The Future and Past of the Denver Broncos. Not pictured: The Present AKA Peyton Manning (Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE)
With the 57th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos made quarterback Brock Osweiler the highest drafted Sun Devil since Zach Miller went 38th in 2007.
With the sixth pick in round four (101st overall), the Broncos went to the ASU well once again, getting a terrific value in cornerback Omar Bolden.
After the draft, the Denver management excerised some of Costco inspired buy-in-bulk strategies when they completed the Denver Devil Trio by signing wide receiver Gerell Robinson.
With the question of possible roommates in the Mile High City answered, another more pertinent query must be asked: How will each player fit in with the Broncos in 2012? Let's examine, shall we.
Osweiler's situation is the most apparent. With the Broncos having secured the services of future first-ballot Hall of Famer Peyton Manning with a five-year, $96-million contract over the offseason. Barring injury--a possibility given Manning is 34 and coming off substantial neck issues--Osweiler will be able to learn the position from two of the game's all-time greats--Manning and Denver executive and Hall of Famer John Elway.
So that leaves the question of whether Osweiler will be Manning's backup or don the hat and clipboard as the third-stringer.
His primary competition will be veteran Caleb Hanie. The Broncos signed Hanie to be the backup after trading away Tim Tebow in the wake of the Manning signing. In four years in Chicago, Hanie was...well, terrible. He saw significant time last season after Jay Cutler broke his thumb and over his next four starts, he managed to complete only 50% of his passes with three touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Athletically, Osweiler has all the advantages over Hanie--size, arm strength, accuracy and mobility. Hanie's only ace card is his experience. Given Osweiler studious ways, it should only be a matter of time before Osweiler overtakes him, possibly by Week 1.
Bolden's situation is a bit more cluttered.
Like Osweiler, Bolden will be able to learn from one of the all-time greats in Champ Bailey. An 11-time Pro Bowler, Bailey shows few signs of slowing down in his 14th year, having made the Pro Bowl in each of the last three years. Starting opposite Bailey should be Tracy Porter, hero of Super Bowl XLIV. He comes over from New Orleans, and at 25, should be entering his prime.
It's after those two players that things get interesting.
Porter replaced Andre' Goodman, who started all 16 games for Denver last season, hurting their depth. Third-year pro Cassius Vaughn has an identical build to Bolden and made three starts last year. Chris Harris and Tony Carter are two other young cornerbacks, and neither has the size nor the skillset of Bolden. The other corner who figures to be in the mix, veteran Ramzee Robinson, signed with Denver this offseason after being out of football in 2011.
That should put Bolden right in the mix for some playing time, if not a good shot at the nickel cornerback job. Bolden has the tools to play outside or matched up against the slot receivers, adding to his value. With Baileys age, and Porter only being on a one-year deal, a strong 2012 season could led to a starting role for Bolden in 2013.
On special teams, Bolden could very well play a big role. The Broncos primary kickoff returner from 2011, Quan Crosby, is now a Colt, and this should be another area where Bolden and Vaughn (seven returns, 30.0-yard average) should battle for time.
After spending 2011 as a run first, second and third team, the 2012 Broncos will be airing it out now that they have a legitimate NFL quarterback under center. As such, their receiving corps will finally get a chance to shine after spending much of last season run blocking.
Last season's top two receivers return. Demaryius Thomas was a first round pick in 2010. Like Robinson, he is a big target (6'3", 235 pounds), but unlike Robinson, he has great speed. He's complemented by the team's leading receiver, Eric Decker (44 receptions, 612 yards, eight touchdowns). Decker shares many similarities to Robinson, in that each are big-bodied, sure handed targets who lack downfield speed.
Among the holdovers are promising youngster Matt Willis and D'Andre Goodwin. Both have some nice tools but have not yet had a chance to prove their long term viability.
To bolster a receiving corps that lost Eddie Royal, the team brought in Andre Caldwell, Jason Hill and longtime Manning favorite Brandon Stokley. Caldwell is the most promising of the bunch, a speedster who can stretch the field, and should challenge Decker for a starting job. Hill has some good tools but has yet to develop after five years. Stokley has a huge advantage among the group due to his familiarity with Manning, but has lost a few steps at age 35.
So where does that leave Robinson?
Barring injury, the top three spots will be filled by Thomas, Caldwell and Decker. Robinson's best best to latching onto a roster will be as a possession receiver, a role that Decker has already proven to solidly fill. His hands, size and body control are all NFL ready, but he'll have to emerge from that secondary pack of promising young players and middle-of-the-road veterans to land a role. The ability to play some special teams may factor in, and that is something that may not be in Robinson's favor.
Nevertheless, as long as he continues to be the sure-handed and hard working player we saw in 2011, his NFL dream will live on. He will be in the mix for a fourth or fifth wide receiver job, and a spot on a practice squad--be it in Denver or elsewhere--seems to be a worst-case scenario for this season.
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Which Sun Devil will make the biggest impact on the Denver Broncos in 2012?
Brock Osweiler (9 votes)
Omar Bolden (94 votes)
Gerell Robinson (16 votes)
119 total votes