NFL Draft 2009: Day One

It’s no secret I’m a big Broncos fan — I probably ought to not post anything on the 7th every month just to honor The Man — so the NFL draft  is always a bit exciting for me. 

This year, with the regime change from Shanahan to McDaniels and all the tumult that has followed in its wake, I was especially interested to see how things would go.

Well, Day One is in the books.  I was grading all day and night, but I kept a window open to check the results coming in, and I’ve now had a good sleep to let it all digest.  The latter was extremely important, I think, since I was, well, a bit shocked about those results.

Going into the draft, I had the Broncos’ top-10 needs listed out as something like this:

  1. NT
  2. NT
  3. NT
  4. NT
  5. NT
  6. DE
  7. S
  8. CB
  9. RB
  10. ILB 

That’s actually not quite accurate.  NT really ought to be needs 1-9 on any 10-item list.  The thing is, the new regime is moving our defense from a 4-3 set (4 linemen and 3 linebackers) to a 3-4 set (3 linemen and 4 linebackers).  I applaud this move.  It provides far more flexibility and unpredictability — plus, as a bonus, it originated in Denver back in the old Orange Crush days.  So all that’s good.  

What’s bad, obviously, is that the 3-4 needs different personnel than the 4-3.  While most of the pundits make a big deal about the outside linebacker position in the 3-4, there is no more important player to the system (I think) than a nose-tackle.  That man must be a mountain, bigger and stronger and stouter than the beef inside the traditional 4-3.  On nearly every defensive snap he will likely take on at least 2 300-pound offensive linemen and must hold his ground.  600+ pounds will crash into him, play after play, and he must not be moved.

That’s the minimum.  For the 3-4 defense to really fly, the NT not only must not go backwards, he must meet that incoming train wreck with his head held high and … wait for it … push it back.  

There are not many human beings cut out for this work, frankly.

The Broncos missed out on what most folks considered the best NT prospect in the draft, B.J. Raji, when he went to the Packers at #9.  There were some great 3-4 DEs on the board 3 picks later, but the Broncos also picked at #18, where they could surely still get one of them.  So I fully expected the Broncos to trade back in the draft, picking up more picks.

Not so.  They picked a running back.

Okay.  Not what I would have done, but I don’t run the team.  And I can’t quibble too much with the pick.  Knowshon Moreno was an extraordinary talent in college and by all accounts is very much a team-oriented, high-character fellow.  I’m not sold on “franchise running backs” in today’s NFL, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong.  Besides, a good running game will help keep the defense (the Broncos’ overwhelming weakness) off the field.

Fair enough.

Pick #18, a 3-4 DE, who might just be a steal.  Excellent.  Kudos to the draft team.  I’m feeling good.

What’s this?  We traded up for another pick in the 2nd round?  We gave someone our 1st-round draft pick next year — I hate to say it, but it’s likely to be a high one — for a 2nd-rounder this year?  Egads!  Who on earth could we be after?  Ah, I think.  The NT.  The big fella.  By most every account, the 2nd best NT prospect after Raji was Ron Brace, who is still on the board.  Big price to pay for him, I suppose, but his is also the most important position to fill in this new 3-4 system. 

Only… they didn’t pick Brace.  They picked a CB who is smaller than me.

I’ll admit that size isn’t everything, but you can’t make butter with a toothpick, if you know what I mean.  Is this guy really a top-10 talent?  He better be, because that’s what the Broncos may have just given up for him.  From this point on, I began to sweat.

Brace goes to the Patriots a few picks after our new CB.  Damnitall.  Finally our original 2nd-round pick rolls around, and the Broncos net … a safety I’ve never heard of?  What the heck?

I’m between papers, finally trying to learn about this safety we’ve picked up — turns out most folks had him pinned for a 3rd-rounder at best — when the Broncos trade again!  This time McXanders gives both our 3rd-round picks to the Steelers (my second favorite team, thank goodness) for the last pick in the 2nd round and a very late 4th-rounder.  Hardly an even trade, to say the least.  And then — then! — the Broncos use that 2nd-round pick to draft a tight end who is so lowly rated that many folks, including the tight end himself, did not expect him to be drafted at all.  The NFL draft, you’ll note, is 7 rounds long.

Sigh.

I’ve no idea what to think right now.  Granted, the draft is a crapshoot at best, so no one — despite claims to the contrary in the media — knows what to think.  I will say that my gut feeling is the Broncos have not done well.  I applaud targeting specific players that will fit in perfectly with your schemes — um, but don’t we need a NT for that? — but overpaying to get them isn’t necessarily wise.  Time will tell.

So now for day two.  I clearly have no idea what to expect, but I humbly suggest picking up some candidates for NT.  Go get Vaughn Martin, Broncos.  Perhaps Dorell Scott.  And if you have the chance, take a hard look at WR (Ramses Barden, Quinten Lawrence) and LB (Worrell Williams, Jason Williams).  Oh, and another CB who can return kicks (D.J. Clark).

But most of all, quit mortgaging futures to overpay for presents.

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