ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Vance Joseph has had plenty of time to look at the Denver Broncos’ roster since he was hired as the coach in January. That means he’s had plenty of time to make a wish list as the team goes about its offseason repairs.
Beyond the vacant left tackle spot, the most glaring need on offense is more big-play pop, especially in the running game. With a desire to find a consistent No. 3 receiver and a player who might fill either of those needs and be a returner, keep an eye on speed as the Broncos make their selections during the draft weekend.
“Overall to our offense in general, [we need] to add more juice there, whether it’s a receiver or a running back,” Joseph said. “Every good offense needs a guy who can take the ball from the [line of scrimmage] and go the distance with it. It’s important to have that aspect of an offense. Running back, receiver, wherever it comes from, but definitely having more juice on offense is a must in my opinion.”
Joseph has consistently said the run game will get plenty of attention in the new playbook. After all, the Broncos were 27th in the league last season in rushing, and within those disappointing numbers was the fact they had just four runs of more than 20 yards. Two of those came in the Week 1 win over the Carolina Panthers.
“And running the football is the ultimate way to put the defense at risk,” Joseph said. “I truly believe that.”
In the end, a multi-tasker like Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, who could also line up at wide receiver and present a speed option in the return game, would check off all of the proverbial boxes for Denver in one player. But the Broncos don’t pick until No. 20 in the first round, and McCaffrey isn’t expected to be on the board by the time that pick rolls around.
The Broncos did have McCaffrey in this past week for one of their pre-draft visits, so they are at least mulling the scenarios that would have to unfold for the suburban Denver native to end up on the roster. USC cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, who has played on offense for the Trojans and is one of the most electric returners on the draft board, is another who would fit the speed-upgrade profile.
But the Broncos simply need more speed at receiver to keep teams from ganging up on Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and the need in the return game has largely gone unfilled the last three seasons. Thomas did not have a game with multiple touchdown catches last season; Thomas and Sanders each had a six-game stretch without a scoring catch.
Thomas’ touchdown drought covered the final six games, when the Broncos teetered on the edge of the postseason field until December losses against Tennesee and Kansas City.
“We shall see what’s next and who they bring in from the draft or who we might go out and pick up,” Thomas said. “The guys we have right now, I think they’ll bring enough juice. If we add somebody, that we will be even better.”
With 10 picks to work with at the moment, it will be a good idea to keep an eye on the speed numbers as the Broncos pull some of the names off the board.
“We just want to have impact guys,” Joseph has said. “As a defensive coach, I know those guys who can take the ball the distance every time they get it in their hands are the guys who worry you. You flip the field, you flip the game.”