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Denver Broncos June Scouting Report
Charles Rives
6/7/2020

Every team evaluates individual players differently and must decide at what point a player is worth coming off the board. By and large, a team built on depth is better than a team built on stars and scrubs.

 

In modern football you need to be particularly good at something, and to be good at something you have to commit to that something.

 

In 2019, 46% of all offensive play calls came from 11 personnel (3-WR sets). To combat this trend, coordinators are taking defensive linemen and linebackers off the field for defensive backs at a higher rate than before. If a player doesn't bring something to impact the passing game, their value will be limited in today's NFL. It's either adapt or die in the NFL. What's important today is wide receiver depth and receiving speed.

 

The Broncos had a clear plan of attack with the 2020 draft: get QB Drew Lock help on offense. WR Jerry Jeudy gives them the top wide receiver in the draft. He is a true No. 1 option in the passing game, joining Courtland Sutton, who also is a No. 1 option. WR K.J. Hamler is a dynamic slot weapon with game-breaking speed. Fangio has talked in the past about looking for offensive players in the draft that he would hate to have to plan a defense against, and Hamler fits that description quite well. TE Albert Okwuebunam (4.49) adds even more speed. Denver has absolutely committed to getting younger and more explosive on offense. Their roster is constructed to contend if Lock is up to the task. Royce Freeman, Isaac Yiadom, Josey Jewell, and DaeSean Hamilton have contributed very little on the field. Denver has improved by pairing instant impact/high floor players (Jeudy and Cushenberry) with boom-or-bust players (Hamler and Netane Muti). Everyone looks at Denver as trying to supplant KC. The path they have followed is the KC blueprint: first, they hired an offensive coordinator (Pat Shurmer) from Andy Reid's coaching tree, followed by drafting skill position players “like” KC's.

 

Offense

 

Denver's offense will be better (consistency) this season because of the hiring of Shurmer (and Shula) and adding top-tier talent at wide receiver with their first two draft picks (Jeudy and K.J. Hamler) to Lock's favorite target, Courtland Sutton, one of the best young rising stars in the NFL. With TE Noah Fant and Lock's favorite target from college, TE Albert Okwuegbunam, Lock should be quite effective. Lock is a charismatic leader with a big arm to challenge tight windows anywhere on the field while keeping plays alive with his feet with his eyes downfield. Expect the Broncos to be more aggressive offensively with Lock the primary benefactor. Shurmer prefers an up-tempo, pass-heavy offense (Chip Kelly influence), but he's adaptable when the circumstances warrant it. Denver faces a lot of tough defenses through mid-October, but the passing game, will be “pick-your-poison” proposition for defenses with the Pro Bowl tandem of RB Phillip Lindsay and RB Melvin Gordon. The Saints attack the underneath areas of the field (not 20+) by understanding weaknesses, and how to exploit them by consistently targeting the open receiver (checkdown). Shurmur's offense is built around speed, space, and balance—catch and run plays, yards after catch, balance between the running game and the passing game, and getting the ball to skill players (likes to scheme touches to the RBs)- so they can make yards with it. KC's QB throws quicker (no more than two seconds after the snap), shorter passes to neutralize the pass rush and limit the chances for turnovers. KC's Passing Game: quick reads for QB to get the ball out quickly and it also caters to the size/leverage of the wide receiver(s). Running back(s) impact the passing game from a variety of backfield alignments, or sent out wide as a receiver. KC's route concepts: 1) Spacing: align (or motion to) a bunch look to run the spacing concept. 2) Backside Slant: (flat, quick out) a quick two-level read 3) Hi-Lo Series: (Hi-Lo, Hi-Lo crossers, Hi-Lo opposite, Hi-Lo triple-in) usually run from stack alignments. Two-level read for QB in the middle of the field. 4) All Slants: third & long.2x2 alignments. Three-step read for QB. Target the inside slants or the flat 5) Slant/Skinny Post-Flat: Use because of the No. 1 receiver's ability to create leverage back inside of the numbers. Building a supporting offense for Lock: 1) K.J. Hamler (Tyreek Hill) and Melvin Gordon (Damien Williams), Courtland Sutton/Jerry Jeudy (Sammy Watkins/Demarcus Robinson) and Noah Fant (Travis Kelce). 2) The line needs to be better, but the interior is improved. 3) Fant in-line tight end. Okwuegbunam a 'big slot' role. 4) formations and motions that stretch the field horizontally 5) Hamler is a jet-sweep runner. 6) Gordon can get down the field on the seam route. 7) Fant and Hamler can be moved-around: up tight, out wide, in the slot and in the backfield. 8) Four verticals concept, that includes a jet sweep fake. 9) run-pass options and jet sweeps with traditional West Coast concepts. 10)Shurmur's system prioritizes chunk plays (20+) in the passing game (top 5).

 

Defense

 

The defense will define the 2020 season. Defenses are more depth-dependent than star-dependent. 'Studs' are nice, but being solid across the entire back-end provides the most value. Fangio is a detail- oriented coach in teaching and tactics. If players are also, it will pay dividends for the Broncos. Fangio's defensive line is critical for his defense. The defensive linemen must be versatile, able to play all three downs and rush the passer. The 3 Technique defensive tackle is the defense's premier interior pass rusher and relys on power, speed and quickness. Aligned on the outside shoulder of the guard (B-gap), he is responsible for controlling and/or penetrating the gap (one-gap). The defense relies on the interior defensive linemen to create one-on-one situations for the edge rushers. The interior pass rush gets more important every year. Denver's Jurrell Casey is a versatile, penetrating interior linemen and a durable, forceful run-stuffer. The pass rush shouldn't need more than five players to put pressure on the quarterback. Fangio's defense needs above-average coverage skills at most, if not all, of the linebacker/defensive back position. They must have speed and be able to cover (not scheme dependent) and tackle. The ability to wear many hats is essential for any safety playing under Fangio. The #3 safety plays a lot. A Fangio safety must be able to come down and provide better run support than a typical cornerback but also be much better in coverage than a typical linebacker. This safety is key against the 11-personnel package, providing coverage while still being physical against the run. During the NFL Combine, Fangio said that the Broncos may try to negate the passing spread of today's NFL by using more 6-DB sets in 2020.

 

Special Teams

 

PK Brandon McManus, P Sam Martin, and LS Jacob Bobenmoyer will be joined by a return man. WR Diontae Spencer is presently the top dog, but will be challenged by hungry players trying to make the 53-man roster. Special Teams Coordinator Tom McMahon, likes directional punting in his scheme, which Martin has done his whole career. He's always thrived on my directional punting. Martin also prides himself on his hang time as well as directional punting. It makes sense for teams to actually fake more often than they currently do, but there is no indication Denver will move in that direction. PK Brandon McManus is the million (3) dollar man. He is a solid, but not spectacular veteran. Returning return man, WR Diontae Spencer is a strong all-around return man. He needs to be an asset in the passing game to keep his roster spot.

 

Transactions Declined the 5th-year option on OT Garett Bolles; Waived OT Ka'John Armstrong;

 

Supplementary Draft

 

With so much uncertainty about football season (NFL and college), many are expecting a large number of underclassmen who returned to school to apply for eligibility in the supplemental draft (July). If so, potential targets/fits for the Broncos include: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State; Alex Leatherwood, OL, Alabama; Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson; Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State; Marquez Stevenson, WR, Houston; Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame; Walker Little, OL, Stanford; Trey Smith, OL, Tennessee; Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State; Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama.

 

2021 Draft

 

2 CBs, 2 OTs, S, Edge, DL, RB

Free agent tackles (2021) to consider: Taylor Decker of Detroit, Alejandro Villanueva of Pittsburgh, David Bakhtiari of Green Bay (likely to be franchise tagged), Ronnie Stanley of Baltimore, Trent Williams of San Francisco, and others who could be released.

 

Orangeman's Projected Roster (with so much uncertainty it favors experience).

 

Quarterbacks: Drew Lock, Jeff Driskel

 

Running Backs: Phillip Lindsay, Melvin Gordon, Royce Freeman

Wide Receivers Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Tim Patrick, Diontae Spencer. Tyrie Cleveland

 

Tight Ends: Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, Nick Vannett, Andrew Beck

 

Offensive Line: Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Graham Glasgow, Ja'Wuan James, Elijah Wilkinson, Netane Muti, Patrick Morris, Austin Schlottmann

 

Defensive Line: Jurrell Casey, Mike Purcell, Shelby Harris, Dre'Mont Jones, McTelvin Agim (decent year one in rotational role), Christian Covington

 

Linebackers: Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Jeremiah Attaochu, Joe Joseph, Malik Reed Justin Hollins, Todd Davis, Alexander Johnson, Justin Strnad

 

Defensive Backs: A.J. Bouye (#1), Bryce Callahan (slot), De'Vante Bausby, Michael Ojemudia (#2), Essang Bassey, Douglas Coleman III, Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson,

 

Special Teams: Brandon McManus (PK), Sam Martin (P), Jacob Bobenmoyer (LS)

 

Practice Squad: RB Levante Bellamy, RB Khalfani Muhammad, WR Zimari Manning, WR Trinity Benson, WR Juwann Winfree, OL Hunter Watts, OT Jake Rodgers, LB Derrek Tuszka, LB Josh Watson, DB Alijah Holder, DB Shakail Taylor

 

Orangeman's Take

 

In the spread passing game, speed kills. In the AFC West, if you can't stop Mahomes, then you better out score him. OC Pat Shurmur's scheme is being constructed with the intention of outscoring opponents with vertically, creativity and aggressiveness down the field with KC type of plays. Shurmer prefers 11 personnel (three or more wide receivers) with explosive field-stretching talent (base NFL offense). Defenses usually matches up with an equal number of defensive backs, which limits the number of linebackers on the field and in the box (base NFL defense: nickel). It is usually best to pass in the NFL, but when you do run, running the ball outside is the most efficient because there are more blockers than defenders (or space). Run play results favor motion at the snap over run plays without motion. Shotgun runs go for more yards on average compared to under center runs, especially in short-yardage situations (one-yard better on average). In 2019, KC ran outside 56%, Denver 29%; In 2019, KC ran shotgun runs 56%, Denver 29%. Lock had a good, not great, rookie campaign and his individual performance, left a lot to be desired. However, he is a student of the game and his performance is a reason for optimism. Lock will go through issues you'd expect of a young quarterback, but he has the mental aptitude to win before the snap and the natural ability to see the field after the ball is snapped. He has the ability to carve up defenses when he's given time and the athleticism to create off-script. The Pro-Bowl backfield will help Lock, but neither Gordon nor Lindsay can carry the ball 250 times. Both should have limits in order to maximize their production.

 

Fantasy Draft Outlook

 

No international games for 2020 season; SOS 12th hardest; Vegas Odds 5th hardest.

 

Plan to open training camp on July 28 or 29.

 

QB Drew Lock-2020 addition; Waiver wire (sleeper).

 

Avoid this RBBC backfield?

 

RB Melvin Gordon-RB2.

 

RB Phillip Lindsay-RB3.

 

WR Courtland Sutton solid WR2/border line WR1.

 

WR Jerry Jeudy WR3 with upside.

 

WR K.J. Hamler -Flex PPR (explosive deep threat).

 

TE Noah Fant -Sleeper with upside.

 

TE Albert Okwuegbunam -red-zone target/TD vulture .

 

PK Brandon McManus- serviceable back up with top 10 upside.

 

DST–DST3 -with strong all-around return man.

 

More to come next month!

 

End.

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