Williams’ death looms over Broncos on draft day
DENVER – Darrent Williams’ death still looms over the Denver Broncos four months after the promising 24-year-old cornerback was gunned down following a New Year’s Eve party, an unsolved slaying that continues to shake the franchise and community.The Broncos acquired Dre’ Bly from Detroit in one of their many offseason moves, and he’ll take Williams’ spot on defense, teaming with Champ Bailey in what promises to be the top cornerback tandem in football.To replace Williams’ presence on special teams, the Broncos will be looking for a kick returner in the draft this weekend, and one intriguing possibility is Ohio State’s Ted Ginn Jr.The Broncos also need to get better at rushing the passer – Florida end Jarvis Moss could fit the bill – after bidding farewell to Michael Myers and Courtney Brown this offseason. They need upgrades along the offensive line to protect last year’s first-round pick, quarterback Jay Cutler.They also have pressing needs at safety, where they’re getting long in the tooth, and at linebacker, where they recently jettisoned perennial Pro Bowler and vocal leader Al Wilson.A move up into the top 10 or so spots Saturday would likely give them a shot at Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye.Denver owns the 21st pick and have a history of moving up on draft day. The Broncos have the fodder to climb again this year with four of the first 86 picks on Saturday, including an extra third-rounder courtesy of their trade of disgruntled wide receiver Ashley Lelie to Atlanta last summer.On Sunday, they own two sixth-round selections and one seventh-rounder.The Broncos have made nine trades during the draft in this decade, including last year, when they moved up to No. 11 to select Vanderbilt’s Cutler, who unseated Jake Plummer with five games left in the season. They also traded a second-round pick to Green Bay for wide receiver Javon Walker, who emerged as the team’s top performer on an otherwise middling and mediocre offense.Denver has already helped itself offensively in free agency, signing running back Travis Henry, tight end Daniel Graham and wide receiver Brandon Stokley, among others.”A lot of new faces,” second-year tight end Tony Scheffler said. “It is interesting to come back. I’m used to college, coming back to see the same guys. Coming back here we have Stokley, Travis Henry, Daniel Graham. There are some premier players in this offense, a lot of guys in this offense that can make plays and do a lot of special things.”I think Coach (Mike) Shanahan can do a lot of things with this offense and open it up and with a quarterback like Jay, we’re headed for something big.”The Broncos could still use another offensive lineman, preferably one that would allow Matt Lepsis, recovering from an ACL injury, to move from left tackle to the right side. The loss of Lepsis midway through last season was costly as the Broncos faltered, especially in the running game, their usual forte.”Any time you’re ranked 21st in the league on offense, that’s embarrassing in itself,” Shanahan said. “We’re not used to doing that and we won’t be there very long.”They still need some retooling on defense, where the highly regarded Jim Bates is the new assistant head coach.Their most pressing need is a pass rusher, either a lineman or linebacker.They had a deal in place to send Wilson to the New York Giants earlier this month but he failed his physical because of a December neck injury and the Broncos released him this week, leaving a gaping hole in the leadership department and at middle linebacker, where outside linebacker D.J. Williams, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2004, will take over.The Broncos will likely select a safety in the draft for the first time in five years because John Lynch is going on 36 and Nick Ferguson is 32 and coming off a knee reconstruction. Sam Brandon’s season also was cut short by a knee injury last year.The Broncos are among the league’s most secretive teams when it comes to drafting college talent. Shanahan will often go so far as to not even talk to players he covets lest other teams learn of his interest and scuttle his plans.Last year, Cutler, Scheffler, a second-rounder, and Elvis Dumervil, a fourth-rounder, heard nary a word from the Broncos until Shanahan called them to say they were going to be headed to Denver.”I had never spoken with the Broncos,” Dumervil said. “So when I got a call from Colorado it was shocking.”
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