Denver Broncos April Scouting Report
No team wants to be big players in free agency because that means they don't draft well or don’t do well keeping players. Teams that appear to 'win' free agency rarely do well when it comes to the NFL season.
Denver’s veteran-heavy defense (value in free agency) is in need of an infusion of youth through the draft and an influx of cheap, capable depth. Paton signed two starting caliber cornerbacks for the defense which must emphasize creating turnovers in 2021. It's of key importance for the Broncos to have a sensible approach to free agency, one that fills major roster needs before heading into the draft, without breaking the bank. The Broncos locked up three young players with ERFA-Tenders: Calvin Anderson, Trey Marshall, & Diontae Spencer. Free agency to do list: S Justin Simmons (resigned 4 yrs); Von Miller, (back $7M option)); Shelby Harris (resigned 3 yrs); restricted free agents Tim Patrick (2nd rd tender), and Alexander Johnson (2nd rd tender). Signed RB Mike Boone (special teams gunner). The Broncos used the legal negotiating period to sign 27-year old CB Ronald Darby (CB 2) and declined S Kareem Jackson’s option before resigning him.. Signed veteran CB Kyle Fuller.
Still to do:
1. Quarterback Room: Every team has problems drafting and identifying their franchise signal-caller and they don’t give a quarterback as long to groom and show his worth as in the past. The installation of the historically difficult West Coast Offense has caused teams across the league to "dummy down" playbooks to help get their young quarterbacks on the field sooner to gain experience and grow in confidence. Year three is when teams expect to get their money’s worth from draft picks. It’s year three for Lock and a veteran backup could push Lock, as well as helping him with the West Coast offense. Lock was more successful in Rich Scangarello’s (Shananan’s) West Coast offense than Shurmur’s because it required less of its quarterback. Finally having a second consecutive season in the same offense and with the same coaches should help Lock to improve. Quarterback is the position on the field where continuity is needed the most, but quarterbacks also need continuity in offense and coaching.
2. Cornerback Room: The days of the cover cornerback are over because the game is so spread out. Cornerbacks have to be able to tackle in space. Fangio needs depth for his cornerback room.
3. Safety: Two-high coverages, especially quarters-type coverages, are probably the best way to defend today’s passing game. Fangio has a seasoned veteran (Jackson) to pair and interchange with S Justin Simmons, but he still needs depth. DRAFT GM George Paton can turn the Broncos around by being aggressive (but smart) in free agency, in the trade market, in the draft, and on the field. Objective met in free agency. Paton believes you build a roster by drafting and developing quality players to build a roster that has as much depth as possible. He has picks 9, 40, 71, 105, 136, 167, 201, 203, 218 to work with in this years draft. I believe if the Broncos can find a suitable trade partner to move down from pick 9 overall, Paton will jump at the opportunity. Paton is on the cutting edge using analytics (Fangio doesn’t trust them) to drive his decisions and gain a strong competitive advantage. Accumulating more picks would give Paton more picks in another unpredictable season and allow him to build his roster depth (like his mentor, Rick Speilman). Paton needs to build roster depth at cornerback, strong safety, and swing offensive tackle. The Broncos are more than one player away from contending and picks 15-40 are rich in talent. However, if someone too talented to not select is there at pick 9, it would be hard to not take Penei Sewell, Kyle Pitts, or Caleb Farley since the 49ers traded up to pick number three. However, Atlanta (4) is "open" to moving out of the fourth spot. When you get to the 5th-7th rounds, the talent level isn’t all that different from that of the undrafted free agents, so you look for guys that fit your system.
Under the radar options:
WRs as depth with bigger role upside: Anthony Schwartz, Auburn; Frank Darby, Arizona State; Cornell Powell, Clemson. Safety: Caden Sterns, Texas; Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State; Reed Blakenship, Middle Tennessee. CBs (Fangio’s scheme): Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse; Greg Newsome III, Northwestern; Elijah Molden, Washington. Scheme versatile Safeties: Tyree Gillespie, Missouri; Andre Cisco, Syracuse; Trevon Moehrig, TCU. RBs: Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana; CJ Marable, Coastal Carolina; Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State. Small school running back is the only small school position that is constantly successful and worth drafting. Inside linebackers (coverage): Baron Browning, Ohio State; Anthony Hines III, Texas A&M; Cameron McGrone, Michigan. OTs: Adrian Ealy, Oklahoma; Cole Van Lanen, Wisconsin; Cordell Volson, North Dakota State. QBs: Peyton Ramsey, Northwestern; Brady White, Memphis; Davis Mills, Stanford; Kellen Mond, Texas A&M. Power Five quarterbacks have the best chance for success. Potential Draft Targets: IDL Osa Odighizuwa; Edge Joseph Ossai; LB Jamin Davis; CB Caleb Farley; S Christian Uphoff. Paton is on record as saying the Broncos will take the best player on their board who can help the team-regardless of position. Local Prospects: Mustafa Johnson | DE | Colorado Buffaloes; Warren Jackson | WR | Colorado State; Nate Landman | ILB | Colorado Buffaloes
Agreed to contract restructures with starting DT Mike Purcell and K Brandon McManus. Re-signed S Kareem Jackson. Released TE Nick Vannett. Signed DT Shamar Stephen.
Paton has gotten the off season going in excellent fashion. True to his roots, he invested in the defense in free agency (holes) and is free to do whatever he wants in the draft (historically, offense). He also took care of some housekeeping when he gave out RFA and ERFA tenders to starters and backups on both sides of the ball. Going forward, he needs depth at safety and his thorniest issue, quarterback, became thornier with the 49ers trading up to pick number three. The pressure is on Lock to be a top 10-15 quarterback (on his rookie contract) for Denver to be contenders. Paton has eliminated the majority of Denver’s ‘pressing’ needs in the first week of free agency and he could bring back other in house free agents at the right price. Paton looks to have set himself up to trade down unless one of his preferred targets fell to him at #9. The thinking for draft picks, is quantity over quality. Trading up to get a particular player is not as effective as trading down to have more chances to find a player who becomes a success. Looking at the draft, Paton has the flexibility to pick the best player available regardless of position. Deshaun Watson is persona non grata, but if Paton had the draft capital to trade for Watson, he could have the draft capital to move up if quarterback is his target. Paton has the flexibility to go a number of ways in the draft as Denver now has one of the more complete rosters in the NFL (quarterback excepted). Paton could 1) trade up if the quarterback he "loves" is there. 2) Stay at nine and draft an elite player. 3) Trade down for "value picks" to rebuild the aging defense that has a plethora of one-year deal players. If you trust Paton, based on free agency, you should trust that he knows what he's doing. Other than quarterbacks (Wilson, Lance and Fields), Paton has seen the pro-days of some other sure fire first-round picks: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame; Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina; Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State; Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State.
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