“You have to adjust, you deal with change, you look at what happened and maybe why you didn’t get it done and you try to fill those gaps. That’s how you compete for world championships. You can’t sit still. You have to be really honest about what you’re doing and if it’s working.”
Those were John Elway’s words in late January, after Denver finished with a 9-7 record and out of the playoffs — less than expected in Broncos Country.
Looking back to my pre-draft post, you can see how futile it is to predict the NFL Draft. The Broncos didn’t draft a single player on my “ecstatic” list. And that’s okay by me. I don’t have access to enough information to make a quality pick. No one outside Dove Valley does. All I do is check the player’s production and competition through college. I mean, you wouldn’t expect me to wiretap 350 prospects to distinguish between the choirboys, fanboys and bad boys would you?
I think the Broncos had a pretty good draft, but we can’t rationally determine how Elway and Co. did in the 2017 draft for 4-5 years. We can, however, look at how they addressed the weaknesses and expected free agent losses in order to improve via the draft. The 3 bullets for improvement that I called for in the previous article — Improve the trenches, the Run Game and get better on 3rd down — got some welcome attention. John Elway said they wanted to get some “nastiness and attitude” in Day 1 and that happened with their first two picks. Tackle Garett Bolles looked like the nastiest Offensive Lineman in this year’s class and DeMarcus Walker may end up reminding us of Malik Jackson.
Garett Bolles is the third player drafted with the 20th overall pick in Broncos history and here’s a reminder on the success rate of draft picks. In 1989, the Broncos chose Steve Atwater, who in my mind, had a Hall of Fame career as a Safety. In 2003, it was Right Tackle George Foster, who ended up starting 57 of 68 games on his way to being a 4-year primary starter. So, overall, the Broncos got a Ring of Famer and a 4-year starter on the O-Line. Not bad if you ask me. If Bolles can fulfill the position that Elway plans on, he will be closer to Ryan Clady than Foster.
Garett Bolles: “I’m just going to be that nasty prick those guys like up front.”
— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) April 28, 2017
I like what I hear, but ask me again in 5 years. I know one thing, I can’t wait for the first or second padded Training Camp practice to see this:
Elway: “We were kind of giggling in the draft room” about what might happen when Wolfe & Bolles grapple in practice.
— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) April 28, 2017
On Day 2, they were searching for some “juice” and added some team speed, competition and depth on Offense and Special Teams with RB De’Angelo Henderson along with WR’s Carlos Henderson and Isaiah McKenzie. Between these three, Denver hopes to find another playmaking threat, a returner and some gunners that will push their teammates with youthful exuberance if nothing else as rookies. The Broncos picked up two other promising players in CB Brendan Langley and TE Jake Butt. Both of these players have said that they couldn’t be happier as the newest Broncos and that is encouraging. The expectation is for Langley to fill Kayvon Webster’s role — or compete with Lorenzo Doss, who Chris Harris believes to be the ‘Next Man Up’ at Corner. I waited until the tail end to talk about the last two draft picks, who will be the butt of all jokes – Quarterback Chad Kelly, who is this year’s “Mr. Irrelevant” and Tight End Jake Butt, who has probably heard it all. Andrew Mason had the funniest Tweet so far, and I’m sure it’s only going to get better (worse?)
First time Jake Butt makes a reception, I want to hear the opening lyrics to “Baby Got Back” over the @SportsAuthField PA.
THIS MUST HAPPEN
— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) April 29, 2017
I know the kid won’t be available until the end of preseason and even then it’s still too early to put that kind of pressure on someone, but I predict a Jake Butt Fan Club called the “Butt Heads” will form in an entire section of the stadium. When he scores, that section will give each other head butts.
And on his first miscue, the mainstream media will try to call it a “Butt Fumble” or “Fumble-Gate” or some other cardboard copy of unoriginal thought and call it good.
The Broncos also took a one-year flyer on former division nemesis Running Back Jamaal Charles. Reported as a deal worth as much as $3.75 Million, it is essentially a $100k Camp tryout for the 10th year veteran coming off ACL surgeries and whose last 5 starts came in 2015. I’m not bad mouthing the pickup since I haven’t seen Charles’ work out, but he is 30 years old — That’s like 90-something in Running Back years — and on two bad wheels to boot. So let’s not get overexcited about having him. The good things are: He isn’t tormenting our team in the Division twice a year and he is a successful quality veteran who can reinforce any position group. At the least, it’s a small investment for rubbing off knowledge and savvy to a young Running Backs room. If he makes the team, his salary will move up to $1 Million. Following that, if circumstances warrant him playing time, he will be compensated better for his production. It doesn’t get any more team-friendly than that so the question is, does Jamaal Charles have anything left after 7,260 career rushing yards?
Even with the annual attrition rate of injuries that occur, John Elway has made a reasonable attempt to adjust for the perceived weaknesses from a year ago.
Other than that, the Broncos have two young Quarterbacks in Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch with high upside who cost less against the Cap than any other NFL team spends at QB. However, neither Siemian nor Lynch will develop into what we all hope, if the O-line can’t protect them.
To that end, the free agency additions of Ronald Leary and Menelik Watson should help that along. A healthy Ty Sambrailo should be able to beat out Donald Stephenson. Matt Paradis’ was the most improved player in the league last year. Hopefully his surgically-repaired hips are full-go for the opener and Matt Garcia continues on his trajectory of improvement.
Having a few more possibilities at playmaker to spread things out, Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy’s play-calling and creativity to get the best out of his offensive weapons should help out this year’s Offense. Especially on 3rd down.
– Kaptain Kirk