Before I continue with some more draft thoughts, I wanted to point out a few things from some of your responses to my first posting.
References to Mel Kiper or any other national publication’s projection of a draft choice is only to emphasize what the prevailing thoughts were at the time on a player. Never have the Denver Broncos used one of these prognosticators to select a draft choice. It’s from these same sources that we catch the most criticism and yet many seem to forget what their own viewpoints were at the time.
Next, I greatly appreciate the feedback, both positive and negative, from the fans. I expect and accept both. My goal is to provide you with a “method behind the madness” that you sometimes don’t get from other sources.
Finally, there are a number of excellent points and details that many of you have brought to attention and I’ll do my best to incorporate some of my own personal thoughts regarding these as I continue to write on various subjects.
Willie Middlebrooks, 2001’s first round pick (#24), was a former 1st team Big-10 selection that came out early as a junior. At almost 6’2” and 200 lbs., Willie was easily a projected first round pick by Kiper, Fox Sports and Ourlads. He was the former player of then Bronco DB’s coach David Gibbs at the University of Minnesota. Big, strong and schooled in the technique of press coverage, Middlebrooks was to be the bookend with O’Neal in replacing an aged secondary. His season-ending ankle fracture was deemed not to be significant enough to pass him in the draft, though ultimately it did affect his play. Only 7 DC’s are still active from the ’01 draft, with just one remaining on his original squad.
Paul Toviessi followed at the 51st pick. Thought to be a reach by most, Toviessi recorded 10.5 sacks and 24 tackles for loss his final two seasons at Marshall. Paul’s measurables for the position were equitable to those of Patrick Kearney of Seattle; 6’6″ 260lbs, 4.69 speed and 35″+ arms. Big, long, powerful and explosive, Toviessi had the sort of upside that was seen in Jason Taylor coming out of the same collegiate conference. Taylor was the 3rd round selection of MIAMI in ’97 and many were left scratching their heads regarding the Dolphin’s “reach” at the time.
Ultimately it was medical issues (knees) and not ability that sidelined Toviessi’s career. Only 5 active DE’s remain from the ’01 draft selected on the south side of Toviessi, two of which were with Denver; Reggie Hayward and Patrick Chukwurah.
Middlebrooks and Toviessi didn’t bring stability to their respective positions for the Broncos in 2007, but neither have 34 other DC’s and DE’s subsequently drafted in ’01 for their teams.
The 2001 draft sent up “red flags and rockets” regarding medical evaluations on incoming prospects. We have since revised the manner in which we medically “grade” the draft and I feel have a better system that projects the long-term status of player’s with injury issues out of college.
Searching for a deep threat to complement Smith and McCaffrey, we turned to the islands where Ashley Lelie had lit up college football for 3 straight seasons in Hawaii’s spread option attack. Lelie had averaged 20.4 yds per catch and tallied 19 TD’s his junior season. Over those 3 years he averaged 17.2 yds per catch. At his private workout for the scouts, Lelie ran a 4.31 40 yd dash. TSN, PFW, Kiper, Sports Illustrated (SI), Fox Sports and CBS Sportsline all had Lelie penciled in for the first round. Furthermore, Denver was close to the Warrior coaching staff that had signficant NFL experience. Ashley would go on to start 40 games for the Broncos, including the AFC championship along side Rod Smith in ’05. But thereafter he demanded to be traded (for his own stated reasons) in the spring prior of the ’06 season. Lelie eventually was dealt for a third-round pick used to select OT Ryan Harris (Notre Dame) in the ’07 draft, a player we feel has tremendous potential as a future starter.
That said, Lelie has led the NFL in receiving average (2002-2007) with 17.4 yds per catch. He is tied for 12th over the same time period with 48 catches of 25+ yds or more. I’d say he lived up to his deep threat billing, but Lelie’s absence takes nothing away from our current WR unit with the likes of Javon Walker, Brandon Marshall and Brandon Stokley.
The “hit or miss” on any of these three players proves insignificant to the current roster, and the “cause and effect” approach to these selections seems not apply to our record at the moment.
I look forward to my next entry.