? I think a Friday storyline could be the addition of a second-tier quarterback in the division. If the Chiefs don’t take Tannehill, they could take a quarterback in the second or third round, and Denver could take one on the second day as well. The quarterbacks available on the second day probably will be Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins, Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler and Arizona’s Nick Foles. Kansas City could look at any of the four and Denver is probably in the mix for all but Weeden. He will soon turn 29, and with Peyton Manning in Denver, I don’t think the Broncos will take an older quarterback.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/Eric BakkeWill AFC West teams draft differently now that Peyton Manning is in the division?
Will there be a Manning factor? The Chiefs and Chargers could both opt to use their first-round picks on defensive players. With Manning entering the division, focusing on defense may be the right call in Kansas City and San Diego.

Will there be a changing of the guard? Stanford’s David DeCastro is considered one of the best guard prospects in the past several years and he is considered a sure thing. Both the Chiefs and Chargers are considered teams that could land DeCastro.

Will the Raiders make a move up? The Raiders don’t pick until No. 95, the final pick of the third round. Oakland could move up to get a better prospect, but I wouldn’t think Oakland would move too far up the draft. Sooner or later, the team must stop mortgaging future picks, and I think new Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie gets that. I’d expect him to suck it up and deal with what he has this year for the most part.

Will the Chiefs add a running back? There was early talk Kansas City could make a play for Alabama’s Trent Richardson, which could require a move up to No. 5. That may not be a likely scenario. However, the Chiefs could still take a running back in the early rounds. Jamaal Charles is coming off a torn ACL and Peyton Hillis signed a one-year deal. The Chiefs have been visiting with running backs, so I could see them taking one at some point.

Will the Chargers and Broncos take a running back early? There have been projections that both Denver and San Diego could take a running back as early as the second round. I’d think Denver is the more likely of the two teams to take a running back early. Boise State’s Doug Martin, Virginia Tech’s David Wilson, Miami’s Lamar Miller and Oregon’s LaMichael James are all possibilities.

Will A.J. Smith make a splash? The Chargers probably will have to make the playoffs for San Diego general manager A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner to keep their jobs. The Chargers have been aggressive in free agency and they have always been aggressive in the draft. I could see the Chargers taking a chance and moving up for the right impact player.

Will Denver take a defensive tackle? The Broncos haven’t taken a defensive tackle since 1997 when they took Trevor Pryce. It is the team’s greatest need. However, if players such as LSU’s Michael Brockers and Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox are gone by No. 25, Denver may opt for another position or trade down rather than reach for another defensive tackle prospect.

Will the Raiders be a draft factor? The Raiders only have five picks, but I think they can still get a couple of developmental players. It may be too much to ask for the Raiders to find instant impact players, but I think McKenzie will salvage this class.

Will the Chargers reach for their top need? The Chargers badly need an impact pass-rusher, but it isn’t a deep class. By the time the No. 18 picks rolls around, the top pass-rushing prospects -- South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, North Carolina’s Quinton Coples and Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw -- all may be gone. The next level of players include Syracuse’s Chandler Jones, USC’s Nick Perry and Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus. Many scouts think taking those players at No. 18 may be too high. So, the Chargers could be on the move down if that scenario develops.

Will the Chiefs be swayed by Poe’s beauty? Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe is a high-risk, high-reward player. He has all the measurables and he has big potential. But he has unimpressive game tape against second-level competition. Many teams are leery of taking him. The Chiefs could use him, but with a recent history of taking under-achieving defensive linemen, can Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli take the risk?

Another Georgia Tech receiver in Denver? If the Broncos bypass a defensive tackle at No. 25, they could look to give Manning another weapon. A name to keep an eye on is Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill. The Broncos have been scouting him and they wouldn’t mind adding another former Georgia Tech receiver. Denver took Demaryius Thomas out of the school with the No. 22 pick in 2010.

Will Golden Domers head to the beach? Two players Smith likes a lot are Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd and safety Harrison Smith. Floyd could require a trade up and Smith could be a candidate via a trade down. Don’t be surprised if one of the two ends up a Charger.

Is Josh Chapman AFC West bound? One of the underrated players on a strong Alabama defense is versatile defensive tackle Josh Chapman, a fit for both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses. He has visited both the Raiders and the Chiefs and could be a target of any team in the division in the third round.
Let take a look at some players who could be available in the second round and beyond and might interest teams in the AFC West:

QUARTERBACKS

Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

Round range: 2

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Kirk Cousins, Michigan State

Round range: 2

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Brock Osweiler, Arizona State

Round range: 2-3

Possible interested teams: Kansas City, Denver

Nick Foles, Arizona

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Denver

RUNNING BACK

Lamar Miller, Miami

Round range: 2

Possible interested teams: Denver

Doug Martin, Boise State

Round range: 2-3

Possible interested teams: Denver

David Wilson, Virginia Tech

Round range: 2

Possible interested teams: Denver

LaMichael James, Oregon

Round range: 3

Possible interested teams: San Diego

Chris Polk, Washington

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Denver

Robert Turbin, Utah State

Round range: 4-6

Possible interested teams: Oakland

Dan Herron, Ohio State

Round range: 5-6

Possible interested teams: Oakland

WIDE RECEIVER

A.J. Jenkins, Illinois

Round range: 3-5

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Juron Criner, Arizona

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Danny Coale, Virginia Tech

Round range: 4-5

Possible interested teams: Denver, Kansas City

Devin Goda, Slippery Rock

Round range: 6-7

Possible interested teams: Oakland

TIGHT ENDS

Michael Egnew, Missouri

Round range: 4-5

Possible interested teams: Oakland, San Diego

Deangelo Peterson, LSU

Round range : 4-5

Possible interested teams: Oakland, San Diego

OFFENSIVE LINE

Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin

Round range: 2

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Mitchell Schwartz, California

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Senio Kelemete, Washington

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: San Diego

Steven Baker, East Carolina

Round range: 4-6

Possible interested teams: Oakland

DEFENSIVE LINE

Alameda Ta'amu, Washington

Round range: 2

Possible interested teams: Kansas City, San Diego

Brandon Thompson, Clemson

Round range: 2

Possible interested teams : Denver

Josh Chapman, Alabama

Round range: 3

Possible interested teams: Kansas City, Oakland

Billy Winn, Boise State

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Oakland, Denver, Kansas City, San Diego

Mike Martin, Michigan

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Kansas City, San Diego

Drew Nowak, Western Michigan

Round range: 5-7

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Ronnie Cameron, Old Dominion

Round range: 5-7

Possible interested teams: San Diego

Donavan Robinson, Jackson State

Round range: 5-7

Possible interested teams: San Diego

LINEBACKER

Chandler Jones, Syracuse

Round range: 2-3

Possible interested teams: San Diego

Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma

Round range: 2-3

Possible interested teams: San Diego

Bruce Irvin, West Virginia

Round range: 3-5

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Nigel Bradham, Florida State

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Oakland

Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State

Round range: 3-5

Possible interested teams: Denver, Kansas City, Oakland

Jonathan Massaquoi, Troy

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Oakland, San Diego

Sean Spence, Miami

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Oakland, San Diego

Sammy Brown, Houston

Round range: 5-7

Possible interested teams: Oakland

Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Washington State

Round range: 5-7

Possible interested teams: Oakland

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Harrison Smith, Notre Dame

Round range: 2

Possible interested teams: San Diego, Kansas City

Trumaine Johnson, Montana

Round range: 2-3

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Josh Norman, Coastal Carolina

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Denver, Oakland

George Iloka, Boise State

Round range: 4-5

Possible interested teams: Denver, Kansas City

Asa Jackson, Cal Poly-SLO

Round range: 4-5

Possible interested teams: Oakland

Brandon Taylor, LSU

Round range: 4-5

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

D.J. Campbell, California

Round range: 5-7

Possible interested teams: San Diego

Tavon Wilson, Illinois

Round range: 5-7

Possible interested teams: San Diego
Peyton Manning/John ElwayJustin Edmonds/Getty ImagesThe health of Peyton Manning is the most pressing "What if" for Denver and possibly the division.

The AFC West was the tightest division in the NFL in 2011.

The Broncos, Raiders and Chargers finished 8-8 with Denver prevailing as the division winner via a tiebreaker. Kansas City was a game behind at 7-9. The Chiefs were a blocked field goal attempt against Oakland in Week 16 away from winning the division.

Each team marches toward 2012 with hopes of winning the division. While there is still some work to do in terms of the draft, let’s play the “what if” game. Below is five ways each team in the division could win the AFC West in 2012 if certain things occur. Hat tip to the reader who suggested the idea:

Denver

If Peyton Manning is fully recovered from a neck injury that kept him out of the entire 2011 season: Manning’s health is the key to Denver’s entire season. The team and Manning think he will be fine. If he is, the Broncos will be in great shape.

If Demaryius Thomas develops into a true No. 1 receiver: The third-year player has potential and showed great flashes last season. Playing with Manning should spark his career.

If Denver gets a running mate for Willis McGahee: McGahee had a great season in 2011, but he was dinged up a lot and he needs some help. If Denver can draft a player such as Miami’s Lamar Miller, Boise State’s Doug Martin or Virginia Tech’s David Wilson in the second round, they should be in great shape.

If Denver improves at defensive tackle: The Broncos need some help at the position and it is their most pressing need. Watch for Denver to take a defensive tackle at No. 25 in the first round and that player needs to contribute right away.

If the change at defensive coordinator is smooth: With Dennis Allen now the head coach in Oakland, former Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio is Denver’s seventh defensive coordinator in the past seven seasons. This change could be seamless, though, because Del Rio has previously been a coordinator on John Fox’s staff, and Fox plays a major role as a defensive coach.

Kansas City

If quarterback Matt Cassel plays better than he did in 2011: Cassel took a step back last season after a strong 2010 season. Instead of replacing him, though, the Chiefs gave Cassel more weapons. He has everything a quarterback needs to succeed. Now, he has to be a success.

If the Chiefs’ injured stars are recovered from serious knee injuries: Running back Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry and tight end Tony Moeaki all suffered torn ACL’s in September. All are expected back. If they are all fully recovered, the Chiefs should be fine.

If the Chiefs get an impact defender in the first round: The Chiefs have a strong defense, but they can use another stud. Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe or Boston College inside linebacker Luke Kuechly would both be solid fits.

If Stanford Routt fits in the defense: The Chiefs opted to sign former Oakland cornerback Stanford Routt and let Brandon Carr walk. Kansas City thinks Routt will flourish as the No. 2 cornerback next to Brandon Flowers. If Routt struggles, the defense will suffer.

If Romeo Crennel’s late influence is intact: Crennel went from the interim coach to the permanent coach because he sparked the Chiefs in the final three weeks of the season. His team played very hard for him and went 2-1. Let’s see if the good vibes continue.

Oakland

If quarterback Carson Palmer adjusts to the West Coast offense: Palmer is both trying to re-energize his career and adapt to playing in a West Coast offense. The Raiders and Palmer believe it is a good fit.

If receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford continue to develop: I think these three players have showed flashes. If they continue to develop, the Raiders will have a lot of firepower.

If running back Darren McFadden can stay healthy: McFadden has missed a total of 19 games in four NFL season and at least three games in all four seasons. He missed the final nine games of last season with a foot injury. With backup Michael Bush now in Chicago and Oakland sporting young backups, it is imperative the special McFadden stays healthy as much as possible in 2012.

If the defensive front can stay healthy: The Raiders’ defensive line is their best aspect of a defense in transition. It must stay healthy and be an anchor to the unit.

If rookie coach Dennis Allen can have fast success: At 39, Allen, who has just one year of experience as a defensive coordinator, is the youngest head coach in the NFL. He must prove quickly that he is up to the task.

San Diego

If quarterback Philip Rivers can avoid the interception bug: He threw a career-high 20 interception in 2011. Rivers threw a total of 22 interceptions in the previous two seasons combined.

If running back Ryan Mathews can take the next step: San Diego coach Norv Turner recently said he expects Mathews to have a breakout season in 2012, his third in the NFL. He has shown flashes, but he needs to be more consistent.

If the receivers, as a unit, can make up for the loss of Vincent Jackson: The Chargers like their receiving crew even after Jackson signed with Tampa Bay. San Diego added Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal, and already has Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown. Jackson is a star and he will be missed, but the Chargers think they have made up for his loss by having a deeper rotation.

If the Chargers' defense can be better on third down: San Diego had the worst third-down defense in the NFL last season. Improving in that area is a point of emphasis for new defensive coordinator John Pagano.

If the Chargers can add an impact pass-rusher in the first round: The Chargers need a young pass-rusher to emerge. It will be their top priority with the No. 18 pick.

AFC West team needs

March, 9, 2012
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Michael BushKelley L Cox/US PresswireRaiders running back Michael Bush could be a good fit for the rival Broncos.
Offseason movement starts Tuesday, when the free-agent signing period begins. Let’s take a look at the top needs of each team in the AFC West in free agency and in the draft:

Denver Broncos

1. Defensive line: The Broncos could use a stout defensive tackle even if Brodrick Bunkley returns. They need a tone setter. Denver hasn’t taken a defensive tackle in the first round since 1997 when it selected Trevor Pryce. Perhaps this is the time that streak ends.

Possible fits: The Dolphins' Paul Soliai, Memphis’ Dontari Poe, Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox, Michigan State's Jerel Worthy.

2. Secondary: Denver is too old at cornerback and too young at safety, especially with Brian Dawkins likely not returning. I think the Broncos will look to add to their secondary.

Possible fits: The Redskins' LaRon Landry, Boise State’s George Iloka, Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick.

3. Running back: The Broncos want to add a running back to pair with Willis McGahee and will address this need either in free agency or early in the draft.

Possible fits: The Raiders' Michael Bush, the Chargers' Mike Tolbert, University of Miami's Lamar Miller, Virginia Tech's David Wilson, Boise State's Doug Martin.

Scouts Inc. take: "I also think that they need a lot of secondary help overall. I also think they really need a QB, but that is probably a discussion for a different day."
-- Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.

Kansas City Chiefs

1. Offensive line: The Chiefs need a tackle. If they go for a left tackle, they can move Branden Albert to right tackle or they can get one. They might also be interested in a guard.

Possible fits: The Saints’ Carl Nicks, the Dolphins' Vernon Carey, the Eagles' King Dunlap, Stanford's Jonathan Martin, Iowa's Riley Reiff.

2. Nose tackle: The Chiefs have the makings of a strong defense, but they are missing a nasty nose tackle. They need to find one this offseason.

Possible fits: The Dolphins' Kendall Langford, the Ravens' Cory Redding, Soliai, Cox or Poe

3. Inside linebacker: The Chiefs could use one more standout linebacker to flourish in Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 defense.

Possible fits: Boston College's Luke Kuechly, Alabama's Dont'a Hightower

Scouts Inc. take: "Right tackle is far and away their biggest need. I would say nose tackle is second."
-- Matt Williamson

Oakland Raiders

1. Cornerback: The Raiders currently don’t have any starting-quality cornerbacks on the roster.

Possible fits: The Saints' Tracy Porter, the 49ers' Carlos Rogers, the Cardinals' Richard Marshall, the Jaguars' William Middleton, Vanderbilt's Casey Hayward.

2. Linebacker: I get the sense that the new Oakland regime would like to find at least one new starter. I think they can get a cornerstone linebacker who can set the tone for the defense.

Possible fits: The Vikings' Erin Henderson, the Seahawks' Leroy Hill, the Bengals' Manny Lawson, West Virginia's Bruce Irvin.

3. Offensive line: The Raiders' offensive line is a work in progress and they may be looking for at least one new
starter.

Possible fits: Texans' center Chris Myers, Texans' guard Mike Brisiel, Miami of Ohio's Brandon Brooks.

Scouts Inc. take: "Cornerback is far and away their biggest need. I would put right tackle and interior offensive line second."
-- Matt Williamson.

San Diego Chargers

1. Linebacker: The Chargers desperately need a game-changing linebacker. It will be a top priority in the first round of the draft and in free agency.

Possible fits: The Texans' Mario Williams, Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw, USC's Nick Perry, Illinois' Whitney Mercilus.

2. Defensive line: The Chargers like youngsters Corey Liuget, Vaughn Martin and Cam Thomas, but could use a stud veteran in the middle.

Possible fits: The Seahawks' Red Bryant, Redding, Soliai, Washington’s Alameda Ta'amu.

3. Offensive line: The Chargers may have to make wholesale changes on the line because of Kris Dielman's retirement, and because center Nick Hardwick and left tackle Jared Gaither will be free agents.

Possible fits: Nicks, Carey, Stanford’s Martin, Stanford's David DeCastro, Wisconsin's Peter Konz.

Scouts Inc. take: "To me, the Chargers need a lot. Offensive line is a massive need. Some receivers would be nice if Vincent Jackson leaves. On defense, I think they could use a little something at every level, but their biggest two spots would be at outside linebacker and strong safety."
-- Matt Williamson.
Tim Tebow may be the most dissected first-year starter in NFL history. Monday, Denver Broncos football czar John Elway ensured the dissection will continue in 2012.

That news will certainly prompt the anti-Tebow camp to complain wildly, that the Broncos are forever putting themselves in a hole.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireJohn Elway says Denver will keep QB Tim Tebow as the 2012 starter heading into training camp.
However, Elway is not committing to Tebow for the rest of his career. Monday’s announcement doesn’t ensure Tebow will be the Broncos’ quarterback for the rest of the decade. It simply gives him the opportunity to earn it.

All Denver truly is doing is committing to Tebow for the 2012 season. For a player who has had 16 career starts and who has shown both promising and alarming signs, that’s all he can expect. Sticking with Tebow in 2012 is a better option than trying to develop a rookie or finding a stopgap veteran option. If Tebow doesn’t become a consistent NFL passer in 2012, then Denver can look for a long-term answer elsewhere.

The following are things Tebow and the Broncos have to accomplish to make sure Tebow is the long-term answer in Denver:

Take advantage of the offseason: This will be Tebow’s first full offseason in the NFL. It will be paramount to his future success. Monday, Elway reiterated that he will work with Tebow in the offseason. Elway said he is not as concerned about Tebow’s release as he is with his footwork, drops and timing. That is what Tebow will concentrate on this spring and summer.

Tebow’s 13 starts in 2011 were born out of survival. He wasn’t given much time to work on his own game. Saving the season was the mission. Thus, I think the hardworking Tebow will benefit from stepping back and working on his game with Denver coaches in the offseason without any urgency. He had enough good games passing the ball this past season to show he can succeed. The offseason will give him time to hone his game.

Evolve the offense: The Broncos used a few versions of the option offense. The team must spend the offseason marrying the option and a more traditional offense. Teams were catching up to the Broncos. In a 45-10 divisional playoff loss to New England, the Broncos had 14 negative plays. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was the most negative plays any NFL offense had this season. Denver was 1-4 in its last five games and Tebow’s production slid in the losses. The Broncos have to work to keep ahead of defenses. If Denver trots outs the same offense next season, it will be halted much like the Wildcat was in Miami.

Cut down on turnovers: Whether Tebow improves as a passer and whether Denver makes offensive adjustments, a Tebow-led offense won’t succeed with him turning over the ball. The Broncos won with Tebow when he displayed great ball security. They failed when he didn’t.

Tebow had 13 fumbles in his 11 starts (with six lost fumbles) in the regular season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Tebow led the NFL both in fumbles and fumbles lost over the final 11 weeks of the regular season. He has to learn to hold on to the ball better. Denver can’t go into another season with Tebow being so prone to losing the ball.

Find another running back: Willis McGahee, who turned 30 during the season, was one of the best free-agent signings in the NFL. He ran for 1,199 yards in the regular season and he made the Tebow-led offense go. This offense must be a run-first offense. The fact that Denver had the No. 1-ranked rushing offense in the NFL helped Tebow immensely. He’ll need more help. With McGahee aging, and dealing with several nicks this season, and 2009 No. 12 overall pick Knowshon Moreno coming off a major knee injury and not expected to be a major factor for Denver, the team must bring in another top running back to protect Tebow. Whether Denver signs a free agent such as Oakland’s Michael Bush in free agency or spends an early draft pick on a rusher like Miami’s Lamar Miller or Virginia Tech’s David Wilson, Denver needs to address this area.

Improve defense: The Denver defense made great strides in 2011 after being the worst defense in the NFL in 2010. Denver wouldn’t have made the playoffs in 2011 if it weren’t for the defense. Yet, it was crystal clear in Saturday's loss at New England that the Denver defense still has work to do. Tebow may have fourth-quarter magic, but he isn’t the type of player to overcome falling way behind early. Denver needs a few more impact players on defense to ensure it doesn’t get blown out in 2012.

Tebow needs to make his own improvement in 2012 to make Elway’s commitment to him work out, but the rest of the Denver roster needs to be improved to help Tebow as well.

Early draft look: Broncos

January, 16, 2012
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Now that the Denver Broncos have been eliminated from the playoffs, it’s time to look ahead. Let’s take an early look at the Broncos’ draft needs:

Expected drafting spot: 25

Top draft needs: Cornerback, running back, safety, defensive line, quarterback.

Possible first-round picks: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska; Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State; Devon Still, DT, Penn State; Lamar Miller, RB, Miami.

Intangibles: Doesn’t everything start with Tim Tebow in Denver? The draft might not be any different. The Broncos are expected to roll with Tebow as their starter in 2012, but they could always throw a curveball and take a quarterback early. The more likely scenario is Denver will build its offense around Tebow. That means it could add another running back early. A Tebow-led offense must start with the ground game. A running back could be the team’s first choice even though Denver has some needs on defense.

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