With Super Bowl 41 now far in Denver’s rearview window, it’s time to look ahead to the April 28-29 NFL Draft and see what the Broncos can do to be a part of SB 42.
"Draft the best available player," said Jason Been, oddsmaker at Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which supplies the opening line to a vast majority of the world’s books. "The Broncos have good players at every position. It’s basically a wait and see approach. They could use some help on the offensive line, which is aging."
Chuck Esposito at Caesars Palace Race & Sports Book opened the Broncos at 15/1 to win the 2008 Super Bowl and 8/1 to capture the AFC Championship. Been believes those odds are about right, though indicating the Broncos right now are probably just good enough for the playoffs.
"Denver always has a strong running game and (Jay) Cutler figures to improve at quarterback," he said. "The job will certainly be his. If (Jake) Plummer is not happy in a backup role, he will likely be traded."
Coach Mike Shanahan made the controversial midseason decision to bench the veteran Plummer, for the highly-touted Cutler. Jay was the people’s choice, but ultimately Denver’s late season loss at home to San Francisco erased any chance to make postseason play.
"No question losing to the 49ers was the critical blow to their season," Been said. "Denver could not come up with a run defense to stop the 49ers. Plus, you really can’t expect a rookie quarterback to lead them into the Super Bowl."
Denver also has to think about a big-play wide receiver to support last year’s top acquisition Javon Walker (69 rec, 1,084 yds, 8 TD) with Rod Smith now in the twilight of a great career. While the Broncos have a nice nucleus to work with, they are in the AFC West where San Diego figures to be the overwhelming favorite to win the division.
The Bells (Tatum and Mike) at running back combined for over 1,900 yards and 10 touchdowns. Cutler completed 59.1 percent of his throws, but threw 13 picks against 11 TDs. Plummer had a superior TD to INT ratio (9-to-5), but his 55.2 percent completions were less than Jay.
Placekicking is again no problem with Jason Elam hitting all 34 conversions and 27-of-29 field goals for 115 points.
Bottom line: The Broncos are a solid No. 2 behind San Diego and ahead of Kansas City and Oakland. If Denver has a decent draft and doesn’t lose at home to teams they should beat (like San Francisco), a playoff berth looks pretty good. That would mean at least 10 wins.