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McDaniels does little to fill defensive holes in his first draft with Broncos

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With one notable exception, Josh McDaniels came out of his first draft as the Denver Broncos' coach with the same big question mark he had coming in -- his defensive front seven.

"Yeah, it still is," McDaniels told The Associated Press on Sunday. "The defensive line and linebacking corps haven't played together. It's always going to be that way. When you change a scheme, bring in new players and then practice a whole bunch of times and never hit anybody, I don't know how much information you're going to gather about them."

As McDaniels noted before the draft, the hardest position to evaluate is linemen who are running around in shorts in April without anybody to hit. He knows what he has in his stout offensive line that allowed just 12 sacks last season.

But his defensive front seven is a mystery.

McDaniels is switching the Broncos' defense from the old four-man front to a 3-4 alignment, and nobody knows who those seven starters will be come August. About all anybody knows is the Broncos will be beefier in the front seven than they were last seaspn.

"And again, you can't always address everything you want to (in the draft)," McDaniels said. "It's the way the draft is. Where's the depth?"

Certainly not at defensive end/outside linebacker, in McDaniels' view.

"I don't think this was a very deep draft in terms of players who would have fit our system in those areas," McDaniels said. "If it's not there, you're not going to just go chasing it and draft a bunch of guys that say DT or tight end or wide receiver by their name. It doesn't mean they're a good player."

So, instead of addressing his biggest needs in his first draft, McDaniels used six of his 10 selections on offense. He traded up four times, three of them to take an offensive player.

That doesn't mean he's standing pat with the front seven he has. He'll scour college and veteran free agents to possibly add to the mix.

McDaniels did land three potential starters with his first three picks, Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno and Tennessee pass-rusher Robert Ayers in the first round and Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith in the second.

But at what cost?

The Broncos moved up to grab Smith by trading their No. 1 pick in next year's draft to the Seattle Seahawks. Given the Broncos' brutal schedule and suspect front seven, that could end up being a top-10 selection that landed in the Seahawks' lap.

"It speaks volumes that coach McDaniels and the Broncos staff thought I was a first-round talent so they gave up a first-round pick for me," Smith said. "Hopefully, it won't be so controversial after this season."

The Broncos still own the Chicago Bears' first-round pick, which Denver received in the Jay Cutler trade.

Fans and critics are blasting the Broncos for not sending Seattle the lesser of their two picks in 2010.

"There was a little discussion about that," McDaniels said. "But we agreed that it could be ours after talking it through with the other team. We felt like, that's OK, we'll roll the dice."

McDaniels also sent his two third-rounders to the Pittsburgh Steelers in order to move up and select North Carolina tight end Richard Quinn with the last pick of Day 1.

The surprises continued Sunday with the additions of Notre Dame safety David Bruton and Iowa offensive guard Seth Olsen in the fourth round, wide receiver Kenny McKinley of South Carolina in the fifth and TCU center Blake Schlueter in the seventh.

The Broncos also moved up in the sixth round to draft Fresno State quarterback Tom Brandstater, a deal that cost them one of their two seventh-rounders this year and a fifth-round pick next year.

Brandstater is expected to learn the ropes for at least a year while either Kyle Orton or Chris Simms starts next season.

"Any time you're dealing with a rookie player, there's no guarantee he's going to compete immediately to play, and I don't know that I've ever been around any rookie quarterback who's done that," McDaniels said.

Brandstater said he's eager to learn from McDaniels, who tutored Tom Brady and Matt Cassel as the New England Patriots' offensive coordinator.

Although he'll also get some looks at linebacker, Ayers will start out at defensive end and the five-technique position, where he would line up over the guard's outside shoulder in a 3-4 alignment -- something he never did in college.

McDaniels "looked at me as a guy that could do multiple things, can rush from multiple positions," Ayers said.

McDaniels has added 26 players since taking over from Mike Shanahan in January.

"From the get-go, we targeted a certain type of player, tough, smart, competitive, versatile, good person that loves football and wants to win," McDaniels said. "We think we brought in those types of free agents. We think we drafted 10 players that fit that mold also. The college free agents, hopefully will be the exact same."

Things also are settling down for McDaniels away from the office. His family joined him in Denver last week, and they sold their house in Massachusetts and just closed on a new home, which will be ready by July.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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