Jussel: Different strategies lie in front of Denver

With their first selection in the 2017 NFL draft Thursday, the Denver Broncos select …

Wait just a minute. The Broncos are set to draft 20th, meaning 19 ways of muddying waters.

Denver GM John Elway will have several methods of going about his madness.

First up is the “draft for need” schematic: In the case of the Broncos, the highest priority is an offensive tackle, preferably to play the left side. Elway, however, may decide there is not an offensive tackle worthy of the 20th selection.

Having decided that, Elway could use the popular “best athlete available” ploy. There may also be a problem there: In this year’s draft, the largest concentration of talent is defensive back. Corners and safeties abound.

What is Denver loaded with? D-backs, of course. Elway is not likely to take a D-back at No. 20.

So, the Broncos don’t overextend for the needed left tackle and they don’t take the best available athlete picking from the 20th slot. What does John do?

Ta-da! He trades the pick! It’s so obvious, even those of us suffering brief bouts of dementia can see it.

Elway can go about this two ways: He can trade up — or down.

Denver is stacked with 10 selections in this draft. They have one in the first, one in the second, two in the third, one each in the fourth, fifth and sixth and three in the seventh. The Broncos can package any number moving either up or down.

Let’s say Elway and his staff have determined they want Denver’s own Christian McCaffrey, the do-it-all running back from Stanford.

As they watch the draft unfold, however, they will start biting fingernails as Pick 8 approaches when the Carolina Panthers come on the clock. Cam Newton dishing it to McCaffrey makes a lot of sense. Elway and his crew are also going to have to sweat out Philly at 14, Indy at 15 and Tampa Bay at 19, all teams that need running backs.

If the Broncos want their very own in-state hero, they are going to have to go get him – and that will cost plenty in the form of picks. It will cost too much.

Another player who would immediately upgrade Denver is Alabama tight end O.J. Howard. Like McCaffrey, Howard would instantly make either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch a better quarterback. Again, Denver is not going to get Howard with the 20th pick.

If Elway and his staff want McCaffrey or Howard, they are going to have to pay the piper plenty.

So, no draft for need, no best player available, no trading up. Let’s go the other direction.

Elway puts in a call to the Cleveland Browns, who have 11 picks, four in the first two rounds.

Denver goes from 20 to 33, Cleveland’s first selection in the second round. The Broncos also grab Cleveland’s third-round pick. The Broncos would then have Picks 33, 51, 65, 82 and 101, five choices in the first three rounds.

With those picks, Elway & Co. could fill several positions of need.

Here’s one man’s mock draft scenario for the Broncos …

Denver trades Pick 20 in the draft to Cleveland for Pick 33 in the second round and Pick 65 in the third round. To make the trade work, Denver also gives Cleveland its sixth-round selection.

With Pick 33, Denver takes tight end Evan Engram of Mississippi, a 235-pounder who can fly — 4.42 40 time — a nightmare matchup from in tight or the slot. Engram immediately takes pressure off wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in the middle of the field. He’s not a great blocker, but neither was Shannon Sharpe.

At Pick 51, Denver takes Chris Wormley, a 300-pound defensive tackle from Michigan, a defensive end in Denver’s 3-4 and an immediate member of the rotation in a suddenly decent run-stopping defensive front.

The 65th pick is Dion Dawkins, a 6-4, 314-pound guard/tackle from Temple. Pick 82 is another offensive lineman, Taylor Moton, 6-5, 319 from Western Michigan. Either or both could play anywhere on the line, soon.

To finish out the third round, with Pick 101 because no one else has taken a chance, Denver takes Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, the Anti-McCaffrey. Mixon has had his well-documented problems. Isn’t Aqib Talib still a Bronco? What about Shane Ray? Bradley Roby?

Enough said.

With the rest of their picks, Denver takes Elijah Qualls, a 313-pound All-Pac 12 defensive tackle from Washington, in Round 4, Donnell Pumphrey, the super-quick running back/slot receiver/returner from San Diego State, in Round 5, and three players you’ve never heard of in Round 7.

There you have it. All Denver’s problems are solved.

Bring on the San Diego, er, Los Angeles Chargers.


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