Offseason review: Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos stressed youth and defense in the offseason, led by the pick of Von Miller.

Pre-draft needs
DT, DE, TE, ORT, MLB, CB, RB (depth)

Draft class

Round 1: Von Miller, LB
Round 2: Rahim Moore, FS
Round 2: Orlando Franklin, OT
Round 3: Nate Irving, LB
Round 4: Quinton Carter, S
Round 4: Julius Thomas, TE
Round 6: Mike Mohamed, LB
Round 7: Virgil Green, TE
Round 7: Jeremy Beal, DE

Potential free agents of note

Ryan Harris, ORT
Marcus Thomas, DT
Wesley Woodyard, LB

Post-draft needs

DT, DE, CB, RB (depth)

Analysis

The Broncos, with a new head coach and revamped front-office staff, began their roster restructuring by releasing three veterans (tight end Daniel Graham and defensive linemen Jamal Williams and Justin Bannan) prior to the March roster-transaction deadline.

And with those moves already completed, head coach John Fox and executive director of football operations John Elway tried to address many of the remaining positional needs in this year’s NFL Draft.

The selection of first-round pick Miller is interesting since it was believed that he would receive more attention from teams employing a 3-4 defensive scheme. Denver will transition to a 4-3 this season under Fox, meaning Miller will line up mostly as a strong-side linebacker but could also play with his hand down as a defensive end.

The Broncos addressed the aging back line of their defense (free safety Brian Dawkins turns 38 in October) with the selections of second-rounder Moore and fourth-rounder Carter. Dawkins, who missed five games last season due to injury, is signed through 2013. The new regime inherited two other safeties — David Bruton and Darcel McBath — from the 2009 draft class, so it remains to be seen what their roles are going forward.

Second-round pick Franklin, who played left tackle during his final season at the University of Miami (Fla.), figures to play right tackle with the Broncos because of his good size, strength and toughness. Franklin’s addition doesn’t bode well for the future of unsigned veteran offensive tackle Ryan Harris.

The Broncos addressed their weakness at tight end with the selections of Thomas (fourth round) and Green (seventh round). Green would have been selected much higher, but he had a low medical grade from some teams due to microfracture knee surgery prior to his first season at the University of Nevada. But on game tape, Green showed no ill effects and never missed a practice or game during his four seasons after redshirting as a freshman.

While it will be hard for third-round pick Irving to start as a rookie due to the ongoing lockout, he could be the answer at middle linebacker in the future. Third-year pro Joe Mays is expected to enter training camp as the starter in the middle, but Irving, according to a personnel source, has more upside with better coverage skills and versatility.

While the Broncos didn’t address running back in the draft, they’re expected to sign a veteran free agent capable of handling a lot of carries. Fox is known as a power running proponent, which doesn’t fit the profile of third-year back Knowshon Moreno very well.

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