Denver Broncos March Scouting Report
"What we’ve got to do, I believe, is let’s go out there and evaluate this team, find out where we need help. Make some good choices for the future, not just for today, if I’m making sense. I’m not looking to go 4-12 or 5-11, thinking that we’re rebuilding. But we must realize that two years from now, three years, that what we did in the 2019 season was why we are at that point." (Vic Fangio)
Unfortunately, it looks like the rebuild-a-phobe, John Elway and the old guard Broncos are going to control the 2019 draft. A repeat of their 2018 draft would be good, but anything less would be a disaster. The Broncos will have the second-hardest strength of schedule for 2019. Their 2019 opponents had combined records of 136-117-3 in 2018, and a win percentage of .537. HC Vic Fangio is counting on veterans Emmanuel Sanders, Chris Harris Jr. and Derek Wolfe to excel in 2019. "I think the Broncos are a team that has been in transition from when they won the Super Bowl in '15 to the stage where they're at now," Fangio said. "We just need to get it back to the tradition of playing much better." "Getting better," Fangio said. "It’s a process." "We’ve got to make our current players better. That’s job No. 1 for us," Fangio said. "No matter how you look at it, our final 53 is going to probably be made up of 30-some players on the roster now. We better get them better. That’s Job No. 1 … If we can do that, we’re on the right track, and now (if) we add a couple players in free agency and/or the draft, then we’ve got a chance."
Coaching Staff (teachers)
Head Coach: Vic Fangio "I look forward to coaching the low-drafted, undrafted young men."
There has been no word on if DeMarcus Ware will return in 2019 as a part-time assistant pass rush coach. Ware is considering UN-retiring.
Offense It seems counter intuitive to build an offense around the running game in the year 2019. The offense will be play-action and run-heavy with motion and spread concepts. Fangio likes the offensive system.
"They do (it does) a good job of marrying the run game with the play-action game and it can create conflict to the defense,’’ Fangio said. "Which is a good place to start. If you can run the ball effectively, the play-action pass offers a great opportunity to get the big chunk plays. And that’s where the games are won and lost: Can you get the 20, 25-or-more yard plays consistently throughout the season.’’
It (offense) will revolve around Flacco and protecting Flacco will be the number one priority. The Broncos already have two young backs for this approach. Lindsay has exceptional speed and burst and Freeman has the ability to really grind a defense with his yards after initial contact. While we could see Denver take a offensive tackle in Round 1 and a offensive interior lineman on Day 2, OL Coach Mike Munchak and the 2018 offensive line would work--especially with Munchak coaching up LT Garett Bolles. Scangarello’s offense needs to start fast and get over 2018’s red zone and third down ineptitude. "Philosophically, my roots have always been in the zone-run system that Kyle Shanahan has run," Scangarello said. "... I see an offense that’s willing to take shots, that’s aggressive but is detailed in every way. That takes care of the football, that empowers its players to be the best that they can be by putting them in a position to be successful. I think our offense empowers the quarterback to have success and can adapt to his skill set." Elway has said he wants to see play-action in the Broncos’ offense and a quarterback willing to push the ball down the field.
"... It’s going to be very important for us to get some continuity on the offensive side," Elway said. "... we’re really going to concentrate on, getting some continuity. That’s what comes with the same system and finding the right guys." Fangio wants an offense that's difficult to defend and the run game, no matter the percentage of run-pass, is a part of that. "I’ve said I do believe in balance," Fangio said. "But that isn’t just run-pass. There are other things that are balanced -- do you throw it short, intermediate or deep? Do you run to all parts of the formation, mix schemes, play-action or movement passing game? I know what’s hard to defend and that’s what we want to do."
Defense HC Vic Fangio intends to get this defense back to the top of the league at stopping the pass "We could use help at all three levels, (Fangio). Fangio utilizes an aggressive Cover-2 scheme in his 3-4 hybrid scheme. No two 3-4 systems are alike and Fangio’s defense will be a lot different than the way the Broncos have played the last couple years. It will be more zone-oriented on first and second down with third down being more of a 50-50 mix. Fangio wants a swarming, great tackling defense. All the good ones are. He wants to create takeaways. Denver needs to do all of that to get to where it needs to be.
With the release of S Darian Stewart, the Broncos only have three starters from their Super Bowl defense left. In the 2015 season and 2016 playoffs, the team recorded 17 interceptions. Nine of those 17 came from members of the No Fly Zone. And during the 2016 season (post Super Bowl), the No Fly Zone accounted for 11 of the team’s 14 interceptions. The Denver Broncos aren’t entering free agency with unlimited funds, but they have more space than they had when they went on their spending spree back in 2014, and they are expected to be relatively aggressive in filling some needs right away. The Broncos need to do some significant work on the defense at: inside line backer (with coverage skills); cornerback (2); safety (at a bargain price); nose tackle (productive interior linemen); outside linebacker (pass rushing depth).
Combine The Broncos have more than their share of needs as they head to the NFL combine in Indianapolis. Often on Day 2 or Day 3, Elway has shown he will take a long look at a player coming off injuries if he thinks that player is a fit. Fangio knows the team can't limit itself to one template of player. "Corners come in all shapes and sizes," he said. "I think if you only want to draft or acquire certain types of players, there just aren't enough of them. You'd better just take any corner you can get that can play the game and cover regardless of size, speed, etc." Coverage is part of what Fangio needs at inside linebacker. "The inside linebacker position has changed," he said. "There's three wide receivers on the field more and more than there used to be. The game is played out in space more than it used to be, and the inside linebacker position has become a position with a lot more physical demands on it. "You need to find guys that can run and play athletic in the open field, cover some backs and tight ends, cover ground. The ILB position has become a much more demanding position, where the talent level has gone up." Fangio is looking for players that he would rather not game-plan against. The Broncos are meeting with a number of prospects at the Combine, but apparently not the top quarterback prospects-- misdirection? The Broncos are looking for a quarterback who can play under center, operate an offense effectively, and throw the ball downfield when needed (Jarrett Stidham/Auburn--?).
Combine Meetings Ben Banogu, DE/3-4OLB/OLB, TCU; Nate Davis, OT, Charlotte; Andre Dillard^, OT, Washington State; Noah Fant, TE, Iowa; Kingsley Keke, DT/3-4DE, Texas A&M; Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss; Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College; Bryce Love, RB, Stanford; Dax Raymond, TE, Utah State; Drew Sample, TE, Washington; Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford; Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M; Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn; Devin White, ILB, LSU; Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama; Andrew Wingard, S, Wyoming; Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State; Gardner Minshew, QB Washington State; Will Grier, QB West Virginia;
Free Agents (Negotiations can begin March 11).
The Denver Broncos have the fourth-largest "dead money" salary cap hit in the NFL this offseason After Flacco, but before any cuts, Denver has $19,091,954 of cap space. Elway likes to get ahead of the frenzy during legal tampering, two days before the market opens. C Matt Paradis and G/T Billy Turner are free agents. Paradis is likely to hit free agency, but the Broncos are in negotiations with Turner’s agent, as well as RT Jared Veldheer’s agent. Center becomes a huge issue if Paradis isn’t re-signed. Pittsburgh’s FA RT Marcus Gilbert is of interest if he is cut. Chicago’s SS Adrian Amos and CB Bryce Callahan are also on the Broncos’ radar, as is CB Ronald Darby (Phi). IMO, Denver needs to clear cap space with the signing of QB Joe Flacco if they are to upgrade their roster. Elway thinks he is positioned salary-cap wise to be able to help the team, but not everything he’d like to do. If so, that is because of the large number of young players entering their second year. WR Emmanuel Sanders (non-free agent) has no interest in restructuring his contract with Denver. The Broncos have informed free agent Domata Peko (35) that they will not re-sign him in the early portion of the free agent period. Denver is looking for a younger option than the above average run stopper. NT Johnathan Hankins (26) is an option. The Broncos will look at receiver, offensive line, nose tackle, cornerback and backup edge rusher in free agency. WR John Brown’s sickle cell trait makes him a risk for playing in Denver, but there seems to be mutual interest between Brown and the Broncos. Elway would like to keep QB Case Keenum, as his back up quarterback, but he will work with Keenum if he wants to be traded. Elway has stated that he would like TE Jeff Heuerman to return. The Broncos will not tender TE Matt LaCosse, TE Brian Parker, or WR Jordan "sunshine" Taylor. The Broncos are expected to tender defensive lineman Shelby Harris. Denver resigned Pro Bowl long snapper Casey Kreiter, S Dymonte Thomas, OLB Joe Jones, T Elijah Wilkinson.
Draft (No compensatory picks because the free agents they lost didn’t sign for a high enough average salary per year compared to the unrestricted free agents the Broncos brought in). The draft is a place where a team can transform a mediocre roster into one that is playoff caliber. With Flacco, Denver can take the best player available with their earlier picks and look to the 2020 draft for a better quarterback to groom. The Broncos need to target an impact player. The Broncos should consider trading down to gain an extra pick or two to help accelerate their rebuild, and still get a player that helps right away. Updated draft picks. Rd 1-#10; Rd 2-#41; Rd 3-#71 Rd 4-#125; Rd 5-#148 & #156; Rd 6-#182; Rd 7-#237. The Broncos will address cornerback, inside linebacker, tight end (blocker and good receiver) (under center) quarterback, backup edge rusher, offensive line and returner in the draft. Fangio believes the Broncos can select the best player available at their draft spot and fill a need. "We just don't want to do anything to jeopardize the immediate future of the team," he said. "You can be in a win-now mode without giving up future assets that are going to tie you up in two, three or four years." It becomes a matter of finding the best player. It starts with an open-minded approach. At all positions -- on offense or defense -- Fangio is looking not only for the types of players with whom he can win, but those that he would rather not game-plan against. D-tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence are highly valued for their interior pressure. The deepest position groups in the draft are all areas of need for the Broncos: offensive linemen, tight ends and defensive linemen. Running backs and safeties are not deep.
Transactions Denver gave up a mid-round (4th) draft pick for QB Joe Flacco; declined to exercise ILB Brandon Marshall’s contract option; will exercise WR Emmanuel Sanders and DE Derek Wolfe team options; G Ron Leary will return; released S Darian Stewart; Traded QB Case Keenum to Washington. Keenum is getting a $500,000 "restructure bonus" plus his $7 million salary, half to be paid by the Broncos. Washington gets Denver’s 2020 seventh round pick and gives Denver their 2020 sixth round pick. Denver re-signed WR Tim Patrick to a one-year, $570K contract. The Broncos tendered NT Shelby Harris with a second round tender. DE Derek Wolfe’s 2019 option was picked up by Denver.
Orangeman’s Take Denver might be a team that can win a lot of close games if Flacco stays healthy, the running game is good and the defense is better. Flacco is a player that can operate the offense and excel in a favorable situation. He is not spectacular, but he fits the offense and has credibility because of his playoff experience and success in the NFL. Flacco plays better in the postseason than the regular season and if he doesn’t work out this season, Denver can move on without owing him any money. A draft process requires patience which Elway and Broncos fans aren’t. The Broncos have pressing needs on the offensive line, at cornerback, and linebacker. if Emmanuel Sanders and Joe Flacco don’t perform then wide receiver and quarterback are a problem. Upgrading the defense is the quickest way to improve the Broncos.
Fantasy Outlook Flacco could conceivably be in a situation where he proves he is not quite done yet. When he has viable deep threats, he leans on them; otherwise, it’s a lot of tight ends and running backs. Sutton’s big-play ability should show up and the offense should be better with a young pair of potential stud running backs (Lindsay and Freeman) and a young deep threat (Sutton). WR Emmanuel Sanders should be able to reclaim fantasy WR2 status. WR DeaSean Hamilton is capable of becoming a fantasy WR3. Flacco has gone from poor pass-catchers in Baltimore to three quality wide receivers in Denver plus resigned WR Tim Patrick. The Broncos DST will benefit most from Fangio’s experience, but needs help in the draft and free agency to become a dominant defense. K Brandon McManus remains a mid-pack kicker unless there is a major up-tick in the offense’s production.
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