Broncos see draft deliver needed help
By Mike Klis
Denver Post Staff Writer
Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler, left, and Western Michigan's Tony Scheffler meet Sunday at Broncos headquarters. Cutler, a quarterback and the 11th pick in the NFL draft, passed for 8,697 yards and 59 touchdowns in his college career. Scheffler, a tight end, was the draft's 61st selection. (Post / John Leyba)
Put in Cutler!
There. Might as well get it out of the way.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Ted Sundquist, who have never been dealt a hand they wouldn't play, accomplished much through the 2006 NFL draft.
They addressed cries for a playmaker by exchanging a second-round pick for Javon Walker, a former Green Bay wide receiver who, if healthy, is a proven Pro Bowler.
They addressed screams for a better pass rush by using one of their fourth- round picks to select Elvis Dumervil, a long-armed defensive lineman who led major-college football last year with 20 sacks and 11 forced fumbles.
They found another pass-catching tight end in Tony Scheffler, a former baseball slugger with shortstop hands and center-fielder speed who will replace the role vacated by Jeb Putzier.
They added more depth at wide receiver by using two of their fourth-round picks Sunday on Brandon Marshall, a tall possession receiver/H-back who had 74 catches for 11 touchdowns last season at Central Florida, and Domenik Hixon, a special-teams returner who had 75 catches for eight touchdowns last season at Akron.
They made their annual late- round foray to the offensive line, taking North Dakota guard Chris Kuper in the fifth round and Minnesota center Greg Eslinger in the sixth.
And when their work was done, the Broncos, like it or not, also had a potential quarterback controversy.
"I guess that's part of it," Jay Cutler said during his introductory news conference Sunday at the team's headquarters. "I think Jake (Plummer) has been through that, so I don't think it's going to affect him and I know what that's all about."
Just so there
is no misunderstanding, the 2006 season for Cutler will be more about learning from, not seriously competing with, Plummer for the Broncos' starting job. It probably won't be until 2007 that the Plummer-Cutler debate rises to a shout.
As the Broncos try to take that final step toward the Super Bowl, Plummer isn't going anywhere other than under center. He is coming off a superb season while helping the Broncos to a 13-3 record.
People who want to blame Plummer for the AFC championship game loss to Pittsburgh may have forgotten he didn't throw his first interception until the Broncos were down 17-3.
Still, it was Cutler who made the Broncos' draft. As the 11th overall pick, he is the Broncos' highest-drafted quarterback since the team was formed in 1960. John Elway was acquired in a trade.
It took some aggressive
and ingenious trading for the Broncos to first get in position to take Cutler. It started in last year's draft, when the Broncos dealt for Washington's first- round choice of 2006. That became the 22nd overall pick.
From there the Broncos treated the first round like a racquetball, bouncing up and down, in and out, back and forth. When they stopped and looked up, they saw a rare opportunity to get on the inside of a talented trio of quarterbacks - Cutler, Vince Young and Matt Leinart.
Most teams picking in the top spots had recently addressed their quarterback needs. Houston, which had the No. 1 pick, already had given a new contract to David Carr. No. 2 New Orleans signed Drew Brees. No. 6 San Francisco took Alex Smith with the draft's first pick last year.
Stockpiled with extra second- and fourth-round picks, the Broncos first
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tried packaging a deal for Leinart. Buffalo, picking eighth, and No. 9 Detroit wouldn't listen. Arizona took Leinart at No. 10, leaving the Broncos to swing a deal with St. Louis for No. 11 to get Cutler.
"Usually when you come off a season like we had, you don't get a chance to take the type of quality quarterbacks that were available," Shanahan said Sunday. "Usually, coaches who can go for the top quarterbacks are in their first year."
Shanahan isn't about to get fired. His roster all but set, what do the Broncos have for 2006? From their group of fresh additions, it likely will be the receivers Walker and Scheffler, not Cutler, who make the most immediate impact.
The receiver department, considered a concern a few days ago, is now stacked.
"I thought we needed some more speed, and I think we were able to do that," Shanahan said. "And I felt we needed a quarterback that could come in here and compete."
Staff writer Mike Klis can be reached at 303-820-5440 or email@example.com