The 2009 NFL Draft was an important one for the Denver Broncos. It was new coach/general manager Josh McDaniels' first draft. The Broncos were rebuilding after a tough year where they surrendered a three game lead in the AFC West with just three games to go. And, an awful last game of the season, a 52-21 embarrassment at the hands of the San Diego Chargers, was fresh in the mind's of fans. It was that game and the team's collapse that ultimately got longtime coach Mike Shanahan fired.
A lot was riding on that day in April.
Thanks to the Jay Cutler trade to the Bears, Denver had two first-round picks to use. This was a perfect way to rebuild a defense that was a joke down the stretch and had struggled in previous years as well.
But, McDaniels went offense with the 12th overall pick, selecting running back Knowshon Moreno. Moreno has shown very few flashes of greatness and could possibly not make the team in 2012. With that 12th pick, the Broncos could have taken future pro bowlers Brian Cushing or Brian Orakpo.
The Broncos still had the 18th pick and were looking defense. In hindsight though, it looks like they were looking at the wrong player. Did the Broncos select Clay Matthews? Nope. They picked Robert Ayers out of Tennessee. A tweener between end and linebacker. He really had no true position.
Ayers, who has 4.5 sacks and 71 tackles in his Broncos career, is now staring at losing his starting job.
New Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio does not seemed impressed with Ayers and has been starting Jason Hunter at the defensive end spot opposite Elvis Dumervil. Del Rio likes what he sees in Hunter, who only has four sacks in his time with the Broncos. Hunter is a strong worker on the field and has played hard in the playing time he has seen. If the new coach likes him, he is going to play.
Ayers could still be a man with no position, just as he was when he was drafted. He is too big to play linebacker, too small to play defensive tackle, and too slow to play end against the more talented tackles. The Broncos can't use him on specials teams. There is just no place to play him.
Ayers was a McDaniels' draft pick and the new regime sees the 2009 draft as a failure. 2010 was a different story, but 2009 has not produced for the Broncos. Of the 12 players Denver picked in that draft, only three are still presently with the team: Ayers, Moreno, and safety David Bruton. All three are treading on thin ice during training camp.
Ayers was brought in to help the pass rush and to solidify a defensive line that, except for Dumervil, was struggling. Ultimately, he has been bust for the Broncos and it might be time for him to go.