SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 27: Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos scrambles out of the pocket with Spencer Larsen #46 and Orlando Franklin #74 during the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on November 27, 2011 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Will the Denver Broncos seriously consider building an offense around Tim Tebow? If they do, they need to target some very specific types of player in free agency and the 2012 NFL Draft.
All he does is win? That notion gets thrown around often when people are talking about Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. He does a fair amount of polarizing as well, between the secular and religious as well as the football purists and the folks just happy to have the page views he brings.
Broncos team president and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway's take on Tebow receives incessant scrutiny. Despite his smiles last week as the Broncos beat the Chargers, Elway appears to be lukewarm on his second-year quarterback's long-term prospects (or perhaps Tebow has a polarizing opinion of cigarettes too).
If Denver wins the AFC West, a distinct possibility, Elway faces a tough decision during offseason. Do the Broncos chase free agents and draft the kind of players who could work in their post-modern option, led by Mr. Option himself, Tim Tebow?
Building an offense around Tebow is a significant endeavor because it means picking up some players that might otherwise be passed over by a team choosing a more accepted route. Suppose for a moment that Elway concedes, opting to prioritize the personnel moves to for this very enjoyable monstrosity of an offense. Here's a brief outline for the types of players they need and some names to know.
Denver's ability to run the ball is pretty impressive considering the players on their depth chart at running back. Besides Tebow, 30-year old Willis McGahee is Denver's top option. No upgrade to this offense would have as much impact as bringing in a pure speedster to pair with Tebow's power.
"The biggest issue with the Broncos' offense right now is they don't have a speed back," said Joe McAtee, one of the draft gurus over at Mocking the Draft. "Tebow's ground abilities are built on direct power; you have to be able to play off that with someone who can take advantage of defenses who are fooled off initial movements."
Had Denver known they would be running an option offense, Darren Sproles would have been the perfect offseason free agent addition. The 2012 NFL Draft should have plenty of options for them, especially as the rest of the league seems to be devaluing backs in the draft. Oregon's LaMichael James (prospect notes from MtD) would be one of the top options in the draft. James could make big plays on the outside, and still has the ability to make cuts and find holes in traffic elsewhere on the field.
Reuniting Tebow with running back Jeff Demps is another possibility. With Demps' pure speed, Denver could to do to opposing defenses what Demps and Tebow did the Alabama in the 2008 National Championship game. Of course, the diminutive Demps' injury history and size could be a problem at the professional level. Smaller, speedier guys like Demps tend to go in the middle rounds these days, meaning the right pick could pay huge dividends for the Donkeys.
Option or not, the offense still needs wide receivers. Eric Decker looks like a perfect fit as a bigger possession receiver who can work deep and intermediate routes. Priority number one for finding a receiver ought to be finding someone who can recreate what Tebow and Percy Harvin did at Florida.
"He has to be athletic enough to integrate seamlessly in horizontal running schemes (veers, sweeps, counters, etc.)," said McAtee. "with a QB that forces a triple threat in the ground game, that's brutal for a defense to try and contain."
Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright has been making waves this season paired with Robert Griffin III at quarterback. Wright has more than enough speed to get behind defenses as a receiver, though his hands might not be as good as Harvin's. A player of Wright's caliber might alter the need at running back, giving Denver the flexibility to look for a fast, but more traditional between the tackles type. Another name to consider is Arkansas' Joe Adams. His elusiveness would lend itself well to missing tackles and breaking open plays.
One of the more obvious needs for the Tebow-led Broncos this season has been a tight end with enough versatility to be a factor as a pass catcher as well as a solid blocker. Daniel Fells is just okay in both areas. Green Bay probably has no intention of letting Jermichael Finley get away, but if they did, Denver could make a big splash by signing him. Another interesting name in free agency would be John Carlson, current on injured reserve. His receiving skills are a little shaky. In the draft, Denver could target Stanford's Coby Fleener (prospect notes). Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert would be perfect, if he comes out this year. Clemon's Dwayne Allen could be an option if they used a middle to late pick in the first round on a tight end.
As teams have evolved toward the pass-heavy offenses, athletic offensive tackles have become very rich men. Denver needs tackle help, but the need diverges from what teams have sought in a tackle with high picks in the first round. Tebow needs a power blocker on the outside, albeit one who can pull for counter plays. If they opt for a tackle early, Iowa State's Kelechi Osemele (prospect notes) is a player to watch. Connecticut's Mike Ryan is an option on the second day of the draft.
These moves would not turn the Broncos into an option version of Green Bay's prolific offense. What it would do is make the unit a more efficient and effective one, not to mention interesting to watch.