Dear Mr. Shanahan

Denver Broncos LogoThe annual NFL draft approaches, sir, and the Denver Broncos organization appears to stand at a crossroads. You’ve made some excellent choices over the years — especially in that awesome 2006 draft — yet you’ve also left some of us fans bewildered at times. Oh, I won’t blame you for drafting Maurice Clarett in 2005. That was high-risk, high-reward, and by negotiating a brilliant contact it didn’t cost nearly so much as those kind of gambles often do. And while I’m not sold on 2007 first-round pick Jarvis Moss (especially trading up to get him, when so many solid safeties — Nelson, Weddle, Griffin, Meriweather — were still on the board), I suppose we can give that pick a pass for another year.

No, I’m thinking more about the late rounds. Like last year, for instance. When all was said and done you’d traded away all our late picks, so we had nothing — nada, bupkiss, zilch — in the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds (in addition to this year’s third!). I’m obviously no general manager (and you’d have fired me by now if I was), but I can’t imagine that it takes a whopper of a deal to get back into the late rounds, especially when there were players still on the board that the team very much could have used. Mason Crosby, for instance. You knew Jason Elam’s contract was going to be up, so why not plan ahead for that eventuality? Middle of the sixth round was all that was needed. Early in the sixth round would have netted John Wendling, a potential John Lynch clone — needed especially since Lynch will go the way of Elam soon enough, and you hadn’t drafted one of the standout safeties in round one. And then there’s Brandon Siler. A solid inside linebacker. Graded much higher but sitting there in the end, slipping somehow into the seventh and final round. I positively shouted at my computer, hoping that you’d hear me and do something to jump into a mid-round slot to pick him up — our linebacking corps was plainly in need of some youth outside of D.J. Williams — yet you apparently didn’t hear me. Worse still, the San Diego Chargers apparently did. Damnitall.

So instead I’m thinking ahead this year. I’m writing this so I won’t have to yell it later. Yes, I have a wishlist of draft picks for those precious early rounds, but I’m not going to go into those here. It’s silly to ponder about things like picking Ryan Clady or Brandon Albert anyway, since everything changes — and every mock draft goes out the window as a result — as soon as the clock starts on draft day. (That said, I’d love to see you toss picks 12 and 42 to Dallas for 22, 28, and 61, and Jordy Nelson sure looks solid!) No, no, I’m writing about those late round picks. The thing is, you shouldn’t give them away. Indeed, you should try to get more however you can. And with whatever late-round picks you have, please consider these two names:

Danny Woodhead, RB, Chadron State. The all-time leading rusher in college football (and a B+ average as a Math Ed. student!). Yes, we know he was running for a podunkish college against not-exactly-SEC opponents, but beating Barry Sanders is still impressive stuff. And the competition level cuts both ways: it’s not like he had an SEC-type offensive line protecting him, or strength conditioning, or game planning. Nope, those games were pretty much the guys on defense vs. Woodhead. And he ran for, um, a lot of yards. You can look it up, I’m sure. But even that is not why I want you to draft him. Unless by some miracle you pick up Dexter Jackson from HappyAppy with, say, the 108th pick, the Broncos need a returner. Remember that Hester guy from Chicago? Or Hall from Kansas City? Like Woodhead, they’re not big guys (Woodhead is 5’8″ in thick socks), but they’re crazy fast (Woodhead had a 4.33 40 time) with good vision and elusive moves (oh, hell, I’ll look it up for you: 7,871 yards on the ground alone during his college career, an average of 183 per game). So draft him to return kicks. And if he happens to do something in the backfield, too, consider it a nice bonus. (Barry Sanders, by the way, was the same height and weight.)

Shane Simmons, ILB, Western Washington. I know, Niko is supposed to be the man in the middle. But what if he flops, or gets hurt? What then? Well, how about this: a guy with good height and ideal weight for the inside position, plus utterly terrific speed (a 4.58 40). He’s a great tackler (needed someone like that last year, eh?) and a bona fide team leader. That’s good stuff, sir. You missed on getting a solid backup ILB in Siler last year. Don’t miss again.

I could list other folks here (like Drew Radovich, OG, USC), or toss off some more advice for the organization as a whole (like signing Greg Eslinger off Houston’s practice squad), but I don’t want to be a bother.

So good luck. And go Broncos.

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