2011 NFL Draft: Should Broncos Keep a 3-4 Defense?

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Last night was a very exciting, entertaining, and surprising first round to the 2011 NFL draft. All of that was encompassed in the Denver Broncos’ pick at number 2 overall. We all heard the rumors all day yesterday that the Broncos were going to take Von Miller to play outside linebacker in their 4-3 scheme.

I didn’t buy it at first, until I heard Adam Schefter say it was all but done. Schefter has a lot of connections in Denver, from his prior experience working there. If he speaks on inside information that deals with the Broncos, you can pretty much chalk it up as a done deal. Knowing all of this, I was still questioning if maybe he had received some bad information and here’s why.

Denver hired Josh McDaniels two years ago and he brought in Mike Nolan to switch the defense from their 4-3 to Nolan’s 3-4. When you make this move, it takes a few years to completely transform the roster to be better suited for the 3-4 alignment. Denver never made it fully to a 3-4 team but the transition over, has them better suited for the 3-4 than the 4-3. 

Now that Josh McDaniels has been fired and John Fox is the new head coach, Denver has stated that they’ll run a 4-3 base. That means changing the personnel back. Switching to the 3-4 has left them with zero starters at the defensive tackle position, so obviously my thought was that if two elite defensive tackles like Nick Fairley from Auburn and Marcell Dareus from Alabama was sitting there at pick #2, that the Broncos would select the one they felt better suited their needs. They didn’t!

To be fair, the Broncos aren’t that well off at outside linebacker as well. In this regard Von Miller makes since here, because he’s the best 4-3 outside linebacker. But, that’s his secondary position. Miller is the premier 3-4 outside linebacker. He would have a chance to lead the league in sacks at that position this year! That’s insane to think but that’s how talented he is at that position.

Denver’s defensive tackles who are under contract right now are, Louis Leonard, Kevin Vickerson, and Ryan McBean is a restricted free agent. Not quite Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, huh? In the 4-3 they need two quality starters and at least one more solid player to rotate in with these big guys to keep them fresh. Their outside linebackers are currently, DJ Williams, Wesley Woodyard, Lee Robinson, Mario Haggan, Braxton Kelley, and of course Von Miller. Robert Ayers and Elvis Dumervil are set to be the starting defensive ends.

Denver has the luxury of being in an awkward situation right now. Free agency will come after the draft this year. What that means is, it’s not too late to change their mind on the switch back to a 4-3 defense.  They haven’t made any free agent acquisitions yet that solely fit the 4-3 scheme, so they can change right now and decide to keep the 3-4 defense and be better off for the 2011 season. Let me show you exactly how dynamic this defense could be if they stayed with the 3-4 system.

Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller are ideal 3-4 outside linebackers. Miller is cut in a similar mold of Dumervil.  Elvis led the NFL in sacks two seasons ago in his very first season in the 3-4. He was injured last year and missed the complete season. Scary thought for AFC West quarterbacks, Miller is a better 3-4 outside linebacker than Dumervil. If the Broncos lined with Miller and Dumervil on the outside edges of the 3-4 we could see every NFL team sack record shattered.

Here’s how the complete picture would lay out and make more sense. DJ Williams would stay inside at the linebacker position and Wesley Woodyard or Joe Mays would start next to him with Miller and Dumervil at the outside linebacker positions. Robert Ayers could hybrid between the outside linebacker position and the 3-4 defensive end.  Now, because of staying in the 3-4, Denver would only need 3 starters on the defensive line instead of 4. Robert Ayers could man one of the defensive end positions and the Broncos could use either one of their 2 second round picks today to get a pure 3-4 nose tackle like Kenrick Ellis, Stephen Paea, Jerrell Powe etc. They could also use one of those 2nd round picks to take a chance on Da’Quan Bowers to man the other 3-4 defensive end position. If none of this works out, then they’ll be able to find the other fillers for their defensive line in free agency.

If I was a fan of the Denver Broncos, I would be writing a letter right now, begging John Elway, John Fox, and Brian Xanders to please give of us the most exciting duo of pass rushers in history! I would also make sure to mention, that if you move Dumervil back to a 4-3 defensive end and Von Miller to a 4-3 outside linebacker, it would be like sticking kryptonite in Superman’s pocket and asking him to go save the world…or in this case a gawd awful defense. That’s my two cents and to the Broncos’ front office, it’s probably worth 2 cents.

Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or You may email Jayson directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock