EDITOR’S NOTE — 850 KOA’s Mike Rice checks in with his thoughts on the running back and linebacker prospects for the 2012 NFL Draft. DenverBroncos.com previewed some of the players available at those positions. Click here for the running back preview and click here for the linebacker preview.
There is no doubt the countdown is on. Teams have made their moves in free agency. The shell of the preseason schedule is out and the regular season schedule won’t be far behind.
Bring on the draft.
I hope you’ve been able to keep up with the fine draft previews here on DenverBroncos.com. My colleagues have done an excellent job highlighting some of the players who figure prominently at each position. Recently, they put the spotlight on running backs and linebackers.
I would be more than a little surprised if the Broncos did not draft a running back. Going on the one draft that John Elway, John Fox and Brian Xanders have headed up, it appears the Broncos use the “best player available regardless of position” approach. When building up a roster, that is a wise approach. Plus, teams tend to get into trouble when they draft a player earlier than his ability seems to warrant based simply on the position he plays.
We know John Fox likes to use the running game. Part of that stems from rarely having a great quarterback on his roster but I have to believe the Broncos can and will use the running game to complement and supplement what Peyton Manning can do in the passing game. What quarterback wouldn’t want a strong running game? It is essential, especially late in the season and in the playoffs.
The question to me is when will Broncos select a running back? For a couple of reasons, I think the likely scenario is in the middle rounds. First, I think they’ll go with defense in the early picks, unless there is a quarterback up there they just cannot pass up.
Second, there seems to be a pretty good selection of quality running backs. LaMichael James out of Oregon grabbed a lot of headlines all year long and was really productive but CBSSports.com has him ranked as the seventh best running back in the draft. I take pre-draft rankings with a grain of salt but that does give me some kind of indication of the talent pool at the position.
Part of me would love to see the Broncos get David Wilson out of Virginia Tech because he has experience as a kick returner and Eddie Royal is now with the Chargers. But I don’t know if the Broncos will want to take a running back as high as Wilson is projected to go. Along with his return abilities, he has good size at 5-10, 206 pounds.
I also like Chris Polk out of Washington. He fits the mold of a bigger back (5-11, 215 pounds) but again, he is ranked high at the position and many believe he’ll go in the second round.
I do think Terrance Ganaway of Baylor is an interesting back who projects to go in the middle rounds. He is in the 6-0, 240 pound range. No doubt Ganaway benefited from having Robert Griffin III as his quarterback but the Broncos running game should benefit from Manning’s prowess throwing the ball.
BOTTOM LINE: The Broncos need a bigger, power back to team with Willis McGahee. They have at least a couple of good change-of-pace options in Lance Ball and Jeremiah Johnson — and Knowshon Moreno is recovering from a knee injury. I believe the Broncos will take a running back with size.
I think the Broncos will focus on defense early in the draft and I love the idea of shoring up the front seven. Many people think the Broncos will draft a defensive lineman in the first round. I could see that happening and would be fine with that.
But let’s look more closely at the linebacker position.
Von Miller is the man. D.J. Williams, Joe Mays and Wesley Woodyard are all back. Nate Irving is still in large part an unknown.
The Broncos did a good job of adding to the secondary through free agency. Mike Adams and Tracy Porter should contribute immediately. Because of those moves, I could easily see them going with a linebacker in the early rounds of the draft. Generally, it seems to be a thinner class of inside linebackers than outside so if the Broncos wanted a top-notch inside linebacker like Luke Kuechly (Boston College), Dont’a Hightower (Alabama) or Mychal Kendricks (Cal), they probably need to be thinking first or maybe second round.
I would love to see this. I think back to the days when Al Wilson played for the Broncos and how much of an enforcer and leader he was in the middle. While I really like Joe Mays and hope Nate Irving can develop, I also love the idea of getting THE GUY in the middle.
Right now, the Broncos are deeper at outside linebacker and there seems to be a good selection of players at that position who would be available in the middle rounds.
BOTTOM LINE: I hope the Broncos draft a top-notch middle linebacker in the first round. Team him with Von Miller and that would be a terrific duo.
What do you think the Broncos priority should be when it comes to running back and linebacker? Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.