We are now only three days away from the 2011 NFL Draft, and it looks like we might be down to just a couple of prospects for the Denver Broncos.
As of right now, I think the Broncos have both Marcell Dareus and Patrick Peterson on top of their draft board. The question now becomes whether the Broncos will draft for need (Dareus) or best player available (Peterson). This team is lacking in both the run stuffing and turnover department, so the Broncos will have to decide which player best helps them in either regard. It's going to be a very tough choice, but still, a lot depends on who Carolina takes.
There is still speculation out there that the Panthers are not sold on taking Cam Newton, and that they will opt for a safer choice like Dareus. If the Panthers do take Dareus, expect the Broncos to run to the podium with a card that has "Patrick Peterson" written on it.
New Broncos coach John Fox mentioned that he has coached hall of fame defensive backs Rod Woodson and Gil Byrd, and has never seen anything like Peterson. You can put together a conspiracy if you want to, and look at how the Broncos have brought in a defensive backs coach in John Fox as head coach, and then a defensive backs coach in Dennis Allen to be defensive coordinator.
All that being said, the Broncos did cut both Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams, and they have a significant void at defensive tackle. The smart money right now is on Marcell Dareus to be the Broncos' pick, and there have been people calling it an "upset" if the Broncos pick anyone else, and the Denver Post said he is the "leader in the clubhouse" which makes a lot of sense.
Dareus is a guy that has brute strength, athleticism, and toughness. He is scheme versatile, and is probably the best combination run defender and pass rusher in the whole draft.
If you go forward with the assumption that the Broncos will take Dareus, then one has to wonder what direction they will go in the second round. With the 36th pick, you have to wonder if this team will be looking for the best player available. Brian Xanders said there are 190 players on the Broncos' draft board, so they have a scenario for every situation. In an ideal world, another first round graded defensive lineman will fall to that pick, but it's hard to gauge what the Broncos want to do.
There have been rumors that the Broncos would like to trade out of that spot and obtain additional mid-round picks, but that will depend on how the board falls.
I do have a sneaking suspicion that the Broncos would really like to draft Mikel LeShoure, and could probably get him in the middle of the second round. LeShoure has the ability to be a major steal in this year's draft, and if the Broncos could get him in the middle of the second round, I think they would pounce at the chance.
But the Broncos have two second round picks, and I think at least one of them will be used to take the best player available on their board. This could mean a guy like Kyle Rudolph could be the pick, an offensive tackle, or a defensive lineman.
One very intriguing scenario to help upgrade the Broncos' defense is to draft Dareus, move down in the second, and then take the two North Carolina linebackers Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter. Sturdivant and Carter both fill exactly the holes the Broncos are looking to fill at the linebacker positions, and both in my opinion are the best pure 4-3 guys at those respective positions.
If the Broncos' goal this draft is to significantly upgrade the defense, that could be a good way to start. Then, in the third round, the Broncos could take the best running back available on their board, either Daniel Thomas or DeMarco Murray (whom I dreamed the Broncos would draft).
If the Broncos pick up an extra mid-round pick, I think they could look to another running back like Johnny White from North Carolina, or perhaps a defensive lineman that falls because of the depth at that position.
Drafting a quarterback also remains an option for the Broncos. John Elway said the quarterback in this year's class who most reminds him of himself is Washington QB Jake Locker. The quarterback I get the sense the Broncos like the most is either Christian Ponder or Colin Kaepernick.
Either way, the Broncos could draft a quarterback, and we should be prepared for it.
If I had it my way, the Broncos' draft would look like this right now:
1. Marcell Dareus, DL, Alabama
2. Bruce Carter, LB, North Carolina
3. Quan Sturdivant, LB, North Carolina
4. Daniel Thomas/DeMarco Murray, RB
Only a couple more days until we see who the Broncos actually end up picking. Who do you think will wear orange and blue?