Brock Osweiler Mile High Journey
John Elway was famously quoted, or maybe infamously, that they had no “plan b” for the season. “We’re going with plan a” the Denver Broncos executive said. He jokingly pledged this in response to a question on what the Broncos would do if recently signed Peyton Manning was unable to play this season.
The sophomore NFL executive and Hall of Fame quarterback’s confidence must have faded into the mist and had nightmares about his team’s backup passer predicament however. After a much maligned day of waiting to see who the Broncos would draft, he took a very questionable pick of a QB with one of the two Broncos’ second round picks in this year’s draft. Hopefully the new Bronco, enormous 6-foot-7 Arizona State QB Brock Osweiler, will do nothing more than hold Manning’s clipboard. While John Elway might have dreamed of drafting a prototypical QB with a rocket arm, Peyton Manning maybe the gunslinger haunting his nights if this draft backfires on their Super Bowl-or-bust trajectory.
The Broncos also traded out of the first round, swapping some picks with the Patriots, who took Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower at Denver’s spot, and selected a few players dozens of places above where they were projected to be selected.
The combination of odd draft choices and the QB selection instead of impactful offensive weapons left many scratching their heads. It gives the appearance that Broncos are operating scared. Scared that Peyton may get hurt, scared that their current backup QB, Caleb Haney, had a good shot of starting for the Horses by season’s end, heck, scared Peyton may succeed and go deep into the postseason keeping the Broncos from picking in range of a decent QB in the next several drafts. All legitimate fears, but the NFL isn’t for the timid.
The truth behind the numbers though is that if Peyton goes down, the Broncos are going with him, no matter who the backup is. The last time a team’s starting QB went down and his backup won the Super Bowl was Tom Brady’s 2001 coming out party. Brock is not Tom.
Unless you were drafting Andrew Luck, the Broncos seemed to be set at the passing position. A QB should have been on the bottom of the to-do list this year right? What the Broncos seemed to need going into the draft is impact offensive talent to give Manning decent firepower after the team put up dismal passing numbers last year. Add some depth to the defensive line and defensive backs group and you had a draft plan! Ostensibly, it looks like the Broncos’ have an over-the-hill running back, a bunch of substandard wide receivers, and Dallas Clark’s backup in Jacob Tamme at the tightend position. Hold your horses though before writing the Osweiler pick off and grinding your teeth in frustration after an erratic few rounds of seemingly out-of-nowhere choices.
Let’s cut the Bronco’s season last year in two; we’ll call it BT and AT, for before and after Tim Tebow took over for the great statistical, but lacking substance, performances of Kyle Orton. BT, Eric Decker was quietly having an outstanding season. He was averaging what would have been over a 1,000 yards for the season, but lost favor from the holy-passer when Timmy Terrific took over. He also lost a signal caller that could complete more than a handful of passes every game.
Denver’s other main wideout is Demaryius Thomas, who most famously took Ike Taylor to the house against the Steelers in the playoffs for an 80-yard touchdown reception and game winner. However, Thomas had a pretty decent season before this as well. Consider that AT the Broncos averaged only 150 passing yards per game; almost 80 yards below the league average. Thomas was the recipient of about 33% of all of Tebow’s passing yards. Had Thomas played every game last season (he missed the first few recovering from an Achilles injury), he would have had 800 yards and 5 TDs. That is not taking into consideration that he would have played with Kyle Orton for a few games that probably could have bumped that number closer to 1,000 yards. That would have equaled two guys that had over 1,000 yards receiving for the year on a team that only had 2,708 total passing yards.
Add to the pair of should-have-been-thousand-yard-receivers was the best rushing attack in the league, a freak of nature TE in Julius Thomas who lit up training camp last year, but missed most of the season with an ankle injury, Manning’s old friend and slot receiver (emphasis on the old part) Brandon Stokley, and the offense should be fine this year. Manning turned much less talent into a star studded offensive machine year after year in Indy.
The rarely discussed item in this year’s draft for the Bronco’s is they had nearly every position’s starter already on the roster either returning from last year, or picked up in free agency this year. The D.J. Williams’ urine sample/DUI/pending suspension saga aside, this draft was mainly going to be adding depth at any position picked. Dont’a Hightower would have looked great in Orange, but all Denver really “needs” is an impact return man to replace Eddie Royal who jettisoned the Mile High City for the warm and sunny beaches of San Diego. Maybe one that can start in nickel packages as well. Besides that, almost any other player was going to be depth at best, and practice squad material for most of the later round picks.
If that does indeed turn out to be the case, then selecting a guy that, while raw, seems to have all the measurables and skills needed to be a stud QB might not be such a wasted selection. If he can sit a few years and then be a 10-year-starter after Manning retires, that would beat taking a backup to Champ Bailey. Then again, let’s hope that John Elway’s next nightmare isn’t Dont’a intercepting Peyton in the AFC championship game against the Patriots and Bill Belichick looking up to Elway’s luxury box and mouthing the word’s “told you.”