DENVER — Before the Broncos got fat and happy they were a problem.
They were a good problem, the kind of problem you want to have. They were a problem to block, to tackle, to fool, to intimidate. They were a problem to deal with — every single Sunday.
Where did those Broncos go?
This next Broncos draft class must reflect a return to pride, professionalism and being a problem. Somewhere along the way they lost parts of all three. This draft class could include up to 11 wide-eyed rookies — with the fifth, 40th, 71st, 99th, 106th, 109th, 142nd, 160th, 163rd, 182nd and 225th picks — and the focus must change. Last year they sought “juice,” as Vance Joseph often said. This year they need true professionals.
Don't tell anyone, but the New York Jets just did the Broncos a solid. The other day the Jets made the kind of move the Jets make, the kind of move bad teams make, trading up to the No. 3 pick — two spots ahead of Denver — presumably, given their godforsaken quarterback history, to get one of the quarterbacks.
The goal with a top-five pick shouldn’t be one of the quarterbacks.
The goal should be an All-Pro at any position.
So here we are: one of the immediate winners of the Colts-Jets blockbuster is the Broncos. With the top three picks looking like quarterbacks, the Browns (at No. 4) and the Broncos (at No. 5) seemingly will have their pick of the lot, non-quarterbacks division. It’s a great spot to be, if the No. 5 pick can be a great spot to be. One of the two best talents in the draft — if not the best quarterback — will be there at No. 5.
Pretty nice deal, when you think about it.
I prefer the idea of a pass-rusher like Bradley Chubb of North Carolina State, or a defensive back like Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama, to a QB. But any which way the Broncos go, how a prospect performs on a personality test should be equally important to his 40 time. Enough with the entitled already. It has felt like the newest Broncos saw the Lombardi trophies in the locker room but had no interest in the work it took to win them.
“I would say that one thing that I feel, a characteristic had seeped into our building a little bit, both of our buildings maybe. Expectations are fine — we should always have them — but we shouldn’t make assumptions,” Broncos CEO Joe Ellis said after the season — the smartest thing that's been said after the season.
Entitlement derailed the Broncos' master plans as much as shoddy quarterback play did. It was Aqib Talib who yanked a rookie from a team meeting to teach him a lesson about being late. Talib's gone now, and the remaining Broncos shouldn't be dealing with that nonsense.
The No. 5 pick in the NFL draft April 26 will establish the tenor for the next generation of Broncos. The chosen one must be a ringleader before he’s a ring collector. Here are the defensive Pro Bowlers selected with No. 5 picks over the past decade: Jalen Ramsey (Jaguars), Ezekiel Ansah (Lions), Patrick Peterson (Cardinals), Eric Berry (Chiefs), Khalil Mack (Raiders). Here is the offensive Pro Bowler over the past decade: offensive lineman Brandon Scherff (Titans). The other offensive players taken at No. 5: Mark Sanchez (who played here) and Corey Davis (who?).
Even if he's not at a position of need, the Broncos should take the gimme at No. 5. None of the quarterbacks are gimmes. Elsewhere? Plenty of gimmes.
“I try to take Khalil Mack and Von Miller and put them into one person,” Bradley Chubb told reporters at the NFL scouting combine.
Chubb is 6-foot-4, 269 pounds and the premier pass rusher in this particular draft. How does a pass-rush pairing of Von Miller (on one end) and Khalil Mack (on the other) sound? Pretty good to me. Pretty bad for quarterbacks. Pretty can't-miss. With their first-round pick at No. 5, the Broncos need can't-miss.
Denver's recent history of first-rounders is a mixed bag: 2013's Sylvester Williams (interviewing with his third team in five years, but a participant in two Super Bowls with Denver), 2014's Bradley Roby (so far, so good), 2015's Shane Ray (what was the buzz about?), 2016's Paxton Lynch (the jury's in), 2016's Garett Bolles (the jury's out).
Size, speed or strength was not been the issue with the Broncos’ draft failings. Entitlement was. The Broncos who won Super Bowl 50 twice encountered losing streaks — and stopped each streak at two. The Broncos who fumbled and bumbled through 2017 saw theirs reach eight straight Ls.
These Broncos will fight back on Twitter but not always on the field.
If Chubb is there at No. 5, the Broncos should not think twice. They should take another pass-rusher and make life miserable for Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes, for the first time, Oakland's Derek Carr, for a long time, and Los Angeles' Philip Rivers, for one last time.
“If I got to play with Von Miller, that would be crazy,” Chubb said.
Also crazy? Taking one of the quarterbacks when three are off the board.