The Offensive Line of the Denver Broncos will be charged with keeping “fragile, old and used up” Peyton Manning on the field in 2012. Seriously….IF they can keep him upright they should contribute to the overall Fantasy value of the Broncos players. The Offensive Line consists of Left Tackle Ryan Clady, Left Guard Zane Beadles, Center J.D Walton, Right Guard Chris Kuper and Right Tackle Orlando Franklin.
Left Tackle Ryan Clady was taken in the 1st round by the Broncos in the 2008 NFL Draft. Last year he gave up 9 sacks but was selected to his second Pro Bowl. When he’s on he exhibits quickness and mobility but he must play better in 2012. Big in stature and durable expect him to return to “true” Pro Bowl form protecting Peyton Manning.
Left Guard Zane Beadles was selected in the 2nd round of the 2010 NFL Draft by Denver. Prototypical size for a Guard he is good in pass protection and better versus the run. He has big hands and is very adept at using them. Zane scored a 36 on the Wonderlic Test that is administered at the NFL Combine. To put that into perspective, 36 is better than the average of Chemists that have been administered the test.
Center J.D Walton was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Broncos. He has started every game since entering the NFL. He is decent at pass protection but struggles a bit against the run. Having a QB who releases quicker than most QB’s in history will help. J.D will have competition this year for Center in 2012 Draftee Philip Blake who may step in if Walton struggles.
Right Guard Chris Kuper was snatched up by Denver in the 5th round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He is a current Co-Captain of the Offense and is very well respected. He is a bit light for a Guard but makes up for that shortcoming (pardon the pun) with guts and tenacity. In the season finale last year he suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle and broken leg. He is expected to recover in time to start the 2012 season and the Broncos can be thankful due to the fact they don’t have much depth at RG.
Right Tackle Orlando Franklin was selected in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft by Denver. Huge and imposing he blocks the pass and run equally well. He started every game as a Rookie and made improvements as the year went on. He has some of the largest hands in the NFL and is technically sound.
Now to analyze the numbers…..
The Broncos ranked 11th in Total Run Blocking in 2011 allowing Willis McGahee and company to gallop for a 4.67 yard per carry average with exceeded the NFL average of 4.31 yards per carry. Broncos RB’s were stopped at/or behind the line 17% of the time which again was better than the NFL average of 19%. The RB’s achieved first downs on 3rd/4th down runs 56% of the time which was well below the NFL average of 62%. That mark was 6th from last in the NFL and is an area that needs to be addressed. Denver ran 410 times in 2011 but don’t think for a minute that they will continue that trend with Peyton at the helm. The RB’s experienced their least success running outside of Ryan Clady averaging only 3.35 yards per carry. They had much more success running behind hulking RT Orlando Franklin averaging 5.09 yards per carry which was 2nd in the NFL. Look for Willis McGahee, Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball to soften up defenses by bringing them closer to the line while Peyton hits his receivers. My projection is that there will be no 1000 yard rusher in the Mile High City this year.
The Broncos ranked 29th in Pass Protection allowing Orton and Tebow to be sacked on 9.2% of their dropbacks which exceeded the NFL average of 6.7%. The reason for this was the inability of Tebow to make a quick read and having to scramble for his life at times. Don’t expect Manning to be sacked 41 times like the Broncos QB’s were in 2011. Peyton is a master at reading the defense so he will either run a scheduled play or a quick checkdown to a receiver. He audibles better than anyone in NFL history so that affords him the time to escape a blitz with a quick slant or a drag route. Fantasy numbers will be okay for all the primary participants like Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen but don’t expect Manning to achieve 4700 yards and 40+ TD’s. Nobody in that bunch is Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison or Dallas Clark.
Again, thanks to www.footballoutsiders.com for the statistics
Next team to profile is the Detroit Lions