With the Combine right around the corner, it’s time to start looking at the Denver Broncos needs before next season. Following a disappointing campaign, the Broncos will look to return to the team the won Super Bowl 50. The Broncos pick 20th in the upcoming draft, and there is a lot of work to be done to put them back on top.
Denver Broncos 2017 Off-Season: Top 3 Needs
The Broncos struggled to run the ball after losing C.J. Anderson, leading many questions about the reason for their early season success. With three starters under contract and Matt Paradis as a virtual guarantee to return, the Broncos could piece together an offensive Line, but the expectations would be fairly low. In order to be a better team, the Broncos need new starters for at least three of the five starting slots.
Paradis will return and be the centerpiece of the new (and hopefully improved) offensive line. The Broncos are likely to use their first round pick on the presumptive left tackle of the future. Outside of that, they will need to scour the free agent market and parlay their later round picks into improving an offensive line that was ranked 24th in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.
In free agency, the options at guard are more plentiful than the available right tackles. T.J. Lang and Chance Warmack are names that jump off the screen based on reputation alone. Unfortunately, their salaries make it unrealistic for the Broncos to add both of them. Adding one though, would go a long way in improving the run and pass blocking. The draft is littered with big bodies and endless potential, so the Broncos will have no problem finding a few people to groom and grow into franchise linemen.
The Broncos run defense regressed significantly from their Super Bowl winning performance to last season. The impact of losing Danny Trevathan and Malik Jackson was evident on a defense that ranked 28th in rush yards allowed per game. The worst performance came on a Monday night when the Raiders ran for 218 yards in Oakland.
The Todd Davis experiment at middle linebacker didn’t work out, but there are a bunch of competent middle linebackers in free agency and the draft. The real issues came at the defensive line positions. The Broncos ever-changing defensive line struggled to stay healthy and couldn’t solidify themselves as run stoppers. The Broncos have most of the pieces and can find a way to plug in a few new players to return to form.
The best fix for this issue may come down to scheme as much as personnel. If the Broncos can add a strong middle linebacker and big bodies on the line, then they will have no trouble vaulting themselves into the top ten of NFL defenses. Additionally, the Broncos personnel may be better suited for a four man front. Unfortunately, this could have an adverse affect on the pass rushing abilities of Von Miller and Shane Ray, who will likely play a much larger role in the upcoming season. The front office can help the coaches by bringing in a big, physical middle linebacker and some beef for the line.
The Broncos have seven wide receivers on the roster, yet they lack the big play ability expected from some of those guys. While small, ineffective slot receivers like Kalif Raymond and Jordan Norwood are on the field, bigger guys with more upside like Cody Latimer and Jordan Taylor, rot away on the sideline. The issue with ineffective wide receivers goes hand in hand with an improved offensive line, but Trevor Siemian will continue to struggle if these slot receivers continue to litter the field.
Even when Siemian had time to throw, the Broncos spent another season plagued by drops. Unfortunately, it’s not the little guys who have trouble holding on to the ball. Demaryius Thomas led the Broncos with seven of the team’s 14 drops. It wouldn’t hurt for the Broncos to test the free agent/trade markets to see if they can get a reliable target for Siemian.
Additionally, the Broncos return teams, headlined by Norwood and Raymond, alternate between negative return yards, fumbles and kickoff returns shy of the 25. There is an endless supply of speedy college players who don’t necessarily have a role in the league as a receiver. After the draft is over, plenty of guys look for the NFL equivalent of a walk-on spot. These guys are perfect for kick returns.
The Broncos have struggled since Trindon Holliday and even those days were rocky. Group of Five schools are full of hard workers just itching for an opportunity to play. These players will always give 110% because they don’t take this chance for granted. Every team can benefit from players with that attitude.