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Sassy
02-20-2009, 09:04 PM
Broncos' draft orders: Help the defense first
By Mike Klis
The Denver Post
Posted: 02/20/2009 12:30:00 AM MST
Updated: 02/20/2009 12:57:21 AM MST


LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson, right, could be the type of impact defensive end the Broncos will look for with the No. 12 selection in the NFL draft. ( Butch Dill, The Associated Press )

INDIANAPOLIS — Their Dove Valley headquarters essentially compressed and moved to a downtown hotel here, the Broncos have begun their quest for the defensive equivalent of Ryan Clady.

And since they're here, it wouldn't hurt if the Broncos discovered an Eddie Royal-like defensive player in the second round, either.

For the second consecutive season, the Broncos have the No. 12 overall draft pick. They used it last year to fortify their offense by selecting Clady, a left tackle who allowed a mere half a sack in 16 starts with the Broncos.

The Broncos would pull off their biggest upset since Super Bowl XXXII if they didn't take a defensive player with their No. 12 pick this year.

Their offense, in terms of yards,
ranked No. 2 in the NFL last season. Their defense, in terms of points, ranked No. 30 in the 32-team league.
And it's not just poor performance creating a need for as many as eight new defensive starters. There's also a dramatic switch in systems. Broncoland is about to get an education on the difference from a player who fits in a 3-4 system and a player who is best suited for the 4-3.

When transitioning from the 4-3 to 3-4, one position beyond all others must make a significant adjustment.

"Defensive end, for sure," said Kevin Colbert, who builds the roster for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have won two of the past four Super Bowl championships with a 3-4 defense.

The Broncos' Elvis Dumervil is a splendid pass-rushing defensive end in the 4-3. Defensive ends in the 3-4 play the "five" technique, or line up directly square with the offensive tackles. Among current Broncos, Kenny Peterson and Tim Crowder are considered better five-technique fits than Dumervil.

Thus, the Broncos' choice with their No. 12 draft pick this year might be LSU's Tyson Jackson. He's considered the best of the two-way defensive ends in this year's draft.

"They have to be a little bit of a pass rusher, a little bit of a run-stopper," Colbert said. "Sometimes you're going to penetrate, sometimes not. The help for the outside linebackers is different. That's probably the most difficult. What I've found as I got into the 3-4, it takes a decent amount of intelligence to play the defensive line."

Jackson is not necessarily the Broncos' first choice, though. Assuming Aaron Curry, a linebacker/defensive end from Wake Forest, is among the top five picks, the Broncos probably would not allow either Boston College nose tackle B.J. Raji or Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins to slide beyond No. 12.

At 6-feet-1, Raji is a tad short by prototype nose tackle standards. But with 334 pounds of agility, he might also allow the Broncos to make a full conversion to the 3-4 sooner rather than later.

"Coming into a game, as an offensive linemen you're thinking somebody that size, he's going to try to bullrush you," said Maryland center Edwin Williams, who played two Atlantic Coast Conference games against Raji. "Not in his case. He may hit you with some rips, some swims, a little push-pull. He's very versatile, and he can move very well."

There is picking to fill a need. There is picking to fit a system. And there is the general rule that says when picking as high as No. 12, never turn down the chance to take a dominant player at a premium position.

Cornerback is considered one of football's four premium positions, joining quarterback, left tackle and speed rusher. The Broncos have a cornerback need after releasing Dre Bly. Large by cornerback standards, Jenkins could fit any system.

"He's the best corner here," said Gil Brandt, the longtime Dallas Cowboys scouting director.

Whomever the Broncos take in the first round, don't be surprised if they stick with defense in the second round, where there figures to be a run on outside linebackers. Last year, the Broncos followed Clady by taking Royal, a receiver whose 91 receptions were the second-best rookie total in NFL history.

What the Broncos need this year are defensive players who can match the rookie success of Clady and Royal.

Mike Klis: 303-954-1055 or mklis@denverpost.com

empulse
02-21-2009, 10:07 AM
Please let Raji fall to us!

Cito Pelon
02-21-2009, 12:51 PM
They'll want to see what the combine has to offer, but they'll also be looking to play in FA pretty hard. The draft will depend on who they land in FA.

I'm not a big fan of drafting for needs, just get the BPA among a range of positions, I think that's best.