Broncos Mailbag: Osweiler, RBs and ILBs
When Manning leaves, this team will struggle. That’s all there is to it. No one is going to be able to step in immediately and perform at the level he does. You just can’t expect that.
Brock Osweiler or Zac Dysert, the other two QBs on the roster, could undoubtedly develop into the next starting QB. But they are young, untested and unproven.
Should the Broncos look to free agency? Well, recently, any QB in the league who is even slightly above average has been locked up to massive contract deals as soon as or before they hit free agency (to wit Joe Flacco, Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford). The Broncos will not be able to find their QB of the future in free agency, unless you are willing to put up with the McCowns and Vicks of the world.
So what does that leave us with? Develop a young QB on the roster (or select a QB in the draft and develop him too) or wait until Manning retires and hope to find a good QB high in the draft, none of which are entirely appealing to me.
Or we could invest in robotics and make Manning into an immortal robot football god.
If the right deal presents itself? Absolutely.
Osweiler is the Ryan Mallett in town, a young QB behind an all-time great who’s thrown maybe a handful of passes in the league but somehow always manages to come up in discussions of a trade to a QB-needy team. The truth is, Osweiler likely won’t see the field for the Broncos for several years, depending on when Manning retires. The Broncos are mortgaging some of their future to be able to fully attack the now. They have a limited window to win the Super Bowl and they’ll take every shot at that that they can.
This is a deep draft, too. If the Broncos are offered a third-round pick or better for Osweiler, then he’s gone. And I’m sure they’d think hard about a fourth rounder. They need players on this roster who can make solid contributions in the present and aren’t exactly thinking about the future. They want to win now.
The Broncos depth chart currently has Montee Ball as the starter and C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman as the backups/change of pace players. It’s not a question of “if” so much as “when.”
The Broncos need to go defense early and often, and so I think that they’ll start looking at RBs in the third round, if no top players fall. This is a weak class overall at running back, but I do have some favorites.
Carlos Hyde, Ohio State: Second Round
Hyde is a bruising runner with good agility and speed. He also possesses strength enough to land him in the top 15 RBs for bench presses at the combine. Hyde reminds me a lot of 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy. He would immediately become a powerful weapon in the Manning offense. Of course, it is unlikely he falls to the Broncos at 63 and, if so, they may overlook him for pressing needs at other positions.
Andre Williams, Boston College: Fourth Round
Williams is a north-south runner who fights for every yard and seemingly always falls forward. Woe betide you if you get in his way with a head of steam, because he will make you pay. His speed is middle of the pack, with a 4.54 Pro Day 40 yard dash, but his balance is excellent and he posted excellent combine numbers: a top 4 vertical jump of 38.0, a top 3 broad jump of 10’9”, a top 2 20 yard shuttle of 4.06 and a top 3 60 yard shuttle of 11.62.
He is weak still at blocking and receiving, but at running he is among the most talented in the draft, with the physical athleticism to make you pay.
[StormJohnson], Central Florida: Fifth-Sixth Round
Johnson undoubtedly benefited from playing next to possible #1 pick Blake Bortles at UCF. But don’t ignore the skills that Johnson brings to the table. He has great instincts as a runner and manages to find the open holes in the defense. Constantly moving his feet and looking for extra yardage, runs with an effective forward lean. Storm is hard to bring down and requires more than just an arm. Also solid at receiving out of the backfield.
Johnson is more of your one-cut breakaway runner. Don’t expect him to dance around in the backfield, he’ll pick one hole and hit it with everything he’s got.
I firmly believe that it won’t be anyone currently on the roster. The two immediate choices just won’t be that guy. Nate Irving has developed well at strongside linebacker and Steven Johnson has had a small amount of snaps in two years despite being given every opportunity to win the job.
No, the Broncos will look to the draft to find their starting ILB. If Alabama stud C.J. Mosley drops to 31 (as he has in some drafts recently), they won’t hesitate to select him. Ohio State product Ryan Shazier could also be their first-round pick and be transitioned inside, an idea which I very much like. Shazier fits the John Fox model of smaller, faster linebackers who can make plays behind bigger defensive tackles in front.
Second-to-third round selections could include Shayne Skov, Chris Borland or Yawin Smallwood, any one of whom could be drafted and developed into the Day 1 starter. There are options in the draft. I just don’t think it will be a current Bronco who wins the spot.
This isn’t easy. Broncos fans, I will tell you right now, get used to seeing some of your favorite players leave the team. If you thought this year was bad, the future will be worse.
The Broncos just won’t have enough cap room to re-sign players like Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Von Miller, Chris Harris, Orlando Franklin and Terrance Knighton. Teams in the NFL dream of having that much talent on a roster at one time, but there’s no way to re-sign ALL of them.
The Broncos have already done a good job of managing the cap hits of free agent signings T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib, Demarcus Ware and Emmanuel Sanders. They have done an excellent job of keeping those reasonable and not letting them tank the cap room.
How do they do it? Team friendly deals and Peyton Manning. It’s simple. Guys will take less to play with Peyton Manning.
The reason that Julius Thomas’ name is even in the conversation is Peyton Manning. This time last season, he was an unknown, a perennially injured player. Sure, he had talent, but so what? Plenty of guys in the league have talent but can’t stay healthy. They’re a dime a dozen. And then Peyton went and turned him into a superstar overnight.
If the Broncos can re-sign those players to team-friendly deals with reasonable cap hits with a little help from Peyton Manning, consider that a huge win.
Lucas Polglaze is a Broncos Team Journalist for Pro Football Spot and is the AFC West Divisional Manager. Find him on Google +, Twitter, and Facebook.
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