Broncos’ draft strategy is anyone’s guess

Feeling a draft?

Yes, the National Football League draft — annually the most anticipated event of the year with the obvious exceptions of Black Friday, the Super Bowl and Groundhog Day — will majestically appear on your tube.

As usual, the broadcast will be via ESPN and the NFL Network. ESPN will do the honors for the first round April 25, starting at 6 p.m. After the first round, ESPN will provide sporadic coverage, with the NFL Network to be on the scene a record 45-plus hours through April 27.

Get yourself a couple of bags of chips, a case or two of your favorite beverage and dig in if you dare.

Most of us in these parts, of course, will be interested in what the Denver Broncos do.

The free-agency period is mostly history with only a few stray slots to be filled by renting veterans for a year or two. Draftees are meant to stay on board for the next four to five years, and John Elway, the Broncos director of football operations, and his staff will be looking to build on two years of drafts that have seen 15 of 16 draftees earn spots on the roster.

Which way will the Broncos go? Your guess is as good, possibly better, than mine.

Let’s look ahead and start with the premise that Denver picks 28th.

That, however, may fall by the wayside quickly. The Broncos, as was the case last year, will look at what has happened in the first several hours of picks and think about trading spots, either up or down, as opportunities present themselves.

If nothing else, you can bet they will be flexible because they have a number of positions to fill in an effort to add depth: running back and line on offense, every secondary position, the interior line, middle linebacker and, yes, the vacated Elvis Dumervil pass-rushing slot on defense.

Mock drafts have been en vogue over the past month, and those predictions for the Broncos range from defensive lineman Kawann Short of Purdue to middle linebacker Manti Te’o of Notre Dame to running back Eddie Lacy of Alabama to cornerback Desmond Trufant of Washington.

The draft is loaded with defensive-line talent, and Denver could have any number of quality interior run stoppers, such as Purdue’s Short or Georgia’s John Jenkins, available at Pick 28. By my count, there will be as many as five interior linemen who could make an immediate impact in Denver still available at the 28th slot.

There are four to five outstanding defensive end/pass rushers available to replace the dearly departed Dumervil, but those nasty creatures will be long gone by the time the Broncos pick. That’s if they don’t trade up to try to grab someone they can’t resist, such as a Bjoern Werner of Florida State, who should go somewhere around No. 20.

Notre Dame’s Te’o, at one point considered a top-five pick, has seen his stock drop because of his perceived involvement in an Internet “She (He) is my girlfriend” hoax, quickly followed by a slow 40-yard dash time at the recent prospect combine. He could be available when the Broncos go on the clock and would certainly seem to be a fit if Denver stays put in the first round.

Alabama’s Lacy also may still be around and is head and shoulders above the rest of the “big” running back crowd. He could be just what the doctor ordered in Denver’s up-the-gut running format.

Yes, there will be plenty of choices when it is Denver’s turn to pick on this late April night, which is why I believe they will seriously look at trading the pick for another couple of selections later, as they did last year.

What we can probably make book on is what the Broncos won’t select:

They won’t go grab another quarterback, not with young Brock Osweiler on board for the foreseeable future to live and learn from Peyton Manning.

Center is not a position of need with J.D. Walton and Philip Blake on board. Nor is guard with the recently signed Luis Vasquez and Zane Beadles on hand and possibly Chris Kuper.

I can’t imagine them taking a wide receiver or a tight end. There is plenty of talent on board and much more out there available on the free-agent market if needed.

And they don’t need outside linebackers, not with Von Miller and Wesley Woodyard around.

All of which means, of course, the first pick will be ... outside linebacker Arthur Brown of Kansas State, tight end Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame or wide receiver Robert Woods of Southern Cal.

Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.


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