Carney column: Broncos are in great position for draft day
The 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville is just under a week away, and things are looking pretty good from the Denver Broncos’ vantage point.
After an off-season that saw general manager John Elway hire Vic Fangio as the new head coach, trade for veteran quarterback Joe Flacco, and sign veteran defenders Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan, and offensive tackle Ju’Wuan James, the franchise is in a great spot heading into the Thursday’s first round.
Throughout the draft process, names such as Missouri quarterback Drew Lock, Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver, Michigan linebacker Devin Bush, LSU linebacker Devin White, and LSU cornerback Greedy Williams have been thrown around for the Broncos at number 10 overall.
After addressing the offense heavily last year in the draft, while also bringing in a new quarterback and starting offensive linemen, the Broncos can go in a number of directions while sitting at 10th overall.
For my money, Ed Oliver — should he be on the board — should be Elway’s selection. Too often in the process leading up to the draft, Oliver has been labeled a ‘tweener — someone who doesn’t have a defined position — and doesn’t appear to be much of a scheme fit in a number of traditional systems. With Oliver’s talent, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Over-thinking a talented player happens way too much in the pre-draft process, and then a guy slips into the teens in the first round and simply blows up the league for years to come, helping the team that took a chance on him achieve a high level of success.
Just look at Los Angeles Rams All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, whom Oliver compares most favorably to.
Donald was an All-American coming out of the University of Pittsburgh and put up some ridiculous production at Pitt during his four years with the program. Despite that production and freakish testing numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine that year, Donald fell all the way to the Rams at 11th overall.
Since then, he’s been an All-Pro defensive tackle nearly every year despite being considered undersized and not a scheme fit. He’s arguably the best defender in the NFL, regardless of position, too.
Now I’m not saying Oliver will be as good as Donald is, but there are far too many similarities between the two. It shouldn’t matter that Fangio is going to run a 3-4 for the Broncos; Oliver can play in any scheme. If you can’t find a role for a guy as talented as Oliver in a scheme at the next level, then you probably think twice about the coaching staff on that side of the ball.
At 6-foot-2, 287 pounds, Oliver plays like more of an off-ball linebacker than a defensive tackle that disrupts things in the trenches. Sure, he’d be pigeonholed in the nose tackle role for the Broncos in the base 3-4 on early downs, but once the Broncos move to sub-package, Oliver would give them a chess piece that can shoot gaps on the interior, rush off the edge, and maybe even drop into coverage, confusing quarterbacks and possibly causing turnovers.
He’s certainly not a perfect fit for what the Broncos are trying to do on the defensive side of the ball under Fangio, but sometimes you need to throw fit out and just draft elite talent. That’s what Oliver is, and he’ll make it work in any scheme, any role, and under any coaching staff; he’s that darn good.
If Elway goes in a different direction at 10th overall, I would hope he’d at least explore trading down and picking up additional picks, which is often the sound thing to do when it comes to team building if there’s not a glaring hole that early in the draft.
A few months ago when the Broncos traded for Flacco, I was furious. It was a waste to acquire the veteran at this point in his career, and I still believe that.
That said, I don’t think Denver should draft Lock just to grab one of the top quarterbacks in the class. The same goes for Haskins as well. Elway seems sold on Flacco and the impact he’ll have right away, so there’s no need to draft a young quarterback and put pressure on Flacco right away.
After all the work done by Elway and his staff in free agency, the former gunslinger quarterback has put his franchise in a great spot to do pretty much whatever he wants come Thursday night’s first round. That’s an ideal spot to be in for any general manager in this day and age.
Josh Carney is the sports editor of the Post Independent. He firmly believes Ed Oliver should be the selection at 10 for the Broncos, but can be talked into any other defender not named Dexter Lawrence. To reach Josh, shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @JCarney_Sports.
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