With every week the NFL draft picture becomes clearer, and unfortunately for the Denver Broncos, it seems more and more likely that it will be their next significant event unless they get a win and some serious help this weekend.
Either way, the Broncos have lost seven of their last nine games, and in those seven losses they have exposed various areas of weakness. So many weaknesses in fact, that it appears they will likely trade down in the draft to stockpile picks and take advantage of a very deep draft.
If they do not trade down, I think the Broncos could look to the best player available with their first round pick. After the Chicago Bears' exciting overtime win against Minnesota on Monday night, that first round pick moved back a couple of spots, but is still in the top 10.
The Broncos are almost guaranteed a top 15 draft pick, so they will wind up with a very solid player no matter what, but who could they target if they do not trade down?
With their first pick, I really think the Broncos could be hard pressed to pass on Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Do not be confused, the Broncos are still in dire need of interior offensive linemen, but Bryant is too good to pass up on at this point in the draft, and he also fits a huge hole in Denver's offense.
Yes, you read that right.
Despite the fact that the Broncos have Brandon Marshall, one of five players in NFL history to record back to back to back 100 catch seasons, they are still in need of a playmaking number two wide receiver. Some of you might be asking, "What about Eddie Royal?"
Eddie Royal is a fine player and he has all of the tools to succeed in Josh McDaniels' offense, but not as a number two guy. Kyle Orton has clearly not gotten him the ball enough on the outside, and his services would be better used in the slot much like Wes Welker over in New England.
Enter Dez Bryant, a game-changing playmaker on the outside who would provide Kyle Orton with a second go-to guy in the passing game. Not to mention he would make the jobs of Royal and Marshall worlds easier. He is also a huge asset in the return game, an area the Broncos have struggled save for one game this season.
If the Broncos stick with their first round pick, I truly believe they will look to the best offensive player available, and in this case, Bryant fits the bill. He has great size as a receiver, game-changing speed, and he would be a great fit on the opposite side of the field from Marshall.
I know many Broncos fans, including myself are really high on Idaho guard Mike Iupati. He would be an excellent fit in Denver's offense at left guard, an area of Denver's front line that has been absolutely dreadful this season.
If the Broncos don't trade down and take him in the first round, they will probably not be able to get him, which is why I have devised an alternate option for their second round pick.
It is clear that the Broncos need help at guard, and though I think Seth Olsen could be the answer at either guard or center, there is a player available in this draft that could also be an excellent fit for the Broncos on the interior line.
UMass offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse is a very underrated prospect who could possibly fall to the Broncos in the second round, and if he does, they would be wise to jump at the opportunity to draft him.
Ducasse is still developing in terms of his overall football awareness, and his level of competition is going to seriously increase when he makes the jump to the NFL, but this is a guy who has great natural talent and at 6'5" 330 pounds, he is an ideal fit to play guard in Denver's system.
The Broncos have struggled to find consistency in their running game or pass protection all season long, and a lot of that can be attributed to their lack of size on the interior line. Ducasse brings a versatile weapon who is athletic enough to play tackle if someone drafted him to do so.
He would give the Broncos a very good, young left side of their offensive line, and though he is a small downgrade from the coveted Iupati, it is not much in terms of a talent drop off and this kid has great potential to succeed at the next level. If he falls to Denver in round two, expect him to be the pick.
If the Broncos go for two straight offensive players in rounds one and two, which I believe they should unless some guy named Suh falls into their laps, they would be wise to address the defensive side of the ball with the third pick.
In the third round, I like the Broncos to upgrade their depth and youth at the cornerback position by drafting Vanderbilt star Myron Lewis. I really like Lewis and had him going to Denver in my previous mock draft in the third round, and this pick has not changed.
One of the reasons I like Lewis is because of his 6'2" 205 pound frame. He has excellent size for the cornerback position and has very long arms. His speed is not elite, but his size helps him make up for it. He is an excellent open-field tackler and would give the Broncos another weapon on special teams right away.
With their fourth pick, I think the Broncos should again look to the best player available. In that case, I think they should go for Ole Miss playmaker Dexter McCluster.
McCluster is one of the fastest players available in this draft, and the Broncos really lack a big time speedster at the running back position. Though his size may be in question, the Broncos should have no reservations about a smaller running back given the amount of times they have been burned by San Diego's Darren Sproles, who is an excellent complimentary back, receiver, and return man.
McCluster has that big play potential for the next level. He is small in stature but he is very competitive and has blazing open field speed. He is a versatile player who would give the Broncos a home run threat offensively.
The Broncos do not have a fifth round pick, one of the reasons they would be wise to trade down. Waiting two rounds for a pick late is not all that bad, and I think they could look again to the best player available in the sixth round.
No change here, I still think the Broncos should look to Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki in round. Moeaki is a very good athlete with great ball skills and reliable hands though his biggest strength is his ability to block. He has been injury prone in his time at Iowa, but he is a great player when healthy and could be excellent value if he falls this far. He would be a nice replacement for Tony Scheffler if he leaves for free agency.
In the seventh, I look for the Broncos to go for more depth, and they clearly need depth along the offensive line. I think a good value pick here would be New Mexico offensive lineman Erik Cook.
Cook has been a very versatile performer for the Lobos, playing all of tackle, guard, and center in his time there. He would be a nice late addition for the Broncos and he has a good NFL blood line as his brother Ryan plays for the Minnesota Vikings.
Here is a recap of my Broncos mock draft:
1. Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
2. Vladimir Ducasse, G/T, UMass
3. Myron Lewis, CB, Vanderbilt
4. Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Ole Miss
5. Anthony Moeaki, TE, Iowa
6. Erik Cook, G/C, New Mexico
This draft may be heavy on the offensive players, and many will argue that the Broncos need young defensive linemen. I will quickly point to the fact that their defensive line has been one of their biggest strengths this season, though they have struggled against the run at times.
The Broncos have two players waiting in the wings that they have high hopes for in Everette Pedescleaux and Chris Baker, two undrafted players who have been developing all season under veterans Vonnie Holliday, Kenny Peterson, and Ronald Fields.
Denver may also have a need at middle linebacker, but they will probably not be picking high enough anymore to nab Rolando McClain, and their duo of Andra Davis and D.J. Williams will be just fine for another season. Wesley Woodyard is really coming on as well as a second year pro.
Another area the Broncos might like to address is their pass rush. Though Elvis Dumervil has been absolutely outstanding in 2009, the Broncos haven't generated a great pass rush outside of that. They could use a guy like McClain, Michigan's Brandon Graham, Ole Miss' Greg Hardy, or TCU's Jerry Hughes early on in the draft as well, and all are options.