For my first few mock drafts this offseason, I have projected the Broncos to make a trade. This particular mock will not feature a trade, though I feel it could be in Denver's best interest to do so. They would not have to cope with the cost of a top ten pick, though they might be forfeiting some talent in the prospect they acquire. While it may in fact be wise to trade down and acquire picks, the Broncos can do well with the six selections they currently possess.
This is a very deep draft, especially at the top end. During the 2009 draft, the Broncos traded their own 2010 first round pick to the Seattle Seahawks for a second round pick which was used on cornerback Alphonso Smith. Critics thought the Broncos to be idiotic for doing that, especially after trading away quarterback Jay Cutler. They thought the Broncos' first round pick was sure to be a top ten pick, and the Bears' pick would be in the 20's or later.
Looks like Josh McDaniels was and is smarter than them, and the Bears are currently 5-8 and projected to send Denver the eighth overall pick in the up-coming draft. Here's how I would project Denver's draft if they decide to stay put with all of their picks.
First Round: Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama
It is clear after three seasons that the 6'4" 245 pound linebacker on the nation's top defense is the best linebacker in this draft if he decides to come out. The All-American has recorded 266 tackles, eight sacks, five interceptions, and a fumble forced in his time at Alabama. McClain is smart, durable, and a great defensive leader. If the Broncos selected him, they would have one of, if not the best linebacker group in the NFL. McClain would pair in the middle with D.J. Williams, while emerging star Elvis Dumervil and 2009 first round pick Robert Ayers man the outside spots. McClain has excellent range against the run and takes great angles. He is one of the best pure tacklers in the draft, and projects as a three down linebacker at the next level. The prospect of adding him has to be exciting for the Broncos, whose only real defensive weakness is against the run.
Second Round: Dan Williams, DL, Tennessee
Williams would be a great value pick here for the Broncos. He adds good size and athleticism to the front line, and would make a great eventual replacement for Kenny Peterson, Vonnie Holliday, or Ryan McBean. He has great versatility as a lineman and is a run stopping force. He has imposing size at 6'3" 327 pounds, and has the ability to get in the backfield on a very consistent basis. Williams is an ideal potential fit for the nose tackle position in the 3-4, and would be great insurance up front for Denver's linebacker core.
Third Round: Adrian Clayborn, DL, Iowa This would be another great value pick. As I have stated in previous mock drafts, I am really high on Clayborn and if he declares for the draft I think he would be a steal at this point. He is an excellent run stuffer and a relentless pass rusher. He is very athletic for his size, and has good burst off the line of scrimmage. Clayborn is versatile enough to play inside or outside in the 4-3, or as a five technique or rush linebacker in the 3-4. The Broncos will love his versatility and burst.
Fourth Round: Mike Johnson, OL, Alabama The Broncos need some size and depth on the offensive line, and Johnson gives them just that. He has been a very versatile performer for the Crimson Tide, playing both tackle and guard in his time there. This season proved that the Broncos are somewhat weak in depth at offensive tackle, and they lack the size on the interior line (left guard and center in particular) to effectively run their offense. Johnson can play tackle or guard, and if Seth Olsen can transition to center, Johnson could be the eventual starter at the left guard position.
Sixth Round: Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Ole Miss I'm going with another SEC player here in McCluster, one of the most versatile players in the draft. He has blazing speed, and can help the Broncos in many different areas. He can line up as a return man, catch passes in the screen game, carry the ball, or line up as a wide receiver. He is a jack-of-all-trades who is vastly undersized, and he could end up being a big steal.
Seventh Round: Zoltan Mesko, P, Michigan Mesko has a booming foot, and Mitch Berger clearly isn't the Broncos' long term answer at the punter position. This kid was one of the few bright spots for the Wolverines in 2009, and should have a long future punting on Sundays.