As I wrote in my team needs for the Broncos heading into the 2011 NFL Draft, the Broncos had the second-worst rush defense in the league last season and needed to address this problem with a big defensive tackle like Marcell Dareus or Nick Fairely. I also defined defensive end as an area of need because the Broncos had a lot of trouble generating sacks. With their first round selection, Denver took Texas A&M's Von Miller, who was regarded as probably the best pass rusher in the draft. "Why is this a problem?" you might ask. After all, they were worst in the league in sacks last season. However, there are concerns about how Von Miller will transition to the 4-3 defense that will be utilized by John Fox. Not because of Miller's talent, which hasn't been doubted, but because his ability to rush the passer will be essentially wasted in a 4-3 scheme unless Denver can stop the run. With the same defensive personnel as last year on the front seven and no defensive tackles selected in the draft, stopping the run should become a big problem for Denver all over again this season, which will mean very few obvious passing situations in which Miller can blitz. He'll spend most of his time chasing other running backs around the field because the Broncos don't have a defensive tackle who can stop the run in the trenches. The return of Elvis Dumervil should be a huge boost to the Broncos' pass rush, which is why the Miller pick confuses me for Denver. This was a pick that could have been a true run stopper but instead was used on a guy who will not necessarily be a bust, but who won't get many opportunities to play to his area of strength. Does that make any sense to you? It sure doesn't to me.
However, the Broncos did add a very good talent to their secondary in UCLA safety Rahim Moore. Denver will be better off seeking an upgrade over Renaldo Hill and a long-term successor for Brian Dawkins. Moore, considered the best safety of the draft, is a true ballhawk, a team leader, and has the versatility to play a little corner. He's the perfect injection of youth and talent that this defense has needed and after trading down to get him (most teams have to trade up for a guy they like), the Broncos brain trust sure looks like a group of brainiacs with this pick. With the 108th pick, Denver came back and got another safety, this time Quinton Carter out of Oklahoma. Carter, maybe the best player available when the 108th pick rolled around, and one of the top safeties of the 2011 draft, provides even more young talent for John Fox to work with, and with rookies Moore, Carter, and Nate Irving looking to contribute on the defensive side of the ball, this unit could get significantly better in 2011. I still don't like the lack of a big run stopper. This will kill whatever effectiveness their secondary will have and partially remove their pass rushers from the equation. But you can only take baby steps when you're (re-)building a team from the ground up, so there's no reason for Broncos fans to be upset with this draft.
Finally, I'd like to touch on two potential steals that were selected in the very last round. Pass catching tight end Virgil Green out of Nevada should be a big help to Tim Tebow (or Kyle Orton) and was supposed to be a fourth round talent. Fourth round may not seem like a big deal, but for tight ends being taken in the fourth round isn't necessarily a bad thing. New England took Aaron Hernandez in the fourth round of the 2010 draft (albeit because he fell due to behavioral concerns) and he had a very fine rookie season. John Fox has historically preferred his tight ends to be big blocker-types, but it was obvious that Richard Quinn and Daniel Coats weren't getting the job done last year, so Denver deserves a lot of credit for snagging a good offensive weapon late that can be used to help the Broncos move the chains a bit more and hopefully keep their defense on the bench for as long as possible.
Oklahoma defensive end Jeremy Beal was once supposed to be a second round talent but because he underperformed last season he fell all the way down to Denver's ninth and final pick, 247th overall. Beal is supposed to be a force to be reckoned with as a pass rusher, which was an area that the Broncos made it a point to address. The Broncos do come away with nice upgrades at outside linebacker and defensive end but fail to improve the run defense, and Kevin Vickerson doesn't look like he can carry the load at the position. The lack of a run stopper will kill the Broncos in 2011, but it's something that can always be addressed in free agency or next year's draft. It was a dumb decision to not take a defensive tackle, but not franchise-crippling. Overall, this looks like a good but not great draft for the Broncos. Just like I did a few weeks ago, we'll be writing next April that "the Denver Broncos badly need a defensive tackle because they just can't stop the run."