Sports: Rick Jussel Column April 24, 2009

Broncos should focus on defense in NFL draft

This isn’t exactly brain surgery, this National Football League draft.

You are running an NFL team, you recognize your needs, scout the talent that will likely be available when it comes your time to make a selection, then you choose that particular piece of meat.

Just like that, over half a decade or so, you’ve got yourself your basic Super Bowl contender for the next half decade or so.

Yeah, right.

It should be so simple.

We knew what to expect from Mike Shanahan.

You were going to get the best offensive performer he could get his hands on — by hook or by crook. Only when his offense looked virtually unstoppable, or he could not figure a way to get his mitts on a much desired offensive star, would the Denver Broncos draft — defense.

Hence, the current situation: lousy defense, new coach and general manager, new quarterback — and absolutely no idea what will happen next.

Admit it: You are as clueless as I am when it comes to 32-year-old wunderkind Josh McDaniels and his way of doing business as Denver’s new head coach.

Logic would seem to dictate McDaniels and the Broncos select some large beefy folks to bolster the front seven with the 12th and 18th selections in Saturday’s first round. After all,
Denver did manage to finish 15th out of 16 in the AFC in total defense, allowing almost 150 yards per game rushing and 375 yards per game total offense.

The defensive backfield has been solidified with free agents. But the team is switching to a 3-4 on defense and very little was done to help the line or linebackers during the recent free-agent signing frenzy.

That would seem to suggest Denver, possessing five picks in the first three rounds, would get defensive early in the draft.

So, naturally, the team sends a unit out to Southern California to work out quarterback Mark Sanchez — but only after several weeks of anyone and everyone in Broncoland telling us how great the recently acquired Kyle Orton was going to be as the team’s new signal caller, and he’s going to be very good, thank you.

I have always noted a silly little trend with those who manage professional franchises and that is the fact that they virtually unanimously think they have to prove how bright they are. 

In this case, however, McDaniels would be better suited to follow suit, to go with what he has been dealt in terms of draft selections. He needs to grab as many future defensive starters as he can find.

If things go according to Hoyle, Denver’s first pick will be Tyson Jackson, the 295-pound defensive end from LSU. Jackson is supposedly the best run stopper in the draft and would help Denver immediately. He is, however, not rated a good pass rusher.

Remember, in the 3-4, the “3” has the job of stopping things up in the middle of the field. The pass rush normally comes from the outside of the “4,” the quick, sneaky linebackers.

Picking 18th, Denver might end up with Brian Cushing, an outside linebacker from Southern Cal, or Everette Brown, a pass-rushing specialist from Florida State. Also possible at this spot are two more USC linebackers, Clay Matthews on the outside or Rey Maualuga on the inside.

There are other possibilities for Denver on the defensive side in the first round if the chips fall right, including defensive ends Brian Orakpo of Texas, Robert Ayers of Tennessee or Aaron Maybin from Penn State.

If I were a betting man, I would think two of the people mentioned above will turn into Broncos on Saturday afternoon.

Of course, what it all means is that Denver’s first draft choice will probably be running back Knowshon Moreno from Georgia. We all know you just can’t have enough running backs.


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