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Building Blocks for Success

By Dave Bruning

A Super Bowl Championship is ultimately won on the playing field. Equally important is the groundwork laid in the offseason; specifically the team building blocks of the NFL Draft and free agency. For the Denver Broncos to return to Super Bowl glory their performance in both of these areas needs to improve.

The surest way to build a successful team is to draft and groom your own players. During the Broncos back to back Super Bowl seasons homegrown players were vital contributors. Players that come to mind include Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe, Steve Atwater and, of course, John Elway. All were drafted by Denver except Elway, who was acquired in a draft day trade. This core paved the way to football history in the city of Denver.

Not to be forgotten in that history are a few key free agents that filled holes on the Broncos roster. Rod Smith, Ed McCaffrey, Bill Romanowski and Alfred Williams are examples of players brought to Denver to solidify an already impressive roster. The blend of drafted players and free agents brought Denver two Super Bowls. Sadly, that is ancient history.

Denver’s post Super Bowl drafts are not poor. However, the Broncos are not considered to be among the elite of the NFL when it comes to the Draft. Those teams would include the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens. All three of these teams have been playoff fixtures for the better part of the last decade. Denver has won one playoff game since Elway retired. Coincidence? I think not.

Last year’s arrival of Josh McDaniels as the Broncos head coach signaled a new era for the Broncos. I have mixed feelings regarding McDaniels’ first draft and I am anxious for his second effort. It will be particularly intriguing if Brandon Marshall signs an offer sheet with another team, as Denver would receive a first round draft pick as compensation.

Denver’s first draft with McDaniels calling the shots landed running back Knowshon Moreno, defensive end Robert Ayers and cornerback Alphonso Smith. All three players contributed and would appear to have nice careers ahead of themselves. The Broncos did trade a first round pick to Seattle to acquire Smith, a move I still do not agree with. The sixth round selection of quarterback Tom Brandstater out of Fresno State may pay dividends down the road.

Notable free agents brought to Denver for the 2009 season included safety Brian Dawkins, linebacker Andra Davis, wide receiver Jabar Gaffney and running back Correll Buckhalter. The drafted players and free agents meshed nicely with Denver’s existing squad to start the season. However, the team stumbled badly down the stretch and missed the playoffs, an all too familiar spot for Broncos’ fans.

The 2010 Denver Broncos are looking for a return to playoff prominence. They have some nice pieces in place. It is also clear there is plenty of roster upgrading needed. The offseason is a time for optimism. It is also the time to make the necessary upgrades. The NFL draft and adding selective free agents are cornerstones of building a winning organization. McDaniels’ grade so far is an incomplete. His final grade will go a long way in determining the future success of the Denver Broncos.


  1. I have held the idea for a long time (a year or so) that McDaniels will make a good coach in his next job. I think it's fairly likely that the package that Denver recieves for Marshall will not include a first, rather a 2nd and fourth, which is still great considering the coach has all but run him out of town. Personally, I didn't like the draft last year, Moreno (not a need) Ayers (not a fit in the 3-4) and Smith (not worthy of a first rounder) all left me scratching my head (You are right about Brandstarter). Hoping for a better 2010 draft, it starts with Dez.

  2. McDaniels has alienated his players and misused his draft picks to this point. Drafting Moreno (Need) Ayers (fit in a 3-4) and Alphonso Smith (Not worth a first rounder)were mistakes and cannot afford to have back to back drafts like his first. I have heard fans wanting to draft Spiller, they have needs and they need to address them. This years off season will go a long way towards knowing what kind of coach Denver has.

  3. Playoff prominence, you have to be kidding. The donkeys might need to be more realistic about their future. The fast start last year against weak opponents quickly faded into the reality that the Broncos are just not that good. Without TD the Broncos would not have had any glory days to fall back on, and a player that special does not come around very often, if ever. My guess the Raiders get in the big game before the donkeys.

  4. I'm in agreement here that McDaniels has a lot to prove this season. His draft picks last year no doubt were misused. No way Moreno should have been drafted where he was. He's a "tweener" small and his speed is not that of a Reggie Bush. Let's face it, he's not an every down back and should have been a second round pick. McDaniels is supposed to be an offensive genius but the short pass and off tackle runs of Moreno wore out pretty quick after the first few games. I'm trying to keep an open mind this season but so far to me he's dismantled a young offensive that showed promise and defensively there has been improvement but the guys he brought in have limited time left in their careeers. I'm predicting this season may well be worse than last unless he opens his mind and matures in the way he works with his staff and team