In my previous mock draft, I had the Denver Broncos trading down not once but twice in the first round of the draft to accumulate picks, and my final decision was to take Oregon State nose tackle Stephen Paea. I think Paea is one of the better defensive tackle prospects available, and I certainly think he's still an option. He has almost all of the tools needed to be a good nose tackle in the NFL despite his lack of height. He is as strong as an ox, and can move blockers fairly easily.
That being said, the Josh McDaniels era has ended, so who knows if Denver will be maneuvering up and down the draft like they did last year?
Until the Broncos hire a new head coach, we might not even know what kind of defensive scheme this team is going to run. I still think the Broncos' new management will look to move forward with most of the players it currently has. Contrary to popular belief, the Broncos do have talent on their roster, and they have young talent on both sides of the ball.
Perhaps they do not have an Ndamukong Suh or Eric Berry, but they certainly haven't been left in the dark for the new regime.
Much of what the Broncos do in the up-coming draft is going to depend on who is calling the shots, and that could very well be current General Manager Brian Xanders, who has been right there with Josh McDaniels in building this team over the last two years.
The two have adopted a similar philosophy for selecting players, and I think if Xanders stays on, this team will not have so much roster turnover as the last go 'round.
Again, I think the Broncos will definitely consider keeping Brian Xanders in his official role, but there are some good executives out there who are ready for GM positions, and the Broncos have stated that their new head coach will not have the same power Josh McDaniels and Mike Shanahan had, wihch I totally agree with.
For the order of this mock draft, I am going to use Draft Tek's power rankings, which I mostly agree with.
I am also going to approach this mock draft as though I personally am the GM, because the Broncos currently do not have one. My credentials, you ask?
Since 2000, I have been building dynasty upon dynasty--on Madden video games. Countless undefeated seasons later, and 11 Madden titles, I am ready for the big jump. I am ready for the responsibility and look forward to building this team into a super power.
1. Cincinnati Bengals (from Panthers): Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
The Bengals are going to move forward without Carson Palmer, and they give up a bounty of picks for Luck here. Palmer could even be included in the trade. It's clear that the Bengals are moving forward without Palmer, and Luck would be the ideal replacement.
I predict the Bengals will trade their first and second round picks in 2011, Carson Palmer, and a future pick to the Panthers for the right to draft Luck. The Panthers need to address multiple needs, and traded their 2nd round choice to New England. I would not be surprised to see them keep this pick, however.
2. Detroit Lions: Patrick Peterson, Cornerback, LSU
The Lions need playmakers on the back end of their defense. Peterson is the best in the draft.
3. Buffalo Bills: Cam Newton, Quarterback, Auburn
Newton is far better a prospect than Vince Young, who went 3rd overall in 2006. They are having a similar climb to prominence, and Newton will likely tear apart the offseason workouts. The Bills get their QB of the future and the most exciting player in the draft.
4. Carolina Panthers (from Bengals): A.J. Green, Wide Receiver, Georgia
Like I said, the Panthers have an absolute bounty of needs, and they get the party started by taking the biggest playmaker in the draft, A.J. Green.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Prince Amukamara, Cornerback, Nebraska
The Cardinals cannot defend the pass whatsoever. Amukamara can help immediately, and is one of the best cover men in the draft.
If Champ Bailey were to leave the Broncos, and that seems more likely by the day, the Broncos would be a bit upset to see both Amukamara and Peterson off the board at this point, but they have other needs that could be addressed here.
The defensive line needs an infusion of talent, and right now available is this year's version of Ndamukong Suh.
1. First Round, 6th overall: Nick Fairley, Defensive Lineman, Auburn
Fairley has been terrorizing opposing teams all year, and is a ferocious player. He's a junior college transfer who has burst onto the scene this year, playing the best football of any defensive lineman in all of college football.
The Broncos need to be able to put pressure on the quarterback, and Fairley can help them do that no matter if they move to a 4-3 or stay with their 3-4 alignment. He will be the highest player drafted by the Broncos as far back as I can remember, and will be an instant impact player.
Denver is in desperate need of some young talent on the defensive line, and I think Fairley accomplishes that.
One thing that people seem to be forgetting is that the Broncos are automatically guaranteed a Pro Bowl caliber pass rusher next offseason in Elvis Dumervil. I can't even begin to state the importance of Dumervil. He makes every aspect of this team better, especially the defensive backfield.
He will need to, because I think the Broncos will be without Champ Bailey going forward. I cannot make any guarantees, and the new regime will likely do everything in its power to keep him around, but it's hard to envision him staying in Denver after his recent comments. Bailey no longer wants to be a Bronco if it means another process of change.
A lot can change in between now and the final decision process, but it's clear Champ's attitude has not been in the right place. I think his last game against Dwayne Bowe showed what kind of player he can be, and what kind of player he will be for his next team, be it us or someone else.
I have been publicly critical of trading Champ Bailey, and still would prefer he come back, but I could easily see him leaving and the Broncos need to make sure they are able to trade him.
The New England Patriots are a team that buys low and sells high, and they would undoubtedly be interested in acquiring Bailey for the right price. They have additional picks in each of the first four rounds, and I think Bailey is worth at worst a 2nd round choice. The top selection in the 2nd round likely will belong to the Patriots, and on draft weekend, that pick will be much more valuable than Champ Bailey alone.
Still, Bailey is an elite player and the Patriots don't have all that many needs, but stopping the pass is one of them. Bailey paired with Devin McCourtey could be lethal, so the Patriots pony up and deal Denver the 33rd choice in exchange for Champ Bailey. (Considering Cromartie was traded for a 2nd round pick, this is not out of the question whatsoever)
As the Broncos continue gutting their roster, I think Kyle Orton will be the next one on the outs. Orton has played well for Denver. Well enough that a team who thinks they are a quarterback away from contending would easily consider trading top dollar for him.
Orton might not be clutch, but he is a perfect fit for a team like the Minnesota Vikings. I predict Orton will be traded this offseason, and in this mock, I predict he will wind up slinging passes to Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, and the Vikings will give up their 2nd round pick to get the deal done.
Now armed with four second round picks, I think the Broncos will look to trade back into the first round for another high impact player. The Broncos use two of their second round picks (acquired from Minnesota and Miami) to trade up to pick #22 with the New York Giants, who also send back a 4th round choice to the Broncos.
2. First Round, 22nd overall (from New York Giants): Stephen Paea, Nose Tackle, Oregon State
Paea is still one of my favorite prospects, and if he slips to this spot in the draft, I personally wouldn't hesitate to trade up for him. He is ideal for either scheme. Pair him next to Fairley in a 4-3, and he can be extremely effective. Put him as a nose tackle in a 3-4, and he will occupy blockers and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
I think the Broncos' defensive line needs to get younger, and adding two first round picks is the perfect way to get it done.
3. Second Round, 33rd overall (from Patriots thru Panthers): Kyle Rudolph, Tight End, Notre Dame
I still think Rudolph is the best prospect available at the tight end position, a spot the Broncos undoubtedly need to upgrade. Rudolph is a huge target who would be a perfect outlet on third down and in the red zone, two areas the Broncos have struggled mightily in recent years.
He is huge, athletic, fast, and has great hands. This kid is the real deal, and if not for an injury derailing his junior season, he would have put up ridiculous numbers. Rudolph will be a star, and a steal in the up-coming draft.
4. Second Round, 38th overall: Greg Jones, Linebacker, Michigan State
Just an absolute machine. This guy is relentless, and is one of the best tacklers in the country. He might be undersized, but he more than makes up for it with his ability. Jones is a guy who could fall like DeMeco Ryans, and a team will snatch him up in the 2nd round and have not only a great player, but a great leader.
He should wind up being the best inside linebacker from this class, and the Broncos need some fire at that position.
5. Third Round, 70th overall: Aaron Williams, Cornerback, Texas
Aaron Williams is only a junior, but he's made his presence felt for the Longhorns.
One of the best ball-hawks in the draft, Williams is a versatile player who has been valuable on special teams as well as at the cornerback position. He is a guy who simply has a nose for the ball, and one who forces turnovers. That would be welcome in Denver, where the Broncos are seriously lacking defensive playmakers.
Fourth Round (via Giants): Greg Romeus, Defensive Lineman, Pittsburgh
Romeus is a physically imposing man who can disrupt quarterbacks off the edge. He may not be the prototype for the outside linebacker position in a 3-4, but he has the size and athleticism to either stand up or stick his hand in the ground.
Injuries have derailed his senior season, and have left him on the back-burner in terms of stock. A team might take a flyer on him earlier than this, but a free-fall is possible.
Romeus is one of the most disruptive players available in the draft, and if he can slide to the 4th round, I expect the Broncos to take a chance on him. He's got long arms and great size overall, and could be a great pass rush specialist in a 3-4 alignment. If the team should choose to move to the 4-3, he is also good depth as an end. Also has the frame and ability to add size and play down in a 3-4 front.
Very versatile player.
I am sticking to only the first four rounds now, simply because I think the last two rounds will be best player available at this point, and we'll see as the draft gets closer who is more projected to go in that area.
The biggest thing you'll notice from this list of guys is no safety. I like McBath and Bruton, and I think the Broncos could look to a solid young guy in free agency too. The safeties in this draft aren't great, but the Broncos could definitely look at one early on. It's all about where you place your priorities, and my priority is go get back a fearsome pass rush. That will make everyone in the defensive backfield that much better.